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The Priestly Vision of Genesis I

The Priestly Vision of Genesis I [Kindle Edition]

Mark S. Smith

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Product Description

Product Description

For many readers, Genesis 1 2 is simply the biblical account of creation. But ancient Israel could speak of creation in different ways, and the cultures of the ancient near east provided an even richer repertoire of creation myths. Mark S. Smith explores the nuances of what would become the premiere creation account in the Hebrew Bible and the serene priestly theology that informed it. That vision of an ordered cosmos, Smith argues, is evidence of the emergence of a mystical theology among priests in post-exilic Israel, and the placement of Genesis 1- 2 at the beginning of Israel's great epic is their sustained critique of the theology of divine conflict that saturated ancient near eastern creation myths. Smith's treatment of Genesis 1 provides rich historical and theological insights into the biblical presentation of creation and the Creator.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3668 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (1 Nov 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002XIS41Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #296,225 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Resource! 3 Jan 2011
By Joseph Ryan Kelly - Published on

Mark Smith has written a compelling piece on what has become the most well known and revered expression of creation faith in the Hebrew Bible, the creation account in Genesis 1 (though he is careful to point out that this is not the only creation story contained within the Hebrew Bible). Building off the scholarly consensus that Genesis 1 is a creation text of the sixth century written from a priestly perspective, Smith explores the significance that lies behind this priestly vision and how it functions as a part of the larger biblical witness to the creative activity of God. This volume is both an enlightening read and a helpful resource for the scholarly discussion on Genesis 1.

Because Genesis 1 does not exist in a vacuum but rather in a canon that is replete with creation imagery, Smith begins his discussion on the "Three Models of Creation in the Bible." He surveys the many creation texts of the Hebrew Bible and categorizes them by the most dominant feature he observes in the text: divine power, wisdom, or presence. It is the conclusion of this chapter in particular that I found most valuable. Beyond simply categorizing these different models and observing their distinct emphases, Smith explores the ways in which these models prove to be theologically advantageous, while also addressing their limitations or potential for abuse. This chapter serves as the background of Smith's work, using the material here to help sharpen our focus of the distinctiveness of the priestly vision of Genesis 1.

The discussion of the text of Genesis 1 is divided into two chapters (Part 1), the first addressing questions commonly asked or issues that typically arise concerning the first day of creation, the second focusing broadly on the whole week and highlighting the priestly features of the text. Smith asks the following questions in the first of these two chapters: "Does Genesis 1:1 begin in "the" Beginning?" (43-9); "Did God Make Creation from Nothing in Genesis 1:1-2?" (49-59); "Does Genesis 1 Explain the Origins of Good and Evil?" (59-64); "What is the Significance of Divine Speech in Genesis 1:3?" (64-71); "Was the Light on Day One in Genesis 1:3 Created?" (71-9); "Why are Divine Sight, Separation, and Speech in Genesis 1:4-5 Important?" (79-82); "Who is the Audience for the Divine Speech and Light in Genesis 1?" (82-5). These questions are not unfamiliar to pastors, parents, and Bible class teachers, and though Smith's answers will not necessarily satisfy inquisitive minds, they will certainly provoke deep thought and reflection. In the second of these two chapters, Smith addresses the topics of time, space, humanity, and blessing before synthesizing this material and summarizing this "priestly vision." In doing this, Smith manages to paint the big picture in a way that scholars often fail to do. Scholarly discussion around Genesis 1 is often aimed at deconstructing naïve readings of the text. What Smith provides is a thoroughly constructive theologically sensitive reading of this priestly vision of creation.

In Part 2 of his book, Smith explores some literary issues concerning Genesis 1. The first chapter in this section addresses the placement of Genesis 1 at the front of the book of Genesis and of the Hebrew Bible at large. After a brief discussion of scribal activity in the ancient world, he argues that Genesis 1 serves as both a prologue to the Pentateuch and commentary of Genesis 2 (though he is careful to qualify how the word "commentary" is to be understood given its connotations in our modern context). He understands Genesis 1 to extend the creation tradition in Israel and in certain places to transform it. In the second chapter of this section, Smith wrestles with the difficulties surrounding the classification of myth in general, and the classification of Genesis 1 as myth in particular. He reviews the scholarly discussion, those texts or characteristics generally recognized as myth or mythic, and proposes reasons both for and against classifying Genesis 1 as myth. He recognizes that how one defines myth is the primary factor in whether one is willing to so classify Genesis 1, and concludes that this issue "may ultimately depend on what credence readers are prepared to give to either the Bible or to ancient Near Eastern literature in their descriptions of reality" (159).

The book also contains an appendix, "A Very Brief Introduction to Modern Scholarly Approaches to Genesis 1." This appendix contains a concentrated dose of names, methods, and general information that will likely prove too technical for the average reader. Smith does a relatively good job as relegating the technical aspects of the discussion to the endnotes in order to provide a smoother reading experience for those less familiar or interested in the technical issues that occupy the scholarly community. He aims for this book to be useful for both scholars and lay readers alike. For this reason, it is understandable why endnotes were chosen instead of footnotes. However, Smith's book is 300 pages long, and 100 of these pages contain endnotes; those interested in the footnotes will wear themselves out constantly flipping back and forth. Another frustrating feature for some will be the absence of a bibliography. I understand the desire to cut costs and save space, but I do not understand why in our present digital age the publishers or authors of these books are not making the bibliographies available online. On a much different note, the overall quality of the book is very good. The spine is solid, the pages open wide, and they remain open when sat flat on a desk.

In conclusion, this was an enjoyable read (though I will confess to having not paid too much attention to the footnotes). If you are even remotely interested in Genesis 1, you owe it to yourself to make time in your schedule and room on your shelf for this book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction, not Conclusions 5 Dec 2011
By Daniel J. Doleys - Published on
Mark Smith is Skirball Professor of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at New York University.

I would like to thank Fortress Press for this review copy.

Recent years have seen a great divide in the interpretation of the early chapters of the Bible. Some have claimed that the entirety of the Christian faith is dependent upon a reading of Genesis 1-3 that sees the Bible as a modern history book and the world no more than 4400 years old. Others have decided that since current main stream scientific research seems to contradict the creation account, Genesis 1-3 must not contain any actual information about the creation of the world, or if it does it is obviously wrong and must be rejected. Others have simply tried to interpret the early sections of Genesis in terms of their Ancient Near Eastern context and genre. This is the most promising approach from my point of view, both in terms of Christian theological convictions and historical exegesis. However, some attempts at this approach are better than others.

Smith's main purpose is to survey the recent work on Genesis 1 in terms of an Ancient Near Eastern setting. After an introductory chapter defining the purpose, plan and format of the book, Smith presents three ways that creation is described throughout the Old Testament: Creation as Divine Might (God as warrior and defeater of chaos), Creation as Divine Wisdom (God creates the world out of his own wise counsel) and Creation as Divine Presence (God as priest creates the universe to be his temple).

This volume does not take an continuous exegetical approach to understand the purpose of Genesis 1, but investigates the issues that surround the chapter's interpretation, including the poetic structure, parallels of genre, structure, comparison and contrast with other Ancient Near East creation accounts. While some of these are good studies, other are less convincing especially the account of God overcoming the primeval chaos, or Chaoskampf, in order to create. Recent studies by David Tsumura have definitively shown that this theme is lacking the opening chapters of Genesis. Another argument comes in the second have of the book, when Smith argues that Genesis 1 is actually a later addition to original creation story of Genesis 2-3. This thesis is not the same as the 19th century Documentary hypothesis, but seem to share similar form critical origins

On the whole, this volume is useful to evangelical students, those who uphold the authority and truth of the text, as an introduction to the issues involved in interpreting Gensis 1 as an Ancient Near Eastern cosmology. If you are interested in how to begin thinking about these issues or how the wider guild of OT studies understands them, this text will provide ample information. However, Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One and Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament and Longman's Introduction have much better conlcusions.
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book for understanding of the New Testament 22 Nov 2012
By Phillipwh - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mark shows how the Semitic world was in flux before the coming of Jesus and this flux continued even climaxed with the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. Mark shows how Semitic Religious Traditions were redacted, refined and massively developed by the Babylonian Captivity. Mark's work helps us to understand Catholic Traditions and how the end of what Charles Taylor called the Age of Enchantment era, required us to deal with Angels, Saints... remnant on the threshing room floor from the leap to Montheishm
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what the "sages" knew and we're only now discovering!! 21 Jan 2013
By Daniel Ochoa III - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
today you will be with me in paradise! GAN-EDEN RESTORED + no serpent!! can see through a glass no so darkly anymore...GOOD, VERY GOOD!

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On these two levels, the god and the king mirror one another in status and power, and both face hostile enemies who threaten the kingdom. &quote;
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Genesis 1 was designed to teach the divine blueprint of creation in order to help people follow priestly teaching. &quote;
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heavens are metaphorically like a temple or sanctuary containing divine splendor, and the earth analogously is the part of this sanctuary where the speaker senses the name of God. &quote;
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