“In The Beginning”

“In the beginning,” are the words Moses opened up with in Genesis. My writing that sentence provides my personal background and sentiment towards the biblical author and source of the Pentateuch. Studying Genesis for Sunday School, brought me face to face again with the technical consideration and question of just who authored the individual books of the Bible.

Some different theologians posit arguments contra the traditional/fundamentalist view of Moses authorship:

  • French physician Jean Astruc in the 1700’s concluded Moses was the editor, not the author of Genesis–> Exodus through the use of source material in 1752.
  • J.G Eichhorn took Astruc’s thoughts and developed it into a process and methodology for studying the OT books.
  • Which led to Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) taking the process mainstream in textual criticism and biblical studies. Followed by Hermann Gunkel and Martin Noth

According to Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, the four strands of source material in the Pentateuch are:

  • The Yahwist or (J). Material written anonymously in Judah during Solomon’s reign. J traces Israel’s history from the patriarchs. J uses the term “Yahweh” almost exclusively for God.
  • The Elohist or (E). Material written anonymously in Northern Israel after the end of the unified kingdom. E covers much the same time as J and uses “Elohim” for God.
  • Deuteronomy or (D). Also written in the Northern Kingdom and solely concerned with Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch.
  • The Priestly Author (P). P is focused on the chronological, liturgical and genealogical matters to deliver the foundation of Israel’s story.

A picture of how Genesis would be constructed based on these sources from E. A. Speiser’s Genesis, published in 1978, would almost certainly enrage modern defendants of the traditional view of authorship and biblical authority and appears below as captured on my telephone:

Image of Hamilton’s construct of Speiser’s authorship template for the different chapters and verses of Genesis. Note the use of P, J, and E for possible non-Mosaic source material.

So what does any or all of this matter as I complete tomorrows Sunday School material? Fundamentalist Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit through human authors, and true. Biblical Criticism provides an avenue of attack on this belief system and therefore as a Christians and a pastor, it is something that must be addressed when studying each of the books of the Bible. Although, textual criticism has proven to find/locate linkages for further study and different trains of thought

Who do I, and by extension you since you are reading this, think the author of Genesis is and why was the material written and selected for inclusion in the canon is the question of the day. I argue the Holy Spirit is the ultimate author, using inspiration through individuals over time, to capture in writing the necessary words of God so we might know Him and be saved by Jesus from our sins. However, the Bible does not capture all the words of God, only those we need to know Him and by extension ourselves.

So how does one interpret the “days” occurring in Genesis 1. The opening of the Bible brings man into contention with science, philosophy, and rationality.

  • Are the days literal 24 hour book ends containing the length of time for the traditional understanding of a “day,” for each of God’s creative moments?
  • Is the “Creation Week” not to be taken literally, but only as a figurative capture of God’s creative work over a much longer period of time, but not the traditionally understood 24 hour day?
  • Are the “days” more of a period of time or even epochal periods to allow for exceptionally long periods of time for development and evolutionary changes?
  • Or the story of creation is a myth and not designed for literal understanding.

Francis Schaeffer in Genesis in Space and Time, provides an excellent method of viewing the time question and creation event in both man’s history in a linear method and through the Trinity before creation, during our lives, and afterwords in eternity.

I want to close this introduction to Genesis for our Sunday School with these words from Tremper Longman III in How to Read Genesis, “The book of Genesis is not properly understood unless it is seen as the first chapter of a five-chapter work we refer to as the Torah, or the Pentateuch…”

With this statement by Longman, he is stating the individual books of the Bible are exactly those, individual books, but they are also part of one continuous story captured in the Ole Testament and the New.

Sunday School is at 10 am. Come, have some coffee, and study the Bible with us.