Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary

Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary

Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary

Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary


"Westermann's commentary has the merit of taking a definite stand in the hermeneutical debate. In the tradition of Gunkel, it takes full advantage of the methods of form criticism and of the phenomenological study of religion. Again and again Westermann opens up dimensions of meaning which are not only relevant for theology but for human existence in the modern world."-- Bernhard W. Anderson Journal of Biblical Literature


This first volume, which covers the primeval story, Genesis 1–11, is to be followed by a second covering the patriarchal story, Genesis 12–50. The very material itself, and not just technical reasons, requires that the commentary appear in two relatively independent parts. As I worked on Genesis 1–11 it became more and more evident that these chapters, the biblical entrance antiphon, have a significance for the Bible as a whole which can only be fully appreciated when the words “in the beginning” are allowed their proper resonance. What emerges is that the beginning of the Bible is concerned not just with “Creation and Fall”; Genesis 1–11 forms a whole in which each individual section has its own contribution to make to the unity.

I would add a further note to this bulky volume. No large scholarly commentary on Genesis has appeared in German since those of Hermann Gunkel (1922) and Otto Procksch (1924). There has however been a flood of literature on Genesis 1–11 and a number of important, though short, and popular expositions like those of G. von Rad and W. Zimmerli. The present situation however demands a thorough survey and account of all the literature on Genesis — of the works of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars, as well as the contributions of the pertinent secular disciplines. The bibliographies, general and particular, present this.

It would have been impossible for me to carry out this vast survey alone. I thank all who have worked at the Genesis Research Seminar, in particular my present assistants, Dr. R. Albertz, Dr. E. Ruprecht, Mr. R. Ficker. I thank especially my wife who worked assiduously at my side from one fascicule to the next, shared many a lively discussion and made many helpful suggestions.

My colleague at Heidelberg, Professor H.W. Wolff, co-editor of the series, showed great concern and patience with my commentary and contributed corrections as well as much useful advice. A word of thanks is due also to the Neukirchen publishing house, first, for the invitation to take part in the annual working-group meetings of those engaged in contributing to the series, which were always stimulating; second, for the generous way in which the volume has been produced; it was a very demanding task.

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