The Book of Genesis: A Biography

The Book of Genesis: A Biography

The Book of Genesis: A Biography

The Book of Genesis: A Biography


During its 2,500-year life, the book of Genesis has been the keystone to almost every important claim about reality, humanity, and God in Judaism and Christianity. And it continues to play a central role in debates about science, politics, and human rights. With clarity and skill, acclaimed biblical scholar Ronald Hendel provides a panoramic history of this iconic book, exploring its impact on Western religion, philosophy, science, politics, literature, and more.

Hendel traces how Genesis has shaped views of reality, and how changing views of reality have shaped interpretations of Genesis. Literal and figurative readings have long competed with each other. Hendel tells how Luther's criticisms of traditional figurative accounts of Genesis undermined the Catholic Church; how Galileo made the radical argument that the cosmology of Genesis wasn't scientific evidence; and how Spinoza made the equally radical argument that the scientific method should be applied to Genesis itself. Indeed, Hendel shows how many high points of Western thought and art have taken the form of encounters with Genesis--from Paul and Augustine to Darwin, Emily Dickinson, and Kafka.

From debates about slavery, gender, and sexuality to the struggles over creationism and evolution, Genesis has shaped our world and continues to do so today. This wide-ranging account tells the remarkable story of the life of Genesis like no other book.


Despite predictions of its demise, the book of Genesis is still alive and well in the twenty-first century. From political and religious debates to consumer culture, Genesis is all around us. One has only to glance at the headlines to find controversies that take their heat and light from Genesis. The question of whether the contents of Genesis I should be taught in science classes— under the names “creationism” or “intelligent design”— preoccupies school boards and political candidates. Proponents and opponents of gay marriage and gay clergy appeal to the testimony of Genesis. The “new atheist” writers criticize the irrationality of Genesis, much as the old atheists, like Thomas Paine, did more than two centuries ago. Evangelical scholars argue whether Adam and Eve were historical figures.

In our popular and commercial culture, references to Genesis pop up regularly. “Jacobs Ladder” is an upscale exercise machine, priced around$3,000. “Am I My Brother s Keeper” is the name of an album by the hip-hop group Kane and Abel. The Methuselah Foun-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.