Kenneth Burke (essay date 1958)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “On the First Three Chapters of Genesis,Daedalus, Vol. 87, Summer, 1958, pp. 37-64.

[In the following essay, Burke offers an examination of the covenants depicted in Genesis, focusing primarily on the nature of disorder, temptation, and man's “fall.”]


We want so to relate the ideas of Creation, Covenant, and Fall that they can be seen to implicate one another inextricably, along with ideas of Sacrifice and Redemption.

Creation implies authority in the sense of originator, the designer or author of the things created.

Covenant implies...

(The entire section is 11039 words.)

Edwin M. Good (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Genesis: The Irony of Israel,” in Irony in the Old Testament, pp. 81-114, The Westminster Press, 1965.

[In the following essay, Good maintains that “thematic irony” is developed throughout the book of Genesis.Good discusses Genesis's use of such irony, from the creation myth through the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph.]

An essay on irony in the book of Genesis should probably be of book length. Such an essay, thoroughly done, would approximate a commentary, which would necessitate attention to many subjects that must here be passed by. I cannot consider in any detail the problems of the composition of the book of...

(The entire section is 12129 words.)

Jay Y. Gonen (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Then Men Said, ‘Let Us Make God in Our Image, After Our Likeness’,” Literature and Psychology, Vol. XXI, No. 2, 1971, pp. 69-79.

[In the following essay, Gonen analyzes the analogous relationship between Genesis's account of man's nature, and psychoanalytic ideas regarding man's nature. Gonen concludes that the description of God in Genesisreflects man's own image of what he is and what he would like to be.]

The story of man's banishment from the Garden of Eden has fascinated many thinkers who discovered a variety of meanings in the story. For example, Erikson (1950) sees this banishment as symbolizing the first ontogenetic catastrophe...

(The entire section is 6127 words.)

Gerhard Von Rad (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to Genesis: A Commentary, revised edition, pp. 13-43, The Westminster Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, Von Rad asserts that the book of Genesis should not be viewed as an independent work; rather, it is “significantly related” to the five Biblical books that follow it. Together, these six books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—are commonly designated as the Hexateuch. Von Rad goes on to discuss the theme of the Hexateuch, and the development of the source materials into their current Biblical form.]


Genesis is not an independent...

(The entire section is 13680 words.)

William H. Ralston, Jr. (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “That Old Serpent,” The Sewanee Review, Vol. LXXXI, No. 3, July-September, 1973, pp. 389-428.

[In the following essay, Ralston examines the composition and themes of Genesis, maintaining that the book emphasizes man's separation from God.]


The anonymous author of the primary literary document of the Old Testament, whose imagination has been determinative for the rest of Biblical literature, begins the story of his people, a narrative he was impelled to write by his experience of the person and the kingdom of David, with an account of creation. For this writer, the form of history, without which the events and circumstances...

(The entire section is 12970 words.)

Peter Booth (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Abraham and Agamemnon: A Comparative Study of Myth,” The Humanities Association Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, Fall, 1974, pp. 290-97.

[In the following essay, Booth analyzes the commonalities between the Greek myth of Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigeneia, and Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac in the book of Genesis.In particular, Booth studies the similarities in story patterns and aetiological features.]

The myths of Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigeneia and Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac have much in common. Out of similarities in story patterns emerge narrative unities of comparable primary characteristics suggesting variations on a single theme, a...

(The entire section is 3369 words.)

D. J. A. Clines (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Theme in Genesis 1-11,” The Catholic Bible Quarterly, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 4, October, 1976, pp. 483-507.

[In the following essay, Clines studies the theme of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, emphasizing that this thematic investigation focuses on these chapters as a portion of Penteteuchal text, rather than on the individual sources from which Genesis was created. Clines goes on to survey the historical setting and literary pre-history of Genesis.]


Most recent studies of theme in the Pentateuch turn out to be investigations of the theme of the individual sources of the...

(The entire section is 11581 words.)

Bernhard W. Anderson (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “From Analysis to Synthesis: The Interpretation of Genesis 1-11,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 97, No. 1, March, 1978, pp. 23-39.

[In the following essay, Anderson argues that while scholars have often examined the source materials of Genesis,and how these materials were formulated into the final version of Genesis, a new critical approach examines Genesis as a synthesized whole. Anderson follows this approach in examining the flood story in Genesis.]

The vitality of biblical scholarship is shown by a disposition to test and challenge working hypotheses, even those that are supported by a broad consensus. Today there are...

(The entire section is 8580 words.)

Alan Jon Hauser (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Genesis 2-3: The Theme of Intimacy and Alienation,” Art and Meaning in Biblical Literature, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series, 19, 1982, pp. 20-36.

[In the following essay, Hauser examines the literary devices and techniques by which the author of Genesisdevelops the theme of intimacy in chapter two of Genesis, and alienation in chapter three. Hauser maintains that the author uses this intimacy/alienation theme as a motif to both focus and integrate the narrative, and to emphasize the disorder and divisiveness of human life.]

The narrative in Genesis 2-3 is one of the better-known pieces of Western...

(The entire section is 7289 words.)

James S. Ackerman (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Joseph, Judah, and Jacob,” in Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives, Vol. II, edited by Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis with James S. Ackerman, pp. 85-113. Abington, 1982.

[In the following essay, Ackerman explores the use of doubling in the Joseph narrative, noting that the author employs an “unusual” amount of doubling of speech and actions. Ackerman argues that this doubling is intentional and used for emphasis.]

Scholars have long noted the unusual amount of doubling in the Joseph story: three sets of dreams occur in pairs—by Joseph, by his fellow prisoners, and by Pharaoh.1 Joseph is twice confined—in the pit and in prison. The...

(The entire section is 11754 words.)

Allen Scult, Michael Calvin McGee, and J. Kenneth Kuntz (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Allen Scult, Michael Calvin McGee, and J. Kenneth Kuntz (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: “Genesis and Power: An Analysis of the Biblical Story of Creation,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 72, No. 2, May, 1986, pp. 113-31.

[In the following essay, the critics use two sections of Genesis, believed by many scholars to have been written by different authors, in order to examine the relationship between discourse and power. The critics maintain that the two texts complement one another and present a complete, balanced, persuasive vision of God's power.]

The relationship between truth and power has fascinated philosophers and...

(The entire section is 12170 words.)

Dan E. Burns (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dream Form in Genesis 2.4b-3.24: Asleep in the Garden,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, No. 37, February, 1987, pp. 3-14.

[In the following essay, Burns analyzes the apparent inconsistencies in the Adam and Eve story, maintaining that such inconsistencies are only problematic when viewed from a logical, rather than literary, standpoint.]

The story of Adam and Eve as told in Gen. 2.4b-3.24 contains a number of apparent inconsistencies that challenge interpreters, and that draw the careful reader in for a closer look. The garden in Eden contains not one but two talismanic trees, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, yet the...

(The entire section is 4843 words.)

David J. A. Clines (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “What Happens in Genesis?” in What Does Eve Do to Help? and Other Readerly Questions to the Old Testament, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series, 94, 1990, pp. 49-66.

[In the following essay, Clines examines the plot of Genesis, and argues that the book, by way of the announcements made by God in it, foretells the direction in which the narrative of later books of the Bible, extending through 2 Kings 25, will follow.]

What happens in Genesis? Genesis looks like a narrative book, with events being told in roughly chronological order and characters remaining reasonably recognizable throughout their...

(The entire section is 6583 words.)

Leslie Brisman (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Introduction: The Documentary Hypothesis and Family Romance,” in The Voice of Jacob: On the Composition of Genesis, pp. ix-xviii, Indiana University Press, 1990.

[In the following essay, Brisman highlights the method by which Biblical scholars study the composition of Genesis, and suggests that literary motivations, rather than sociological ones, guided the development of the source material of Genesis into its final form.]

In the King James translation, the Decalogue begins (or almost begins) with the injunction “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Although the Hebrew ‘al pānaî (as opposed to lěpānaî) clearly...

(The entire section is 4774 words.)

Sam Dragga (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Genesis 2-3: A Story of Liberation,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, No. 55, September, 1992, pp. 3-13.

[In the following essay, Dragga surveys the assumptions that typically color one's understanding of the Adam and Eve story. Dragga argues that when these assumptions and their connotations are revealed and understood, the story may be viewed as one of the liberation of humans, rather than one of their fall.]

Genesis 2-3 is typically characterized as a tragic narrative of human failure and disgrace. This perspective, however, assumes that the human couple of the narrative is procreative prior to their act of disobedience, that...

(The entire section is 4012 words.)