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Book of Genesis


Authorship and Origin:

The first five books of the Old Testament, or what is called the 'Pentateuch', were, according to Jewish and Christian traditions, attributed to Moses until relatively recent times. Today, most Biblical scholars agree that the Pentateuch is composed of at least four separate and distinct narratives written by different persons separated in time by in some cases hundreds of years. Nothing in the books themselves asserts or even suggests that the author was Moses. The narratives were communicated through oral tradition for generations before being gradually compiled and written down over a long period of time. Perhaps the first official set of these books came into existence around Ezra's time, although sections of text, and the stories or oral traditions themselves had been around for centuries. The Pentateuch, or what later became known as the Torah or 'book of Law', was regarded as the most authoritative and high inspired of all the Old Testament writings.

The book of Genesis appears to have been compiled from three major traditions know as "J" (Yahwist), "E" (Elohist), and "P" (Priestly). The Priestly traditions are most concerned with genealogies and precise dates, and thus provide the most historically accurate view. The other two traditions are interested in dreams and divine revelation given through intermediaries. The dating for the written recording of each tradition is around 950B.C. for "J", 750B.C. for "E", and 539B.C. for "P" although the traditions themselves are much older. It is generally accepted that no Israelite literature was written extensively before the reign of David. The telling of these traditions was to convey the covenants of God with Israel and the teach the nature of God. These also gave Israel an identity as the people of Yahweh.

Overview and Significant sections

Genesis takes its' name from the first Hebrew word in the Bible, which translates to "In the beginning" or "to begin with". This is a significant place to start, that is with the fact of Creation. It answers the fundamental questions of "where did we come from?", and "why are we here?". It set's the groundwork for answering questions about life and death, sin and redemption, good and evil, and the future.

Genesis is divided into two major sections. Chapters 1-11 present the personal nature of God's creation, and His relationship to humans in particular. Chapters 12-50 present the dealings of God with mankind, through covenants or promises (aka. contracts) both to all people and to specific people (e.g. Abraham). Genesis also reveals information about the nature of God and His intended purpose for His creation. From Genesis we know that the universe has a purpose in a personal and loving God.

Significant sections:

For more detailed study:
Read Chapter 1. (the entire book is available starting here.)
The Concise Matthew Henry Commentary on this book. introduction of this book.
the World Wide Study Bible has Dictionary, Commentary, Scripture and sermons available on this book.