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

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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 the Audio CD edition.
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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 (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book unearths the lesson about human nature and presents them to a general secular audience. Genesis is brilliant and everyone could learn the lesson of Genesis.

If you are secular, this book should be your first choice about Genesis while actually reading Genesis at the same time. It would be an exceptional introduction if you are a non-believer.

However, it definitely should not be your go to book if you are a christian. (For that I would recommend the Collegeville Bible Commentary). Some comments in the book are offensively radical to many Christians.

Make sure you read genesis from the Bible as you read this.

Frustrating. Overall, at times one of the worst books I have read and yet it contains some brilliant gems of Genesis interpretive information that make it invaluable for understanding certain pieces Genesis.

Also, 1/3 of the book is useless filler.

The good insights could have been summarized at 1/3 of the length. This feels like a well researched dissertation and experienced insights stretched into a book with entertaining filler as fluff.

Your first-choice study guide should be the Collegeville Bible Commentary -- not this.
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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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