Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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The name comes from the earliest translations. Hebrew scrolls of the period did not have titles and later generations tended to use instead the first word. The first scroll of the Hebrew Bible is known as Bereshith: ‘in the beginning of…’, the Greek (and subsequently Latin) for this is Genesis. As a book of beginnings, Genesis is about the beginning of the world as the ancient Hebrew writers understood it. It is also about the beginnings of the people of Israel in Mesopotamia, with stories about their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob (renamed as Israel, the eponymous founder of the nation) and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers. The representation of Abraham and his immediate family moving from Babylonia to Palestine probably reflects the ‘Second Temple’ ideology of the fifth–fourth centuries bce.8 There are two stories of the creation of the world in Gen. 1 and 2 and a further creation story underlies the poetry of Job, Isaiah, and the Psalms (e.g. Isa. 51: 9–10; Job 38). The tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, their encounter with the snake (the cleverest creature YHWH God ever made), the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the dispute with YHWH God which resulted in their ejection is one of the most famous and most-quoted in the world (Gen. 2–3). Later generations of Christian apologists would derive from this story a much darker tale about (original) sin—a notion neither in the text nor Jewish traditions—and would identify the snake with the devil. The dominant interpretation of the English-speaking world, that of Milton's hugely extended seventeenth-century version in Paradise Lost, is so coloured by such accretions that it is less a retelling of the original biblical saga than the creation of yet a third myth.

Chapter.  1910 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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