Book of Genesis #6
We begin our scriptural study of the Book of Genesis by taking a broad view of the purpose and content of this sacred book. Who was it written for? And for what purpose?
After all, Genesis is not a compendium of divine activities that brought about the creation of the world and man nor is it an exhaustive account of all the truths that God wishes to convey to us, rather it is written to answer specific questions, much like the letters of St. Paul and understanding what these questions are is key to a proper comprehension of the book.
Beyond the actual purpose, there is the broader question of methodology: how are we to interpret an ancient text whose context and culture have faded away and for which we have vague references? Colloquialism, hyperboles, metaphors, and other techniques of communications are part of Genesis as they part of any other text, and understanding the text in its original context conveys the literal meaning of the text; quite a different thing than the literalistic meaning -- the meaning derived from a one-to-one mapping of words to content. A simple example suffices to explain the difference: "Honey, you're so sweet." This expression that a mother may say to her daughter is a metonymy in which A the words "honey" and "sweet" do not mean the physical substance of honey of level of sucrose but indicate something about the character of the daughter. Likewise, "He's got bat ears" is a metalepsis --another figure of speech-- implies that the subject has very sharp (another metonymical device) hearing.
We can figure out what is meant with these sentences from the current context and the ambient culture. Not so with ancient texts where the context has been lost and the culture is practically unknown. In these cases, we must proceed carefully lest we interpret literalistically a metaphor, simile, metonymy, or similar textual devices. To this end, we focus on the Four Senses of Scripture and we establish them as a foundation for our interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
Next, we focus on the title of the book "Sepher Telodot" in Hebrew -- The Book of Generations and describe what this means. Also, we compare the Book of Genesis in its structure and content to Egyptian mythology and the Babylonian Enuma Elish, the creation-myth to better understand how Genesis can be considered an Apologia -- a defense of the faith -- against these myths.