How the Bible Begins Books on Genesis Study the Language and Examine the First Families of the Judeo-Christian Tradition

By Huenneke, Judy | The Christian Science Monitor, November 6, 1996 | Go to article overview

How the Bible Begins Books on Genesis Study the Language and Examine the First Families of the Judeo-Christian Tradition


Huenneke, Judy, The Christian Science Monitor


Genesis

Translation and Commentary By Robert Alter

Norton 324 pp., $25 The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis Leads Us to Moral Development By Burton Visotzky Crown Publishers 211 pp., $20 Genesis: A Living Conversation By Bill Moyers Doubleday 361 pp., $29.95 Genesis: As It Is Written Contemporary Writers of our first stories Edited by David Rosenberg Harper San Francisco 212 pp., $20 In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis By Karen Armstrong Alfred A. Knopf 183 pp.,$20 The book of Genesis is the treasured beginning of both Jewish and Christian Scripture. Its narratives are familiar to religious and nonreligious men and women throughout the globe. Genesis is also a powerful presence in the Koran, the Scripture of the Islamic faith. Though about 3,000 years old, Genesis continues to be a source for both controversy and inspiration. When Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species" shattered the conventional understanding of the Garden of Eden, in many respects a new era in both science and religion had begun. More than a century after Darwin, a new resurgence of spirituality has led many to reexamine the Bible. "Genesis: A Living Conversation," the public television series hosted by Bill Moyers, is a notable and recent result of this trend. Moyers drew together a group of scholars, ministers, priests, rabbis, and poets to talk, argue, and muse about Genesis. "We're in a new religious reality," he told a group gathered recently in Boston. Now, as the series is broadcast, five books have been published by participants and non-participants in "A Living Conversation." Genesis: Translation and Commentary, by Robert Alter, is the most scholarly of the new spate of Genesis books and in some respects is quite unlike the three by his conversational colleagues. Rabbi Alter opens up the world of the Bible in Hebrew, offering his perspectives in a wonderfully accessible manner. Most readers of Genesis are unacquainted with ancient Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was written. It's a language utterly unlike English, with a terseness and a set of colloquialisms all its own. Although Alter's book might best serve as a reference work, it should not be placed on the shelf without reading the fascinating introduction, which explains the pitfalls confronting the would-be translator of Genesis. "Genesis: Translation and Commentary" is the result of painstaking research and analysis. The lengthy commentaries are heavy with detail. This may not be to everyone's taste, but no one can finish Alter's volume without feeling more attuned to what the authors of Genesis had in mind. This focus clarifies the ancient texts for contemporary lay readers. Is it possible, then, to find relevance with a less analytical approach to Scripture? In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis gives more personal glimpses into the incredibly vast and exciting possibilities of the Bible. It is written by Karen Armstrong, whose recent "A History of God," has become a popular history of monotheism. Armstrong, a Christian, notes that the stories of the Bible are not to be taken as literal, factual accounts of historical events. She sees the many contradictions in the Scriptures as intended to force the reader "to face up to the complexity" of existence. Yet this intriguing premise hardly serves as preparation for what takes up most of "In the Beginning" - in-depth, psychologically oriented character analysis of all the major players in Genesis, from Adam to Joseph. These studies make for interesting, if less than inspiring, reading. Certainly, the clan of Abraham can lay claim to the title of the earliest known dysfunctional family. Yet a view of Genesis as a kind of inspirational soap opera is definitely a matter of personal opinion. "In the Beginning" concludes with a new translation of Genesis, presumably by the author. The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis Leads Us to Moral Development, by Burton Visotzky is similar to Armstrong's book in its approach. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How the Bible Begins Books on Genesis Study the Language and Examine the First Families of the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.