Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Review: The Book of Genesis

The Book of GenesisThe Book of Genesis by Gary A. Rendsburg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This course was quite fascinating. Over the course of 24 lectures, Prof. Rendsburg takes you through Book of Genesis. One aspect of the course I appreciated was that Rendsburg had lectures weaved into the overall progression of the book that focused on various issues needing special focus. For example, there are lectures that focused on the history of the Ancient Near East that are relevant for understanding the historical context of the Bible, another lecture on the literature structure of the Bible, one on the different ways of translating the Bible, and another on the dating of the Book of Genesis. These provide important theories and ideas for understanding Genesis, but also they help break up the lectures and avoids the tedium that can sometimes come in long Teaching Company courses.

Though most of the stories where familiar to me, and I imagine would be to almost anyone raised in the West, I learned a lot about the context of these stories, how they related to each other and to other parts of the Bible. I also developed a deeper appreciation for the language, structure, and construction of the Biblical text.

My main criticism would be that some of the discussion of the historicity of the stories could be too credulous. Most of the evidence for the events of the Biblical narrative is circumstantial at best and I think Rendsburg ought to have been clearer about that. Personally, I don’t think it matters all the much: the power of the stories and their meaning is not tied to their literal truth. Like fiction and mythology, the narrative can be meaningful and significant without historical accuracy.

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