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Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis Hardcover – November 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An entertaining narrative voice, personal reflections from the author's life and insightful interpretations combine to produce this accessible and lively new addition to Genesis scholarship. Coats, a former parish priest and management consultant, cogently applies source theory—the hypothesis that four separate documents went into the first five books of the Bible—to familiar stories whose ethical and spiritual DNA seeps through Western culture. Through his approach, the author makes complex biblical scholarship comprehensible, while challenging the reader to examine the actual text. Asserting that biblical characters are rather relentless in their mirroring, Coats uses second-person hooks (Imagine yourself as the first human being) to invite readers to use their own perspective to interpret the text. Cheeky chapter headings entice and inform; First, about the ark, which is most definitely not a boat begins his analysis of Noah and the flood. While cultural references from Maimonides to Mae West spice up the narrative, Coats's exploration of how his own history and self-understanding inform his interpretations makes the most compelling reading. His reflections on his own aging and his analysis of the stories of Noah and Abraham prove compelling and thought provoking. (Nov. 17)
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Review

"An entertaining narrative voice, personal reflections from the author's life and insightful interpretations combine to produce this accessible and lively new addition to Genesis scholarship." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439102090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439102091
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,210,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

My heritage is Southern Baptist, but it was in a Roman Catholic church that, in the fall of 1958, a few months after my twelfth birthday, I was left more than a little undone by what was either an "ecstatic experience" or "surely an allergic reaction, perhaps to the incense." It was a split second in my sixty-three years, yet the man I've become, and all that I've done in my professional life--Episcopal priest, speaker and trainer for an international foundation, management consultant, writer--can be traced back to that moment which, these five decades later, remains a mystery.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By professor on November 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Coats is a damn good storyteller, and Original Sinners will help you examine what you know or think you know about both religion and the world. It matters not if you are versed in religion or just discovering how it fits your life - an entirely new understanding of these people, places, and times unfolds beautifully.

This is also not a book about religion - it is a book about life and all that it is and all that leads one through it. It is about Mom's favorite brother, Uncle Robert, and great-aunt Catherine. About Second Cousin (once removed) Larry and that woman what's-her-name he married. It about you, and me and us. It is about life.

- Michael Goins, professor of writing, University of Texas at San Antonio
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Hosse on June 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just recently finished reading Original Sinners, a 213 page book written by John Coats. As a lifelong student of theology, the Bible can be confusing and often contradictory. Many people complain about being able to relate to the characters, removed from us by thousands of miles and thousands of years. Empires come and go. Cultures rise, evolve, and fade. But the one thing that hasn't changed that much, and remains pretty much the same regardless of time or place is human nature. In that, we are pretty much the same. What motivated Eve, Jacob, Rebecca, or Joseph pretty much motivates us today. The other thing many people have difficulty with is the language. The Bible is very difficult to accurately translate. The words often don't have the same meaning to us as they did for their original audience thousands of years ago.

The beauty of this book is that Mr. Coats does a masterful job of "humanizing" the characters, from Adam to Joseph (did you know, for instance, that "adam" was actually a Hebraic word for "human being" and not a person's name? Just as Adam was, well, an "adam", so was Eve!). At the same time, the author takes the core of the story, such as Noah and Flood, and places it in a modern context by relating his personal experiences, and in doing so, offers the reader to do the same thing. Once you understand what the biblical author was trying to say, and thanks to Mr. Coats, place it into our world, the story comes alive and becomes more relevant. I strongly recommend you check out this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William C. Boothe on November 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've known John Coats for a long time. When he told me he was writing a book on Genesis, I thought, "Well, that will be erudite and thoughtful". What i didn't realize was that it would also be engaging and poignant and really funny as well. It has given me fresh eyes to see Genesis as it truly is, and to appreciate my relationship to its mythologies. Its also given me a renewed appreciation for John. I'm grateful, and congratulations for writing a book that I had difficulty putting down.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BRFG on November 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Prepare to be challenged, educated, intrigued and entertained...in Original Sinners, John Coats has expertly woven the past with the present, creating a fresh relevance that compels the reader to reflect and continue their page turning journey through Genesis. This inspiring read succeeds in separating spirituality and religion, applying an appropriate dose of reality, resulting in a newly realized understanding and appreciation of what may have previously been considered "known".

Congratulations, John...we're looking forward to the next one!"
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles True on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed John Coats' work and the voice of this book as it makes the biblical creation story more accessible through the lens of the humanity of the recorders, players, and interepreters in and of Genesis. Well done, well said. Believers and non believers can enjoy Coats' analysis and its' invitation to relate to the lives of the characters in the context of the time. He helps to enlighten many misconceptions heard over the years while giving the reader's common sense and own experiences weight and value in the matter of constructing belief, priming the pump with reflections of his journey as a man and priest. It's good fun as well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Deeth VINE VOICE on January 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Original Sinners, by John R. Coats, is subtitled Why Genesis Really Matters. With my love for faith, the Bible and science, I simply had to read it. The author has a Masters degree from Virginia Theological Seminary, so he knows a lot about the Bible. It's clear he's thought a lot about it too and researched its background well. The stories he tells, based on events and characters both familiar and unfamiliar, are much more than paraphrases of a well-known book or short readings leading to sermons.

In Original Sinners the author imagines, and analyzes, real lives behind the Biblical tales--why did Cain feel so angry and rejected? How could Abraham uproot his family like that, and why did he lie about his wife? Why is Isaac almost invisible in the tale? And how can anyone imagine we might want to emulate sneaky Jacob?

With anecdotes drawn from his own life and lives of friends, the author shows how archetypes of Genesis really are relevant today, not just to people of faith, but to anyone interested in human nature. Sometimes he seems to reject the Bible's depictions as fable or embellishment. Other times he brings them so thoroughly to life it's hard to remember there might be other interpretations. But all the time, John R. Coats writes of real people, real worlds, really researched, and allows the reader to see the stories and characters in a new light.

One reader might say "Of course, the Bible's literally true"; another that of course each word is myth; but it would be hard after reading this book to say the Bible's irrelevant. It would be a shame if readers rejected the author's writing in favor of preconceived notions, since there's so much to inform both faith and reflection, and the narrative is so eloquent and intriguing. Who are we? Why are we here?
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