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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Book of Genesis: Selected full-text books and articles

Genesis: An Introduction By John J. Scullion; Claus Westermann Fortress Press, 1992
The Book of Genesis: A Biography By Ronald Hendel Princeton University Press, 2013
Genesis: The Beginning of Desire By Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg Jewish Publication Society, 1995
Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary By Claus Westermann; John J. Scullion Fortress Press, 1994
Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis By Saint Jerome; C. T. R. Hayward Clarendon Press, 1995
Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament By William Sanford Lasor; David Allan Hubbard; Frederic Wm. Bush; Leslie C. Allen; John E. Hartley; John E. McKenna; James R. Battenfield Jr.; Robert L. Hubbard Jr.; William B. Nelson Jr William B. Eerdmans, 1996 (2nd edition)
The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings By 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 By 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"
Sarah the Priestess: The First Matriarch of Genesis By Savina J. Teubal Ohio University Press, 1984
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