Genesis.GENESIS. By David W. Cotter. Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry. Pp. xxxviii + 366. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 2003. Cloth, $49.95.
Consistent with the purpose of the Berit Olam series, Cotter approaches the "final form" of the text as literature and addresses his commentary to a broad audience. In his view, his task as exegete ex·e·gete also ex·e·ge·tist
A person skilled in exegesis.
[Greek exg is "to tell you what I see from where I stand" (p. xiv). To explain where he stands, Cotter discloses that he is a Roman Catholic priest and a Benedictine monk. He also indicates "the explicit religiosity re·li·gi·os·i·ty
1. The quality of being religious.
2. Excessive or affected piety.
Noun 1. religiosity - exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal
religiousism, pietism, religionism " of his approach in which reading Scripture means engaging in a conversation with God (p. xvii). He includes ancient and modern commentators in this conversation, as well as occasional works of art (e.g., T. Mann's Joseph and his Brothers [trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter; London: Vintage, 1999]).
When he looks at the book of Genesis Noun 1. Book of Genesis - the first book of the Old Testament: tells of Creation; Adam and Eve; the Fall of Man; Cain and Abel; Noah and the flood; God's covenant with Abraham; Abraham and Isaac; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers
Genesis , Cotter sees "neither documents nor historical clues," but "a story" (p. xxiv). He does not deny that Genesis is a combination of sources, but he suspects that the "sources were refined and reworked in such a way that the composer was a real contributor to the final effort" (p. xi). Part of the introduction is devoted to a summary discussion of the elements of a story, specifically, plot, structure, character, and point of view.
The commentary proper organizes Genesis into two major parts: "Stories about Beginnings: Genesis 1-11," and "Stories about the Troubled Family Chosen for Blessing: Genesis 12-50." He eschews the traditional division of Genesis 12-50 into an "Abraham Saga," "Jacob Cycle," and "Joseph Story" because these labels isolate a single character in each narrative. Instead, he divides the text according to generations: first (Genesis 12-25), second (25-28), third (28-36), and fourth (37-50).
For each major section and short episode, Cotter provides a structural analysis. These are sometimes based on the plot or other parallel or ring structures (e.g., chiasms). He understands these ring structures as emerging more from the mind of the exegete than from the text (p. xxix).
Once he has established the structure of a narrative, Cotter's exposition discusses the text as story. He establishes the theme of his commentary with his opening words (p. 3): "God saves. God is always savior." His exposition strives to articulate this theme. For example, he reads Genesis 12-25 as "a theological text which uses the backdrop of the life of the first generation of the chosen family to proclaim the [saving] nature of God" (p. 136). Cotter argues that Hagar and Ishmael Hagar and Ishmael
Sarah orders Abraham to drive them out. [O.T.: Genesis 21:9–13]
See : Banishment manifest God's interest in saving those outside the Israelite covenant.
The discussion of narrative pays particular attention to plot and character. He charts character development, but remains generally careful not to argue beyond what the text states. Sometimes, however, he reads into narrative silences, such as when he claims Judah does not grieve the loss of his sons because the text does not specifically say that he does (p. 182). He recognizes that the character of God (like most characters in ancient literature) is relatively stable and consistent, although he finds development in the relationship between God and Abraham (pp. 171-179).
Despite the subtitle of Berit Olam (Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry), Cotter shows little interest in the major poem of Genesis 49. He thinks that the freedom of God "cannot be bound by the strictures of poetry, but must have the freedom of prose" (p. xxvi). This claim is surprising given that much of the Old Testament is poetry. In his cursory comments on Genesis 49, Cotter misses an opportunity to discuss the inclusion of major poems in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of Hebrew prose (e.g., Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32; 33; Judges 5).
Cotter's inclusion of ancient commentary is eclectic. Sometimes he incorporates ancient interpretations into his discussion of particular exegetical ex·e·get·ic also ex·e·get·i·cal
Of or relating to exegesis; critically explanatory.
ex issues. For example, his exposition of the sin of Sodom includes the Midrash (the Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer in a note, pp. 119-120), and he explores the traditional Jewish interpretation of Sarah's death as a consequence of the binding of Isaac The Binding of Isaac, in Genesis 22, is narration from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. The event is remembered on the 1st of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar and from the 10th - 13th of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Muslim calendar. (pp. 161-162). In other places, however, pre-critical commentary appears as a series of quotes from various authors located in a separate section (entitled "in the tradition," e.g., pp. 36-40 on Genesis 2-3, pp. 155-158 on Genesis 22). These quotes may be interesting, but seem out of place and distract from Cotter's exposition rather than contribute to it.
Although Cotter utilizes a variety of sources, one cannot help but notice that he frequently quotes from a handful of works that offer less detailed discussion than his own commentary (e.g., R. Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary [New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Norton, 19961; E. Fox, The Five Books of Moses [New York: Schocken, 1996]). Meanwhile, the classic historical-critical commentaries are conspicuous for their absence (e.g., H. Gunkel, Genesis [Third ed.; Gdttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910]; C. Westermann, Genesis [3 vols., trans. J. J. Scullion scul·lion
A servant employed to do menial tasks in a kitchen.
[Middle English sculyon, probably from Old French escouvillon, dishcloth, diminutive of escouve, ; Minneapolis: Augsberg, 1984-1986]; G. von Rad, Genesis [rev. ed.; trans. J. Marks; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972]).
Cotter's commentary is a significant attempt to read Genesis as a story. It will take its place alongside Bruce Waltke's Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001) and Thomas Brodie's Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University, 2001) as a noteworthy one-volume literary commentary. These works appeared at about the same time, so each scholar was unable to use the commentaries of the others. Together, they indicate the growing interest in literary approaches to Hebrew narrative and the increasing skill with which exegetes employ literary methods.
The volume includes a bibliography for further reading, a Scripture index, and a short subject index. An index of ancient and modern authors would have been appropriate considering the frequency and range of quotations.
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