GENESIS, THE BOOK OF.(Redirected from BERESHIT.)
- § 1.
- —Biblical Data:
- § 2.
- Nature and Plan.
- § 3.
- § 4.
- § 5.
- § 6.
- § 7.
- § 8.
- § 9.
- Aim of Work.
- § 10.
- § 11.
- § 12.
- § 13.
- § 14.
- § 15.
- Religion of Genesis.
- § 16.
- § 17.
- § 18.
- § 19.
- § 20.
- § 21.
- § 22.
- § 23.
- § 24.
- The Creation.
- § 25.
- § 26.
- § 27.
- § 28.
- § 29.
- Israel's Patriarchs.
- § 30.
- § 31.
- § 32.
- § 33.
- Scientific Criticism.
- § 34.
- § 35.
- § 36.
- § 37.
- Historical Criticism.
- —Critical View:
- Later Additions.
The first book of the Torah, and therefore of the whole Bible, is called by the Jews "Bereshit," after the initial word; by the Septuagint and by Philo it is called Γύνεσις (κόσμου) = "origin" (of the world), after the contents, and hence "Genesis" has become the usual non-Hebrew designation for it. According to the Masorah, it is divided into ninety-one sections ("parashiyyot"), forty-three of which have open or broken lines ("petuḥot"), and forty-eight closed lines ("setumot"); or into forty-three chapters ("sedarim") and twenty-nine sections ("pisḳot"); for reading on the Sabbath, into twelve lessons; according to the division adopted from the Vulgate, into fifty chapters with 1,543 verses.§ 2. Nature and Plan.
Genesis is a historical work. Beginning with the creation of the world, it recounts the primal history of humanity and the early history of the people of Israel as exemplified in the lives of its patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families. It contains the historical presupposition and basis of the national religious ideas and institutions of Israel, and serves as an introduction to its history and legislation. It is a well-planned and well-executed composition of a single writer, who has recounted the traditions of his people with masterly skill, combining them into a uniform work, without contradictions or useless repetitions, but preserving the textual and formal peculiarities incident to their difference in origin and mode of transmission.§ 3.
The author has treated the story as a series of ten "generations" ("toledot"); namely, (1) of heaven and earth, ch. ii. 4-iv.; (2) of Adam, v.-vi. 8; (3) of Noah, vi. 9-ix.; (4) of Noah's sons, x.-xi. 9; (5) of Shem, xi. 10-26; (6) of Terah, xi. 27-xxv. 11; (7) of Ishmael, xxv. 12-18; (8) of Isaac, xxv. 19-xxxv.; (9) of Esau, xxxvi.; (10) of Jacob, xxxvii.-1.§ 4. Contents.
In the beginning God created heaven and earth (i. 1), and set them in order in six days. He spoke, and on the first day there appeared the light; on the second, the firmament of heaven; on the third, the separation between water and land, with vegetation upon the latter; on the fourth, sun, moon, and stars; on the fifth, the marine animals and birds; on the sixth, the land animals; and, finally, God created man in His image, man and woman together, blessing them and giving them dominion over all beings. On the seventh day God rested, and blessed and sanctified the day (i. 2-ii. 3). As regards the creation and subsequent story of man (Adam), God forms him out of earth ("adama"), and breathes into him the breath of life. Then He sets him in a pleasure-garden (Eden), to cultivate and watch over it. Adam is allowed to eat of all the fruit therein except that of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." God then brings all the animals to Adam, to serve as company for and to receive names from him. When Adam can find no being like himself among all these creatures, God puts him into a deep sleep, takes a rib from his side, and forms a woman (called later "Eve"), to be a companion to him. The woman is seduced by the artful serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit, and the man also partakes of the same. As punishment they are driven out of Eden (ii. 4-iii.). Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain grows envious of the favor found by his brother before God, and slays him; he then wanders over the earth as a fugitive, and finally settles in the land of Nod. Enoch, one of his sons, builds the first city, and Lamech takes two wives, whose sons are the first dwellers in tents and owners of herds and the earliest inventors of musical instruments and workers in brass and iron. Cain's descendants know nothing about God (iv.). Another son, Seth, has in the meantime been born to Adam and Eve in place of the slain Abel. Seth's descendants never lose thought of God. The tenth in regular descent is the pious Noah (v.).
As mankind has become wicked, indulging in cruelties and excesses, God determines to destroy it entirely. Noah only, on account of his piety, will escape the general ruin; and God commands him to build a large ark, since the work of destruction is to be accomplished by means of a great flood. Noah obeys the command, entering the ark together with his wife, his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, their wives, and, by God's instructions, with one couple of each kind of animal on the earth. Then the flood comes, destroying all living beings save those in the ark. When it has subsided, the latter leave the ark, and God enters into a covenant with Noah and his descendants. Noah begins to cultivate the field that has been cursed during Adam's lifetime (iii. 17-19; v. 29), and plants a vineyard (ix. 20). When, in a fit of intoxication, Noah is shamelessly treated by his son Ham, he curses the latter in the person of Ham's son Canaan, while the reverential Shem and Japheth are blessed (ix. 21-27). Ch. x. contains a review of the peoples that are descended fromJapheth, Ham, and Shem (down to the chief branch of the last-named), and are living dispersed over the whole earth. The dispersion was due to the "confusion of tongues," which God brought about when men attempted to build a tower that should reach up to heaven (xi. 1-9). A genealogy is given of Shem's descendants in regular line, the tenth generation of whom is represented by Terah (xi. 10-25).
Terah, who lives at Ur of the Chaldees, has three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran's son is Lot. Nahor is married to Milcah, and Abram to Sarai, who has no children (xi. 26-32). God directs Abram to leave his home and kindred because He intends to bless him. Abram obeys, emigrating with his entire household and Lot, his brother's son, to the land of Canaan. Here God appears to him and promises that the land shall become the property of his descendants. Abram is forced by a famine to leave the country and go to Egypt. The King of Egypt takes possession of the beautiful Sarai (whom Abram has represented as his sister), but, smitten by God, is compelled to restore her (xii.). Abram returns to Canaan, and separates from Lot in order to put an end to disputes about pasturage, leaving to Lot the beautiful country in the valley of the Jordan near Sodom. God thereupon again appears to Abram, and again promises him the whole country (xiii.). Lot is taken prisoner during a war between Amraphel, King of Shinar, and Bera, King of Sodom, with their respective allies, whereupon Abram pursues the victors with his armed servants, liberates Lot, and seizes the booty, refusing his share of the same (xiv.). After this exploit God again appears to Abram and promises him protection, a rich reward, and, in spite of the fact that Abram still has no children, a numerous progeny. These descendants must pass four hundred years in servitude in a strange land; but after God has judged their oppressors they, in the possession of great wealth, shall leave the land of their affliction, and the fourth generation shall return to the same land (xv.).
Sarai being still childless, Abram gets a son, Ishmael, by her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar (xvi.). God again appears to Abram, and enters into a personal covenant with him securing Abram's future: God promises him a numerous progeny, changes his name to "Abraham" and that of Sarai to "Sarah," and institutes the circumcision of all males as an eternal sign of the covenant. Abraham, together with his whole house, immediately fulfils the rite (xvii.). God once more appears to Abraham in the person of three messengers, whom Abraham receives hospitably, and who announce to him that he will have a son within a year, although he and his wife are already very old. Abraham also hears that God's messengers intend to execute judgment upon the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, whereupon he intercedes for the sinners, and endeavors to have their fate set aside (xviii.). Two of the messengers go to Sodom, where they are hospitably received by Lot. The men of the city wish to lay shameless hands upon them, and, having thus shown that they have deserved their fate, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire and brimstone, only Lot and his two daughters being saved. The circumstances of the birth of Ammon and Moab are set forth (xix.). Abraham journeys to Gerar, the country of Abimelech. Here also he represents Sarah as his sister, and Abimelech plans to gain possession of her, but desists on being warned by God (xx.).
At last the long-expected son is born, and receives the name of "Isaac." At the instance of Sarah, the boy Ishmael, together with his mother, Hagar, is driven out of the house, but they also have a great future promised to them. Abraham, during the banquet that he gives in honor of Isaac's birth, enters into a covenant with Abimelech, who confirms his right to the well Beer-sheba (xxi.).
Now that Abraham seems to have all his desires fulfilled, having even provided for the future of his son, God subjects him to the greatest trial of his faith by demanding Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeys; but, as he is about to lay the knife upon his son, God restrains him, promising him numberless descendants. On the death of Sarah Abraham acquires Machpelah for a family tomb (xxiii.). Then he sends his servant to Mesopotamia, Nahor's home, to find among his relations a wife for Isaac; and Rebekah, Nahor's granddaughter, is chosen (xxiv.). Other children are born to Abraham by another wife, Keturah, among whose descendants are the Midianites; and he dies in a prosperous old age (xxv. 1-18).
After being married for twenty years Rebekah has twins by Isaac: Esau, who becomes a hunter, and Jacob, who becomes a herdsman. Jacob persuades Esau to sell him his birthright, for which the latter does not care (xxv. 19-34); notwithstanding this bargain, God appears to Isaac and repeats the promises given to Abraham. His wife, whom he represents as his sister, is endangered in the country of the Philistines, but King Abimelech himself averts disaster. In spite of the hostility of Abimelech's people, Isaac is fortunate in all his undertakings in that country, especially in digging wells. God appears to him at Beer-sheba, encourages him, and promises him blessings and numerous descendants; and Abimelech enters into a covenant with him at the same place. Esau marries Canaanite women, to the regret of his parents (xxvi.). Rebekah persuades Jacob to dress himself as Esau, and thus obtain from his senile father the blessing intended for Esau (xxvii.). To escape his brother's vengeance, Jacob is sent to relations in Haran, being charged by Isaac to find a wife there. On the way God appears to him at night, promising protection and aid for himself and the land for his numerous descendants (xxviii.). Arrived at Haran, Jacob hires himself to Laban, his mother's brother, on condition that, after having served for seven years as herdsman, he shall have for wife the younger daughter, Rachel, with whom he is in love. At the end of this period Laban gives him the elder daughter, Leah; Jacob therefore serves another seven years for Rachel, and after that six years more for cattle. In the meantime Leah bears him Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; by Rachel's maid Bilhah he has Dan and Naphtali; by Zilpah, Leah's maid, Gad and Asher; then, by Leah again, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah; and finally, by Rachel, Joseph. He also acquires much wealth in flocks (xxix.-xxx.).
In fear of Laban, Jacob flees with his family and all his possessions, but becomes reconciled with Laban, who overtakes him (xxxi.). On approaching his home he is in fear of Esau, to whom he sends presents; and with the worst apprehensions he turns at night to God in prayer. An angel of God appears to Jacob, is vanquished in wrestling, and announces to him that he shall bear the name "Israel," i.e., "the combatant of God" (xxxii.). The meeting with Esau proves a friendly one, and the brothers separate reconciled. Jacob settles at Shalem (xxxiii.). His sons Simeon and Levi take bloody vengeance on the city of Shechem, whose prince has dishonored their sister Dinah (xxxiv.). Jacob moves to Beth-el, where God bestows upon him the promised name of "Israel," and repeats His other promises. On the road from Beth-el Rachel gives birth to a son, Benjamin, and dies (xxxv.). A genealogy of Esau and the inhabitants and rulers of his country, Edom, is given in ch. xxxvi.
§ 9. Aim of Work.
Joseph, Jacob's favorite, is hated by his brothers on account of his dreams prognosticating his future dominion, and on the advice of Judah is secretly sold to a caravan of Ishmaelitic merchants going to Egypt. His brothers tell their father that a wild animal has devoured Joseph (xxxvii.). Joseph, carried to Egypt, is there sold as a slave to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. He gains his master's confidence; but when the latter's wife, unable to seduce him, accuses him falsely, he is cast into prison (xxxix.). Here he correctly interprets the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, the king's butler and baker (xl.). When Pharaoh is troubled by dreams that no one is able to interpret, the butler draws attention to Joseph. The latter is thereupon brought before Pharaoh, whose dreams he interprets to mean that seven years of abundance will be followed by seven years of famine. He advises the king to make provision accordingly, and is empowered to take the necessary steps, being appointed second in the kingdom. Joseph marries Asenath, the daughter of the priest Poti-pherah, by whom he has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (xli.).
When the famine comes it is felt even in Canaan; and Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy corn. The brothers appear before Joseph, who recognizes them, but does not discover himself. After having proved them on this and on a second journey, and they having shown themselves so fearful and penitent that Judah even offers himself as slave, Joseph reveals his identity, forgives his brothers the wrong they did him, and promises to settle in Egypt both them and his father (xlii.-xlv.). Jacob brings his whole family, numbering 66 persons, to Egypt, this making, inclusive of Joseph and his sons and himself, 70 persons. Pharaoh receives them amicably and assigns to them the land of Goshen (xlvi.-xlvii.). When Jacob feels the approach of death he sends for Joseph and his sons, and receives Ephraim and Manasseh among his own sons (xlviii.). Then he calls his sons to his bedside and reveals their future to them (xlix.). Jacob dies, and is solemnly interred in the family tomb at Machpelah. Joseph lives to see his great-grandchildren, and on his death-bed he exhorts his brethren, if God should remember them and lead them out of the country, to take his bones with them (1.).
In the choice, connection, and presentation of his material the narrator has followed certain principles incident to the purpose and scope of his work. Although he adopts the universal view-point of history, beginning with the Creation and giving a review of the entire human race, he yet intends to deal particularly with Israel, the people subsequently chosen by God, and to give an account of its origin and of its election, which is based on its religious and moral character. His chief point of view, therefore, is that of narrator of tribal and religious history; and only the details that bear on this history are reported.§ 10.
It is his primary intention to show that the people of Israel are descended in a direct line from Adam, the first man created by God, through legitimate marriages in conformity with Israelitish moral ideals, i.e., monandric marriages. Offshoots branch from this main line at central points represented by Adam, Noah, Shem, Eber, Abraham, and Isaac, though their subsequent legitimacy can not be guaranteed. Linguistically the descent from the main line is always indicated by the word
The events are related in definite chronological order, the chief dates being as follows:
|Event.||Year of Creation.|
|"Noah is born, the first birth after Adam's death||1056|
|Birth of Abraham||1948|
|Noah's death at the age of 930||2006|
|Abraham goes to Canaan||2023|
|Birth of Ishmael||2034|
|Birth of Isaac||2048|
|Death of Terah at the age of 205||2083|
|Death of Sarah at the age of 127||2085|
|Isaac marries Rebekah||2088|
|Birth of Esau and Jacob||2108|
|Death of Abraham, aged 175||2123|
|Death of Shem at the age of 600||2158|
|Ishmael dies at the age of 137||2171|
|Death of Eber at the age of 464||2181|
|Jacob marries Leah and Rachel||2192|
|Birth of Joseph||2199|
|Joseph is sold||2216|
|Death of Isaac at the age of 180||2228|
|Jacob and his family go to Egypt||2238|
|Death of Jacob at the age of 147||2255|
|Death of Joseph at the age of 110||2309|
The year of the Creation is the year 3949 before the common era.
The ten generations before the Flood attain to ages varying between 777 years (Lamech) and 969 years (Methuselah), with the exception of Enoch (365 years). Those of the ten generations after the Flood vary between 600 years (Shem) and 148 (Nahor). All the reasons for the details of this chronology have not yet been discovered. Oppert has declared (in "R. E. J." 1895, and in
Anachronisms such as various critics allege are found in Genesis do not in reality exist; and their assumption is based on a misunderstanding of the historiographic principles of the book. Thus the history of a generation no longer of importance is closed and the death of its last member noted, although it may not be contemporaneous with the next succeeding generation, to which the attention is then exclusively directed. This view explains the apparent contradictions between xi. 32 and xi. 26, xii. 4; also between xxv. 7 and xxv. 26; xxi. 5 and xxv. 20; xxxv. 28 (Jacob was at that time 120 years old) and xlvii. 9; xxxvii. 2, xli. 46; etc. In ch. xxxiv. Dinah is not six to seven years old, nor Simeon and Levi eleven and ten respectively, but (xxxv. 27, xxxvii. 1 et seq., xxxiii. 17) each is ten years older. The events in ch. xxxviii. do not cover twenty-three years—from the sale of Joseph in his seventeenth year to the arrival of Judah's grandsons in Egypt (xlvi. 12) in Joseph's fortieth year—but thirty-three years, as the words
Nor are there any repetitions or unnecessary doublets. If ch. ii. were an account of the Creation differing from that found in ch. i., nearly all the events would have been omitted; it is, however, the story in detail of the creation of man, introduced by a summary of what preceded. Neither are there two accounts of the Flood in ch. vi.-ix., in which no detail is superfluous. The three accounts of the danger of Sarah and Rebekah, ch. xii., xx., and xxvi., are not repetitions, as the circumstances are different in each case; and ch. xxvi. refers expressly to ch. xx. The account in xix. 29 of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot, is but a summary introducing the story that follows, which would not be comprehensible without xix. 14, 23, 28. Repeated references to the same place (Beth-el, xxviii. 19, xxxv. 15), or renewed attempts to explain the same name (Beer-sheba, xxi. 31, xxvi. 33; comp. xxx. 20 et seq.), or several names for the same person (xxvi. 34, xxvii. 46-xxxvi. 2 for Esau's wives) are not contradictions. The change of Jacob's name into that of "Israel" is not narrated twice; for xxxii. 29 contains only the announcement by the messenger of God. Apparently no exegete has noted that
It is the purpose of the book, on its religious as well as its historic side, to portray the relation of God to humanity and the behavior of the latter toward Him; His gracious guidance of the history of the Patriarchs, and the promises given to them; their faith in Him in spite of all dangers, tribulations, and temptations; and, finally, the religious and moral contrasts with Hamitic (Egyptian and Canaanite) behavior.§ 15. Religion of Genesis.
Being a historical narrative, no formal explanations of its religious views are found in Genesis; but the stories it contains are founded on such views, and the author furthermore looks upon history as a means of teaching religion. He is a historian only in virtue of being a theologian. He inculcates religious doctrines in the form of stories. Instead of propounding a system he describes the religious life. The book therefore contains an inexhaustible fund of ideas. The most important among these, regarding God, the Creation, humanity, and Israel's Patriarchs, may be mentioned here.§ 16.
There is only one God, who has created heaven and earth (that is, the world), and has called all objects and living beings into existence by His word. The most important point of the theology of Genesis, after this fundamental fact, is the intentional variation in the name of God. It is the most striking point of the book that the same God is now called "Elohim" and now "
"Elohim" is an appellative, and the general name for the divinity, the superhuman, extramundane being, whose existence is felt by all men—a being that possesses intelligence and will, exists in the world and beyond human power, and is the final cause of all that exists and happens. "
The following points may be observed in particular: (a) "Elohim," as genitive of a person, indicates that the latter has superhuman relations (xxiii. 6; similarly of an object, xxviii. 17, 22). (b) It also indicates ideal humanity (xxxiii. 10; comp. xxxii. 29).
(c) "Elohim" expresses the fate imposed by a higher power. The statement "A person is prosperous" is paraphrased by "Elohim is with him," which is distinctly different from "
(d) As "Elohim" designates the universal ruler of the world, that term is used in ch. i. in the story of the Creation; but in order to designate this Elohim as the true God the word "
"Elohim" is more explicitly defined by the article; "ha-Elohim," i.e., "the Elohim" or "of the Elohim," is sometimes used to identify an "Elohim" previously mentioned (xvii. 18; comp. verse 17; xx. 6, 17; comp. verse 3). The single, definite, previously mentioned appearance of an Elohim is called "ha-Elohim," being as such synonymous with "Mal'ak
A rare term for "God" is "El Shaddai" (xvii. 1, xxviii. 3, xxxv. 11, xliii. 13, xlviii. 13; "Shaddai" in xlix. 25). The usual translation and interpretation, "Almighty," is entirely unsupported. The term, when closely examined, means "the God of faith," i.e., the God who faithfully fulfils His promises. Perhaps it also means a God of love who is inclined to show abundant love.§ 21.
God as a personal being is not only referred to in anthropomorphistic and anthropopathic terms, but He also appears to man and speaks with him. Thus He speaks with Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Hagar, Abimelech, Isaac, Jacob, and Laban. But He appears only from the time of Abraham, and in different ways. An Elohim "appears" to Abimelech and Laban in a dream at night (xx. 3, xxxi. 24); a mal'ak
Hence, the appearance of God means either a dream-vision, or the appearance of a messenger sent by God, who speaks in His name, and may therefore himself be called "Elohim of
"Mal'ak of God" signifies, in the first place, the fortunate disposition of circumstances (xxiv. 7, 40; comp. xlviii. 16), in which case it is parallel to "ha-Elohim," the divine guidance of human life; more often, however, it denotes the "angels" ("mal'akim"), messengers of God in human shape who carry His behests to men and who seem to enter and leave heaven through a gate (xxviii. 11); e.g., "
It appears from the foregoing that the conception of God found in Genesis is throughout a practical, religious one. God is treated exclusively with reference to His dealings with the world and with man, and to the interest that He takes in man's fate and behavior. He guides, educates, and punishes. He assigns to the first of mankind a habitation in Eden, sets them a task, and commands them not to do a certain thing. When they break this command He punishes them; but even after that He cares for them. Although punishing the murderer Cain, He affords him protection; the cruelties and unnatural sins of the generation of the Flood arouse His sorrow and anger; He humiliates the pride of the men who are planning to build a tower that shall reach to heaven; He utterly destroys with fire and brimstone the sinful generation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The punishments are either the natural consequences of sin—the first of mankind haverobbed the earth, which had willingly offered the fruit of its trees, hence it is cursed and paralyzed, and can no longer give its fruit freely, so long as Adam is living; Eve has succumbed to desire, hence she has become the slave of desire; Cain has defiled the earth by murder, hence he has deprived it of its strength—or they correspond exactly to the sins; e.g., men build a tower in order to remain united, hence they are dispersed; Jacob wishes to rule his brother, therefore he must humiliate himself before that brother; he deceives, and is deceived in return; he dresses up in a goatskin in order to obtain a blessing fraudulently, therefore he is terribly deceived and plunged in sorrow through a goatskin; Judah advises the sale of Joseph as a slave, therefore he himself is forced to offer himself as a slave.
God, on the other hand, is pleased with the pious, with Enoch and Noah, and especially with Abraham's unshakable faith (xv. 6); his righteousness and justice, which he recommends to his children and household (xviii. 19); his implicit obedience, which is ready to make the supreme sacrifice (xxii. 12, 16). For Abraham's sake God saves Lot (xix. 19); blesses Abraham's son Isaac (xxvi. 5), his children, and his children's children; protects them through all dangers; prevents others from doing evil to them (xii. 17, xiv., xv., xx. 3, xxvi., xxxi. 24); and leads them in a marvelous manner. He gives commands to men, and binds them to Himself by covenants and promises. They are the objects of His designs, as they are His work.§ 24. The Creation.
The entire universe is the work of God; this proposition is the necessary consequence of the idea of God as found in Genesis and the Pentateuch and in the whole Bible generally. From this arises doubtless the author's belief that God created the world out of nothing. He does not say how this primal act of creation was accomplished. In the beginning the earth was a desolate watery chaos ("tohu wa bohu"), over which the spirit of God brooded, and which God divided into heaven and earth and arranged and peopled in six days. The living beings are created in an orderly sequence, proceeding from the inorganic to the organic, from the incomplete to the complete, man being the crown. In the beginning God creates light together with time and the day. The outer firmament separates the waters above and below it; then when the lower waters recede the land appears; the earth produces grass and trees; and plants and animals are created, each "after its kind," and endowed with the faculty of propagating within their kind in their respective elements. Every organic being, therefore, is endowed with a nature of its own, which the Creator intends it to keep by pairing only with its own kind. The lights that God has fixed in the firmament serve to separate the day from the night; they shall be for "signs, periods, seasons, and years," and shall give light to the earth. The sun is the greater light, that rules the day; the moon is the lesser light, that rules the night.§ 25.
The Creation is, in the judgment of God, good in particular, and very good in general, i.e., fit for life, commensurate to its purpose, salutary, harmonic, and pleasing. The book expresses an optimistic satisfaction and pleasure in the world, a lively veneration for God's arrangements and the peculiar dignity of each being as determined by God. The simplicity, sublimity, depth, and moral grandeur of this story of the Creation and its superiority to every other story dealing with the subject are universally recognized.§ 26. Humanity.
Man, the crown of Creation, as a pair including man and woman, has been made in God's image. God forms the first man, Adam, out of earth ("adamah"). This indicates his relation to it in a manner that is fundamental for many later laws. Man is a child of the earth, from which he has been taken, and to which he shall return. It possesses for him a certain moral grandeur: he serves it; it does not serve him. He must include God's creatures in the respect that it demands in general, by not exploiting them for his own selfish uses. Unlawful robbery of its gifts (as in paradise), murder, and unchastity anger it, paralyze its power and delight in producing, and defile it. God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of man, whom He formed out of earth. Therefore that part of him that is contrasted with his corporeal nature or supplements it—his life, soul, spirit, and reason—is not, as with the animals, of earthly origin, existing in consequence of the body, but is of divine, heavenly origin. Man is "toledot" (ii. 4) of heaven and earth.
The creation of man also is good, in the judgment of God; the book, therefore, is cognizant of nothing that is naturally evil, within man or outside of him. After God has created man, He says: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (ii. 18). In order that man may convince himself that there is no being similar to him among all the creatures that have been made, God brings all the animals unto Adam, that he may name them, i.e., make clear to himself their different characteristics. Hence man, looking for a being like unto himself among the animals, finds language. God thereupon creates woman out of the rib of man, who gladly recognizes her as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh"; meaning that the mature man may and shall leave the paternal house, where he has been merely a dependent member of the family, and, urged by the longing for a sympathetic being that will supplement him, shall live with the woman of his choice, and found with her a family of his own, where the two shall be combined in an actual and a spiritual unity. In this passage the relation between man and woman is expressed, and also the nature of marriage, which is a life partnership in which one helps and supplements the other. Procreation is not its purpose, but its consequence. God has given to man, as to all living beings, the faculty of multiplying.§ 27.
God gives to man dominion over the earth and over all living beings. The food of the first man consists solely of the fruits of the field, that of the animals being grass (i. 29). His occupation is to cultivate and watch over the Garden of Eden (ii. 15), the only restriction placed upon its enjoymentbeing that he shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the Garden of Eden men go naked and know no shame; this feeling is aroused only after they have broken God's command, and then He makes them garments of skins to cover their nakedness.§ 28.
All men on earth are descended from the first pair, Adam and Eve, and are therefore also of the image of God. This statement expresses the unity of the whole human race. Man is a created being, made in the image of God, and all men are related: these doctrines are among the most fundamental and weighty of the whole Bible.
The branch descended from Cain, the fratricide, the eldest son of the first pair, is the founder of civic and nomadic culture. The branch descended from Seth develops along religious lines: from Elohim (Seth, in iv. 25) through ha-Elohim (Enoch, in v. 22) to
Terah, the descendant of Shem and Eber, has three sons, one of whom, Abraham, is destined by God for momentous events. He shall leave his home; and God says to him: "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (xii. 2-3). God often repeats the promise that Abraham's descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in heaven and as the sand on the seashore (xv. 5, xxii. 17); that He will make him a father of many nations, and cause him to be exceedingly fruitful; that kings and nations shall be descendants of him and Sarah (xvii. 5, 6, 16); that he shall become a great people; that all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him (xviii. 18, xxii. 18); and that his descendants shall receive the entire land of Canaan as a hereditary possession (xiii. 14 et seq., xv. 7, xvii. 18). But before all this comes to pass Israel shall be sorely oppressed for four hundred years as servants in a strange land, after which they shall go out with rich possessions, and God shall judge their oppressors (xv. 13 et seq.). In confirmation of these promises God enters twice into a covenant with Abraham: the first time (xv. 18 et seq.) as an assurance that his descendants shall possess Canaan; and the second time, before Isaac's birth, as a sign that He will be their God. In token thereof God changes Abram's and Sarai's names into "Abraham" and "Sarah" (
Of Abraham's two sons Ishmael shall be blessed, and become the father of twelve princes and the progenitor of a great people (xvi. 10, xvii. 20, xxi. 18). Ishmael himself becomes an archer, lives in the wilderness, and marries an Egyptian woman (xxi. 20 et seq.). But the one to inherit the promises and the land is Isaac (xvii. 21, xxi. 12), Sarah's son. Therefore his father chooses for him a wife from among his own relations (ch. xxiv.). God renews to him the promises given to Abraham (xxvi. 3, 24). Isaac is truly the son of his great father, though he has a somewhat passive nature. He also builds an altar to
Isaac's sons are twins; Esau, the elder, scorns the rights of the first-born, leaving them to Jacob (xxv. 34). Esau is a hunter, whose fate it is to live by the sword and be subject to his brother, though in time he will throw off his yoke (xxvii. 40). He is also called "Edom," and subsequently lives in the land of that name in the mountainous region of Seir. He is loved by his father, but Rebekah loves Jacob; and when Esau marries a Canaanite woman, Isaac, deceived by a trick, blesses Jacob, who, before he sets out for Haran, receives from his father Abraham's blessing also (xxviii. 4). Jacobattains to right relations with God only after mistakes, trials, and struggles. He knows
With Jacob and his twelve sons the history of the Patriarchs is closed; for the seventy persons with whom Jacob enters Egypt are the origin of the future people of Israel. God does not appear to Jacob's sons, nor does he address them. Joseph designedly avoids the appellation "
The book prescribes no regulations for the religious life. The Patriarchs are represented in their family relations. Their history is a family history. The relations between husband and wife, parents and children, brother and sister, are displayed in pictures of typical truthfulness, psychologic delicacy, inimitable grace and loveliness, with an inexhaustible wealth of edifying and instructive scenes.§ 33. Scientific Criticism.
Since the time of Astruc (1753) modern criticism has held that Genesis is not a uniform work by one author, but was combined by successive editors from several sources that are themselves partly composite, and has received its present form only in the course of centuries; its composition from various sources being proved by its repetitions, contradictions, and differences in conception, representation, and language. According to this view, three chief sources must be distinguished, namely, J, E, and P. (1) J, the Jahvist, is so called because he speaks of God as "
As it would take too much space to give an account of all the attempts made to separate the sources, the analysis of only the last commentator, namely, of Holzinger, who has made a special study of this question, will be noted. In his "Einleitung zum Hexateuch" he has given a full account of the labors of his predecessors, presenting in the "Tabellen" to his work the separation into sources laid down by Dillmann, Wellhausen, Kuenen, Budde, and Cornill. The commentary by Gunkel (1901) is not original as regards the sources.§ 34.
|P2.||J.||E.||Redaction, Secondary Sources, and Glosses.|
|i-ii.3.||ii. 4b-9bα, 15bβ?, 16, 17*, 18-25.||ii. 4a gloss or R. In ii. and iii. |
|iii. 1-15bα, 17, 18a, 19, 21, 23a.|
|iv. 1*?, 2-16a, 17a, 17b?, 18-21.||iv. 1*?, 17b?, 25, 26.||iv. 1*, 16a|
|v. 1-3*, 4-19, 20-24*, 25-27, 28 without ||In v. 28 ||v. 1-3*, 20-24*.|
|vi. 9-22.||vi. 1-3a, 4a*.||vi. 5-8.||vi. 3b, |
|vii. 6. 11, 13-16a, 17a*, 18-21 (24?).||vii. If., 3b-5.. (8f.*). 10, 7,* 16b, 12, 17b, 22ff.*||vii. 3aR, 7-10*, 16b transposed. 17a*, 22. f.* (24R?).|
|viii. 1a, 2a, 1b (3b ?), 4f., 13a, 14-19||viii. . . . 6a, 2b, 3a, . . . 6b-12, 13b, . . . 20, 21aαb, 22.||viii. 1-3, order of R (3bR ?), 21aβ|
|ix. 1-3, 8-17, 28f.||ix. 20-27.||ix. 18a, 19.||ix. 4-7Ps, 10b*, 18bRJ.|
|x. 1a, 2-7, 20, 22f., 31f.||x. 9 (8, 10-12 ?)||x. 10b (8, 10-12 ?). 13-15, 18b, 19, 21, 25-30.||x. 16-18a |
|xi. 10-26, 27, 31, 32.||xi. 1-9||xi. . . . 28-30.|
|xii. . . . 4b, 5.||xii. 1-4a, . . . 6-8, 10-20.||xii. 9|
|xiii. 6abα, 11b, 12abα.||xiii. 1f., 5, 6bβ, 7-11a, 12bβ,13,18.||xiii. 3f. |
|xiv. Very late (narrative worked over by E ??).|
|xv. 1*, 2a, 3b, 4, 6, 7, 9a, 10a, 11, 12aα (b?).||xv. 1*, 3a, 2b, 5, 12aβ.||xv. 9b, 10bR ?, in 12b |
|xvi. 1a, 3, 15, 16.||xvi. 1b, 2, 4-8, 11-14.||xvi. 9f. |
|xvii. 1-27.||xvii. 10*.|
|xviii. 1-15, 16, 20, 21, . . . 22a, 33b.||xviii. 17-19|
|xix. 29.||xix. 1-28, 30, 38.||xix. 4*, 9*, 23-26*, 24*.|
|xx. 1-17.||If.*, 18 gloss.|
|xxi. 1b, 2b-5.||xxi. 1a, 2a*, 7, 6b, 33*.||xxi. 6a, 8-21, 22-32.||xxi. 2a*, 33*-(also transposed), 34|
|xxii. 20bβ-24.||xxii. 1-13,14aα? (βb*?), 19.||xxii. 14, 15-18, |
|xxiv.||xxiv. 1f.*, 61f.*|
|xxv. 7-11a, 12-17, 19, 20, . . . 26b.||xxv. 1-4, 5, 11b, 18.||xxv. 5, 11b transposed, 6 redactional. In xxv. JE is transposed by R.|
|xxvi. 34, 35.||xxvi. 1aαb, 2aα, 3aα, 6, 7-14, 16f., 19-33; xxv. 21-20a, 27-34.||xxv. 21*, 25a* (27*?), xxvi. 1aβγ, 2aβb, 15, 18 |
|xxvii. 1-4*, 5-10,14f., 17,18a, 19?, 20, 24-27, 28b, 29aγδb, 30aα, 30b-32, 35-38*, 39a, 40, 41-45*.||xxvii. 1bβγ, 4b, 11-13, 16, 18b, 19 ?, 21 23, 28a, 29aαβ, 30aβ, 33f.*, 39b.||xxvii. 33 abbreviated by |
|xxviii. 1-9.||xxviii. 10, 13-16 (* ?), 19a.||xxviii. 11f., 17f., 20-22.||xxviii. 19b gloss.|
|xxix. 24, 28b, 29||xxix. 2-14a, 14b, 15a ?, 26 in part, 31-35.||xxix. 1, 14b, 15a?, 15b-23, 25 26*, 27, 28a, 30.|
|xxx. 1aα (?), 4a, (?), 9b ?, 22a ?||xxx. (1aα, 4a ??), 3bβ, 4b ? (7b* ?), 9-13, 14-16, 20αβ, 20b, ? 27, 22bβ, 24b, 25 ?, 27. 29-43*.||xxx. 1aβ-8*, 17, 18*, 19, 20aα, 20b ?, 22bα, 23, 24a, 26 ?, 28, traces in 29-43.||In xxx. 14b |
|xxxi. 18aβγδb (from ||xxxi. 1b, 3, 21b, 25, 27 (44b ?), 46, 48, 51, 52, 53a.||xxxi. 1a, 2, 4-16*, 17, 18aα, 19-21a, 22-24, 26.||xxxi. 10-12, fragments from the Elohistic parallel to xxx. 32-42, 47 gloss.|
|xxxii. 4-14a, 23, 25-29, 32b.||xxxii. 1-3, 14b-22, 24, 30-32a.||xxxii. 10-13|
|xxxiii. 18a.||xxxiii. 1-10*, 11b, 15, 16?, 17aβb, 18b?.||xxxiii.: traces in 1-10, 11a, 12-14, 16 ?, 17aα ?, 18b ?, 19, 20.||xxxiii. 1-10; traces of E in 4, 5b, 10; in 19 |
|xxxiv. 1*, 2a to ||xxxiv. 1*, 2a to ||xxxiv.: diaskeuasis in part, especially 10bγ, 13b, 15bβ.—|
|xxxv. 6a, 9-13a*, 15, 22b-29.||xxxv. 17, 21, 22a.||xxxv. 1-5, 6b, 7, 8, 14*, 16, 18f. ?, 20.||xxxv. 10-12 abbreviated by R and transposed, 13b dittography from 14.|
|xxxvi. 6-8 (basis 9-14, 29 ?), 40-43.||xxxvi. 15-19, 31-39.||xxxvi. 1-5, R 9-14, R based upon P, 20-36 R (20-28 from J ?, 29 from P ?, 21b gloss), 31*.|
|xxxvii, 1.||xxxvii. 3f., 12-18, in part 21, 23bβ, 25-27, 28aγ, 32*, 33*, 35.||xxxvii. 5a, 6-8a, 9-11, 12-18, in part 19f., 22, 23abα, 24, 28aαβb, 29f., 31, 34, 36.||In xxxvii. 2 |
|xxxviii. 1-30 (J1).|
|xxxix. 1*, 2-6a*, 7aβ-23*.||(xxix.: traces in 2-5, 6b.||xxxix. in |
|xl. 1bβb, 3 from ||xl. 1aα, 2, 3 beginning, 4, 5a, 6-23*.|
|xli. 36 ?, 46ab ?, 47 ?.||xli.: numerous traces.||xli. 1-35*, 37-45*, 47-57*.||xli.: traces of later diaskeuasis (|
|xlii. 2a, 4b, 5, 6 in part, 7, 11a, 27, 28 to ||xlii. 1, 2b, 3, 4a, 6, in part 8-10, 11b-26, rest of 28, 29-37.||xlii.: in 27 |
|xliii. 1-13, 15-23a, 24-34.||xliii. 14, 23b.||xliii.: diaskeuasis in 14 ?.|
|xlv. 1a, 2a, 2bα, or 2bβ, 4b, 5aαγ, 7*, 10aα, 13f., 28.||xlv. 1b, 2bβ, or 2bα, 4a, 5aβb, 6, 7*, 8f., 10aβγb-12, 15-18, 21 in part, 22-27.||xlv. 19f., 21 in part, secondary recast.|
|xlvi. 6f. (8-27 ?).||xlvi. 1aα, 28-34.||xlvi. 1b-5a*.||xlvi. 1aβ|
|xlvii. 5b, 6a, 7-11, 27b, 28.||xlvii. 1-4, 5a, 6b, 13-26, in part 27aα*β, 29-31*.||xlvii. 12, 13-26 in part.||xlvii. 13-26, adapted from J and E, with traces of secondary recast 30aγR.|
|xlviii. 3-6.||xlviii. 2b (8a ?), 9b, 10a, 13f., trace in 15b, 17-19, 20 in part.||xlviii. 1, 2a, 8 (a) b,9a, 10b, 11f., 15ab*, 16, 20 in part, 21f.||xlviii. 7 gloss.|
|xlix. 1a, 28bβ-32, 33aαb.||xlix. 2-27, 33aβ.||xlix. 6|
|1. 12f.||1. 1-11*, 14*, traces in 18, 21.||1.: traces in 2, 10f., and in 14, 15-26*.||1. 22b secondary, 24b*, traces of the diaskeuasis.|
Serious objection may be brought to this analysis of sources on the following grounds: (1) It is unsupported by any external proof whatever; there is no authentic information showing that the Pentateuch, or Genesis in particular, was compiled from various sources, much less have any such sources been preserved in their original form. (2) Hence the critics must rely solely upon so-called internal evidence. But the subjective state of mind with which the final decision rests is unstable and deceptive. It is hazardous to apply modern criteria and rules of composition and style to such anancient and peculiar work, whose origin is entirely unknown. (3) Even if it be demonstrated that Genesis has been compiled from various sources, yet the attempt to trace the origin of each verse and of each part of a verse will never meet with success; the critics themselves confess that the process of combination was a most complicated one. (4) If the contradictions and repetitions said to be found in the book really existed, this would not necessarily prove that there had been more than one author; for the literatures of the world furnish numerous similar examples. The existence of such repetitions and contradictions, however, has never been demonstrated.
(5) The theory of sources is at best a hypothesis that is not even necessary; for it is based on a total misconception of the dominant ideas, tendencies, and plan of the book. Its upholders have totally misconceived the theology of Genesis; transforming the interchange of the name of God, which is the soul of the book, into an external criterion for distinguishing the different authors. They have not understood the reason for the variation in the use of
Notwithstanding all these objections, however, it can not be denied that various portions of Genesis palpably convey the impression of difference in origin and a corresponding difference in conception; but as the impression that the work gives of having been uniformly planned in every detail is still stronger, the explanation given in § 2 is here repeated; namely, Genesis has not been compiled from several sources by one redactor or by several redactors, but is the work of one author, who has recorded the traditions of his people with due reverence but independently and according to a uniform plan. Genesis was not compiled from various books.§ 37. Historical Criticism.
The historicity of the Book of Genesis is more or less denied, except by the representatives of a strict inspiration theory. Genesis recounts myths and legends. It is generally admitted that the primal story is not historical (ch. i.-xi.); but critics vary in ascribing to the stories of the Patriarchs more or less of a historical foundation. For details see the articles under their respective names; here only a summary can be given:
- (a) The story of the Creation can not be historically true, for the reasons (1) that there can be no human traditions of these events; (2) its assumption of a creation in six days, with the sequence of events as recounted, contradicts the theories of modern science regarding the formation of the heavenly bodies during vast periods of time, especially that of the earth, its organisms, and its position in the universe. The popular view of Genesis can not be reconciled with modern science. The story is a religio-scientific speculation on the origin of the world, analogous to the creation-myths found among many peoples. The similarities to the Babylonian creation-myth are most numerous and most striking. The extent of its dependence on other myths, the mode of transmission, and the age and history of the tradition and its adaptation are still matters of dispute.
- (b) The story of the Garden of Eden (ch. ii., iii.) is a myth, invented in order to answer certain questions of religion, philosophy, and cultural history. Its origin can not be ascertained, as no parallel to it has so far been found.
- (c) The stories of Cain and Abel and the genealogies of the Cainites and Sethites are reminiscences of legends, the historical basis for which can no longer be ascertained. Their historical truth is excluded by the great age assigned to the Sethites, which contradicts all human experience. A parallel is found in the ten antediluvian primal kings of Babylonian chronology, where the figures are considerably greater.
- (d) The story of the Flood is a legend that is found among many peoples. It is traced back to a Babylonian prototype, still extant. It is perhaps founded on reminiscences of a great seismic-cyclonic event that actually occurred, but could have been only partial, as a general flood of the whole earth, covering even the highest mountains, is not conceivable.
- (e) The genealogy of peoples is a learned attempt to determine genealogically the relation of peoples known to the author, but by no means including the entire human race; this point of view was current in antiquity, although it does not correspond to the actual facts.
- (f) The stories of the Patriarchs are national legends. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his sons are idealized personifications of the people, its tribes, and families; and it can not now be ascertained whether or not these are based on more or less obscure reminiscences of real personages. In any case, these legends furnish no historically definite or even valuable information regarding the primal history of the people of Israel. The whole conception of the descent of one people from one family and one ancestor is unhistorical; for a people originates through the combination of different families. It has also been maintained that the stories of the Patriarchs are pale reflections of mythology or nature-myths.
- Calvin, In Librum Geneseos Commentarius, ed. Hengstenberg, Berlin, 1838;
- J. Gerhard, Commentarius Super Genesin, Jena, 1637;
- Von Bohlen, Die Genesis Historisch-Kritisch Erläutert, Königsberg, 1832;
- Friedrich Tuch, Halle, 1838; 2d ed. (Arnold and Merx), 1871;
- C. F. Keil, Leipsic, 1878;
- Franz Delitzsch, Neuer Commentar zur Genesis, 1887;
- M. Kalisch, 1858;
- A. Knobel, revised by Dillmann 1892;
- J. P. Lange, 2d ed., 1877;
- E. Reuss, La Bible, pt. iii., 1897;
- E. H. Brown, 1871 (Speaker's Commentary);
- R. Payne Smith (Ellicot's Commentary, 1882);
- G. I. Spurrell, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Book of Genesis, 1887;
- M. Dods, The Book of Genesis, 4th ed., 1890;
- A. Tappehorn, Erklärung der Genesis (Roman Catholic), 1888;
- Strack, in Kurzgefasster Commentar (Strack-Zöckler), 1894;
- Holzinger, in Kurzer Handcommentar, ed. Marti, 1898;
- H. Gunkel, in Handkommentar zum A. T. ed. Nowack, 1901.
Criticism:Astruc, Conjectures surles Mémoires Originaux Dontil Paroitque Moyses' Est Servi pour Composer le Livre de la Gènèse, Brussels, 1753;
- Karl David Ilgen, Die Urkunden des Jerusalemischen Tempelarchivs, etc.: I. Urkunden des Ersten Buches von Moses, Halle, 1798;
- F. Bleek, De Libri Geneseos Origine Atque Indole Historica, Bonn, 1836;
- I. Stähelin, Kritische Untersuchungen über die Genesis, Basel, 1830;
- H. Hupfeld, Die Quellen der Genesis und die Art Ihrer Zusammensetzung, Berlin, 1853 (this work laid the foundation for the modern theory of sources, i.e., the compilation of Genesis from three independent works);
- E. Böhmer, Liber Geneseos Pentateuchicus, Halle, 1860 (first graphical distinction of the sources by means of different type);
- idem, Das Erste Buch der Thora, Uebersetzung Seiner Drei Quellenschriften und Redactionszusätze mit Kritischen, Exegetischen, und Historischen Erörterungen, ib. 1862;
- T. Nöldeke, Untersuchungen zur Kritik des A. T. Kiel, 1809;
- J. Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs, in Jahrbücher für Deutsche Theologie, xxi., xxii., reprinted 1885, 1889, 1893;
- Karl Budde, Die Biblische Urgeschichte, Giessen 1883;
- Kautzsch and Socin, Die Genesis mit Aeusserer Unterscheidung der Quellen, Freiburg-in-Breisgau, 1888, 1891;
- D. W. Bacon, Pentateuchical Analysis, in Hebraica, iv. 216- 243, v. 7-17: The Genesis of Genesis, Hartford, 1892;
- E. C. Bissell, Genesis Printed in Colors (transl. from Kautzsch-Socm), Hartford, 1892;
- E. I. Fripp, The Composition of the Book of Genesis, 1892;
- C. I. Ball, Genesis, 1896 (critical text in colors in S. B. O. T. ed. Haupt).
- Compare also the introductions to the Old Testament by Kuenen, Cornill, Strack, Driver, and König, and to the Hexateuch by Holzinger, 1893, and Steuernagel, 1901;
- A. Westphal, Les Sources du Pentateuque, Paris, 1888, 1892;
- W. E. Addis, The Documents of the, Hexateuch Translated and Arranged in Chronological Order, 1893, 1898;
- I. E. Carpenter and G. Hartford Battersby, The Hexateuch, 1900.
Anti-Criticism:C. H. Sack, De Usu Nominum, Dei V05p610001.jpget V05p610002.jpgin Libro Geneseos, Bonn, 1821;
- H. Ewald, Die Composition der Genesis Kritisch Untersucht, Brunswick, 1823 (subsequently retracted for the greater part by the author);
- E. W. Hengstenberg, Die Authentie des Pentateuchs, Berlin, 1836, 1839 (i. 181-414 contains an epoch-making proof of the meaning and intentional use of the names of God);
- M. Drechsler, Die Einheit und Echtheit der Genesis, 1838 (including Nachweis der Einheit und Planmässigkeit der Genesis);
- F. H. Ranke, Untersuchungen über den Pentateuch, Erlangen, 1834-40;
- I. H. Kurtz, Die Einheit der Genesis, 1846;
- C. Keil, Ueber die Gottesnamen im Pentateuch, in Zeitschrift für Lutherische Theologie und Kirche, 1851, pp. 215-280;
- J. Halévy, Recherches Bibliques, i. 1895;
- W. H. Green, criticism of Harper, in Hebraica, v., vi., vii.;
- idem, The Unity of Genesis;
- E. C. Bissell, The Pentateuch, Its Origin and Structure, pp. 410-475, New York, 1885 (includes a voluminous bibliography on the Pentateuch).
Genesis forms part of the Hexateuch. As such it is regarded by the critical schools as a composite work, containing data from P and JE, the latter a history which, itself a combination of two distinct compilations—one, northern or Israelitish, E; the other, southern or Judean, J—tells in detail and in popular style the story of Israel from the beginning of things to the completed conquest of Canaan. In addition to these elements, some independent material is distinguished from that ascribed to the sources named; and editorial comments (R) and changes have been separated in the critical analysis. There is practical unanimity among critics with regard to the character of P and what must be assigned to him.Elements.
The P elements in Genesis consist of a series of interconnected genealogies, uniform in plan, and always prefaced by the introductory phrase "These are the generations of." Connected with them is a scheme of
The theory has been advanced that P is based on J, his story of Creation presupposing the use of historical and traditional material collected in J. On the whole, this may be admitted; but it is also plain that for the P account of the Creation and the Flood Babylonian sources and information were drawn upon. The theology of P is of a high order. God is One; He is supramundane. Creation is a transcendental, free act of the Absolute Creator (hence
JE, after the elimination of P, presents an almost unbroken narrative. In the earlier chapters J alone has been incorporated; E begins abruptly in Gen. xx. It is a moot point whether E contained originally a primeval history parallel to that now preserved in Genesis from J. That of the latter, as incorporated in the pre-Abrahamic chapters, is not consistent throughout; especially do the account of the Flood, the fragments of a genealogy of Seth, and other portions suggest the use of traditions, probably Babylonian, which did not originally form part of J.Legends.
JE, as far as Genesis is concerned, must be regarded as compilations of stories which long before their reduction to written form had been current orally among the people. These stories in part were not of Canaanitish-Hebrew origin. They represent Semitic and perhaps other cycles of popular and religious tales ("Sagen") which antedate the differentiation of the Semitic family into Hebrews, Arabs, etc., or, migrating from one to the other of the Semitic groups after their separation, came to the Hebrews from non- Semitic peoples; hence the traces of Babylonian, Egyptian, Phenician, Aramaic, and Ishmaelitish influence. Some of the narratives preserve ancient local traditions, centered in an ancient religious sanctuary; others reflect the temper and exhibit thecoloring of folk-tales, stories in which the rise and development of civilization and the transition from pastoral to agricultural life are represented as the growth and development of individuals. Others, again, personify and typify the great migratory movements of clans and tribes, while still others are the precipitate of great religious changes (e.g., human sacrifices are supplanted by animal ones). The relations and interrelations of the tribes, septs, and families, based upon racial kinship or geographical position, and sometimes expressive of racial and tribal animosities and antipathies, are also concreted in individual events. In all this there is not the slightest trace of artificiality. This process is the spontaneous assertion of the folk-soul ("Volksseele"). These traditions are the spontaneous creation of popular interpretation of natural and historical sentiments and recollections of remote happenings. The historical and theological interpretations of life, law, custom, and religion in its institutions have among all men at one time taken this form. The mythopeic tendency and faculty are universal. The explanations of names which exhibit signs of being the result of intentional reflection, are, perhaps, alone artificial.Compilation.
Naturally, in the course of oral transmission these traditions were modified in keeping with the altered conditions and religious convictions of the narrators. Compiled at a time when literary skill had only begun to assert itself, many cycles of patriarchal histories must have been current in written form prior to the collections now distinguished by critics as E and J. Criticism has to a great extent overlooked the character of both of these sources as compilations. It has been too free in looking upon them as works of a discriminating litterateur and historian. P may be of this nature, but not J and E. Hence any theory on the literary method and character of either is forced to admit so many exceptions as to vitiate the fundamental assumption. In E are found traits (elaborations, personal sentiment) ascribed exclusively to J; while J, in turn, is not free from the idiosyncrasies of E.
Nor did R (the editor, editors, or diaskeuasts) proceed mechanically, though the purely literary dissection on anatomical lines affected by the higher criticism would lead one to believe he did. He, too, had a soul. He recast his material in the molds of his own religious convictions. The Midrashic method antedates the rabbinical age. This injection of life into old traditional material unified the compilation. P's method, rightly regarded as under theological intention ("Tendenz"), was also that of R. Hence Genesis, notwithstanding the compilatory character of its sources, the many repetitions and divergent versions of one and the same event, the duplications and digressions, makes on the whole the impression of a coherent work, aiming at the presentation of a well-defined view of history, viz., the selection of the sons of Israel as the representative exponents of
Chapter xiv. has been held to be a later addition, unhistorical and belonging to none of the sources. Yet the story contains old historical material. The information must be based on Babylonian accounts (Hommel, "Alt-Israelitische Ueberlieferung," p. 153, speaks of an old Jerusalem tradition, and Dillmann, in his commentary, of a Canaanitish tradition; see Eliezer); the literary style is exact, giving accurate chronological data, as would a professional historian. The purpose of the account is to glorify Abraham. Hence it has been argued that this chapter betrays the spirit of the later Judaism.
Chapter xlix., the blessing by Jacob, is also an addition; but it dates from the latter half of the period of the Judges (K. Kohler, "Der Segen Jacob's").
The theory that the Patriarchs especially, and the other personages of Genesis, represent old, astral deities, though again advanced in a very learned exposition by Stucken ("Astral Mythen"), has now been generally abandoned.