Genre Analysis Problems In Genesis

3844 words - 15 pages

The Bible is undoubtedly one of the most influential books in the world. Yet it is surprising that despite its position as the most widely sold and translated book in the world, it is among the least known and understood books in the English-speaking world (Miller ,143). Criticism and analysis of this ancient book is a mammoth task, for one can never be certain of anything when it comes to a book so personal and subjective like this religious text. However, it is important to remember that while the Bible is a sacred book, it is still a book and therefore open to the same criticism and analysis as any other. One of the most important questions in the analysis of the Bible is in regards to the genre of book itself, and books it contains. The question of genre is extremely crucial to the eventual understanding of the Bible because genres give readers a set of expectations and rules which aid in grasping the content in all aspects: especially plot and meaning. But what are these genres and how can they be picked out? Perhaps the best place to start when attempting this kind of knowledge is at the beginning: the first book of the Bible, Genesis. While a vast number of analyses focus on the very question of the different genres in Genesis, the answers are vague and subjective at best and because of this and other problems, concrete decisions on genre (and as a result, meaning) will never be reached until solid definitions of terms are agreed upon. History, myth, legend and 'etiology' are the genres most often discussed by critics, yet each critic seems to have different definitions for the term and the characteristics involved. This disagreement complicates the research of genre in Genesis. The problems that exist in this area of study are the classifying of genre, the age of Genesis, the theological nature, the origin of the work and how all the genres appear to work together.Picking out genres is immensely difficult because there are literally hundreds of genres from which to choose, each often with their own subgenres. Tremper Longman III explains that "a reader's sense of a book's genre determines how to interpret the book … to misunderstand a genre is to misconstrue its message and meaning" (Longman, 59). This is clearly a very serious matter, particularly considering that this book concerns matters of people's faith. If the reader chose the wrong genre and read the story of the Tower of Babylon as a work of true history and not an etiology (which it is) the meaning of the story changes from a creative explanation of how language came into being to an account of a vengeful, self-centered God.Genres and their organization aid in the memory of the content and finding the meaning since they are prescribed patterns. Once a genre is selected, the reader may begin asking questions about how the genre presents the story, why was this genre chosen among all the others and what that choice says about the interpretation. In Cracking Old Testament...

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