The Book of "Genesis": A Biography by Ronald Hendel | 9781400844593 | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
The Book of

The Book of "Genesis": A Biography

by Ronald Hendel
     
 

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During its 2,500-year life, the book of Genesis has been the keystone to almost every important claim about reality, humanity, and God in Judaism and Christianity. And it continues to play a central role in debates about science, politics, and human rights. With clarity and skill, acclaimed biblical scholar Ronald Hendel provides a panoramic history of this iconic

Overview

During its 2,500-year life, the book of Genesis has been the keystone to almost every important claim about reality, humanity, and God in Judaism and Christianity. And it continues to play a central role in debates about science, politics, and human rights. With clarity and skill, acclaimed biblical scholar Ronald Hendel provides a panoramic history of this iconic book, exploring its impact on Western religion, philosophy, science, politics, literature, and more.

Hendel traces how Genesis has shaped views of reality, and how changing views of reality have shaped interpretations of Genesis. Literal and figurative readings have long competed with each other. Hendel tells how Luther's criticisms of traditional figurative accounts of Genesis undermined the Catholic Church; how Galileo made the radical argument that the cosmology of Genesis wasn't scientific evidence; and how Spinoza made the equally radical argument that the scientific method should be applied to Genesis itself. Indeed, Hendel shows how many high points of Western thought and art have taken the form of encounters with Genesis--from Paul and Augustine to Darwin, Emily Dickinson, and Kafka.

From debates about slavery, gender, and sexuality to the struggles over creationism and evolution, Genesis has shaped our world and continues to do so today. This wide-ranging account tells the remarkable story of the life of Genesis like no other book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Bible's first book is the focus of this contribution by Hendel, professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at the University of California, Berkeley, to Princeton's Lives of Great Religious Books series. The premise of a "biography" of Genesis is especially fitting. More than any other book, Genesis has a long history of both development and influence. Its life has been rich, and it's not dead yet. In a brief and eminently readable book, the author covers well-traveled ground in the first two chapters, discussing a diversity of sources in Genesis and its relationship to other ancient Near Eastern literature. Readers familiar with this basic information will find reward in reading on. Hendel shows a pendulum swing between realism and "figuralism" over the centuries, noting historical methods of interpretation from allegorical to literal, from ancient gnostics to modern fundamentalists, illustrated by specific examples. A book such as this cannot hope to cover everything, and is uneven in its attentions. Nevertheless, there is a little something for everyone here. (Nov.)
Inside Higher Ed.
Hendel is telling the story of Genesis—not retelling stories from it. . . . [Hendel] takes things in an intriguing direction. If Genesis is the product of various strands of cultural DNA (spliced together long ago by scribes who believed the literal truth of the material they were helping to transmit, while also needing to reconcile elements that didn't quite fit together) then the book's subsequent history is, in a way, encoded in its genome. . . . [A] revelation in its own right.
— Scott McLemee
Inside Higher Ed...
Hendel is telling the story of Genesis—not retelling stories from it. . . . [Hendel] takes things in an intriguing direction. If Genesis is the product of various strands of cultural DNA (spliced together long ago by scribes who believed the literal truth of the material they were helping to transmit, while also needing to reconcile elements that didn't quite fit together) then the book's subsequent history is, in a way, encoded in its genome. . . . [A] revelation in its own right.
— Scott McLemee
Booklist - Christopher McConnell
Hendel's engaging and accessible biography reminds us that Genesis remains 'an astonishing book of marvelous realism and the root from which we came.'
Maclean's Magazine - Brian Bethune
Hendel does cover the story of Genesis's ancient foundations and original sense, but rightly devotes most of the book to detailing how it became so freighted with often contradictory meanings over time. His essential conclusion is that the ways in which Western culture has understood Genesis—as a literal account of events, as a figurative depiction of divine action, as a collection of folktales and tribal origin stories—'tend to correlate with the ways that people have understood reality.'
Inside Higher Ed - Scott McLemee
Hendel is telling the story of Genesis—not retelling stories from it. . . . [Hendel] takes things in an intriguing direction. If Genesis is the product of various strands of cultural DNA (spliced together long ago by scribes who believed the literal truth of the material they were helping to transmit, while also needing to reconcile elements that didn't quite fit together) then the book's subsequent history is, in a way, encoded in its genome. . . . [A] revelation in its own right.
Economist
If any book deserves to have a biography written about it, it is the opening to the Bible.
The Age - Owen Richardson
The biography of Genesis turns out largely to be a history of how it has been read, and Ronald Hendel's book has much to offer people interested in history, literature and philosophy, as well as religion.
Jewish Post & Opinion - Arnold S. Ages
Original and refreshing.
Choice
The Book of Genesis portrays the evolving relationship between a book and readers who pursue plain and imaginative understandings, contest truth claims before science, and read contemporary realities into ancient texts. . . . Brilliant and informative . . . this volume makes a case that streamlines but does not oversimplify. . . . [A]ttractive . . .
From the Publisher
One of Jewish Ideas Daily.com's 40 Best Jewish Books of 2012

"Hendel's engaging and accessible biography reminds us that Genesis remains 'an astonishing book of marvelous realism and the root from which we came.'"—Christopher McConnell, Booklist

"Hendel does cover the story of Genesis's ancient foundations and original sense, but rightly devotes most of the book to detailing how it became so freighted with often contradictory meanings over time. His essential conclusion is that the ways in which Western culture has understood Genesis—as a literal account of events, as a figurative depiction of divine action, as a collection of folktales and tribal origin stories—'tend to correlate with the ways that people have understood reality.'"—Brian Bethune, Maclean's Magazine

"Hendel is telling the story of Genesis—not retelling stories from it. . . . [Hendel] takes things in an intriguing direction. If Genesis is the product of various strands of cultural DNA (spliced together long ago by scribes who believed the literal truth of the material they were helping to transmit, while also needing to reconcile elements that didn't quite fit together) then the book's subsequent history is, in a way, encoded in its genome. . . . [A] revelation in its own right."—Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

"If any book deserves to have a biography written about it, it is the opening to the Bible."Economist

"The biography of Genesis turns out largely to be a history of how it has been read, and Ronald Hendel's book has much to offer people interested in history, literature and philosophy, as well as religion."—Owen Richardson, The Age

"Original and refreshing."—Arnold S. Ages, Jewish Post & Opinion

"The Book of Genesis portrays the evolving relationship between a book and readers who pursue plain and imaginative understandings, contest truth claims before science, and read contemporary realities into ancient texts. . . . Brilliant and informative . . . this volume makes a case that streamlines but does not oversimplify. . . . [A]ttractive."Choice

"This series contains the latest scholarship about a specific subject, gives great opportunity for acquiring a limited but significant amount of knowledge, and enthuses readers to go into it in much more detail. This possibility is enhanced by the presence in the Dead Sea Scrolls volume of suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter."—Charles H. Middleburgh, Charles Middleburgh blog

"In Ronald Hendel's erudite, well-written and surprisingly sparse and entertaining The Book of Genesis: A Biography, the Bible—the Book—is treated as a written document that is living and thriving across the ages. It is essentially as its name implies the quintessential prototype of a book, and whether we take it as the Word of God, whether we agree with its ideas or not, whether we take it literally or figuratively does not diminish its importance for Western literature and civilization."Arash's World

"This wide-ranging account tells the remarkable story of the life of Genesis like no other book."World Book Industry

"[T]he book will appeal to those with either a detailed or very sparse knowledge of the history of a text that clearly holds an unending fascination in every age."—Martin O'Kane, Relegre-Studies in Religion and Reception

"Hendel proves himself a very skillful and competent biographer. His book is recommended to all those who would like to strike up an acquaintance with Genesis in its austere beauty and intriguing complexity. . . . The Book of Genesis: a Biography is an interesting and important work on Genesis."—Krzysztof Napora, Biblical Annals

Booklist
Hendel's engaging and accessible biography reminds us that Genesis remains 'an astonishing book of marvelous realism and the root from which we came.'
— Christopher McConnell
Maclean's Magazine
Hendel does cover the story of Genesis's ancient foundations and original sense, but rightly devotes most of the book to detailing how it became so freighted with often contradictory meanings over time. His essential conclusion is that the ways in which Western culture has understood Genesis—as a literal account of events, as a figurative depiction of divine action, as a collection of folktales and tribal origin stories—'tend to correlate with the ways that people have understood reality.'
— Brian Bethune
Library Journal
Hendel (Norma & Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible & Jewish Studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley) traces the impact of the book of Genesis on science, literature, politics, society, and religion. The author sets the tone with a short overview of the J, P, and E sources, expounds on the traditional "four assumptions" of early biblical interpretation, then outlines the differences between the apocalyptical and the Platonic interpretations of Genesis. He continues by weaving a narrative of this ancient text's influence on how society viewed the world and, in turn, how some major thinkers shaped future interpretations of Genesis. Hendel supports his argument by relating the experiences of Luther, Galileo, Spinoza, Darwin, Kafka, Dickinson, and others. He also illustrates the influence of Genesis on the American Civil War, abolitionists, and the work of philologist Erich Auerbach. VERDICT Clearly written and well organized, this is a thought-provoking account of an ancient text's effect on the people who helped shape the course of history. Although intended for a general audience, this will also be welcomed by academics.—Jacqueline Parascandola, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400844593
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2012
Series:
Lives of Great Religious Books
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
903,696
File size:
812 KB

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Meet the Author

Ronald Hendel is the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the editor in chief of The Oxford Hebrew Bible and the author of Remembering Abraham and Reading Genesis.

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