In this commentary James McKeown treats Genesis as a book of beginnings and a foundational sourcebook for biblical theology. He begins with exegesis of the Hebrew text, highlighting the recurrence of key words, phrases, and themes throughout the book. He also draws attention to passages particularly pertinent to earlier readers either facing or returning from exile, offering a historical context outside a solely Christian perspective.

The second half of the book unpacks the numerous theological horizons of Genesis -- main unifying themes (descendants, blessing, land); key theological teachings of Genesis (creation, fall, character and image of God, life of faith); and the contribution of Genesis to theology today, including its impact on science, ecology, and feminist theology.

McKeown's Genesis provides a solid examination of a scriptural book that reflects the struggles and hopes of its readers -- ancient and modern -- and offers encouragement for their walk with God.


Genesis is an anonymous book. We are not told anywhere in the Bible who wrote it, nor are we given any clues about the date when it was completed. At an early stage in the development of the Hebrew canon, Genesis became associated with Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Together these five books were known in Jewish circles as the Torah and as the “Five Books of Moses,” or simply “Moses.” Although this nomenclature did not necessarily mean that Moses wrote everything in these five books, a strong tradition of Mosaic authorship developed and was very widely accepted in both Jewish and Christian circles until the 18th century.

To describe Genesis as a book is misleading if we understand the term “book” in a modern sense. Genesis does not conform, nor should we expect it to conform, to the criteria that we apply to modern literature when we describe, for example, a novel or a history book as “good.” Genesis does not have a single plot, but, just as there are several stories, there are several plots and their interrelatedness is not always obvious. Indeed, some of the stories in Genesis could be lifted out of their present contexts in the Genesis narrative and used independently. On the other hand, Genesis is more than a collection of short stories, because even if some of them could be used independently and, at some early stage, may have been, they are unified in the book of Genesis as we now have it. the stories are not preserved as independent chapters or passages, but they all contribute in some way to the overall goal and aim of the book.

Since many of the stories in Genesis have their own individual plots, it is helpful to think of Genesis as moving towards a goal rather than as a book with a unified plot. the idea of movement captures the character of Genesis

1. E.g., Genesis 14 contains all the necessary information for the story to be understood without reference to the preceding chapters.

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