GENESIS. By Nahum M. Sarna Nahum Mattathias Sarna (March 27, 1923–June 23, 2005) (Hebrew: נחום סרנה) was a modern Biblical scholar who is best known for the study of Genesis and Exodus represented in his Understanding Genesis . The JPS JPS Jewish Publication Society
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JPS Joint Planning Staff Torah Commentary: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation. Pp. xxiv + 414. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989. Cloth.
In the preface to his commentary, Sarna remarks, "It is hoped that the intelligent, educated layman, for whom this work is primarily intended, will find the result of the endeavor informative, enlightening, and edifying" (p. xviii). He has succeeded. This commentary brings the whole of 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 to life, not only because it provides well-researched historical, linguistic, extra-biblical, and inner-biblical information, but also because Sarna's own narrative, theological, and personal insights are often brilliant.
Sama's concern for placing the narratives in the context of the ancient Near East is seen in his usage of linguistic, literary, and contextual data. For example, he compares some of the literary conventions of the Enuma Elish and of the Atrabasis story with their counterparts in Genesis. Joseph's rise to power is placed in the context of the days of Akhnaton (1370-1353) and Memeptah (1224-1214). Sama is concerned with Hebrew words in their entire biblical context. In discussing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII ASCII or American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a set of codes used to represent letters, numbers, a few symbols, and control characters. Originally designed for teletype operations, it has found wide application in computers. .], for example, he includes its usage in the account of the Flood, in the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, and as an indicator of God's presence. The literary features of the narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete. are also considered. For example, Sama examines lists of epithets wherein the last word in the series is the most telling, such as "your land, your homeland, your father's house" in Genesis 12 and "your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love " in Genesis 22. Similarly, careful attention to the narrator's language can be seen in Sama's description of reference to Joseph as "the man" and his brothers as "the men" to underscore their anonymity before Joseph's revelation of his identity.
Sarna's distinctive reflections are most apparent when he gives his theological and personal insights as well as when he challenges conventional wisdom. In his commentary on the creation story he remarks, "It is a fundamental biblical teaching that the original, divinely ordained order in the physical world has its counterpart in the divinely ordained universal moral order to which the human race is subject" (p. 6). Sarna often shows his independence from many of the commonly held conclusions of modern biblical scholarship. The use of distinctive divine names, for example, is not evidence of various sources, but has a theological purpose. Thus, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] connotes "universalism Universalism
Belief in the salvation of all souls. Arising as early as the time of Origen and at various points in Christian history, the concept became an organized movement in North America in the mid-18th century. and abstraction" and is "most appropriate for the transcendent God of Creation" (p. 5). Similarly, Abimelech uses [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] because he does not share Abraham's faith. Genesis 22 is not a polemic against human sacrifice, but is concerned solely with Abraham's unquestionable worthiness to be the recipient of God's promise.
As is expected in a commentary, Sarna pays careful attention to each verse. It is his concern for underlying themes, however, that gives the commentary a coherence that is engaging. Sarna states his understanding of key themes in his concise introduction: God is the singularly unchallenged "sovereign of the world" and "Lord of history" (p. xiv). All of humanity, and especially Israel, participate in God's designs. Sama's own recurring considerations are the antiquity of the traditions and the importance of viewing the narrative as a whole. Although a layperson lay·per·son
A layman or a laywoman.
Noun 1. layperson - someone who is not a clergyman or a professional person
layman, secular might not be attuned to the polemical nature of some of his interpretations, the scholar will note that Sarna is in dispute with interpreters who would see his insistence on the authenticity of the ancestral narratives as historicist. He argues that the unique attestations of the God of the father; the inclusion of cultic objects that are later forbidden; some family, marriage, and legal customs of the ancestors; angelology an·gel·ol·o·gy
The branch of theology having to do with angels.
1. Theology. the doctrine or theory concerning angels.
2. the beliefs concerning angels. ; the depiction of various foreigners; and the use of certain personal and place names would not be understandable or would be incompatible with later religious, social, and political realities. For example, Sarna argues that the portrayals of the Amorites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Levites in Genesis 15, 19, and 34 are incompatible with later depictions of them. The marriages of Abraham to his half sister and of Jacob to sisters would be impossible under later Israelite legislation.
Sama's insistence on the existence of a fully developed ideology of monotheism monotheism (mŏn`əthēĭzəm) [Gr.,=belief in one God], in religion, a belief in one personal god. In practice, monotheistic religion tends to stress the existence of one personal god that unifies the universe. within Israel's earliest period will also be disputed in some modern circles. For example, in the discussion of Jacob's struggle with the adversary, Sarna argues that Israel's monotheism took the idea of alternate deities and made them subordinate spirits. In this context he mentions Deut 32:8, but assumes, rather than proves, that the reference is in fact to lesser deities. He argues that every nation was seen to have its own divine patron, but not its own god.
Sarna's incorporation of insights from Jewish classical commentators and the excursuses on important concepts and terms are other notable features of this commentary.
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