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The Harpercollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, With the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books

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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-08-16
  • Publisher: Harperone
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The landmark general reference Bible that offers the full text of the New Revised Standard Version. Completely revised and updated, this new edition includes revised introductions and notes, and new diagrams, charts and maps25% revised or new material. More Praise for the HarperCollins Study Bible: "I ... can speak with unbounded praise for this work. The auspices are impeccable, the sponsorship is by one of the most prestigious and effective publishing firms in the field of religious publishing, and the scholarship under the aegis of the Society of Biblical Literature, which is the only game in town, the NBA of Bible study in this country (and abroad)."David Noel Freedman, Endowed Chair in Hebrew Biblical Studies, University of California, San Diego; EditorinChief, Anchor Bible Project "The HarperCollins Study Bible engages some of the best of biblical scholarship for removing unnecessary obstacles in reading the Scriptures. I welcome its publication and recommend it highly."Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, The Krister Stendahl Professor Scripture and Interpretation, Harvard University "The HarperCollins Study Bible is the most authoritative ecumenical Bible available, the work of scholars who are at the cutting edge of their subjects. I recommend it highly."John J. Collins, The University of Chicago "This is the Bible I have been looking for to use in undergraduate courses. The text itself is clear and readable. The introductions are sound and precise. The footnotes are balanced, accurate and hit a good balance between the dangers of being too terse and too extended."Harvey Cox, The Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity, the Divinity School, Harvard University "An invaluable resource for teachers and students, and indeef for every thoughtful reader of the Bible."Richard P. McBrien, CrowleyO'BrienWalter Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame "I am extremely glad for the HarperCollins Study Bible....Every effort has been made to make these study notes understandable and accessible to ordinary readers. They can be trusted to provide reliable information without trying to control what should be believed."Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline

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HarperCollins Study Bible - Student Edition
Fully Revised & Updated

Chapter One


The book of Genesis derives its name from the Greek translation of 2.4 and 5.1, "This is the book of the origin of (biblos geneseos)?' In Jewish tradition the book is called Bereshit, after the first word of the book, which means "in the beginning of." Both names accurately convey the content of the book—it tells of the origins of the cosmos, humankind, and the ancestors of Israel. The origins of the cosmos and humans are recounted in the primeval narratives (chs. 1-11) and the origins of Israel's ancestors in the patriarchal narratives (chs. 12-50). In the ancient world as in the modern, the era of origins has a special authority—its formative events set the rules and conditions for all subsequent developments. As a book of origins, Genesis partakes of the sacredness and authority of this era and has served as a foundation for thought, belief, and action for millennia.

The Genesis of Genesis

According to Jewish and Christian tradition, the book of Genesis was dictated by God to Moses, but this belief is not found in the Hebrew Bible. (It seems to be first attested in the book of Jubilees and in the Dead Sea Scrolls from about the second century BCE.) Commentators have long noted that several points in Genesis indicate the narrator lived well after Moses, at a time when the Canaanites had disappeared from the promised land (12.6) and when kings ruled over Israel (36.31; 49.10). Modern archaeological and historical discoveries confirm this general picture: the constellation of peoples, places, and religious practices and the language of Genesis indicate that the book was primarily composed and compiled during the centuries of monarchical rule and immediately thereafter, roughly from the tenth through the sixth centuries BCE.

Biblical scholarship has identified three major literary sources that were edited together to form the book of Genesis called the Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), and Priestly (P) sources. The first two (often called "old epic" sources) reflect the predominance in certain narratives of forms of the divine name, Yahweh (Jahweh in German, hence J) and Elohim. The P source reflects concerns of the Priestly writers most evident in the book of Leviticus. There are also a few texts that belong to none of these sources (including chs. 14, 15, 24, and 49). The literary sources drew on traditional oral lore as well as written records and were engaged in preserving and revising Israel's traditions of the past. This is the standard model of the composition of Genesis, and although various scholars have proposed modifications, it remains the most coherent explanation of the evidence.

The editor (or editors) who wove the literary sources together created a text with an abundance of meaning, combining the different theologies, philosophical perspectives, and literary styles of the sources into a work of great power and complexity. The editors were not embarrassed by the duplications of particular episodes (e.g., the different creation accounts in 1.1-2.3 and 2.4-25, the two flood stories in chs. 6-9, the three wife-sister stories in 12.10-20; 20; and 26.1-11, and the multiple accounts of Jacob's change of name to Israel and the founding of Bethel in 28.10-22; 32.22-32; and 35.9-15), but, rather, valued the preservation of different traditions. One result of this complexity is that Genesis is a layered "mosaic" of meanings that is richer than any of the sources alone. Yet its lucid and tersely evocative narrative style generally allows readers to pass untroubled over its internal compositional seams.

Science, History, and Genesis

Genesis is not a scientific or historical textbook in the modern sense. Rather, it is a narration of ancient Israel's traditions and concepts of the past—a mixture of myths and legends, cultural memories, revisions of tradition, and literary brilliance. It is a complex portrait of the past that encodes the values of biblical religion and creates a rich array of perspectives on the world.

There are authentic historical memories in the book, but most of the historical details reflect the period when Israel was an established nation. The older memories include the rise of urban civilization in the land of Sumer (10.8-12; 11.1-9), the region of Haran as an ancient tribal homeland (12.4; 24; 27.43), Semitic rulers and officials in Egypt (ch. 41), and the worship of the high god named El in pre-Israelite times (17.1). These and other old memories are mingled with more recent memories, such as relations with Israel's neighbors, including Aram, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, which arose at roughly the same time as Israel. The portrayal of the natural world in Genesis also belongs to the worldview of its time—a geocentric universe with light and the earth created before the sun, and with the stars, sun, and moon attached to the surface of the dome of heaven (ch. 1); the first woman fashioned from the first man's rib (2.21-22); the rainbow as God's huge weapon set in the clouds (9.13); and the desolate landscape of the Dead Sea (including the pillar that was once Lot's wife) as the result of ancient transgressions (ch. 19). These and other details reflect ancient lore about life, the earth, and the universe.

It is somewhat unfair to note the scientific inadequacies of Genesis, since it was not written to be a work of modern science. We need to learn to read Genesis as a book that speaks strongly to modern readers, but we need to read it on its terms, recognize its ancient voice, and not superimpose on it our own. It is a book of memories—of marvels and miracles, imperfect saints and holy sinners, a beneficent and often inscrutable God, and promises that bind the past to the present and the future. It tells us where we came from, not in the sense that the book is historically accurate, but in the sense that the book itself is our historical root. [Ronald Hendel]

HarperCollins Study Bible - Student Edition
Fully Revised & Updated
. Copyright © by Harold Attridge. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Harper Collins Study Bible by Harold W. Attridge
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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