The following assignment related to CANDIDE is due by February 4th. It will be accepted earlier. Later means a severe penalty.
1. Explain who Voltaire was. (10 points)
2.What is satire? (10 points)
3. In three separate paragraphs, choose three subjects of Voltaire's satirical thrusts in CANDIDE and discuss. (60 points)
4. Find and analyze an example of satire from a source other than Voltaire. (20 points)
You will find material pertaining to our work this semester in the pages that follow.
When President Clinton awoke at three A.M. on September 13th 1993, he read the entire book of Joshua, chapter six of which describes the conquest of Jericho. It was the pre-dawn to the day a document between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization was to be signed. In that document reference was to be made to the territories to be given over to Arab administration by the modern day Israelites. No doubt the fact that Jericho was to be a factor in the agreement helped propel the President's thoughts early that morning. In a speech several hours later which was watched the world over, President Clinton, a Christian head to a religiously neutral country of numerous religious believers of many and varied faiths, tried to capture an appropriate tone for a meeting among Jews, Moslems, Christians and others that was of great import to the peace of the entire world. In his address the President alluded to Isaiah and to Ecclesiastes.
Nothing could more eloquently capture the problem faced by a society which once assumed universal familiarity with the text of the Bible and which today is in danger of losing that familiarity than the above situation. Should Americans be as comfortable with the Bible as the President is? Surely the answer coming from one and all should be yes. Whether one is religious or not, it would be ignorant not to sense the Biblical overtones of the situation. Hypothetically and in comparison, were the Greeks and the Turks to settle one of their disputes at the site of what was once Troy, would not the Illiad lend itself to such a moment?
We no longer live in the age when literate persons had a daily intimacy with the Bible on the basis of shared belief; individuals must now attune themselves to the book, which is today rarely assimilated in early youth. To help them do so is a main objective of this curriculum. A reason the Bible is not known to many is a series of necessary Supreme Court decisions going back to 1963 which protect the public schools from the use of the Bible as an adjunct to the teaching of religion in the public schools from the standpoint of believers. In our country, the teaching of religion for belief must clearly be conducted in precincts outside the public school. The responsibilty of current educators to restore the Bible as a part of the secondary school curriculum carries the burden of requiring that all teachers carefully separate out what their personal faith view of the Bible is from textual consideration.
In particular, it must be borne in mind that the Bible speaks for itself in whatever edition is utilized and cannot be allowed by the teacher to form patterns consonant with any sectarian view, whether agnostic, atheist, Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic or other. In particular, the problem with much of the Bible teaching which existed in public schools in earlier eras was the tendency to teach the Old Testament as a foreshadowing of the New.
Though the Hebrew Bible is the history of the people of Israel, there is a multicultural dimension to that history of great significance in the current context of our society. No advanced cultural tradition has ever existed in a vacuum and thus none can be studied in isolation. This is very much the case with the people of Israel, who strode upon the stage of history at a time when the great civilizations of antiquity had already passed their prime. By the testimony of its own traditions, this people came into contact with many cultures. The ancestors of Israel originated in Mesopotamia, wandered through Syria and Canaan, and settled for a prolonged stay in Egypt. In the course of their peregrinations they exchanged their Aramaic speech for the language of Canaan and enlarged their cultural estate. The Bible does not hesitate to record the mixed ethnic origins of Israel. Abram sends his servant to find a wife for his son among his own kinsmen back in Aram-Naharaim, and the woman is described as Aramean. Jacob, the offspring of this union, has two Aramean wives as well as two concubines of unknown affiliations. These four foreign wives mothered, by tradition, the fathers of the future tribes of Israel. Two of these, Ephraim and Manasseh, trace themselves back to the daughter of an Egyptian priest. Moses marries an African woman. Even the genealogy of the royal house of David leads back to the union of Judah with a Canaanite woman and Boaz with a Moabite.
To the testimony of biblical traditions about Israelite origins must be added the fact that the land of Israel has always enjoyed a location of unique strategic importance as a corridor connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. It has as well been a window to the Mediterranean lands. Through Israel the arteries of international communications have always passed, and into it have flowed the powerful cultural and religious influences of surrounding civilizations. Geographic position certainly has guaranteed an international character that has impeded the maintenance of individuality and the development of cultural and religious independence. Indeed, the entire Hebrew Bible might easily be read as an attempt to maintain Israelite identity amid the pressures of surrounding cultural diversity.
One of the first lessons included here will deal with the understanding of what the Bible is. Whereas the Old Testament for many Christians is a document superseded by the New Testament, such a view is painful to Jewish believers. It would be a good idea for teachers to follow the unbiased practice of referring to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Testament and the New Testament as the Greek Testament, based on the primary language of each.
The numerous parts of each testament should be treated individually. Each text must be read for meaning in a literary fashion, not a religious one. As Robert Alter, one of the foremost Bible critics of our time, has pointed out, literary art plays a crucial role in the shaping of Biblical narrative, a role that is finely modulated from moment to moment. Literary art determines in most cases the minute choice of words and reported details, the pace of narration, the small movements of dialogue, and a whole network of ramified interconnections in the text.
The value of the Bible as history is a sensitive and controversial problem. Unquestionably, there are biblical statements that would be disputed by a great majority of scientists and archaeologists. Most famously, the statement in Genesis that the world was made in only six days is at odds with the fossil and geological record, which measures in billions and millions of years the age of the earth and the presence of life upon it. Most modern biblical commentators accept the findings of scholars in other disciplines and do not seek to treat the Bible as an infallible guide to history and science.
Yet an overall consideration shows that some take the Bible literally, some figuratively, some symbolically and some as an important story in the cultural heritage of all the world since those who have taken the Bible seriously have had an impact everywhere. It is variously regarded as divinely dictated, revealed or inspired or as a purely human creation. People have acquired more copies of it than of any other book. It is quoted and misquoted more often than other books. Also it is translated and mistranslated more than others. It is at the heart of Judaism and Christianity and regarded by Moslems as a forerunner to the revelations of their religion. People read it, study it, admire it, disdain it, write about it and argue about it. People have lived by it and died for it.
There are traditions concerning who wrote each book of the Bible -- The Five Books of Moses are supposed to be by Moses, the book of Lamentations by Jeremiah, the Psalms by King David. For a long time readers who have found what they perceive as internal contradictions and who have been unwilling to accept explanations of such problems by others attempting to smooth such problems away from within the framework of tradition have attempted to analyze the structures of the biblical texts in much the same manner as they would any other literature. Briefly and by way of example, the non-traditional critics have assigned the composition of the core book of the Hebrew Testament, The Pentateuch, to at least four distinct original writers whose efforts were eventually edited into the extant book: J, E, P and D. J is said to have come from Judah, E from Israel, P from the priestly caste and D is the Deuteronomist. The leader and seminal figure of the so-called "Higher Criticism' of the Bible was Julius Wellhausen(1844 -- 1918).
The Bible As Literature
Over the past forty years the Bible has virtually disappeared from public school classrooms in the United States. On June 17, 1963 the United States Supreme Court in the case of Abington School District versus Schempp prohibited the recitation of prayers and the devotional use of the Bible in the public schools. Since it had been common prior to 1963 for the Bible to be taught for its religious significance, the decision was in line with protecting the separation of church and state which the constitution calls for.
The Schempp decision, however, actually states as follows:
It might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historical qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistent with the first amendment.
Justice Goldberg noted in the decision that "the teaching about religion should be distinguished from the teaching of religion in the public schools."
In the 1971 Lemon versus Kurtzman decision, the Supreme Court decided that any government action can survive an Establishment clause challenge only if it has a secular purpose -- a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion -- and if the action does not foster an "excessive government entanglement with religion."
In some places efforts to restore a course of study consonant with the legal decisions regarding the presence of the Bible in the classroom have been made. However, remarkably little seems to be in existence in the form of specific texts for public secondary schools or of teacher guide materials.
Many questions pose themselves even before the outline to a course can be proposed. Foremost for many teachers will be that of texts. It would be best that at any given point in the learning process all students make reference to the same Biblical version. Care should be given to basic questions about text. Given that the teacher will be scrupulous to maintain the non-religious tenor of the study, almost any version ought to be acceptable. A key question is whether one wishes to utilize the King James version for the benefit of its classic Jacobean text or search out a more modern translation for the benefit of greater ease of comprehension by the students. The Protestant Bible is, more than any other version, the Bible of the central anglophone tradition, the book that most easily comes to mind when we speak of the Bible. It may be said that it includes all the books recognized by modern Jews as constituting their Bible and all the books Christians agree upon as parts of theirs. The King James is the version most English language readers associate with the literary qualities of the Bible. Its archaism may, though, at times be misleading. The New English Bible, The Revised Standard Version and the New Jewish Publication Society Bible are all worth consideration. The recent translations by Robert Alter, who tries to keep the cadences of the King James as much as possible, and by Everett Fox, who emulates Hebraic nuance are both excellent choices.
What are the parts of the Hebrew Bible? What is the canon?
The common Jewish designation is the Hebraic acronym TANAKH, for Torah (the Five books of Moses), Neviim (Former and Latter Prophets) and Ketuvim (miscellaneous Writings or Everything Else), a generic division in their traditional order according to the Jewish canon. It is an anthology that reflects many centuries of literary activity. Historiography, narratives, lists of laws, prophecy in prose and poetry, wisdom literature, laments and victory hymns, love poems, genealogical tables, and much more are all to be found. No book accepted was more recent than the time of Ezra -- the fifth century BCE, when divine inspiration was held to have ceased. The language had to be primarily Hebrew, not - with small exception- Aramaic and certainly not Greek. The texts accepted had to have had a history of use within the Jewish community. The teachings had to be consistent with mainstream Pharisaic religious thought. The oldest extant scrolls are those found in the caves at Qumran, going back to the first century BCE, the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls.
The English names for books of the Torah (ascribed traditionally to Mosaic authorship) -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy -- derive from those of the Latin Bible which, in turn, have their origins in titles among the Greek-speaking Jews. These titles are descriptive of the contents or major theme of the respective books. Another method of naming (still popular in Hebrew) was to entitle a book by its opening word or words. In the Neviim, the Former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (all narrative, historical works) and the (largely poetic) literary creations of the prophetic orators Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the first nine of the Twelve "minor" prophets -- Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The last three were known to the Rabbis as the Latter Prophets because they came after the destruction of the first Temple. The Ketuvim is a varied collection comprising liturgical poetry -- Psalms and Lamentations; love poetry -- Song of Songs; wisdom literature -- Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes; and historical works -- Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and a blend of history and prophecy in the Book of Daniel. References as early as 180 BCE in Jewish sources and Luke in the Christian Testament accept these divisions.
How many books were not accepted into the canon?
Many that we do not know the titles of and some that we do (The Wisdom of Ben Sira [also called Sirach] Maccabees). The Scriptures bear repeated testimony to the existence of an extensive lost literature. The pentateuch refers to what must undoubtedly have been a well-known Book of the Wars of the Lord, and both Joshua and Samuel cite the (for us)mysterious Book of Jashar as an easily accessible source. The writers of Kings and Chronicles constantly direct their readers' attention to external authorities that clearly had achieved a goodly measure of popular renown. All in all, over twenty works no longer extant are mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible. The very concept of a fixed corpus of accepted books implies a long process of selection and rejection.
The Bible has been translated more than any other literary work, and, in part, or as a whole has appeared in almost all the languages and dialects of the world, about eighteen hundred in total. Christianity spread knowledge of the Bible throughout the ancient world and, in time, to almost every known country and people. The Reformation gave a further impetus to translation of the Bible, the reformers often basing their work on the original texts. Since the Roman Catholic Church was at first disinclined to promote Bible study in any text but the Latin Vulgate, Protestantism soon took a commanding lead in the dissemination of the Bible, which was systematically translated into many vernaculars. By the 1960's, the British and Foreign Bible Society alone had published complete Bibles in well over 200 languages. Protestant translations are often based on the English Authorized Version; Catholic editions, generally, on the Vulgate. Complete Bibles and separate biblical books have appeared under Jewish auspices from earliest times, in many languages but generally directed to the Jewish reader. From time to time, however, Jewish translations have influenced Christian scholars. The Latin Bible reached England in the sixth or seventh century but did not include much more than the Gospels. Martin Luther produced a German version of the Bible in the 1520's which had a powerful impact on German language as well as religion. The first comprehensive English translation was produced late in the fourteenth century, the Lollard Bible. In the 1530's William Tyndale, a follower of Martin Luther, brought out another reformist translation. The Renaissance in England brought the revival of interest in Greek and Hebrew and paved the way for the Authorized Version commissioned by King James and published in 1611, the work of a team of 54 scholars who worked in separate groups at Cambridge, Oxford and Westminster. They drew on Hebrew, Greek and Latin sources. The English they used was already old fashioned for the seventeenth century. English Catholic emigres prepared the Douay version in 1609. Since then English translations have been inspired by doctrinal and sectarian considerations, by a scholarly desire for improved accuracy, and by the desire to improve or modernize the language of the translation. The Revised Standard Version came out in the late 1940's, based on the American Standard Version of 1901 and the King James. The Jerusalem Bible of 1966 and the New American Bible of 1970 were Catholic versions. From the 1960's through the 1980's the interfaith Anchor Bible and the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish Publication Society of America were produced.
Introduction to Genesis
The Hebrew name for the First Book of Moses was originally Sefer Maaseh Bereshith, the Book of Creation. This was rendered into Greek by Genesis, Origin, because it gives an account of the creation of the world and the beginnings of life and society. If The Pentateuch (which is Greek for The Five Books of Moses) were merely a code of civil and religious laws, it would have opened with the twelfth chapter of Exodus, which contains the earliest legal commandment to the Israelites. The fact that the message is directed with a sense of universality beyond the Children of Israel is demonstrated by the tracing of kinship in Genesis among all portions of the human family -- all being portrayed as of one blood and offspring of one common stock. Thus the first eleven chapters are "multi-cultural" and the last thirty-nine specific to the Israelites. All through Genesis the vicissitudes of human affairs highlighted by stories focusing on duty, guilt and its punishment, and the conflict of conscience with inclination provide the leading themes.
The following is an excerpt from a book by Harvard professor James L. Kugel:
This book was written for students and scholars alike. It is intended to be a new kind of guide for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible (or 'Old Testament'). Let me begin by saying why I think that such a guide is needed.
"The Hebrew Bible contains the history, prayers, songs, laws, and prophecies of ancient Israel. These texts were written down over a long period of time, more than a thousand years. Recently, thanks in part to advances in archaeology, linguistics, and ancient history, scholars have been able to learn much about how the Bible came to be. We now know a great deal of the historical background of various biblical stories, as well as about how different parts of the Bible first came together.
"When people study the Bible nowadays in schools and universities, it is often this 'new knowledge' that is highlighted. Most standard guides and introductions to the Hebrew Bible discuss little else. Thus, people learn about the various stages in which the Bible was written, and about the work of different editors or redactors. They are told about the background history of Israel, and about other texts from the ancient Near East that shed light on biblical events. All this is extremely interesting information.
"But it is really only half the story of the Hebrew Bible.
"The other half has to do with what happened to these texts once they were written down. For, even before the Bible had attained its final form, its stories, songs, and prophecies had begun to be interpreted. From very early times, sages and scholars in ancient Israel had made a practice of looking deeply into the meaning of these sacred writings, and, with each new generation, their insights and interpretations were passed on alongside the texts themselves. As a result, as each new age inherited what were to become the Bible's various books from the previous age, it also inherited a body of traditions about what those texts meant.
"The traditional interpretations were of all kinds. Some simply aimed at explaining the meaning of a difficult word or resolving an apparent contradiction. But others were more wide-ranging and imaginative. Interpreters sometimes felt themselves obliged to explain why a particular person in a biblical story should have behaved the way that he or she did, or to find some connection between what a particular prophet had predicted and some later event in history. Often, interpreters ended up actually adding to what the biblical text said, 'deducing' whole incidents or facts that, the interpreters felt, were implied if not stated outright in the Bible's words.
"More than anything, though, these interpretations tried to bring out the universal and enduring messages of biblical texts, for the interpreters considered Scripture to be a sacred guidebook for human existence. Interpreters therefore tried to look beyond the obvious content of what was being said to find some relevant, usable lesson, even if it was less than obvious at first glance. And so, whatever their particular form or purpose, these interpretive traditions all tended to transform the apparent meaning of biblical texts.
"Such transformations were immensely important. As any reader of this book will see, chapter after chapter of the Bible took on a new, sometimes radically different, significance when its words were scrutinized in the characteristic manner of early interpreters.
"The story of Adam and Eve, for example, only became the story of the Fall of Man thanks to a certain interpretation of one of the verses in the story. The snake in the story came to be identified as the devil--but only by later interpreters, not by the story itself! And it was only because of another interpretation that the Garden of Eden (also known as paradise) came to be thought of as a heavenly garden, one in which the righteous would live eternally after their death.
"Similar transformations occurred with other biblical narratives. Interpreters came to the conclusion that Abraham was the son of an idol-maker, that he was the first person to believe in one God, and that among his many virtues was an extraordinary generosity toward strangers. None of these things is stated outright in the Bible, though each of them is based on some slight peculiarity in the biblical text. Other creative interpretations helped to change the 'images' of Sarah, Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph--what each of these biblical figures did and stood for took on an entirely different aspect when their stories were read and interpreted in the special fashion of these early interpreters. The shape and significance of the entire Bible came to be modified because of their work.
"Then, gradually, as the centuries passed, these traditional understandings came to be the meaning. The historical circumstances in which a particular biblical passage might have originally been uttered were eventually forgotten or, in any case, considered irrelevant. What was important by, say, the third or second century B.C.E. (and, quite possibly, even somewhat earlier) was what was thought to be the text's deeper significance, that is, how it was explained by the traditional interpretations that now accompanied it. And this traditional, interpreted Bible--the Bible itself plus the traditions about what it really meant--was what was taught to successive generations of students, expounded in public assemblies and, ultimately, canonized by Judaism and Christianity as their sacred book.
"The way in which these traditions of interpretation came to cling to the biblical text may be difficult for people today to comprehend. We like to think that the Bible, or any other text, means 'just what it says.' And we act on that assumption: we simply open up a book--including the bible--and try to make sense of it on our own. In ancient Israel and for centuries afterward, on the contrary, people looked to special interpreters to explain the meaning of a biblical text. For that reason, the explanations passed along by such interpreters quickly acquired an authority of their own. In studying this or that biblical law or prophecy or story, students would do more than simply learn the words; they would be told what the text meant--not only the peculiar way in which this or that term was to be interpreted, but how one biblical text related to another far removed from it, or the particular moral lesson that a text embodied, or how a certain passage was to be applied in everyday life. And the people who learned these things about the Bible from their teachers in turn passed on the same information to the next generation of students.
"And so, it was this interpreted Bible--not just the stories, prophecies, and laws themselves, but these text as they had, by now, been interpreted and explained for centuries--that came to stand at the very center of Judaism and Christianity. This was what people in both religions meant by 'the Bible.' Of course, Judaism and Christianity themselves differed on a great many questions, including the interpretation of some crucial scriptural passages, as well as on just what books were to be included in the Bible. Nevertheless, both religions had begun with basically the same interpreted Bible. For both inherited an earlier, common set of traditions, general principles regarding how one ought to go about reading and interpreting the Bible as well as specific traditions concerning the meaning of individual passages, verses, and words. As a result, even when later Jews or Christians added on new interpretations--sometimes directed against each other or against other groups or ideologies within the world in which they lived--the new interpretations frequently built on, and only modified, what had been the accepted wisdom until then.
"This book is essentially an attempt to reconstruct this traditional Bible, the Bible as is was understood in the closing centuries B.C.E. and at the very start of the common era. I have tried to assemble evidence of the things that scholars and ordinary people believed about the most important parts of the Torah or Pentateuch (that is, the first five books of the Bible).1 But how does one go about reconstructing this Bible-as-is-was? Unfortunately, there is no single text that contains, chapter by chapter, the commonly accepted interpretations of the Bible in the closing centuries B.C.E. Instead there is a mass of literature of various sorts--sermons, apocalypses, retellings of biblical stories, and other writings--in which these interpretations are mostly only hinted at or else taken for granted, assumed to be known to every reader. Trying to reconstruct the Bible as it was has thus been largely a matter of reading between the lines, figuring out interpretations that are rarely presented as such, from this mass of different sources.
"Of course there is more to the Bible as it was than I have been able to include here. But I hope that the present volume will give readers the essential, a view of the most important interpretive traditions that circulated during the crucial period of the Bible's emergence as such, when it was becoming the defined corpus of texts that would live at the very heart of Judaism and Christianity."
" While, for the period covered, the precise contents of the Bible--which books were to be part of the canon and which not--were still a subject of debate, all agreed that these first five books were Scripture par excellence, the very heart of the Bible and the essence of God's sacred teaching for the people of Israel."
To make this book as affordable (and widely available) as possible, I have included in it only the most important and influential interpretative traditions of the Pentateuch, and these have been presented largely without technical footnotes or bibliographical references. A considerably larger (and necessarily more expensive) selection of the Pentateuch's interpretive traditions, along with scholarly apparatus, is also to be published by Harvard University Press."
Copyright © 1997 by James L. Kugel. All rights reserved.
Don't forget to check the related link to the US NEWS article on Bible history.
The following excerpt is from Robert Alter's book The Art of Biblical Narrative:
Of course,[there are] two different creation stories. The first, generally attributed to P, begins with Genesis 1:1 and concludes with the report of the primeval sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3), probably followed, as most scholars now think, by a formal summary in the first half of Genesis 2:4:
"Such is the story of heaven and earth when they were created."
The second version of the creation story, taken from the J Document, would then begin with the subordinate clause in the second half of Genesis 2:4, "When the Lord God made earth and heaven ...” going on to the creation of man, the vegetable world, the animal kingdom, and woman, in that order and after the completion of creation proper at the end of Chapter 2, moving directly into the story of the serpent and the banishment from Eden.
Now, it is obvious enough that the two accounts are complementary rather than overlapping, each giving a different kind of information about how the world came into being. The P writer (for convenience, I shall refer to him in the singular even if this source may have been the product of a "school") is concerned with the cosmic plan of creation and so begins appropriately with the primordial abyss whose surface is rippled by a wind from (or spirit of) God. The J writer is interested in man as a cultivator of his environment and as a moral agent, and so he begins with a comment on the original lack of vegetation and irrigation and ends with an elaborate report of the creation of woman. There are also, however, certain seeming contradictions between the two versions. According to P, the sequence of creation is vegetation, animal life, and finally humanity. Although the chronology of acts of creation is not so schematically clear in J, the sequence there, as we have already noted, would appear to be man, vegetation, animal life, woman. In any case, the most glaring contradiction between the two versions is the separation of the creation of woman from the creation of man in J's account. P states simply, "Male and female He created them," suggesting that the two sexes came into the world simultaneously and equally. J, on the other hand, imagines woman as a kind of divine afterthought, made to fill a need of man, and made,besides, out of one of man's spare parts.
Why should the author of Genesis have felt obliged to use both these accounts, and why did he not at least modify his sources enough to harmonize the contradictions? The scholars-- who of course refer to him as redactor, not author-- generally explain that he viewed his inherited literary materials as canonical, which meant both that he had to incorporate them and that he could not alter them. What of early Hebrew writings may have seemed canonical in, say, the fifth century B.C.E., or what that may have meant at the time is a matter of pure conjecture; but the text we have of the creation story has a coherence as significant form which we can examine, and I would argue that there were compelling literary reasons for the Genesis author to take advantage of both documents at his disposal-perhaps also rejecting others about which we do not know-and to take advantage as well of the contradictions between his sources. These reasons should become apparent through some close attention to the stylistic and thematic differences between the two creation stories. Although P begins, according to the general convention of opening formulas for ancient Near Eastern creation epics, with an introductory adverbial clause, "When God began to create heaven and earth," his prose is grandly paratactic, moving forward in a stately parade of parallel clauses linked by "and" (the particle vav). Or, to switch the metaphor of motion, the language and the represented details of P's account are all beautifully choreographed. Everything is numerically ordered; creation proceeds through a rhythmic process of incremental repetition; each day begins with God's world-making utterance ("And God said . . .") and ends with the formal refrain, "It was evening and it was morning," preceded in five instances by still another refrain, "And God saw that it was good." P's narrative emphasizes both orderly sequence and a kind of vertical perspective, from God above all things down to the world He is creating. God is the constant subject of verbs of generation and the source of lengthy creative commands reported as direct speech. (By contrast, in J's version, there is a whole block of verses in Gen. 2:1~14 where God is entirely absent as subject; man, moreover, performs independent action and utters speech; and the only direct discourse in the whole chapter assigned to God is His command to Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and His brief statement about man's need for a helpmate.)
The orderliness of P's vision is expressed in another kind of symmetry that is both stylistic and conceptual: creation, as he represents it, advances through a series of balanced pairings, which in most instances are binary oppositions. J also begins by mentioning the creation of earth and heaven (significantly, earth comes first for him), but he makes nothing of the opposition in the development of his story, while P actually builds his picture of creation by showing how God splits off the realm of earth from the realm of heaven, sets luminaries in the heavens to shine on the earth, creates the birds of the heavens above together with the swarming things of the seas below. Darkness and light, night and day, evening and morning, water and sky, water and dry land, sun and moon, grass and trees, bird and sea-creature, beast of the field and creeping thing of the earth, human male and female -- each moment of creation is conceived as a balancing of opposites or a bifurcation producing difference in some particular category of existence. In the first half of Chapter 1 (verses 1-19), for the first four days of creation, before the appearance of animate creatures, the governing verb, after the reiterated verbs of God's speaking, is "to divide," suggesting that the writer was quite aware of defining creation as a series of bifurcations or splittings-off. God divides primordial light from primordial darkness, the upper waters from the lower, day from night, terrestrial light from terrestrial darkness. In the second half of the story, as we pass on to the creation of the animal realm, the verbs of division disappear, and with the fuller details pertaining to animals and man, the symmetry is a little looser, less formulaic. Nevertheless, bracketed pairs continue to inform the account of cosmogony, and there is also a noticeable tendency to recapitulate many of the previous terms of creation as the narrative proceeds. The conclusion in the first sabbath vividly illustrates the emphatic stylistic balance, the fondness for parallelisms and incremental repetitions, that mark P's entire account (Gen. 2:2-3):
And God completed on the seventh day His work
which He had made. And he ceased on the seventh
day from all His work which He had made.And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it.For on it He had ceased from all His work which God created to make.
We have here not only incremental repetition but, as I have tried to show through this rather literal translation, a tightly symmetrical envelope structure, the end returning to the beginning: the first line of the passage ends with God's making or doing, as does the last, while the end of the last line, by also introducing the seemingly redundant phrase "God created," takes us all the way back to the opening of the creation story, "When God began to create." In P's magisterial formulation, everything is ordered, set in its appointed place, and contained within a symmetrical frame.
All this reflects, of course, not simply a bundle of stylistic predilections but a particular vision of God, man, and the world. Coherence is the keynote of creation. Things come into being in orderly progression, measured in a numerical sequence which is defined by the sacred number seven. Law, manifested in the symmetrical dividings that are the process of creation and in the divine speech that initiates each stage of creation, is the underlying characteristic of the world as God makes it. Man, entering the picture climactically just before it is declared complete on the seventh day, is assigned a clearly demarcated role of dominance in a grand hierarchy. In this version of cosmogony, God, as Einstein was to put it in his own argument against randomness, decidedly does not play dice with the universe, though from a moral or historical point of view that is exactly what He does in J's story by creating man and woman with their dangerous freedom of choice while imposing upon them the responsibility of a solemn prohibition.
J's strikingly different sense of the movement of creation makes itself felt from the outset in his syntax and in the rhythms of his prose. Instead of stylistic balance and stately progression, he begins with a subordinate clause that leads us into a long and sinuous complex sentence which winds its way through details of landscape and meteorology to the making of man (Gen. 2:4~47):
At the time when the Lord God was making earth and heaven, no shrub of the field yet being on the earth and no grain of the field yet having sprouted, for the Lord God had not made rain fall on the earth and there was no man to work the soil, but a flow would well up from the earth to water the whole surface of the soil-then the Lord God fashioned man from clods of the soil and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.
J needs this kind of ramified syntax, so unlike P's, because he constantly sees his subject in a complex network of relations that are causal, temporal, mechanical, and, later in the chapter, moral and psychological as well. His prose imparts a sense of rapid and perhaps precarious forward movement very different from P's measured parade from first day to seventh. It is a movement of restless human interaction with the environment, even in Eden: here man works the soil, which cannot realize its full inven-tory of nourishing plant life until that work has begun; in P's version, man, more grandly and more generally, has dominion over the natural world. Man as J imagines him is more essentially bound to the natural world, formed out of a humble clod, his name, adam, in a significant etymological pun, derived from "adamah", soil. He is one with the earth as he is not in P's hierarchical sequence; but he is also apart from it by virtue of the very faculty of consciousness that enables him to give things their names, and by virtue of the free will through which he will cause himself to be banished from the Garden, henceforth to work the soil as an arduous punishment rather than as a natural function.
P is interested in the large plan of creation; Jis more interested in the complicated and difficult facts of human life in civilization, for which he provides an initial explanation through the story of what happened in Eden. Man culminates the scheme of creation in P, but man is the narrative center of J's story, which is quite another matter. P's verbs for creation are "to make" ("asoh") and "to create" ("baro"), while J has God "fashioning" ("yatzor"), a word that is used for potters and craftsmen, and also makes him the subject of concrete agricultural verbs, planting and watering and causing to grow.
J's concern with the mechanics of things is continuous with his vision of God, man, and history. The world is stuff to be worked and shaped through effort, for both man and God; language has its role in ordering things, but it is not, as in P, generative. If man's role as worker of the earth is stressed at both the beginning and the end of the Eden story, one might also infer that God's work with man does not cease with the fashioning into creaturehood of the original clod of earth. In this version of creation, there is moral tension between man and God -- a notion not hinted at in P -- and also, as God's solicitude for man's loneliness shows, there is divine concern for man. It is instructive that here no speech of God occurs until He addresses man and reflects on man's condition. The verb "to say," which in the first account of creation introduced
each of the divine utterances through which the world was brought into being, here is used to designate thought or interior speech, the brief divine monologue in which God ponders man's solitude and resolves to alleviate it (Gen. 2:18): "And the Lord God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I shall make him an aid fit for him.'"
The differences between our two versions are so pronounced that by now some readers may be inclined to conclude that what I have proposed as a complementary relationship is in fact a contradictory one. If, however, we can escape the modern provincialism of assuming that ancient writers must be simple because they are ancient, it may be possible to see that the Genesis author chose to combine these two versions of creation precisely because he understood that his subject was essentially contradictory, essentially resistant to consistent linear formulation, and that this was his way of giving it the most adequate literary expression. Let me explain this first in the notorious contradiction about the creation of woman, and then go on to comment briefly on the larger cosmogonic issues.
It may make no logical sense to have Eve created after Adam and inferior to him when we have already been told that she was created at the same time and in the same manner as he, but it makes perfect sense as an account of the contradictory facts of woman's role in the post-edenic scheme of things. On the one hand, the writer is a member of a patriarchal society in which women have more limited legal privileges and institutional functions than do men, and where social convention clearly invites one to see woman as subsidiary to man, her proper place, in the Psalmist's words, as a "fruitful vine in the corner of your house." Given such social facts and such entrenched attitudes, the story of Eve's being made from an unneeded rib of Adam's is a proper account of origins. On the other hand, our writer -- one does not readily think of him as a
bachelor -- surely had a fund of personal observation to draw on which could lead him to conclude that woman, contrary to institutional definitions, could be a daunting adversary or worthy partner, quite man's equal in a moral or psychological perspective, capable of exerting just as much power as he through her intelligent resourcefulness. If this seems a fanciful inference, one need only recall the resounding evidence of subsequent biblical narrative, which includes a remarkable gallery of women -- Rebekah, Tamar, Deborah, Ruth -- who are not content with a vegetative existence in the corner of the house but, when thwarted by the male world or when they find it lacking in moral insight or practical initiative, do not hesitate to take their destiny, or the nation's, into their own hands. In the light of this extra-institutional awareness of woman's standing, the proper account of origins is a simultaneous creation of both sexes, in which man and woman are different aspects of the same divine image. "In the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:27). The decision to place in sequence two ostensibly contradictory J accounts of the same event is an approximate narrative equivalent to the technique of post-Cubist painting which gives us, for example, juxtaposed or superimposed, a profile and a frontal perspective of the same face. The ordinary eye could never see these two at once, but it is the painter's prerogative to represent them as a simultaneous perception within the visual frame of his painting, whether merely to explore the formal relations between the two views or to provide an encompassing representation of his subject. Analogously, the Hebrew writer takes advantage of the composite nature of his art to give us a tension of views that will govern most of the biblical stories -- first, woman as man's equal sharer in dominion, standing exactly in the same relation to God as he; then, woman as man's subservient helpmate, whose weakness and blandishments will bring such woe into the world.
A similar encompassing of divergent perspectives is achieved through the combined versions in the broader vision of creation, man, and God. God is both transcendent and immanent (to invoke a much later theological opposition), both magisterial in His omnipotence and actively, empathically involved with His creation. The world is orderly, coherent, beautifully patterned, and at the same time it is a shifting tangle of resources and topography, both a mainstay and a baffling challenge to man. Humankind is the divinely appointed master of creation, and an internally divided rebel against the divine scheme, destined to scrabble a painful living from the soil that has been blighted because of man. The creation story might have been more "consistent" had it begun with Genesis 2:4b, but it would have lost much of its complexity as a satisfying account of a bewilderingly complex reality that involves the elusive interaction of God, man, and the natural world. It is of course possible, as scholars have tended to assume, that this complexity is the purely accidental result of some editor's pious compulsion to include disparate sources, but that is at least an ungenerous assumption and, to my mind, an implausible one as well."
Why does Alter refer to Cubism in explaining the relationship of the two versions of creation?
Books in Review
The following is a review in Commentary Magazine of a book about Genesis:
The Genesis of Justice: Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law"
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Warner. 260 pp. $25.95
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, a professor of law at Harvard, is best known for defending a who's who of famous people in hot water, from Leona Helmsley to O.J. Simpson. But he is also a passionate participant in the debate over Jewish identity and the future of Judaism. In two much-discussed books, Chutzpah (1991) and The Vanishing American Jew (1997), Dershowitz has argued for an eclectic, big-tent form of Judaism, one in which secular Jews like himself are esteemed no less than their "God-centered" brethren, and in which the ritually unobservant are as comfortable as the "rule-bound" and "ritual-driven."
In calling for the creation of this "new Jewish civilization," Dershowitz has not suggested that Jews simply discard their religious past. To the contrary, he believes that Jews must continue to look to their "old books" for guidance. They should do so, however, not in the manner of the rabbis but rather by giving the ancient texts "new meanings, contemporary interpretations, current relevance." In The Genesis of Justice, Dershowitz tries to make good on this idea, offering his own up-to-date view of the central events in perhaps the best-known Jewish book--Genesis--and thus providing a glimpse of what a Judaism refashioned on his terms might look like.
ACCORDING TO Dershowitz, the stories in Genesis form a "narrative prelude to the law," dramatizing episodes of injustice in order to demonstrate the universal need for "formalized legal systems." In the beginning, as Dershowitz would have it, God's rule is arbitrary and inconsistent. Thus, He tells Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge--a command that "lacks apparent reason"--and threatens that if they do so, they "must die, yes die." Yet, when Adam and Eve disobey, God backs down and imposes a lighter sentence.
This softness on the first crime, Dershowitz suggests, may have encouraged Cain to slay his brother Abel. Even so, however, God shows no evidence of having learned His lesson, and allows Cain to escape serious punishment. When this laxity contributes in turn to the lawlessness of Noah's generation, God overreacts and, like a weak ruler who cannot bear the consequences of his weakness, unjustly floods the entire world. It is only afterward, Dershowitz avers, that God understands the need to issue a basic legal code--the so-called Noahide laws--to put an end to the brutish state of nature produced by His misrule and the evil impulses of human beings.
For Dershowitz, the events that follow in Genesis--the binding of Isaac, the rape of Dina, the betrayal of Joseph--illustrate still other problems of justice. More importantly, though, they point to a series of crucial, if tentative, shifts in Jewish legal thinking: from excessive punishments to more proportionate ones, from collective to individual responsibility, from ad-hoc rules and rulings to codified laws and legal processes, and finally from hukim (laws that require no justification) to mishpatim (laws based on reason and experience).
This last development is the most significant to Dershowitz, who sees Abraham as its exemplar for engaging God in "rational discourse" over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. The point of the episode, Dershowitz believes, is that Jews have a strong responsibility "to define justice in human terms," the abdication of which represents "the first step on the road to fundamentalism." They must not, in short, accept a God who refuses to answer to reason.
Needless to say, the less disputatious Abraham, the one who does not hesitate to obey God's unfathomable command to sacrifice his own son as a burnt offering, fares less well in Dershowitz's account. If the Abraham of Sodom and Gomorrah is a hero, this one is a coward, who commits a sin by "acceding to an immoral command out of fear." Indeed, by Dershowitz's lights, the autocratic, "bullying" God who issues this command can and should be rejected. "God speaks in different voices over time," he observes, and Jews may decide for themselves when they are obliged to heed Him.
THAT AN avowed secularist like Alan Dershowitz would simply choose one divine "voice" over another, or one aspect of Abraham over its seeming opposite, is unsurprising in itself. What makes it noteworthy in this instance is that Dershowitz does go out of his way to acknowledge a very different approach to the seeming inconsistencies of Genesis. As he correctly notes in his introduction, traditional commentators, too, have struggled with the book's conflicting messages. But because these commentators assume "the divine nature of the text," they devote themselves to reconciling its varied strands, invoking the classical maxim that "there are seventy faces to the Torah." Indeed, Dershowitz concludes that any other approach--and especially the modern effort to assign different authors to the parts of Genesis--is simply a cop-out, rendering the text "less interesting."
It is unfortunate that Dershowitz himself did not take this lesson to heart. For him, the traditional idea that the Torah has many "faces" is not a humble admission that we can never be confident of possessing the truth, and must therefore try to appreciate every part of God's revelation; rather, it is a dogmatic assertion that there is no such truth, and that whole parts of the Torah may be dismissed at will. The result is an interpretation of Genesis that, even for secularists, must be disappointing for its conventionality.
To take the most obvious example, Dershowitz's Abraham is utterly devoid of the tensions and complexities that draw us to the biblical Abraham. His Abraham is all chutzpah, no reverence, all reason, no faith, all justice, no love. Worse perhaps, while offering plenty of resistance to God, this Abraham offers no resistance to Dershowitz; he is simply a forerunner, if an imperfect one, of the modern liberal sensibility. Peering into the profundity of Genesis, Dershowitz finds--mirabile dictu--a version of himself.
When he fails to find such a reflection, his tone, predictably, becomes one of condescension. In discussing the stories of Eve, Tamar, and Dina, for instance, he declares the Bible guilty of the grave sin of "misogyny." Even God Himself, it turns out, stands to benefit from Dershowitz's moralizing. In His exchange with Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah, God, to Dershowitz's relief, "learns" that "might alone does not make right," that "it is unjust to sweep the innocent along with the guilty," and that "the essence of justice is striking the right balance"--banalities seemingly unknown to Him previously.
It is perhaps asking too much to think that a close reading of Genesis would have prompted Alan Dershowitz to set aside modern liberal and feminist orthodoxy in order to consider the Jewish tradition's view of the relationship between men and women, or that it would have shaken his self-satisfaction long enough to prompt thoughts of what he might learn from Abraham's trust in God, Whose actions in the Bible suggest that human reason alone--Dershowitz's god--is a far from sufficient guide. Without such serious reflection, however, it is hard to see why Genesis is worth bothering with in the first place.
After all, if one is interested in the general advantages of the rule of law, there are certainly better books to read. The point of Genesis is rather to explain the need for God's Law, the revelation of which is the main event of the next great book of the Bible. But somehow one doubts that this central and defining aspect of the Jewish past can be reconciled so easily with the pieties of Dershowitz's "new Jewish civilization."
JONATHAN MARKS is a visiting professor of political science at James Madison College at Michigan State University.
The following article appeared in the New York Times some time ago and is helpful in understanding Higher Criticism.
Is There a Book Hidden Within the Bible?
By GUSTAV NIEBUHR
In the traditional interpretation of the Bible, the Five Books of Moses are exactly that: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, written by Moses at God's command.
What may not be as well known is that during the last two centuries, many biblical scholars have offered a different type of analysis, concluding that those biblical books, also known as the Pentateuch, are a compilation of four separate narratives, woven together by ancient editors, or redactors, to create a single text.
In unscrambling this puzzle, scholars have identified the four narratives by letters - J, E, P, D - each of which represents a key word in the text. (J, for example, is the first letter of the German spelling for the name Yakwek; E comes from Elokim, the Hebrew word for God; P stands for the priestly source, referring to passages concerned with religious law, while D signifies Deuteronomy.)
Now, after a dozen years of research, Richard Friedman, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literaturee at the University of California has tantalizingly argued that the J narrative is longer than the three others, and actually extends considerably beyond the five Mosaic books.
The J source, he says, comprises a "hidden book" that is nearly 3,000 years old and that runs from Genesis to the First Book of Kings.
And that makes it, he declares, the world's first booklength prose work.
Reaction of other scholars to Mr. Friedman's theory has been mixed, ranging from praise for his boldness and extensive research to critical doubt that the idea will be widely accepted.
In recent years, the J source alone, which scholars have traditionally viewed as the oldest, has received far more public attention than the E, P or D sources. J has been the subject of several recent popular books, best-known among them "The Book of J," in which the Yale literary scholar Harold Bloom argued that J's author. was a woman. One reason, at least, for J's popularity may be that as scholars have broken it out of the overall biblical text it includes some of the most vivid passages of familiar stories, like that of Noah, and it includes material, like the Tower of Babel story, that is not placed by scholars in the other sources.
By linking J with subsequent sections of the Bible, particularly what scholars call the Court History, which tells the story of King David, Mr. Friedman has theorized that the Bible was constructed around an original long narrative, about 3,000 sentences altogether, which runs from the creation of humanity to David's death.
"We know of poetry that is earlier, but this is the oldest prose literature: a long, beautiful, exciting' story," he writes in his book, "The Hidden Book in the Bible," recently published by Harper Collins.
Mr. Friedman says the "hidden book" has a theme, if not a single plot. Beginning with Adam and Eve's eating of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, it tells the story of how human beings galn the ability to tell good from bad, and then what they do with it over many generations.
"So you see people rnaking choices of good and bad, and making choices and paying prices and learning from that," he sald.
Mr. Friedman’s theory is in 'some sense as much~ literary detective work as an example of biblical scholarship. In a telephone interview, Mr. Friedman said recurrent words and phrases that appear nowhere else in these sections of the Bible fIrst led him to believe that J extended further than all but a few scholars had Prevlously~thought He titles his 200 page translation of this narrative “In the Day” a phrase taken from the flrst three words with which the J source begins (in Genesis 2:4).
"I think that's just where the evidence goes," Mr. Friedman said. "I didn't set out looking for common themes. When I first started looking at J and the Court History, it started with language, because that's still the most common thing. It was the language that first sort of mapped where I should be looking."
He said that certain references to deception, phrases like "kindness and faithfulness," references to Sheol, a place of the dead, as well as some other words and phrases occurred only in this text. He also found cases in which words and phrases were repeated sequentially; in sepa-rate stories in J and the Court History, which he took as another link.
In addition, he said he had found numerous recurring images within the two sections, among them no fewer than seven stories of brothers warring against brothers, with the action taking place in a field, beginning with Cain and Abel.
Mr. Friedman is the author and editor of other books written for a literate lay audience, among them "Who Wrote the Bible?," which describes the process by which J and the other narratives were identified. That book is used as a text in some biblical studies courses.
In his latest book, he said, he implies no criticism of the religious belief of Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians that Moses wrote the five books attributed to- him.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel, a strictly Orthodox organization, said that academic "higher criticism" of the Bible was predicated on a different set of assumptions about the text than those held by people who believe the text was divinely given to Moses. "We're talking from totally different premises, so it's not really an argument," he said.
Other scholars offered mixed assessments of the Friedman theory.
Alan Cooper, professor of Bible who holds a joint appointment at Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in New York, said he doubted whether many experts would accept Mr. Friedman’s theory that there is a single, long-running narrative in the Bible. "But I do think people will have to take his evidence very seriously," Mr. Cooper added, saying that biblical scholars would have to study the data Mr. Friedman had assembled.
Ziony Zevit, professor of Bible at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, said he did not think the similarities that Mr. Friedman found pointed to a single narrative. Still, he called Mr. Friedman's translation of the biblical books that make up his proposed narrative "a tour de force."
Mr. Friedman attributes the single narrative to a "literary artist," probably a lay person (possibly female), writing about 28 centuries ago.
"Maybe this was the person who came along with the instincts of the historian, to tell a long saga, to tell it all," he said in the interview. He added that the cultural conditions made a historical narrative possible because the ancient Israelites, with their belief that God existed outside nature, possessed a linear view of history.
"God meets Moses at the bush and says, 'I'm the God of your father,'" he said. "It's only in a model like that you'd start writing history. The pagan world didn't write like that."
The following topics are available for your Genesis papers due March 4th. Please Email me your desired topic as soon as possible and I will respond with an okay if no one has already taken the choice.
The papers are to be analytical. You need not use outside sources, but if you do you must cite them and list them bibliographically at the end. This includes Web sources. I will be checking to make sure no one lifts material from the Web. The length should be at least 250 words.
1. A comparison of Gilgamesh to Genesis
2. Tamar and Judah
3. Joseph and his brothers
4. Poetic symmetries in Genesis
5. Jacob and Esau
6. The binding of Isaac
7. Potiphar’s wife
8. Ephraim and Manasseh
11. Jacob’s deathbed
12. Pharaoh’s dreams
17. Lot’s daughters
18. Sarah and Abraham
19. Abraham as warrior
20. The blindness of Isaac
21. Sarah and Hagar
22. Jacob’s ladder
24. Noah’s generation
25. Jacob and Joseph
26. Joseph and Benjamin
27. Noah’s family
28. Leah and Rachel
30. Abraham’s sojourns
31. Joseph the dreamer
33. Cain and Abel
34. Garden of Eden
35. Abraham as patriarch
See me if you have an idea of your own.
The following essay is from Professor E. Fox’s translation of The Five Books of Moses
"Garden and Expulsion (2:4~3:24):"
"From the perspective of God in Chap. I, we now switch to that of humankind (note how the opening phrase in 2:4b, "earth and heaven," reverses the order found in 1:1). This most famous of all Genesis stories contains an assortment of mythic elements and images which are common to human views of prehistory: the lush garden, four central rivers located (at least partially) in fabled lands, the mysterious trees anchoring the garden (and the world?), a primeval man and woman living in unashamed nakedness, an animal that talks, and a God who converses regularly and intimately with his creatures. The narrative presents itself, at least on the surface, as a story of origins. We are to learn the roots of human sexual feelings, of pain in childbirth, and how the anomalous snake (a land creature with no legs) came to assume its present form. Most strikingly, of course, the story seeks to explain the origin of the event most central to human consciousness: death.
The narrative unfolds through a series of contrasts: good and evil, life and death, heaven and earth, give and take, knowledge and ignorance, mankind and animals, hiding and revealing. Some of these concepts appear literally as key words in the text. The characters also appear through contrasts: man as God's image and as dust, woman as helper and hinderer, the snake as shrewd and (after the curse) lowly
A further focus is provided by the echoing of the word "eat," whose connotation changes from sustenance/bounty (2:9, 16) to prohibition (2:17) to misunderstanding (3:I~) and disobedience (3:6, 11-13), and finally to curse (3:14, 17, 19). Such a flexible use of words sets up a rhythmic drama which, as much of Genesis, bears resemblance to poetry rather than to prose.
Part I of the story (Chap. 2) sets the stage in the garden, focusing on Adam, "Everyman" (see Cambridge Bible Commentary, Gen. I-Il). God is here regularly called "YHWH, God," a rare designation which may suggest a preexpulsion view of the wholeness of God as well as of humankind. Man continues his status as "God's image" (1:2627), imitating the divine act of giving names (1:5, 8, io). He is also nevertheless a creature of the dust, both at the beginning (2:7) and end (3:19) of the story
The bridge to Part II (Chap. 3) is deftly accomplished by linking two identical-sounding words in the Hebrew, arum (here, "nude" and "shrewd"). The choice of the snake as the third character is typically ancient Near Eastern (it is so used in other stories about death and immortality; such as the Gilgamesh Epic from Mesopotamia). Some interpreters have seen sexual overtones in this choice as well. Yet a plain reading of the text need not overemphasize the snake, who disappears as a personality once the fatal fruit has been eaten.
The ending of the story has also raised questions of interpretation. Buber was among those who see in the act of expulsion from the garden a deed of mercy rather than one of fear or jealousy Certainly a creature whose first act upon acquiring new "knowledge" is to cover himself up poses no threat to the Creator. The text, like its late successor, the book of Job, may be suggesting that in the human sphere, unlike the divine, knowledge and mortality are inextricably linked. This is a tragic realization, but it is also the world as human beings know it.
Although the specifics of this story are never again referred to in the Hebrew Bible, and are certainly not crucial for the rest of Genesis, one general theme is central to the Bible's worldview. This is that rebellion against or disobedience toward God and his laws results in banishment/estrangement and, literally or figuratively, death. Thus from the beginning the element of choice, so much stressed by the Prophets later on, is seen as the major element in human existence.
All this said, it should be recognized that the garden story, like many biblical texts, has been the subject of endless interpretation. One line of thought takes the psychological point of view The story resembles a vision of childhood and of the transition to the contradictions and pain of adolescence and adulthood. In every way-- moral, sexual, and intellectual-- Adam and Havva are like children, and their actions after partaking of the fruit seem like the actions of those who are unable to cope with newfound powers. The resolution of the story, banishment from the garden, suggests the tragic realization that human beings must make their way through the world with the knowledge of death and with great physical difficulty. At the same time the archetypal man and woman do not make the journey alone. They are provided with protection (clothing), given to them by the same God who punished them for their disobedience. We thus symbolically enter adulthood with the realization that being turned out of Paradise does not mean eternal rejection or hopelessness."