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Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Hardcover – January 1, 1986
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About the Author
Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament, and is the author of numerous books, including Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination and Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes.
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"There are no claims or presumptions here that the New Testament is 'the resolution'
of the Old Testament... This exposition explores what happens when the text is
brought to our faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. It is not claimed that this
perception is the true or only or best reading. But it is the one we can make
responsibly in relation to the canon of the church which insists on a linkage
between New and Old Testaments." (pg 7, introduction)
Now I am not entirely sure what the author means by these statements, but I get the sense throughout the entire commentary (as with most liberal exposition) that human wisdom is the foundation and end of the effort.
Here is one more semi-randomly chosen excerpt, commenting on the meeting of Jacob with the Mysterious Stranger at Peniel:
"The identity of the 'man' (vs. 24) is obscure. In much interpretation, it has been
understood as a demon or a Canaanite numen. While that may have been the
intention in some earlier form of the narrative, that does not help us to interpret
the present form. (pg. 266)
My copy of this purchase is going in the trash.
Example of his prose, in Genesis 49:
"But the narrative would not have our heads turned by the Egyptian honor. He does not die an Egyptian. He does not want to die an Egyptian. He most fears he will be buried in the wrong place as a son of the empire (v. 5). Both his acts, the binding of his heirs (chapter 48) and the provision for burial (49:28-33), are militantly Israelite acts. They reject and resist any accommodation to Egypt. The acts are intended to place the narrative and the family squarely in the current of the promise."
He opens the Joseph story with Romans 8:28-31 and looks at Paul's interpretations first.
"Christian interpretation of our Genesis text (when juxtaposed with that of Gal. 4) has two tasks: (a) to be clear that the Genesis narrative does not contain all of this typology but (b) that our Christian tradition has now chosen a certain lens through which to view the narrative. The test for the expositor is not to insist on the "original" meanings of the narrative, but to find the ways in which interpretation illuminates our human lot in the context of the gospel."
On Jacob's election, he maintains a good balance of Hebrew audience and Christian:
"Read with excessively Christian eyes, the temptation is to be too christological. Read with Jewish eyes, the temptation may be to be excessively Israelite."
Brueggemann also seems to assume the Documentary Hypothesis more than Ross, who only mentions the viewpoints on certain passages. He also skips over other important points in chasing his themes. He doesn't make a coherent outline of the text, and this book is not as well-referenced as the Ross commentary.
It may seem obvious to those who studied Genesis in detail or who had more than a cursory reading when trying desperately to finish reading the Bible in a year, but to those of us finally coming into our studies, the names of each of these books is so important to how one studies them. As Brueggemann points out, Genesis is about the genesis of a world and a family. It is about giving a history for a people in exile. That being said, Brueggemann does get into some historical-critical discussions, but these are never the focus of his writing. He'll often mention sources that we are familiar with like J, E and P but this is usually in passing as if the reader already assumes such sources.
Genesis, according to Brueggemann, can be taken into two halves: the cosmological genesis and the anthropological genesis. The latter genesis can then be broken into four sections: the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph cycles. Chief among them is the promise of Abraham which pervades the three remaining cycles is the also that which propels the other cycles into the book of Exodus. Brueggemann argues that we must follow the title Genesis even along to the end which is really not an ending, but really is a beginning that takes us to the Exodus story.
Brueggemann's writing style is clearly homiletical as he often gives cross-reference to the gospels or Paul, and often makes connection between the ancient communities of Genesis and how these should or shouldn't shape the Christian communities of the present. Certainly this is not a commentary that should be used on its own for research or scholarly purposes, but it is certainly a beginning place for theological interpretation of Scripture.
The new paperback editions make for affordability but lack the former durability.