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eBook Sale on Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Plus Other Counterpoints
Did you know every eBook in the Counterpoints series is available for just $4.99 until 9/13/15?
This sale includes the newest additions to the series, Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Read a selection below that frames three views on understanding the Bible's first chapters. Genesis deserves thoughtful interpretation because, as General Editor Charles Halton writes, "Reading Genesis is like traveling from downtown Dublin to rural Angola."
Discover three predominant ways to interpret Genesis' genre, and the implications for our biblical understanding. The contributors and views include:
James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History
Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History
Kenton L. Sparks: Ancient Historiography
Click here for links and details. Act now! The sale prices are valid through Sunday, September 13th.
"Like Traveling from Downtown Dublin to Rural Angola"
We are thousands of years removed from the origins of the book of Genesis. We live in a world that has sent people to the moon and back, that uses magnets to map the inside of human bodies; we work and sleep in climate controlled buildings, travel in air-conditioned cars, fly in pressurized planes, and send text messages through pieces of metal and glass small enough to slip into the pockets of our pants. The world of Genesis was dusty and barely literate. The people of its time were preoccupied with satiating hunger and securing physical safety. They consulted shamans for toothaches, thought that the gods spoke through birth defects and markings on sheep livers, and they defecated into ditches [see Deuteronomy 23:12 – 14]. Reading Genesis is like traveling from downtown Dublin to rural Angola. The contexts of author and reader could hardly be more different.
To be sure, we don’t share the cultural context of the authors of Genesis but we do hold in common the experience of being human — joy at childbirth and mourning at death. We relish a good story just as much as they did. We have unfulfilled dreams, we take pride in accomplishment, and we experience interpersonal strife, just like they did. At the same time as there are vast differences between us, we share with the biblical writers some of life’s most fundamental elements. How much of this shared experience translates into our understanding of the literary genres that they used? How big are the gaps in our knowledge?
Is Genesis 1 – 11 similar to the genres of our culture? If so, what genre is it? Is it factual history, fictional fable, or somewhere in between? And how does its overall genre affect our interpretation of individual passages? After two thousand years of study, these questions remain a matter of debate. This ebook—adapted from the book Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither?—is intended to reflect this debate as well as to help individuals and congregations have a more informed and focused discussion on the topic. The ebook itself will not arrive at any particular conclusion, although each author advocates for the position that he believes is most beneficial.
In his essay, “Genesis 1 – 11 as History and Theology,” James Hoffmeier argues that the Genesis narrative relates historical facts, real events that happened in space and time. Hoffmeier points to features within Genesis, such as geographical clues and literary elements, that signaled to ancient readers that these stories were to be understood as historical. Gordon Wenham agrees with this to a point. In his essay, “Genesis 1 – 11 as Protohistory,” Wenham sees an undercurrent of history beneath the Genesis account but he likens it to viewing an abstract painting — the picture is there but the details are fuzzy. Wenham believes that Genesis is protohistory, a form of writing that has links to the past but interprets history for the sake of the present. Kenton Sparks explains that the authors of Genesis wrote in typically ancient ways which did not intend to produce history as we know it. In his essay, “Genesis 1 – 11 as Ancient Historiography,” Sparks argues that many of the events recounted in Genesis did not happen as the narrative states.
In the spirit of Galileo, all of the contributors agree that competent interpretation of Scripture requires sensitivity to genre. They disagree, however, over the precise nature of the genre of Genesis 1 – 11 and its implications. To a large extent, competent reading involves getting to know ourselves as much as it does understanding an author. Christopher Wall observes, “Though reading is a close collaboration between a reader and text, it can only start when you notice the difference between what you see and what you want to see.” [“A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Praise.” Posted October 12, 2013. Los Angeles Review of Books.
www.lareviewofbooks.org/essay/a-curmudgeons-guide-to-praise. (Accessed July 21, 2014.)]
- Charles Halton
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