Introduction to Genesis 1-11 (Part 5a)

This material is an UNOFFICIAL study guide to Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary, vol. 1a, Genesis 1:1-11:26 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1996). ISBN 978-0-8054-0101-1.


PART 5 – Interpreting Genesis (pages 63-85)

There are many ways we can read the book of Genesis. Whether as fables, myths or stories of morality, we all see the tales differently if we approach Genesis with our preconceived notions. Genesis is a story of people interacting with the created world and its Creator. Interpreting any ancient text has its difficulty and the Old Testament is not exempt from this. Today we will look at several methods of interpretation. This includes how Jews and Christians have looked at it in the past and how scholars look at it today.
Many times we hear a story and we take its perceived understanding for granted, or we tend to disagree with it. Looking at Genesis 1-11 (creation to the flood and to Abraham’s father, Terah) we may not all agree on the deeper meaning of the text. Let this not hinder us from going In God’s Holy Word together. Let the Holy Spirit open our eyes and minds as we study “Interpreting Genesis”.


Opening Discussion

I. Compare the various translations you have read so far. Which one was your “go to” Bible before? Did it change in any way?

II. What stood out to you in your daily devotions this week?

III. What stood out to you in the commentary reading?

IV. Why do we need to look at Jewish and early Christian interpretation?

V. Let us discuss the assigned reading, use the following questions and/or open to questions and comments.


A. Intro (page 63)

I. When did source criticism begin? And who are two of the renowned scholars of this form of interpretation?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

II. When did theological reflections of Genesis begin?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

III. “Until the modern critical period” what was the consensus of Genesis?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IV. List the “diverse hermeneutical systems employed” in interpreting Genesis.
a. ______________________
b. ______________________
c. ______________________

V. Which early twelfth century commentator questioned Moses’ authorship “at every point” of Genesis?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VI. What idea displaced the homogeneous interpretation of the Pentateuch?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VII. “In the case of Genesis its __________ history was attributed to __________ putative interwoven __________ ( __ , __, and __ ) that could be __________ from the extant text by employing __________ and __________ criteria. Once extracted, the sources could supposedly be delineated as to __________ and __________, and __________ within a half century with __________ __________.”

VIII. When did this “approach dominate all Old Testament scholarship” and when did last to?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IX. With “Pentateuchal studies [being] at a crossroads” what is the current model used by scholars?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


B. Innerbiblical (page 64)

I. What is innerbiblical interpretation? What is an example of this in the Pentateuch?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

II. How does typologies function as means of interpretation?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


C. Jewish Interpretation (pages 64-65)

I. What are some examples of postbiblical Jewish interpretation of Genesis?
a. ______________________
b. ______________________
c. ______________________
d. ______________________
e. ______________________
f. ______________________

II. What were the common systems of interpretation? What sets them apart from the “former system”?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

III. What was the former system of interpretation?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IV. What texts does the Midrash include? Explain what the Hebrew terms mean.
a. ______________________
b. ______________________

V. What were the Aramaic targums? Give examples.
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VI. What was the fist systematic commentary on Genesis called, and what did it do for Judaism?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VII. Compare the interpretation methods of the Midrash (fourth century A.D.) and those of the Middle Ages (A.D.500-1000).
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________


D. Christian Interpretation (pages 66-68)

I. “Among the __________ fathers the champion of the __________ school of __________ interpretation was __________ (A.D. ____-____ ). Although the __________ school is remembered for its __________ approach, it did not avoid the __________ meaning of the text.”

II. “The __________ school of interpretation focused on the __________ level of the text. Its proponents __________ the arbitrary assignment of __________ meanings about __________ and the __________ to dubious Old Testament passages as the __________ did.”

III. Who was the premier of this approach?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

IV. In his writing on Genesis, what did Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, mean by “literal” and “allegorical”?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

V. What did the literal readings approach of the Reformers and Humanists take into account?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VI. What did John Calvin distance himself from?
____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

VII. The commentator uses Noah’s Ark/Deluge story of Genesis 6 as examples of the various forms of Christian interpretation used throughout the ages. As a group, compare and contrast the examples given in the commentary.


E. Pentateuchal Criticism (pages 68-85) (COMING SOON!)

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