Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary

By Thomas L. Brodie | Go to book overview

APPENDIX TWO
SOURCES: GENESIS's USE OF THE PROPHETS

The idea that Genesis used the prophets may seem unlikely or impossible. Genesis is a form of history; it is at the beginning of the Bible; and its story is set in a time long before the prophets existed.

Yet the division between Genesis and the prophets is not so clear. Genesis is ambiguous. Such was the perception in tradition, and such is the perception in modern research.

In tradition, Genesis, along with Exodus-Kings, has been regarded in two diverse ways. At times it has been treated as history, but in other ways it has been regarded as in some way prophetic, written by the great prophet Moses.

Modern research maintains the ambiguity, but with greater precision. On the one hand, Genesis-Kings has been seen to adopt the genre or literary form of ancient history (van Seters, 1983, 1992). On the other hand, evidence is emerging that Genesis shows awareness of the prophets.

Such awareness of the prophets is inherently likely. It is generally recognized that Genesis, despite its ancient setting, was not composed, or at least not completed, until after the time of the great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). It is difficult to reconstruct a scenario within the Jewish community whereby the writers of history were unaware of the great prophetic writers. This is particularly so because the Jewish people had just a few main centers (ultimately only one, Jerusalem), because the number of those involved in writing would have been small, and because the custom of ancient writers was to incorporate the work of previous writers.

Besides, as a general principle in literary development, prose follows poetry: “Continuous prose, though often regarded …as the language of ordinary speech, is a late and far from “natural” stylistic development, and is much less direct and primitive than verse, which invariably precedes it in the history of literature” (Frye, 1981, 8; cf. Lesky, 1966, 219, 221). It is plausible then that the prose of Genesis-Kings follows the more poetic work of the prophets.

The general priority of poetry over prose does not necessarily mean that this specific poetry (the great prophets) was prior to this specific prose (Genesis). Perhaps both the prophets and Genesis were but a small part of a huge liter-

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