Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
July 28th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Paraphrasing Genesis

The first chapter of B'reshit, or Genesis, wri...

The first chapter of B’reshit, or Genesis, written on an egg, in the Jerusalem museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more I study Genesis, the more profound it becomes. I am not an OT or a Hebrew guy, but digging deep into Genesis has almost made me wish I was. Genesis is the result of so much reflection and is the spawn of much more. But, I have yet to find a commentary suitable to reading. After all, Genesis is story. Genesis is narrative. Genesis contains the beginning of Israel and the people of God. Genesis cannot simply be parsed into verses and pericopes but must be read as a continual whole. Every passage reaches back to another — and throughout Scripture we see other authors reaching back to it.

And we miss so much when we leave the text to find another.

So I’ve tossed around doing one long running paraphrase of Genesis that is part commentary (or rather, making use of other commentaries) without the footnotes or sidebars. Rather, these rather important details are themselves incorporated into the story. I’d imagine it at a running dialogue of sorts about God telling Moses the story. Like a third person annotated account of the supposed interaction between the Divine and the created.

How would I begin? I mean, Genesis 1.1 seems to begin mid-sentence with an ongoing action behind it. And, as a Christian, I cannot help but read Genesis 1.1 in light of John 1.1. Shoot, I cannot help but read Genesis in light of Jesus. (sorry for the pun.)

I’d begin with something like this:

Before…

The indomitable human spirit does not need a beginning; rather, the myths we tell rightly begin where we have noticed the divine and the Divine, having noticed us, sees it as his chance to tame us. This should be an easy task, thinks the Titan of Time, but unlike coalescing covalent bonds to create atoms (the same bond humans would work to break apart and thereby destroy cities) and then atomic structures and then to build light from photons and therefore bring about life — to tame the human spirit is impossible.

Whenever we see “in the beginning” we cannot so easily imagine that there was a time God was not Creator. This is instead a place, not a time as there is only place with God. Likewise, when we see “land” created we cannot help but to think that this is actually the creation of the Eretz Yisrael.

God tells Moses not of the creation of the entire cosmos and world, but of the carefully crafting of the land of the Jews, the covenanted land to where Moses is going. This isn’t that difficult to ponder, really. After all, if you stand on the shores of Tyre or Joppa, well, the world ends when Israel does – the world ends where the chaos of the ocean begins…

And of course, it would go on from there.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

2 Responses to “Paraphrasing Genesis”
  1. Have you spent much time with Walter Bruggeman’s commentary on Genesis in the “Interpretation” series?

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