Bereshit
(The Book of Genesis)
Basic Facts about Genesis
Genesis is the first book of a larger
literary unit called the Torah (law) or
Pentateuch (5 Books):
Genesis (Bereshit)
Exodus (Shemot)
Leviticus (Vayikra)
Numbers (Bamidbar)
Deuteronomy (Devarim)
The Torah is the first of the three larger literary units
that constitute the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, the
others being the Nevi’ium (the Prophets) and
Ketuvim (the Writings). The three books constitute
what Christians call the Old Testament.
The Torah tells a story spanning from the
creation of the world to the death of Moses,
the Patriarch who liberated the Israelites
from their bondage to the Egyptians.
Genesis: Authorship
• Traditional Jewish and Christian theology identifies
Moses as the author of the entire Torah (except for
the final 8 verses that describe the death of Moses).
• The Torah itself is anonymous and likely has a
collective authorship, not uncommon in the ancient
world.
• Composed in the Hebrew language, linguistic and
stylistic differences throughout the text provide one
indication of multiple authorship.
Genesis: Date and Composition
• The consensus within Biblical scholarship is that Genesis
was composed in different stages, by multiple authors,
between the 9th and 6th century BCE.
• The text appears to have reached its canonical (official)
form between the 6th and 4th century BCE, and was
translated from Hebrew into Greek in the 3rd century BCE.
• The earliest (partial) manuscripts of Old Testament date to
circa 3rd century BCE.
• The earliest complete Hebrew manuscript of Genesis (c.
10th century CE), Aramaic (c. 5th century CE), Greek (c.
3rd−5th century CE), and fragments are found among the
Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 3rd−2nd century BCE).
The Documentary Hypothesis
• Also called the Graf-Wellhausen Synthesis
• Developed in the late 19th century.
• Torah was created in the 5th century BCE by
combining four different sources: Jahwist, J
(c. 900 BCE), Elohist, E (c. 800 BCE),
Deuteronomist, D (c. 600 BCE), and
Priestly, P (c. 500 BCE).
Genesis 1-11 is the product of at least
two different sources.
Genesis 1-11
J-Source
P-Source
J-Source: makes use of the
Tetragrammaton or “four letters” (YHWH)
for God’s name, employs highly
anthropomorphic language to describe
God, and relies on folklore-type stories
(source origin: 10th century BCE)
Example: Genesis 2:4b-3:24, story of
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
P-Source: This is the so-called Priestly
source, portions of text that use the term
Elohim (for God’s name), present
genealogies, lists, and cultic themes (source
origin: centuries after the J-source, circa 586
BCE)
Example: Genesis 1:1-2:4a, story of sixday creation
Patriarchal Era
2000-1300 BCE
Oral Traditions
Monarchic Period
1000-587 BCE
Written
Sources
Babylonian Exile
586 BCE
Collection
and
Redaction
Final Form
Topical Outline of Genesis
Chapters 1-25
Genesis 1-2
Creation of the World
Genesis 3-5
The Fall from Innocence
Genesis 6-10
Noah and the Great Flood
Genesis 11-25
The Life of Abraham
Abraham’s Journey
The rest of the Book of Genesis provides an
account of the lineage descending from
Abraham revolving around the two patriarchs
Isaac and Jacob.