But the fact that it can be read apart from these larger contexts is no argument that it ought to be or that interpreting it only according to its ancient authors’ intentions yields the best reading. Indeed, the very question of authorial intention is enormously complicated when the text has many authors, has been repeatedly redacted, and now forms an integral part of a completed set of books to which many more authors and redactors have contributed. Considering Genesis in isolation inevitably impedes our understanding of the importance of the scriptural canon by which it comes to us.

Ronald Hendel leaves the impression that nowadays the book of Genesis can be handled credibly only by artists, activists, and antiquarians. A fuller study would have to take account of its role in modern Jewish and Christian religious thought, where those who have pondered themes central to Genesis—creation, election, promise and the baffling workings of providence, for example—have made rich and productive use of the book. It would also have to take account of the fact that throughout the world, Genesis is read and expounded in synagogues and churches by and to educated, scientifically literate people. On the question of how we are to understand that important reality, The Book of Genesis: A Biography, illuminating on so many other things, needed to say more.

Jon Levenson

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Charles Halton

2 Comments. Leave your Comment right now:

  1. A Modest Review, a bit like Swift’s modest proposal?

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