Outline and Introduction Written By Thomas Perez. Originally Posted 2009. Updated; 2014, 2019. Copyright 2009.
Genesis in Greek literally means the “Beginnings.” It is the beginnings of all human history and covenants (promises). The book also contains specific promises to its Semitic Patriarchs and their corresponding descendants/tribes, in this case Israel. It is indeed a book about a specific people chosen by God to reveal Himself, not only to Israel, but eventually to all the other nations as well. Genesis, as well as its four corresponding books; Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy suggest that the actual 1st five books of the Pentateuch are stories within a story. It is the story and history of one specific group of people known as the Semitic tribes – which later became the Hebrews/Jews of ancient and modern Palestine. Genesis is also a book for all nations, tribes, tongues and peoples. The account is only one version pertaining to the origin of all things. Genesis is simple and to the point with reference to creation. Other creation accounts go into great detail concerning the architects (gods) of creation. Their roles and names are often cited upon in various creation myth stories. While other versions provide a background tapestry of gods, goddesses in details, Genesis simply states the obvious, and provides the reader with simplistic explanations for the beginning of all things and the origin of life. For further information on this please see ‘Date.
Genesis, as well as the remaining books of the Old Testament, can be seen as a sectarian book. Genesis is a book about a specific group of people and their religious and personal encounters and relationship with God. However Genesis, as well as the entire Bible, can also be seen as a book that pertains to all tribes everywhere. Man or woman, Jew or gentile, rich or poor, all are included in the Abrahamic Covenant. The difference with Genesis, as compared to other creation stories and books pertaining to the beginnings, is the constant declaration of the One eternal God who is the Creator of all, and one central thematic exaltation, the unconditional promise that God will bless every nation. A God who would bless all nations through a group of people called the Semitic tribes. These Semitic tribes gave birth to the ancient Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob in turn had 12 sons, of which one of them was named Judah, in which we get the name Jew or Judea from. Before the Patriarchs, many other cultures have had similar oral transmissions of creation as seen within their tablets of stone; the Patriarchs are no exception.
But what makes their revelation of Word the more plausible and palatable is the constant elevation of man. Man is seen as a being created in the image of the One True God. He is seen as a creation so special, that the angels declare, “what is man that thou art mindful of him?” He is also seen as a god – children of God (Psalms 82:6 & John 10:34) Yet, man is also seen as a fallible creature due to what became known as disobedience and sin. Genesis is a book that expresses freewill, the freewill to choose between that which is good (resulting in obedience) or evil (resulting in disobedience). But more so than that, it expresses faith. Its corresponding books suggest a certain code of ethics, morals and principles based upon that freewill (Josh 1:8) upon which even a non-believer can aspire to.
Genesis is a book that can be considered the book of all declarations. For it is within this book that we have the declaration that God truly exists. The very first sentence penned in the book declares that “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.“ The book does not try to explain anything by way of logic, reason, or scientific evidence. The book takes its stance, not on empirical or metaphysical evidence, but rather from what would have to be considered as divine revelation. The question as to the books validity lies not in the question of whether God exists, but rather whether those who inked the book truly had such divine revelations. As believers we can not prove the existence of God, neither can we disprove His existence. However, many before has argued the case for the existence of God (and convincingly so). Yet, many on the other hand argued against such a belief, calling it a mass delusion, or superstitious rhetoric.
Whatever the case, the existence or non-existence of God should not be the question, since the question itself is self contra-dictionary. An individual can claim a thought, but we can not see that thought unless it is acted out by Word or motion. Genesis takes a similar stance in that the book suggests the impossible, a thought or Word acted out in motion – as in the creation of all things (John 1:1-3, Col 1:14-17). This is simply what Genesis declares. The book makes no apologies, instead it makes a statement. A statement that is revealed in the Judeo–Christian school of thought, but by way of oral transmissions, by way of various creation myths and by way of various testimonies then and today. Ninety five percent of the worlds population believes in a God of some sort, their testimony can hardly be considered as some form of mass-delusion. Every culture, society, civilization (primitive or advanced) carry this insatiable fingerprint in their lives. This fingerprint has indeed become our footprints in the sand, our footprint of legacy. It is our history. For many are hungry for the nurture of God our Father and many desire to make that fingerprint, footprint, and faith a reality. A reality that will one day permeate the entire Earth. As the Prophet Habakkuk declared, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14)
As expressed in the introduction, Genesis is a book of beginnings. It is the first book of the Pentateuch/Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; The first five books of the Old Testament Bible. It is a book which takes its name from the Greek version of the Old Testament called, “The Septuagint.“ The meaning of Genesis in the Septuagint means “beginnings.” It is taken from the heading of the Septuagint, ‘he biblos geneseos.’
Although Jewish and Christian tradition attribute the book of Genesis to that of Moses, the book makes no reference concerning his name or whether or not he penned the book. Moreover, many scholars contend that since the book itself is part of the Pentateuch, all of the recorded passages predate Moses. However, it must be understood that the book of Genesis is a precursor to the remaining four books of the Pentateuch. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy make mention of early Patriarchs such as; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as found in the conclusion of Genesis (Gen 46:8-27), therefore validating its authenticity and inclusion into the Pentateuch. Moreover, the summary of the books continuity is confirmed in Exodus 1:1-7, 3:6, 6:2-3. Both, Old and New Testaments, reveal Moses as the author of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 1:5, 4:44, 31:9, 33:4, Joshua 8:31-34, I Kings 2:3, II Kings 14:6, 23:25, II Chronicles 23:18, Erza 3:2, Nehemiah 8:1, Malachi 4:4, Luke 2:22, 24:44, John 1:17, 7:19, Acts 14:39).
It is also revealed that Moses, having been reared in the household of Pharaoh, was educated and made use of that education by using, possibly, an archaic form of Hebrew written on leather rolls or papyrus (Exodus 17:14, 24:4, 34:27, Num 17:2, 33:2, Deut 6:9, 24:1-3, 27:3-4, 31:19-24). Another possibility is that Moses might have used the cuneiform language of Palestine and Syria – upon which it was then translated into Hebrew. For a further outline on the history and art of writing see Footnote in Exodus 1.
Scholars who question the authorship of Moses do so from what they perceive to be chronological discrepancies found in various parts of the Pentateuch. These discrepancies seem to indicate another author for various parts of Genesis and the remaining four books. They would cite Num 12:3 where Moses makes reference of himself that he was a humble man. They would also cite Deut 34:5-12 where Moses records the accounts of his own death. However, it is the consensus of scholars that the final form of these books received contributions from various editors affirming the death of Moses. There are clear evidences of the retelling of the accounts recorded in the Pentateuch after Moses death (Deut 34) even up to the conquest of the Canaanites (Gen 12:6, 13:7). In verse’s 10 and 12 we learn that there appears to be a time span between the actual events as recorded by Moses and of those that came after him. Also compare Gen 14:14 with Josh 19:47 and Judges 18:29.
Many scholars today claim that the 1st five books of the Torah came from four individual sources, they are as follows; The Yahwist, Jehovist JHWA, or simply put “J,” the Elohist or ‘E’ source, the Deuteronomist, and Priestly or ‘P’ source.
1.The dating for the ‘J’ version is commonly placed between the 5th and 6th cent BC (during the Jewish exile and/or post exile period pertaining to the Babylonian Captivity). However, some scholars suggest an earlier period, setting the ‘J’ documents at the time of the monarchic period/the time of Saul, David, and Solomon during the southern kingdom of Judah 950 BC.
2. The dating for the ’E’ source is roughly dated to be around the 2nd half of the 9th cent. A common trait about the ’E’ source is their continual reference to the kings of the North, especially Ephraim during the Northern kingdom of Israel (850 BC).
3. The date of the Deuteronomist documents are commonly placed during the Babylonian exile (606 or 587 BC) or in Jerusalem during religious reform about 622 BC. Their goal was to harmonize both the ‘J’ and ‘E’ versions.
4. The P source is dated sometime during the Babylonian Captivity (606 BC or 587 BC) or sometime during the Persian empire (536 BC). This source reconciles both, the J and Deuteronomist source. Each document tells the same story, with some variation. But the basic story stays the same, howbeit, written during different troublous and victorious times.
If this theory is correct, then perhaps it will explain the dual call of God regarding all men that have the breath of life. Not only do these individual sources contain a message given to a specific group of people, but it also contains a broader message. A broader message given to all men (in this case the tribes of Israel). However, it can be used with reference to the Gentiles. For further explanation, see Footnote in Genesis 30.
Considering this information, one might doubt the authenticity of its author (in this case Moses). If one were to hold this view of “modern day scholarship” then it reduces the first 5 books of Moses to mere oral traditions based on scattered legendry tales. However, the view of four different individual sources is still considered as a ‘Documentary Hypothesis.’
Moreover, scholars place the date during the 15th cent BC. The Pentateuch/Torah was written more likely during the time when Moses and the Israelites were wondering in the wilderness Num 20:1-13. So the 5 books of Moses were written about 757 years after Abraham c.2167 – 1991 B.C., Isaac c.2066 – 1886 B.C., Jacob c.2006 – 1859 B.C., and Joseph c.1915 – 1805 B.C. placing the death of Joseph in Egypt at 1805 B.C. (Note Jacob/Israel and his family move to Egypt c.1876 B.C.).
Though the explanations given above provide some clarity, it still does not answer the exact dates as to when certain events occurred in reference to the Creation, the Flood, or the Tower of Babel. The date is unknown. However, a jump forward to the book of Exodus may provide some clarity. See the Introduction to Exodus. It is the consensus that both views, in regard to the book’s author, is plausible and highly probable. Moses wrote it, others came after him to confirm it, record it again for posterity’s sake and to confirm its original author to avoid plagiarism; as indicated in the verses above.
I The Creation Stage
A. The Creation of the Heavens and the Earth Ch 1:1-2, 2:1
B. The First Six Days of Creation Ch 1:3-25, 31
C. The Creation of Man/The Creation of Adam and Eve Ch 1:26-30, 2:7
D. The First Sabbath Day of Rest (The 7th Day) 2:2-3
E. The Fall of Man/The Fall of Adam and Eve Ch 3:1-24
F. Cain, Abel, and Seth Ch 4:1-26
G. The Geologies of Adam and Eve Ch 5:1-32
H. The Depravity of Man / The Call of Noah Ch 6:1-8
I. The Flood Ch 7:1-24
J. The Aftermath of The Flood Chapters 8-9
K. The Tower of Babel and its Early Nations Ch 11:1-9, 10-32 II The
Patriarchal Stage Number 1 (Abraham and Sarah)
A. The Call of Abram/The Promise to All Nations and the Early years of Abram and Sarah Ch 12-15
B. The Covenant of Blessing Given to Abram and All Nations Ch 12
C. The Mid-Years of Abram Who Becomes Abraham and Sarah His Wife Ch 16-22
D. The Latter Years of Abraham and Sarah Ch 23-25
E. Birth of Ishmael Abraham’s Son Ch 16:1-15
F. Birth of Isaac Abraham’s Son Ch 21:1-7
III The Patriarchal Stage Number 2 (Isaac and Rebecca)
A. Isaac and Rebecca Ch 26-27
B. Isaac Heir to the Covenant Blessing Ch 26:23-25
C. The Birth of Jacob and Esau Ch 25:12-28
D. Isaac Blesses His Two Sons Jacob and Esau /Jacob Receives the Blessing Ch 27:1-45
E. The Death of Isaac 35:27-29
IV The Patriarchal Stage Number 3 (Jacob, Esau, Leah, and Rachel)
A. Jacob and Esau Ch 26-36
B. Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel Ch 29:15-30
C. Jacobs Name is Changed to Israel Ch 32:22-32
D. Jacobs Twelve Sons Ch 35:23-26 V The
Patriarchal Stage Number 4 (Joseph)
A. Leah Gives Birth to Reuben, Simon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, And Zebulun
B. Rachel Gives Birth to Joseph and Benjamin.
C. Rachel’s Maidservant Gives Birth to Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher
D. Joseph Dreams Ch 37
E. Joseph Sold into Egypt By His Envious Brothers
F. Joseph Exalted in Egypt
G. Joseph’s Reunion With His Brother’s and Father
H. The Last Days of Jacob Ch 48 to Ch 50:14
I. Joseph’s Last Days and His Death Ch 50:15-26