Book of Genesis

Course Description

When many people think of the Book of Genesis what immediately comes to mind are the arguments of Science vs. Religion, or the Evolution vs. Creation debate. It is hoped that by the end of this course you will have an appreciation for the Book of Genesis similar to what the ancient Hebrews had when they studied, prayed over, or even heard Genesis proclaimed in their sacred liturgies.

The Book of Genesis lays the foundation for the rest of sacred history within biblical Revelation. Undoubtedly, the main character in Genesis, as indeed throughout the whole of Salvation History, is God. Within the narrative of human affairs, God takes a leading role in the creation of the cosmos and the formation of humanity. God is ever present from Adam’s initial sin and the spread of moral corruption, to the great flood in Noah’s day, and the scattering of humanity over the whole earth (Gen. 1-11). God manifests his concern for humanity most especially through the covenants he makes with the ancient Patriarchs.

The covenants that God makes in Genesis are unique throughout Ancient Near Eastern religions. For unlike the numerous deities of the ancient pagan cults, Yahweh’s covenantal involvement is not merely through the ratification of covenants made between human beings, as a witness or enforcer, but as the one with whom covenantal agreements are established. God enters into covenant with Adam and creation, with Noah and the world, and with Abraham and his descendants.

With Genesis’s story primarily revolving around the establishment of these three major covenants, we will see how Yahweh’s primordial covenant, made with Adam, was violated and how its violation not only infected the whole of humanity, but also occasioned Yahweh’s first of many promises to redeem his people. We will also see how it was through Noah that humanity underwent a similar fate to what befell Adam, which sets the stage for the great covenantal promises Yahweh made with Abraham. To Abraham, Yahweh promised he would raise up a great nation, a line of kings, and bestow a worldwide blessing on humanity (see Gen 12:2) – and all this was set in motion following Abraham’s triumph in his test of faith to sacrifice his son, Isaac (see Gen 22).

The Genesis story is vitally important for understanding the Christian mystery of salvation, for in Genesis Jesus is prophesied in many ways. We will see, for instance, how Adam is a type of Christ (see Gen 2-3; Rom 5:12-21); how the blessings promised in the Garden of Eden point to the blessing of eternal life, brought by Jesus (see Gen 2:8-14; Rev 22:1-5); how the vanquishing of the ancient Serpent is only fully realised in Jesus (see Gen 3:15; Rom 16:20); how the waters of Noah’s flood prefigure baptism (see Gen 6-8; 1 Pet 3:20-21); how the priest-king Melchizedek prefigures Jesus, especially through their respective sacrifices of bread and wine (see Gen 14:17-20; Mt 26:26-29; Heb 7:1-19). We will see how Abraham’s faith in offering Isaac is an example for the Christian believer (see Gen 15:1-5; Rom 4:1-12; Gal 3:6-9); and how Isaac’s sacrifice prefigures Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary (see Gen 22:1-14; Rom 8:32; Heb 11:17-19). Finally, we will see how the threefold covenantal oath sworn by God to Abraham (see Gen 12:2; 15; 17; 22) is realised in the nation of Israel, Israel’s kings, and most fully in the Catholic Church and the worldwide blessing brought by Jesus’ act of redemption.

So come and join us for this enlightening course on the Book of Genesis!

Course Objectives

  1. To understand the nature of covenant within the divine economy of salvation.
  2. To learn how the Book of Genesis fits into the overall scheme of Salvation History.
  3. To understand how the three major covenants that God makes with Adam, Noah and Abraham, set the stage for the rest of God’s actions throughout his saving plan of history.
  4. To see the importance of Yahweh’s threefold covenantal oath given to Abraham.
  5. To discover how figures such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Melchizedek, and others prefigure Jesus and his Church.
  6. To gain a greater appreciation of God’s saving actions throughout human history and within our own lives.

Course Duration

6 Weeks: 12 Hours (i.e., two hours, one night a week).

Recommended Reading

Texts Recommended for Purchase by Course Participants:

Hahn, Scott and Curtis Mitch. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study: Genesis. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010.

Hahn, Scott. A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture. Michigan: Servant Publications, 1998.

Popular Level Reading:

Beale, Gregory K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Faley, Roland J. Old Testament Reading Guide: The Book of Genesis Chapters 12-50. Collegeville, MI: The Liturgical Press, 1952.

Ryan, William and Walter Pitman. Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.

Thematic Works for this Course:

Achtemeier, Paul J. Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Béchard, Dean P. ed. and trans. The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002.

Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Homebush: St Pauls, 1994.

_________. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church: Address of His Holiness John Paul II and Document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Boston: St Paul Books and Media, 1993.

_________. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition, vol. 1. Edited by Austin Flannery. New York: Costello Publishing Company, 1996.

Dauphinais, Michael and Matthew Levering. Holy People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005.

Farkasfalvy, Denis. Inspiration and Interpretation: A Theological Introduction to Sacred Scripture. Washington DC. The Catholic University of America Press, 2010.

Geisler, Norman L. and William C. Roach. Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.

Hahn, Scott W. A Pocket Guide to the Bible. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Division, 2008.

_________. Scripture Matters: Essays on Reading the Bible From the Heart of the Church. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2003.

Shea, Mark P. Making Senses out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did. San Diego: Basilica Press, 1999.

Sri, Edward. The Bible Compass: A Catholic’s Guide to Navigating the Scriptures. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2009.

Stravinskas, Peter M.J. The Catholic Church and the Bible. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. (ed.) Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005, 2008.

Scholarly Level Reading:

Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004.

Bright, John. A History of Israel. London: SCM Press, 1966.

Cathcart, Kevin et al. (ed.). Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis. Translated by Martin McNamara. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

Cathcart, Kevin et al. (ed.). The Targum Onqelos to Genesis. Translated by Bernard Grossfild. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988.

Cathcart, Kevin et al. (ed.). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Exodus. Translated by Michael Maher. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

Cotter, David W. Genesis. (Bert Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry). Edited by David W. Cotter. Collegeville MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003.

Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

_________. The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Hayes, John H and J. Maxwell Miller (ed.). Israelite and Judean History. London SCM Press, 1977.

Horn, S.D.S. Stephan (ed.). Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009.

Louth, Andrew (ed.). Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Genesis 1-11. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

McCarthy, Dennis J. Old Testament Covenant: A Survey of Current Options. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1972.

_________. Treaty and Covenant. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981.

Maher, Michael. Old Testament Message: A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Vol. 2: Genesis. Edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller and Martin McNamara. Collegeville, MI: The Liturgical Press, 1982.

Ratzinger, Joseph. ‘In the Beginning…’: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall. Translated by Boniface Ramsey. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

Sarna, Nahum. Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel. New York: Random House, 1988.

Schonborn, Christoph. Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2007.

Sheridan, Mark. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Genesis 12-50. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Speiser, E.A. Genesis. (The Anchor Bible). New York: Doubleday, 1964.

Wénin, A (ed.). Studies in the Book of Genesis. Leuven: University Press, 2001.