Genealogies, Seed And The Compositional Unity Of Genesis -- By: T.D. Alexander

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 44:2 (NA 1993)
Article: Genealogies, Seed And The Compositional Unity Of Genesis
Author: T.D. Alexander

Genealogies, Seed And The Compositional Unity Of Genesis

T.D. Alexander


Most studies on Genesis tend to focus on the disparate nature of the material which has been used in its composition. It is argued here that the entire book has been carefully composed to focus on a unique family line. The members of this line of ‘seed’ enjoyed a special relationship with God which resulted in the establishment of two eternal covenants, the first with Noah and the second with Abraham. At the heart of this latter covenant was the promise that God’s blessing would be mediated to all the nations of the earth through the ‘seed’ of Abraham. While the book of Genesis draws attention to the initial stages of the fulfilment of this promise, its ultimate fulfilment is linked to a royal dynasty associated with the descendants of Judah.


A common feature of much biblical interpretation has been the fragmentation of the text; that is, the contents of a book are divided into small sections which are often interpreted in isolation from one another.1 The present division of the biblical books into chapters and verses encourages such an approach, and this is reflected at a popular level in the use of selected passages or texts in sermons or Bible studies. The commonly accepted style of commentaries, by which a book is examined chapter by chapter and verse by verse, also promotes a fragmented view of the text. While it is important to discover the anatomy of a biblical book by dissection, it is equally important to see how the component parts relate to each other. It is at this level that scholarship has been least successful, especially regarding the narrative sections of the Old Testament. To use a popular metaphor, biblical scholars often fail to see the wood for the trees.

As regards the book of Genesis, modern critical methods have increased, rather than lessened, this tendency to fragment the text. Scholarly endeavours to discover the sources underlying Genesis have resulted in apparently unified narratives being viewed as composite. Interest in the final form of the text has given way to a detailed scrutiny of the component parts which are believed to underlie it. Many commentators excel at being able to reduce Genesis to various documents and /or editorial strands, without adequately appreciating that in the process they do not shed much, if any, light on the received form of the text.2

The application of form criticism to Genesis has added further to the fragmentation of the text. In the wake of Gunkel’s analysis of Genesis, biblical scholars...

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