How did Moses gain the knowledge to write the first five books of the Bible with no previous biblical history written down before? Did God himself inspire the words that the ancient patriarch wrote down?
There are different approaches to the inspiration of Scripture. But Moses did not completely write the first five books of the Bible without any history written down before. True, this is the first of the biblical history written down, but it relies on a few sources.
For instance, the genealogies at the beginning of Genesis were probably prerecorded history sources that Moses incorporated into the beginning of Genesis. In fact, all of the genealogies were probably books or records in themselves he included. He most likely edited them according according to the theological point he is making when he includes them.
Careful study of genealogies has shown us that the Genesis genealogies are missing, or I should say skipping, a few generations here and there. They were not written to record human history. They were written to show us history with a theological perspective.
As an example in the genealogies, the line of Cain shows us how Cain’s sin of murder begins to permeate his entire line. When Seth is born, his line shows more of a godly influence. Moses most likely includes these with annotations about the people in both lines to show the differences. Seth is righteous and his line is more godly than Cain’s.
It’s also most likely that he used a document called the “Table of Nations” when he was working on the genealogies of Noah’s sons and the nations after the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10-11. So it’s most likely that Moses did use some sources as he wrote the first five books of the Bible.
But this doesn’t discount the importance of understanding that Moses wrote the words of God as directed by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of inspiration states that the Holy Spirit inspired the works of the Bible, even down to the words.
So in one sense, Moses had access to historical sources of his time. But at the same time, God gave him the ability to interpret those sources as to what the Spirit wanted him to write. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says that all of Scripture is God-breathed, meaning that God had his hand in every part of Scripture.
So God told Moses what to write. Whatever sources he may have had at his disposal concerning prehistory especially in Genesis 1-11, God told him what parts of that history to use. Everything Moses wrote had a purpose.
For instance, among all of the creation stories of the nations around Israel, Genesis 1-2 makes it a point to explain that God created out of nothing with great purpose.