Book of Genesis


Genesis (jĕn´əsĬs), 1st book of the Bible, first of the five books of the Law (the Pentateuch or Torah) ascribed by tradition to Moses. Beginning with two accounts of the creation and of humankind, the narrative relates the initial disobedience of the man and the woman and their consequent expulsion from God's garden. Next is an account of the ongoing effects of human sin. The narrative then focuses on the fortunes of Abraham and his immediate descendants Isaac and Jacob. The author of Genesis perceives God's call of Abraham and God's commitment to Abraham's descendants as the divine response to the disasters that have befallen the world earlier in Genesis. It is clear that the reader is dealing with stories that were originally unconnected and have a lengthy oral history. The stories preserve memories of ancient clan migrations. In these, mythic elements from the ancient Middle East can still be felt despite ubiquitous devotion to Yahweh, the God of Israel. In the Jacob cycle, the 12 patriarchs are presented as ancestors of the tribes of the later Israeli establishment; it is likely that this represents an importation of the later notion that Israel was one people of God, with a common heritage and ancestry. During the period of the tribal confederacy (12th–11th cent. BC), these stories coalesced to tell the story of one people. Moreover, the patriarchal cycles are not biographies. These characters personify Israel's historical experience (e.g., the Jacob/Esau cycle) and its venture in faith (e.g., the Abraham cycle). For views regarding its composition see Old Testament and higher criticism.

See studies by C. Westermann (3 vol., tr. 1984–86, 1987, and 1992), N. M. Sarna (1989), R. Alter (1996), and R. Hendel (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Book of Genesis: Selected full-text books and articles

Genesis: An Introduction
Claus Westermann; John J. Scullion.
Fortress Press, 1992
The Book of Genesis: A Biography
Ronald Hendel.
Princeton University Press, 2013
Genesis: The Beginning of Desire
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg.
Jewish Publication Society, 1995
Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary
Thomas L. Brodie.
Oxford University Press, 2001
Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary
Claus Westermann; John J. Scullion.
Fortress Press, 1994
The Medieval Popular Bible: Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages
Brian Murdoch.
D.S. Brewer, 2003
Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis
Saint Jerome; C. T. R. Hayward.
Clarendon Press, 1995
Sodom's Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretation
Ed Noort; Eibert Tigchelaar.
Brill, 2004
The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics
George H. Van Kooten.
Brill, 2005
Reading Genesis Politically: An Introduction to Mosaic Political Philosophy
Martin Sicker.
Praeger, 2002
The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings
Herbert Chanan Brichto.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "The Creation Story in Genesis, Ch. 1:1-2:4A"
The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus
R. W. L. Moberly.
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Abraham and God in Genesis 22," Chap. 4 "Ancient and Modern Interpretations of Genesis 22," and Chap. 5 "Genesis 22 and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion"
Genesis and Gender: Biblical Myths of Sexuality and Their Cultural Impact
William E. Phipps.
Praeger Publishers, 1989
Sarah the Priestess: The First Matriarch of Genesis
Savina J. Teubal.
Ohio University Press, 1984
The Tempter's Voice: Language and the Fall in Medieval Literature
Eric Jager.
Cornell University Press, 1993
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