REL113: Old Testament Faith and History.  Genesis.              RJDKnauth

Gen. 1-11 “Primordial/Primeval History” - Creation, Fall, Redemption.  Pre-history.
Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, General Violence, Noah and Flood, Covenant, Tower of Babel.
Purpose within Bible – sets universal context for family story which follows (Gen 12-50).
Seeks answers to major life questions:  Who are we?  Who is God?  Who are we in relation to God?
Consider the structure of the creation story, in two versions (see Assignment 1).
Creation vs. Evolution (a difference of purpose, misunderstandings: not “creatio ex nihilo)
Creation as forming, dividing – bringing order from chaos.  No vacuums in nature.
Compare Babylonian Creation & Flood stories from polytheistic world-view: what retained, what changed?
Geographical / Cultural Setting in Babylon (Eden at Tigris/Euphrates, Mt. Ararat, Abraham of Ur)
Flood as undoing of creation, then re-creation.  Punishing, Cleansing, Saving, Victory > Covenant. Chiasm.
Consider the basic theological message of the stories – the problem of sin, how God deals with it.
Consider the overall organization/structure: “These are the generations….”  Genealogy, Story.
Consider various theories of authorship (extending through entire Pentateuch):

  1. Church tradition (never claimed in Bible) of Mosaic authorship (by dictation?).  Problems.
  2. Collection of diverse oral traditions, each story written down by different author.
  3. Documentary / Source Hypothesis: 3 distinct authors / sources / documents combined –

a.   “J” (Jahwist) from Judah ca. 1000 BCE (God “YaHWeH” depicted in anthropomorphic terms)
            b.      “E” (Elohist) from Ephraim (north) ca. 900-800 BCE (God “Elohim” known by dreams)
            c.       “P” (Priestly) Judah ca. 700 BCE or exilic (God “Elohim” >> YHWH, universal, transcendent)

Pre-Historical setting (before writing), conflict between settled urban agriculturalists and nomadic herders
(Cain vs. Abel and the Tower of Babel with the confusion of languages).

Gen. 12-50 “Patriarchal Narrative” – The Story of a Family, the Problem of an Heir. Inheritance issue.
Abraham (+Sarah), Ishmael vs. Isaac (+Rebecca), Esau vs. Jacob/Israel (+Leah, Rachel), Joseph + 12 tribes.
Historicity issue: not “history” but arguably historical – good evidence for 2000 BCE setting (names, practices)
From Babylon to Assyria to Canaan to Egypt >> to Canaan (under Assyria, Babylon), back to Egypt/Babylon.
Development of Religion – “God of fathers,” local and personal deities >> universal, transcendent single God.
The significance of a genealogy – tribal / political relationships. Inheritance. Covenant. The promise of Land.

Sweeping Drama – feuding brothers, the “Binding.”  Barrenness, sibling rivalry. Who will inherit the promise?
Chiastic literary structure: The Abraham cycle, Jacob cycle, Joseph cycle.  Series of covenants, blessings.
The binding of Isaac (“Aqedah”) – discussion…
    Child sacrifice  - sacrifice of the first-born?  vs. Ishmael, pattern of sibling rivalry.
    Abolishes child sacrifice by instituting animal substitution.
    Abraham’s example of faith (e.g. in resurrection?), Isaac as type of Christ – justifies God’s sacrifice.
    Theory based on Sources that Isaac actually killed?!  Islamic claim that Ishmael was sacrifice.
    Problems – Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” – consequences for Abraham, Sarah, Isaac.
       Heir as most important; alienation from father, alienation from God (conflict w/ Rebeccah).

Esau / Jacob conflict – set up by parental favoritism.  Deception as the pattern of Jacob’s life.  Irony.
Suspense and  pathos – Jacob presented as the bad guy.  Who really wins in the end?  Reality not neat…

The message of Joseph re providence of God: “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good…”
Set-up for Egyptian slavery – initiated by Joseph!  Importance of burial in Canaan – don’t forget promise!
Setting Benjamin up for jealousy.  The irony of Joseph’s “stolen cup” in Benjamin’s saddle-bag (vs. Rachel)
The pattern of reversal in the line of inheritance.  Implication of dominant tribe of Ephraim.
The role of Judah which sets him up as kingly line, anticipating rise of David.  Older brothers eliminated.
Sources / Authorship:  Who is interested?  Who benefits?

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