THE LANDSCAPE AND THE LION: GENESIS
AND THE GOSPELS
The purpose of this brief appendix is not to solve a problem but simply to promote a discussion. In some ways the discussion is as old as the church: the question of the relationship of Genesis to the Gospels is part of the centurieslong debate about the relationship of the Old Testament to the New. But several factors—especially the dividing of texts according to history, and the specializing of scholars into New Testament and Old (Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Writings)—have pushed this discussion into the background. Roland de Vaux, despite his expertise in Old Testament, joked about how little he knew of the New. And Rudolf Bultmann had little interest in the Old; he spoke of it as a failure (Scheitern; 1952, 183).
Yet comparison is instructive—not to show one as better than the other but to clarify both. The two are connected, and in a substantial way. Joseph's announcement to his brothers “serves as a straightforward gospel word” (Fretheim, 646). “Genesis is as much a gospel as John …[and] Matthew” (Gage, 1984, xiii). Charles Cochrane's work (1984) is entitled The Gospel According to Genesis.
Like the Gospels, the book of Genesis tells good news. While depicting the reality of evil (especially in chaps. 1–11), Genesis shows the greater reality of faith, courage, and providence (especially in Abraham, Rebekah, Jacob, and Joseph). Ultimately, therefore both Genesis and the Gospels may be called positive interpretations of human existence.
Such a minimal description, however, does not do justice to these writings, and it is useful, in order to get a clearer sense of both Genesis and Gospels, to compare them more closely. At first sight the comparison may appear uneven, at least for a Christian. Genesis, after all, may seem obscure and barbarous. The Gospels, in contrast, seem clear and positive.
Yet the relationship is not so simple. Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that one may not simply choose the Gospels in preference to the Old Testament; one must absorb both: “Who[ever] desires to think and feel in terms of the New Testament too quickly and too directly is in my opinion no Christian” (quoted