Monday, November 5, 2007

The Most Basic Truths, part two

Our first task is to observe and mark the extent of the text that the author has given us. On the front end there is no problem, since GENESIS 1.1 begins the Bible.

However, where the text ends is not so clear. In our Bibles with chapter and verse divisions, the true flow of an author's argument is not always evident, and Genesis 1 provides a good example of this. Most of us are aware that the story of beginnings is organized by a seven-day scheme. However, those who gave us chapters and verses separated the seventh day from the story and put it in chapter 2! Right away, we can see and agree that GENESIS 2.1-3 belongs with the material in chapter one.

What about GENESIS 2.4? Some have understood at least the first part of this verse as a summary of chapter 1, and have translated it something like this: "And so, this is the story of the heavens and the earth..." I am persuaded, however, that Genesis 2.4 begins a new section.

This conclusion grows out of observing the way the entire book of Genesis has been put together. In the book there are twelve statements that begin with words like this, "Now these are the generations of..." (2.4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 32, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 19, 36:1, 9 and 37:2). Each of these statements then refers to a main character who has already been introduced. What follows each statement is either a listing of family names that trace his descendants, or a series of stories that tell us what became of this character and his family.

If you step back and look at the structure of the book in a bird's eye view, you see how these statements organize the material and move its stories along.

The heavens and the earth are introduced (1.1-2.3)
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth (2.4-ch. 4) which Adam and his family are introduced
These are the generations of Adam (5.1-6.8) which Noah is introduced by a genealogy from Adam to Noah
These are the generations of Noah (6.9-ch. 9)

And so on. We might translate this phrase (Hebrew: toledot) as: "This is what became of ____________." The material before this heading introduces the main character and the material after it describes what happened in subsequent history to that character and his family.

Therefore, Genesis 2.4 belongs to the next section, and the text we will be examining in this study goes from GENESIS 1.1-2.3.

Next Study: The structure of Genesis 1.1-2.3

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