Composition of the Book of Genesis


Approximate date: 1440-1400 B.C.E. (Right); 1300-1200 B.C.E. (conservative-moderate); 500s B.C.E. (Left)

Time period: the Creation of the world to Israel in Egypt

Author: Moses exclusively (Right); Moses, Joshua, and later editors (conservative-moderate); compiled traditions and mythologies (Left)

Location of author: wilderness journey after the Exodus (Right, conservative-moderate); Babylon and/or Land of Israel (Left)

Target audience and their location: wilderness journey after the Exodus (Right, conservative-moderate); Babylon and/or Land of Israel (Left)

Theological Summary: The Hebrew title of the first book of the Bible is Bereisheet (pronounced Bereishis in the Ashkenazic tradition), coming from the first sentence in the text, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). Our English term “Genesis” is derived from the Greek Septuagint, which uses theterm geneseōs in Genesis 2:4, describing “the book of the generation of heaven and earth” (LXE). This passed over into the Latin Vulgate as Liber Genesis. In the Jewish tradition, the full title of Genesis is Sefer haBereisheet, and referred to by some as Sefer haYesharim or “Book of the Upright.”

The theme of the Book of Genesis is undoubtedly beginnings. “Genesis covers an immensely long period of time, longer perhaps than the rest of the Bible put together. It begins in the distant past of creation, an event about whose absolute date we cannot even speculate, through millennia to reach Abraham at the end of chapter 11” (Dillard and Longman). If the lifespans of the early genealogies in chs. 5 and 11 are added together, then the text itself covers almost 2,400 years. Specifically, it would cover 1,948 years from Adam to Abraham, and then 361 years to the death of Joseph, equaling 2,309 years. If one considers there to be missing generations or individuals via a telescoped genealogy, then the timespan between Creation and the Patriarchs becomes considerably longer, with human history certainly going back 18,000-20,000 years or much , much more. The wide breadth of space and history that Genesis covers cannot be ignored by any able interpreter. Several, if not multiplied millennia of human history, are covered in Genesis’ first twelve chapters.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages