Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Book of Genesis

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Book of Genesis

Article excerpt

The Book of Genesis. Translated and edited by Joy A. Schroeder. The Bible in Medieval Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015, x + 307 pp., $35.00 paper.

Joy A. Schroeder offers the third installment in the Bible in Medieval Tradition series, which is edited by Philip D. W. Krey, Ian Christopher Levy, and Thomas Ryan. The Book of Genesis is the first OT volume in the series (volumes on Galatians and Romans were published in 2011 and 2013, respectively). It consists of fresh translations of excerpts by seven representative commentators, written in the ninth through fifteenth centuries. In keeping with the goal of the series generally, Schroeder's intent is to give contemporary readers access to previously untranslated medieval commentary on the first book of the Bible. Although there is a rich tradition of biblical interpretation from the medieval period, it has received less attention than earlier and later periods in church history. This book gives a glimpse into the way commentators were interpreting Genesis after the Patristic era and leading up to the Reformation.

In the book's introduction, Schroeder sets the project in context generally, identifying the interpretive tradition in which medieval interpreters found themselves. The hermeneutical heritage of concepts such as the fourfold sense of Scripture can clearly be seen in the writings of this volume. After these general remarks, Schroeder moves on to a more detailed introduction to each of the seven authors and their writings. Some may find this section itself to be worth the price of the book. Each interpreter is located historically as a representative not only of the medieval era generally, but also of his or her own particular interpretative tradition. For example, Rupert of Deutz represents monastic interpretation in the twelfth century, and Hildegard of Bingen represents the interpretive work of nuns and other women in the era. These concise yet thorough introductions survey the authors' historical context with respect to geographical, political, theological, and ecclesial details that influence their roles as biblical interpreters. The rest of the book consists of the seven translated excerpts, ordered chronologically from earliest to latest, and covering subsequent sections of Genesis.

The first section includes the comments on Genesis 1-3 from the Exposition on Genesis by Remigius of Auxerre. This serves as a sample of Carolingian biblical scholarship from the early Middle Ages. Remigius remarks on various details of these early chapters in Genesis and their theological and philosophical implications. Though the emphasis is primarily on the literal sense of the text, Remigius does foray into allegory at times as well. For instance, Adam and Eve signify Christ and the church, Adam's sleep is a symbol anticipating Christ's death on the cross, and just as Eve comes from Adam's side as he slept, so too the church is established by the blood and water, the sacraments, that flowed from the side of Jesus (pp. 73-74).

The next excerpt comes from Rupert of Deutz's On the Trinity and Its Works: Comments on Genesis. Comments on Genesis 4-8 are included. Rupert's interpretive approach places more emphasis on the allegorical sense, intentionally and enthusiastically striving for more rich and creative meanings from the text. He identifies Abel as "the first witness to the only begotten Son of God" (p. 87). By offering a voluntary sacrifice to God, he demonstrated belief in a coming lamb of God who would fulfill the prophecy of Gen 3:15 and crush the head of the serpent. Similarly, his allegorical interpretation of Noah, the ark, and the flood offers rich theological insight, though it is clear his priority is not to maintain the kind of exegetical care and precision we would expect of commentators today.

Hildegard of Bingen is the author of the third excerpt in the book. Here we read a translation of her Solutions to Thirty-Eight Questions, which touches on portions of Genesis 9, 18, 23, and 24. …

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