Approaches to Genesis: A Review Article -- By: David W. Baker

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 31:0 (NA 1999)
Article: Approaches to Genesis: A Review Article
Author: David W. Baker


Approaches to Genesis: A Review Article

David W. Baker

David Baker (Ph.D., University of London) is Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at ATS.

Recent publications on the first book of the Bible give a useful overview of the various approaches which can elucidate a biblical text. This brief survey shows that publishers find a niche for things ranging between reprints of older classics and more popular thematic studies, coffee table books with illustrations and detailed scholarly investigations. All readers should find something of interest from the works reviewed here.

Herman Gunkel was a pioneer in the area of the form critical analysis of the Bible, most particularly Genesis and the Psalms. The Mercer Library of Biblical Studies has provided a useful translation from German of the third edition of his very important commentary, which originally appeared in 1901.1 Placing Gunkel in his context, Ernest W. Nicholson provides a 7 page introduction.

The volume is important as a landmark in the history of interpretation of Scripture, especially exemplifying the critical perspective. This is noteworthy for the reader when seeing the division of the text, and comment upon it, into the sources proposed by the Documentary Hypothesis. Since Gunkel also has his own view on how the text is to be reordered, finding comment on any particular section can be a bit daunting, especially since there is scripture index for all the passages discussed apart from genesis itself. For example, the brief discussion of Gen 2:4a (attributed by Gunkel to the Priestly source) immediately precedes the discussion of 1:1–23, and follows the commentary on ‘The Primeval History According to J’, which itself covers 2:4b–3:24; 4:2–16; 4:1, 17–24; 4:25, 26, 5:29; 6:1–6; the J rendition of the Flood story (various verses and parts of verses between Gen 6–8); 9:18–27; the Table of Nations (9:18, 19, 10:1 b, 8–19, 21, 25–30); and 11:1–9.

The book, while very dated, provides interesting and intriguing points of theology and exegesis which, even if one does not agree, deserve thought and interaction. His introduction, entitled ‘The Legends of Genesis,’ lays out his understanding of form criticism and how it applies to genesis. This includes a discussion of the various genres, the most important being ‘legend,’ as well as the history of their purported development and transmission.

If nothing else, the work is ingenious, but does raise questions as to its relation to a real, existent text. Even those who do not agree with the author’s suggestions as to textual ...

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