Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thoughts on "Genesis"

Yesterday marked the official end of my reading of Brueggemann's commentary and the listening of lectures aforementioned. I have to admit that I did not read as I said I would and thus instead of taking one month to finish the book Genesis it instead took me three months to finish! However, I am not disappointed as I have learned much.

Firstly, I am glad I opted for a theological commentary over an exegetical for my first take at reading Genesis seriously. I cannot begin to imagine reading footnote after footnote about this particular word and this particular source and the dating the of the book of Genesis. Secondly, I am glad I did not choose a author who would try to convince of an early dating for Genesis or the historical-scientific proofs for a six day creation. I honestly didn't know where Brueggemann stood on such issues, but I was prepared to disagree with him.

It may seem obvious to those who studied Genesis in detail or who had more than a cursory reading when trying desperately to finish reading the Bible in a year, but to those of us finally coming into our studies, the names of each of these books is so important to how one studies them. As Brueggemann points out, Genesis is about the genesis of a world and a family. It is about giving a history for a people in exile. That being said, Brueggemann does get into some historical-critical discussions, but these are never the focus of his writing. He'll often mention sources that we are familiar with like J, E and P but this is usually in passing as if the reader already assumes such sources.

Genesis, according to Brueggemann, can be taken into two halves: the cosmological genesis and the anthropological genesis. The latter genesis can then be broken into four sections: the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph cycles. Chief among them is the promise of Abraham which pervades the three remaining cycles is the also that which propels the other cycles into the book of Exodus. Brueggemann argues that we must follow the title Genesis even along to the end which is really not an ending, but really is a beginning that takes us to the Exodus story.

It was interesting to read a theological-homiletical commentary while listening to lectures given from a literary perspective. I have to admit that some of the comments made by Gary Rendsberg seem a bit far-fetched as times, but reading some of the comments that Brueggemann will make that either confirm or hint towards those comments made it easier to hear those things.

Brueggemann's writing style is clearly homiletical as he often gives cross-reference to the gospels or Paul, and often makes connection between the ancient communities of Genesis and how these should or shouldn't shape the Christian communities of the present. Certainly this is not a commentary that should be used on its own for research or scholarly purposes, but it is certainly a beginning place for theological interpretation of Scripture.

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