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© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

Genesis – a book of beginnings
The word ‘genesis’ means ‘beginning’. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn about a lot of ‘beginnings’ and find the answers to a lot of foundational questions:

Genesis teaches us about:

•    The beginning of the universe and all that is in it

•    The beginning of human life

•    The beginning of marriage

•    The beginning of unbelief

•    The beginning of sin

•    The beginning of false concepts of God

•    The beginning of personal shame and self-rejection

•    The beginning of interpersonal tensions

•    The beginning of guilt

•    The beginning of physical suffering and death

•    The beginning of God’s judgement

•    The beginning of grace

•    The beginning of salvation

•    The beginning of climatic and geological disturbances

•    The beginning of the ‘races’

•    The beginning of God’s covenant/promise


Genesis – what type of literature is it?
Various answers are given to this question - myth, history, poetry, allegory.

These studies assume that the whole of Genesis is ‘history’. This definition does not mean that Genesis contains every historical fact from that era or about each topic it mentions; it obviously does not. But it does mean that everything it records is historically true - selected by God to reveal himself to us: it is not exhaustive history but selected and teleological history. And this definition does not exclude the fact that some portions may also be written as poetry or in some poetic form. Poetry is not automatically anti-historical, indeed poetry is frequently the vehicle for recounting historical data.

The designation ’myth’ is applied by some to Genesis 1 – 11, particularly by those who discard belief in a six 24-hour day creation because of their belief in evolution by long ages of natural selection, or in an attempt to merge Genesis with supposed scientific fact. This removes the historicity of these chapters and seriously undermines a number of biblical truths that are grounded on these chapters.

Various scholars over the centuries have considered Genesis, or parts of it, to be ‘allegory’, in which non-factual narratives are used to teach theological concepts. For example, it is suggested that ‘Adam’ is not a real historical man, but is used as a symbol for the human race and its rebellion against God. [The New Testament refers to Adam, not as a symbol, but as the real representative head of the human race. While there is thus a kind of allegory here in Genesis, it is not an allegory from myth, but from fact.]

Thus the perspective of these studies is that Genesis is written history, the inclusions of which are selected by God as a vehicle for revealing himself and his purposes to us. This does not exclude the fact that some passages have poetic form. And it does not infer that it includes every single thing that happened; it is intentionally selected history in which God gives us the foundations of all that is to follow in the rest of his written Word.


Who wrote Genesis?
The accepted tradition is that Genesis is ‘the first book of Moses’. There is no need to doubt this. Moses was schooled in the learning of Egypt so one can reasonably assume that he could write, and that he could write in the highly structured form found in Genesis. Moses, under the controlling, sovereign influence of the Spirit of God, either himself wrote the whole of Genesis, or he compiled Genesis from already existing oral and/or written historical (factually true) material.


The structure of Genesis

[For some of the concepts in this section I am indebted to my second son, who has studied the Hebrew text.]

Genesis is not poetry in the strict sense, but it is certainly written with poetic style and deliberate structure.

In Genesis 1 there is a web of over-lapping and intertwined structures, obviously the work of a skilled writer.

[1] The two sets of three days contain deliberate structure:

Day One/Day Four: God made ‘light’/God created the great lights
Day Two/Day Five: Focus on water and ‘the expanse’/God created the water creatures and the birds to inhabit the water and air
Day Three/Day Six: God formed the dry land and vegetation/God created the land animals and man.

[2] Each statement of God beginning with the word ‘Let …’ introduces a new level of differentiation:

Verse 3 – the differentiation between darkness and light

Verse 6 – the differentiation between the earth and the ‘expanse’

Verse 9 – the differentiation between the land and the sea

Verse 11 – the differentiation between inanimate and animate creation

Verse 14 – the differentiation between day and night on earth

Veerse 20 – the differentiation between unconscious life and conscious life

Verse 24 – the differentiation between conscious life in the water and conscious life on land

Verse 26 – the differentiation between animal life and human life

We can, if we wish, continue this differentiation into Genesis 2 and beyond, without the introductory phrase ‘Let …’

2:5-25: the differentiation between man and woman
3:1-24: the differentiation between good and evil
4:1 – 50:26: the differentiation between the line of the promised ‘seed of the woman’ and the rest of mankind [which could be broken up into further specific differentiations]

Throughout Genesis we also find -

[3] The ‘toledoths’ – a series of accounts or genealogies introduced [or concluded] by a phrase such as ‘the generations of …’ or ‘the account of …’

Most scholars see these phrases as introducing the genealogy or account that follows, that is as superscripts; Henry Morris refers them to the account that precedes them, that is as subscripts, with the person mentioned being the original author of the preceding toledoth [except the first, of which he sees God as the author].

These ‘toledoths’ are found in:

2:4 – This is the account of the heavens and the earth
5:1 – This is the written account of Adam’s line
6:9 – This is the account of Noah
10:1 – This is the account of the sons of Noah
11:10 – This is the account of Shem
11:27 – This is the account of Terah
25:12 – This is the account of Abraham’s son, Ishmael
25:19 – This is the account of Abraham’s son, Isaac
36:1 – This is the account of Esau
37:2 – This is the account of Jacob



The following resources were consulted during the preparation of these studies:

Barth, Karl:                           Dogmatics in Outline, SCM, 1966
Buksbazen, Victor:                The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel, The Friends of Israel, 1978
Calvin, John:                        Commentary on Genesis, Associated Publishers and Authors
Cory, Steven:                      The Spirit of Truth and The Spirit of Error 2, Moody Press, 1986
Cullman, Oscar:                    Christology of the New Testament, SCM, London, 1963
Denton, Michael:                  Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Alder and Alder, Bethseda, 1985
Douglas, JD [Editor]:            The New Bible Dictionary, IVP,1962
Gitt, Werner:                       Did God use Evolution? CLV, Bielefeld, 1993
Ham, Wieland, Batten,          One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism, Master Books, 1999
Henry, Matthew:                 Commentary on Genesis [Public Domain],
Jamieson, Fausset, Brown:    Bible Commentary [Public Domain]
Keil/Delitsch:                       Commentary on Genesis [Public Domain]
McDowell/Stewart:              Concise Guide to Today’s Religions, Scripture Press, 1983
Morris, Henry:                     The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, 1976
                                       The Long War Against God, Master Books, 2008
Morris, Leon:                      The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1971            
Pink, AW:                          The Godhood of God
Schaeffer, Francis:               Genesis in space and time, IVP, 1972
                                       The God Who is There, Pickering and Inglis, 1968
Sidlow-Baxter, J:                 Majesty, the God You Should Know, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 1984
Stott, John:                       Issues Facing Christians Today, Marshall & Pickering, 1990
Von Allmen, J:                    Vocabulary of the Bible, Lutterworth, 1958


Non-print Media:

Calvin, John:  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.vii.i.html]
Piper: John:   [http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/remember-the-sabbath-day-to-keep-it-holy]
Spurgeon, C.H:  http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0239.htm
Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record” Illustria Media DVD
The Privileged Planet, Illustria Media [DVD]
Wikipedia various articles.