Genesis—The Book Of Beginnings -- By: William S. Bishop

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 082:326 (Apr 1925)
Article: Genesis—The Book Of Beginnings
Author: William S. Bishop


Genesis—The Book Of Beginnings

William S. Bishop

The title of this, the oldest book in the Bible, of course signifies Beginning. With almost equal propriety, however, the “first book of Moses” might be termed “the Book of Names,” or of “Naming.” As the noun or name-word is the basis and starting-point of all grammar, as the term or definition is the foundation of all logic, so the starting-point of all Divine knowledge is in the Name, i.e., in that Revelation of Himself which God has made known unto men. In the words of a distinguished theologian of the Genevan school (Francis Turrettin) “omnis nostra cognitio incipit a nomine.” Genesis, that primitive Book of religion, naturally appears therefore as the Book of Sacred Names: —of the Name or Names of God in the first place, and then of the names of men, of places, or of things, in relation to God. It is a well-known fact that it was from the observance of this feature in the narratives of Genesis that the modern school of literary criticism as applied to the books of the Bible took its rise. Upon the phenomena presented by the varying use of the Divine Names has been erected the theory of diversity of origin for certain portions of the Genesis narratives. When stated in its broad outlines, this theory may be said to be generally accepted among scholars today. It must, however, be admitted that this principle of criticism has frequently been applied in a very crude, partial and onesided manner; yet this fact ought not to blind us to the value and importance of the principle taken in itself.

There are certain phenomena,—in part connected with the use of the Divine Names, in part of another character —which, when fairly construed, certainly seem to point to a diversity of origin for several clearly-marked sections of the Book of Genesis. To proceed immediately to the consideration of some of the evidence: —The Septuagint rendering of chapter 2, v. 4 reads, “This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth, when they came into being, in the day wherein the LORD God made the heaven

and the earth.” This language seems on its face to indicate the beginning of a distinct creation-narrative; especially when taken in connection with the fact that the section which follows presents what plainly appears as a (relatively) independent account of the creation. As we shall see a little further on, this second account, when compared with the one which precedes it, presents a number of individual and striking characteristics; and, moreover, like the account in chapter i, exhibits a unity of structure and purpose which would seem to indicate a relatively independent origin.

Again, at the beginning of chap...

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