Lecture 3 - The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Genesis 1-4 in Context

author: Christine Hayes, Department of Religious Studies, Yale University
published: Feb. 16, 2011,   recorded: September 2006,   views: 7375

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In the first of a series of lectures on the book of Genesis, the basic elements of biblical monotheism are compared with Ancient Near Eastern texts to show a non-mythological, non-theogonic conception of the deity, a new conception of the purpose and meaning of human life, nature, magic and myth, sin and evil, ethics (including the universal moral law) and history. The two creation stories are explored and the work of Nahum Sarna is introduced.

Reading assignment:

Bible: Introduction to Genesis (JSB pp. 8-11); Gen 1-4

Pritchard, James, ed. "The Deluge," "The Creation Epic," and "The Epic of Gilgamesh." In The Ancient Near East, Volume 1. pp. 28-75

Kaufmann, Yehezkel. The Religion of Israel. New York: Schocken, 1972. pp. 21-121

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Douglas Williams, July 26, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.:

Fantastic lecture. I expect she'll get into it later, but she didn't focus on the fact that in Genesis God said let "us" make man in "our" image, despite the fact that this is supposedly a monotheistic God.
Also, I have a problem with the claims that evil is a by-product of man, and not pre-existent. If there is a tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, then it is clearly pre-existent.
I'm very impressed by Professor Hayes, her content and her presentation are excellent.

Comment2 Bamidbar, January 27, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.:

"Let us" is common speach of an ancient near eastern ruler addressing his royal court. The account identifies man as created in God's image. In the pre-Let us verses God is speaking to His creation commanding Let the earth bring forth, let the waters bring forth. Let us is also addressed to the creation because man comes from pre-existiing materials.
Evil is disfunction as good is function. He saw that it was good means that it works. That which is evil is disfunctional. Terms in Hebrew are dynamic, about function, and not static abstract terms.

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