Bible Dictionary entry: Genesis

I am helping with the Tyndale House Scripture Tools for Every Person project. My particular interest is the Bible encyclopedia component. To produce it we are usually editing and updating old copyright free dictionary articles. But some words just need rewriting completely :(

“Genesis” is one such. Most of the old dictionaries seemed to spend almost all their words arguing about the documentary hypothesis, and hardly talk about the book at all. So I am having to try to write a brief article on the topic more or less from scratch.

  • Does the draft below contain the information you think it should?
  • Is it accurate?
  • What is missing?
  • Could it be organised or expressed better?

(The target audience is wide and largely uneducated in terms of biblical or theological studies, but likely to be Christians of one sort or another seeking information to help them understand the Bible better.)


(jen’-e-sis) The first book of the Pentateuch (“Five Books”) ascribed to Moses. It contains the story of humanity from creation to the emergence of Israel as a people in Canaan and Egypt. The name “Genesis” is the Greek for “generations” in the phrase which divides the book into sections: “These are the generations of..” (Gen.2.4; 5.1; 6.9; 10.1; 11.27; 25.12, 19; 36.1; 37.2). Genealogy lists are found mainly in Gen.5, 10-11 & 36.

* Gen.1-5  Creation of the world and humans; the first sin.
* Gen.6-11 Noah and the Flood. The creation of nations and Babel.
* Gen.12-19  Abraham’s call and covenant. Melchizadek and Sodom.
* Gen.20-24  Sarah & Hagar; Isaac & Ishmael; Rebekah.
* Gen.25-36  Esau and Jacob; Rachel and Leah; Dinah; Edom
* Gen.37-50  Joseph sent to Egypt and all of Israel join him.

The story is presented in a framework of, and with a focus on, family lines. Family words (son, father, descendants…) are particularly frequent and the inheritance of God’s promise is a thread that ties sections and stories together. Another theme, human sinfulness redeemed by divine forbearance and providence, also serves to unite the book.

Genesis is closely linked into the story of Israel that begins in Ex.1 and continues to the end of Kings. The book also serves as background or foundation for much that follows in the whole of Scripture. The stories of the flood (Gen.6-9) and the patriarchs (Gen.12-50) are echoed in song (e.g. in Psalms) and the preaching of the prophets, The accounts of Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Melkisedek, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekeh, Jacob, Rachel, & Joseph are all used by the authors of the New Testament. Creation and the human sinfulness that follows (Gen.1-2 and 3-4) provide a necessary foundation to understand much of the theology expressed in both Old and New Testaments.

There is some evidence that this is an edited work, for example Gen.1 & 5 share key words and phrases and an interest in orderliness and factual information while Gen.2-4 are more vivid and lively and impressionistic. Such impressions lead some scholars to distinguish at least two strands in the book. Other scholars emphasise the unity of purpose and teaching which implies a single author and fits with the traditional view.

One comment on “Bible Dictionary entry: Genesis

  1. Andrew R

    Wow! That, I think, is very helpful. Very good job Tim.