My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The subtitle for this book is “Discovering the Two Worldviews Hidden within Genesis 1-11.” The extensive Introduction proves the context (using the documentary hypothesis combined with an aspects approach) for understanding the next 12 chapters (attributed to one or both of the J and P traditions). While acknowledging the obvious contradictions between these two sources, the author cautions against the human tendency to harmonize them … subscribing to the "both/and" paradigm suggested by the very existence of such contradictions within a divine revelation over the more modern/western paradigm of "either/or.” In other words, the tension between the two opposites was on purpose … and the author uses the two creation stories to illustrate this.
“If He is to create the world as 'the Lord,’ reflecting the middat harahamim (the attribute of compassion), people will not be held accountable for their actions. But if He is to create the world as ‘God,’ reflecting the middat hadin (the attribute of judgement), how will the world survive, given the human propensity toward sin. Thus God decided to create the world by carefully balancing both dimensions of Himself in the hope that the world will be able to stand. In other words, the multifaceted God conducts the affairs of humankind by combining, in a way incomprehensible to us, two contradictory aspects of Himself.”
While I am very familiar with the various methods and theories surrounding Christian interpretation of Genesis, I am much less so with how traditions within Judaism do so. In that respect, I found this book to be very interesting and even helpful for my own exegesis and understanding of the scriptures. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a brief analysis on which tradition (J or P) the chapter belongs to and why. Each chapter also generally ends with a summary of, and/or conclusion about, the topics discussed. As the author takes the reader through each part of the story, he carefully points out where interpretation of the Hebrew is problematic and brings in various rabbinical traditions that try to explain it (often with opposition views) before posing several questions to which we just don’t have good answers to (such as what exactly is mention by Eve bing a fitting helper). In particular I enjoyed how the original word play was highlighted during the interoperation explanations. This textual approach is wonderful because it also highlights the ambiguities within the text that have at times been used for “proof texting,” or using small segments to prove an opinion or interpretation is correct, as opposed to a more holistic reading that seems to more accurately capture the essence of the original author/redactor's intent.
1. The First Story of Creation (P)
2. The Second Story of Creation (J)
3. The Garden of Eden (J)
4. Cain and Abel (J)
5. From Adam and Cain to Noah (J & P)
6. The Stories of the Flood
7. The Story of the Flood (J)
8. The Story of the Flood (P)
9. Noah and His Sons after the Flood (J)
10. The Tables of Nations (J & P)
11. The Babel Building Project (J)
12. From Shem to Terah to Abraham (P)
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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