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The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible, and it begins with one of the first famous prayers of any literary work: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Following the book of Jeremiah, the book of Genesis is the second largest book in the Bible, indicating that there are many figures and personalities in it. 

Among the best known scriptures it includes those of a well presented dreamer named Joseph, Abraham and Isaac, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s ark, among others. By itself, the book of Genesis reads like a series of epic stories: a semi-tragic saga of a world that continues to malfunction, despite the intentions of its Creator. 

But Genesis is not an Independent Book

It is the first installment of the five-part Torah (or Pentateuch), which is the fundamental work of the Old Testament. The Torah is the story of Israel’s origin: it is the story of how the nation of Israel obtained its population, its land and its religion. The scriptures about creation in Genesis are the ones that start the Hebrew Bible. 

God, a spirit that hovers over a watery void, creates the world by speaking in the dark and calling for light, heaven, earth, vegetation and living creatures over the course of six days. Each day, he pauses to pronounce his “good” works (1:4). On the sixth day, God declares His intention to make a being in His “own image,” and He creates mankind (1:26). 

He shapes a man from the dust and forms a woman from the man’s rib. God places the two people, Adam and Eve, in the idyllic garden of Eden, encouraging them to procreate and fully enjoy the created world, and forbidding them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the garden, Eve meets a cunning serpent who convinces her to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree and assures her that she will not suffer if she does. Eve shares the fruit with Adam, and both are immediately filled with shame and remorse. As she walks in the garden, God discovers her disobedience. After cursing the serpent, she turns and curses the couple. 

Eve, she says, will be cursed for suffering a painful birth and must submit to her husband’s authority. Adam is cursed to work and to labor on the ground for food. Both are later banished from Eden.

The First Eleven Chapters of Genesis

Tell an authoritative story about the beginnings of the world that contains many contradictions. Scholars believe that it is not the work of one author, but of a later editor or “writer” who compiled stories from various traditional sources into one volume. For example, the author of the story of Cain and Abel shows a knowledge of the Jewish law of sacrifice that only a later writer would possess. 

Furthermore, the storyteller’s introduction of phrases such as “This is the list of Adam’s descendants” (5:1) or “These are the descendants of Noah” (6:9) suggests that these stories existed before the current writer or the editor collected them in their current form.

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