The narratives of Genesis have yielded as much controversy as any book of the Bible, narrating the world’s beginnings and the origin of the nation of Israel. These three volumes provide cutting-edge linguistic, historical, and textual research on Genesis that will enrich any sermon series or course of lectures on the first book of the Pentateuch. In Creation and Destruction, David Tsumura argues that the linguistic patterns Genesis 1 and 2 are completely distinct from other ancient Near Eastern mythological literature. Then, in Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence, renowned linguist Robert E. Longacre presents an accessible study of why and how we should study ancient texts. And finally, in The Redaction of Genesis, Gary Rendsburg demonstrates how the poetic structure of Genesis unites the entire book and contributes to its meaning.
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In 1989, David Tsumura published The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2: A Linguistic Evaluation. Tsumura demonstrated that the oft-recited claim that the early chapters of Genesis betrayed adaptation by Israel of mythological terms and/or motifs from other ancient Near Eastern literature could not be supported by a close examination of the linguistic data. Despite the book’s positive reception, the notion that the Chaoskampf motif lies behind the early chapters of Genesis continues to be rehearsed in the literature, as if the data were incontrovertible.
In this revised and expanded edition of his 1989 book, Tsumura carries the discussion forward. Tsumura restates his thesis in a significantly revised and expanded form. He also expands the scope of his research to include a number of poetic texts outside the Primeval History, texts for which scholars often have posited an ancient Near Eastern mythological substratum. His work is a valuable contribution to understanding the origin of the Bible’s opening scene.
Robert Longacre approaches Joseph’s story and explores several questions. How does one approach an ancient text? What does one hope to gain from its study? How do we orient ourselves in regard to this story? Does our orientation provide a key for understanding of the story, or does it simply hinder an objective approach to the narrative? This new edition of Longacre’s landmark work incorporates a more user-friendly format. The book also includes new textlinguistic insights and updated references.
I highly recommend it, especially if you plan to preach or study this section of Genesis.
—Biblical Theological Seminary Booklist
This is an important volume. The approach it represents must become a part of the toolbox for all biblical scholarship.
With its sheer novelty and creativity, Longacre’s book should stimulate, provoke, and influence grammatical analysis of Biblical Hebrew discourse.
—Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Robert E. Longacre (1922–2014) was an American linguist and missionary. He developed a text-based approach to discourse analysis that contrasted with that of Michel Foucault. He was professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Texas, Arlington. He is the author of several books, including Holistic Discourse Analysis, The Grammar of Discourse, and Storyline Concerns and Word Order Typology in East and West Africa.
Focusing his research on his own previous studies—as well as studies by Cassuto, Sarna, Fishbane, and Sasson—Gary Rendsburg clearly explains his theory that Genesis was edited/redacted around symmetrical patterns. Rendsburg leads the reader through a step-by-step description of the Abraham Cycle. He shows how content, duplicated narratives, and vocabulary reveal a chiastic pattern, and how this pattern is repeated in other sections of the book. On the other hand, in the primeval history, the patterning is parallel, rather than chiastic. Overall, Rendsburg makes it clear that the editing of Genesis led to a systematic design, uniting the material in ways that often is overlooked.
Gary A. Rendsburg is Blanche and Irving Lauria Chair of Jewish History at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. He is also the author of Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew, Linguistic Evidence for the Northern Origin of Selected Psalms, and The Bible and the Ancient Near East.