It is not an accident that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Divinely selected, every aspect of plot, symbolism, character and even cataclysm sets the stage for all that comes afterward. It is a simple matter to be mesmerized by the dramatic events of the Pentateuch’s most renowned book. The first 11 chapters, often referenced as the prologue or the primitive or primeval history, offer the reader a feast of action and adventure: creation out of nothing, paradise and the fall of humankind, the first murder in Cain and Abel, patriarchs, giants, flood, Noah and sons and the Tower of Babel. The narrative attacks every sense and every emotion. From the lush and intoxicating scents of the Garden of Eden to the shocking and unexpected brutality of fratricide, Genesis introduces the ultimate plotline of human history.
The use of the term primitive to characterize the first chapters is regrettably misleading and unfortunate. The modern connotation of primitive develops a sense of inferiority, lacking in quality, and even an aspect of degradation. For example, a tourist guide as Baedeker may describe a hotel as having primitive plumbing. The guest comprehends with reasonable certitude what to expect. Interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis has no connection with degradation or inferiority. Shift the descriptor primitive to its derivational reference, and the word primary surfaces. Genesis chapters 1 through 11 are the primary history. In extracting the root or affix, primus is disclosed. The Latin word primus means first or by implication, the beginning of a sequence or the earliest stage. There is an immediate link to the Greek and Hebrew names of the first book of the Bible. In Hebrew, bereshith translates to the phrase, “in the beginning.” In Koine Greek, Genesis means “origin, birth, creation and beginning.” There is also a more potent translation available, source. The prologue of Genesis reveals the source of humankind’s original blessing and then the generational tragedy of human failure.
Bible scholars frequently recommend a quick reading of the 50 chapters of Genesis to achieve a basic sense of style, characters and events. Yet, it is in the prologue where Yahweh’s message to his people is initially presented. A careful and purposeful reading of the prologue produces the first fruits of faith. The source of God’s desires for his people finds its first blossom. The source is love. What are Yahweh’s loving messages? God created a good world, one where harmony prevails. God blessed human life, so if the world is good, so is all life within it. The Almighty tends toward mercy and forgiveness. It is God’s desire to spare, not condemn. In addition, the Lord, God is a promise keeper. Since the prologue demonstrates through Noah that the Almighty keeps promises, thus God inspires hope. The faithful can trust that God can and will act in new and decisive ways for all his people. Finally, God blesses and punishes. Yahweh places obstacles before his people and then makes straight the path through them. Ultimately, God is the source of all things. Everything is in hands of the Almighty. To walk in the ways of the Lord is to be righteous in his eyes. This makes sense in a frequently senseless world.
BACK TO LIST