Friday, 13 March 2015

Before Reading Genesis

(I put together the following for a bible study)

Before we start reading any book of the Bible, it is good to know some background behind it.  This way we can better understand how to read it.

Who wrote Genesis?

Although it is not without controversy, it is generally accepted that Genesis was written by Moses.  The most compelling evidence I can see for this comes in a couple of verses in the New Testament:
John 7:22 (NIV) - 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath.
Acts 15:1 (NIV) - Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Circumcision was a concept introduced in Genesis, and these verses show that it was Moses who brought them the tradition.

How was Genesis written?

This is, I believe, a much bigger question to ask than the "who."  Regardless of who wrote it, Christians believe the book was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) - 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What does it mean when a Scripture is God-breathed?

Throughout the Bible, there are a number of ways books have been written, and yet we accept all these books as "God-breathed scripture":

  • God physically spoke, and the writer wrote down the words, word for word, such as in a prophesy.
  • Prayers, songs, and poems have been written down from the writer's mind, such as the book of Psalms and Song of Solomon.
  • A writer sees an event and writes it down.
  • A writer researches an event, and writes it down, such as how Luke interviewed eyewitnesses of Jesus.
All of these are accepted ways that Scripture was put together, and we still see it as "inspired of God."  So how was Genesis put together?

We know for a fact that there are parts of Genesis that could not have been seen by humans or derived by any way other than divine inspiration and/or dictation.  However, it would be unfair to say that this means that the entire book of Genesis was granted to the writer by supernatural enlightenment rather than recording things that were previously recorded or taught.

Part of Genesis 5:1 reads (in the NKJV/KJV, where the words are translated more word for word than the NIV), "This is the book of the genealogy of Adam," where "book" in the original Hebrew implies a written document.

So what?

Basically the significance of the fact that Genesis could have been recorded out of previously known information means that its writer could possibly be recording the creation account not as it was supernaturally revealed to him, but how it was supernaturally revealed to earlier people, quite possibly the first man.
If the creation account was originally revealed to the first man, it would be revealed to this listener in terms that they would understand.  This is especially important when we go over the creation account.

Who was Genesis written for?

The intended audience of the book should affect the way we read it.  Although God fully intends us to read and learn from it (remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17), the initial audience, the people it was worded for, was not us.

Regardless if whether or not one believes Moses actually wrote Genesis (and I personally believe that he did), it is rather obvious that the initial intended audience for Genesis was for Israelites around his time.  Genesis establishes the basis for their ancestry and traditions (such as circumcision).  It also provides for them a concept of who God is.

This in mind, it shouldn't be a surprising if there are parts to Genesis that are unclear to us.  However, the simple, basic concepts about God should be clear to us just as it was clear to the ancient Hebrews.

More notes from bible study:

  • We watched John Lennox explain how there is different meanings to the word "day" in Genesis, as well as go over a little more about what we can find in Genesis:
  • We saw how Genesis 1:27 mentions the creation of Adam and Eve, even though the story doesn't happen until chapter 2.
  • More confusion arises when we see God create vegetation in Gen 1:11, yet in Gen 2:4-5 it says that vegetation hasn't grown yet.  I mentioned that chapter 1 is the depiction of the story on the large scale, whereas chapter 2 tells the story again but "zoomed in" on the creation of man.
  • We didn't dig too much deeper as people's brains started to hurt.

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