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Introduction Of The New Covenant

Introduction Of The New Covenant!

Genesis Introduction

The Book of Genesis tells the story first of humankind and then of the ancestors of Israel, from the creation down to the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. We may break it down into three large segments: the primeval history in Genesis 1-11; the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Genesis 12-36; and the Joseph story in chapters 37-50 (with an interlude about Judah in Genesis 38). The material in these three segments is of different kinds.

The primeval history tells the story of the beginnings, from Creation through the Flood, culminating with the tower of Babel. Much, perhaps all, of this material is pre-historic: it is material for which there is and can be no historical record. Most scholars nowadays characterize it as myth, and in fact it has numerous parallels with the myths of ancient Mesopotamia.

The stories of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in contrast, are set in historical time, but they hardly qualify as history by modern standards. They are made up of short episodes, which seem to have originated as folklore, but were edited over centuries and cast in the form of sequential history. The story of Joseph differs from other material in the book because it is a developed story that runs over several chapters, and has the character of a novella.

These segments, however, did not circulate as separate stories, at least not in the form in which we have them. Here, as in the rest of the Pentateuch, we can distinguish different strands or sources, known as the Yahwist (J for the German spelling Jahwist), Elohist (E) and Priestly (P) that run through the segments. Even if the segments we have distinguished were composed at different times, they were combined into these strands before they were woven together to form the text of Genesis as we have it.

Only two of these strands, the Yahwist and the Priestly, are found in the primeval history, and they are easily distinguished. The Yahwist source takes its name from the fact that God is called Yahweh from the beginning, whereas in the other sources the divine name is only revealed in Exodus. J is a good story-teller and the deity is represented in a colorful, anthropomorphic, form. The Priestly source, in contrast, is rather dry. It is greatly concerned with genealogies and with the origin of cultic and observances, such as the Sabbath. The first account of creation, in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a is a classic P composition. The story of Adam and Eve is a Yahwist composition, although it is unusual insofar as it refers to God as Yahweh Elohim, (perhaps an editor’s attempt to make clear the identity of Elohim from P in Genesis 1 and Yahweh from J in Genesis 2– 3). The story of the Flood provides an exceptionally clear example of a case where these two stories have been woven together.

For a long time, the Yahwist source was thought to have been composed in Jerusalem early in the period of the monarchy, perhaps as early as the tenth century BCE.

Nearly all scholars now think that date is too early. Some have gone to the other extreme and think it was composed during the Babylonian Exile, in the sixth century. Others favor a date at some time during the monarchy (eighth or seventh century). The main argument for a late date arises from the primeval history, which is deeply influenced by Babylonian myths, such as the Atrahasis story and the Epic of Gilgamesh. The exiles of Judah were obviously exposed to Babylonian culture during the Exile, but Judean scribes may well have been acquainted with Mesopotamian literature long before that. At present, however, there is no consensus about the date of the J source. A stronger and clearer case can be made that the Priestly source took shape during the Exile or a little later, although it may have incorporated older traditions.

Jan. 14, 2022, 5:59 a.m. 0 Report Embed Follow story
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