Introduction to Genesis

Luke 24:25-26

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2014

Welcome to a new study of the Book of Genesis.  I am very excited that you are a part of this class.  This is not only the start of a new class, it is a new kind of class in the church that I feel that God has called me to teach.  In many churches, there are a lot of great things going on.

Some churches have have anointed worship.  Some have phenomenal preaching.  The goal of this class is to do in-depth Bible teaching.  That is my passion. This class will be a little different from other classes you have had.  It will be different in a number of ways.

It will be different from the Sunday morning sermon.  We need good sermons.  Your pastor can be a phenomenal preacher but sermons are not in-depth Bible studies.  We want to go a little deeper than you can cover in the course of a sermon.

It will be different from the traditional Sunday School classes. Many classes are based on age or station in life.  There is the high school class, the college class, the young married class, etc.  For this class, it does not matter if you are twenty or eighty.  You just have to have a desire to know God’s Word on a deeper level.

It will be different from classes on scientific creationism. There are many organizations that focus on creationism (Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International).  They offer classes but many of their courses focus on creationism, rather than Genesis.  Our focus will primarily be on the Bible, rather than science.

This class will be provocative. It will make you think.  You are going to learn some things that you have never heard before.  You will see this book in a new light.  We will raise some types of questions that are never brought up in a bible study setting may challenge some of the ideas you have about the Book of Genesis. There are many misconceptions that people have about the Book of Genesis.

The Relevance of Genesis

The book that we are going to study first in our class is Genesis.  Why Genesis?  After spending years studying it, I am absolutely convinced that it is one of the most important books in the Bible.  It is very important for Christians to know this book.  Why?

1) Genesis is the foundation of the whole Bible.

If you destroy the foundation of a building, the whole building crumbles.  If these chapters are a bunch of myths, then the whole Bible is based on a bunch of myths, because they are the foundation of the rest of the Bible. If you can’t trust the first book of the Bible, how can you trust any of the other books of the Bible?

If the world came into being by completely natural means, you undermine belief in God.  If there was no real Garden of Eden, if Adam and Eve never existed, if they never sinned, if they never fell, there no need for a Savior.

If you reject the Book of Genesis, you undermine, not only a belief in God, you undermine the whole Christian faith.  All of the Bible stands or falls with Genesis.  All of the Christian faith stands or falls with the first book of the Bible.

That is why some of the greatest attacks on the Bible by unbelievers are on the Book of Genesis.  This topic is extremely important, especially for college students.

College is the time when many students are often faced with questions that they have no idea how to answer because they were never even addressed in their local church.  That is why it is very important that we take a good look at these early chapters of Genesis.  There is another reason why this book is important.

2) One of the biggest areas of compromise for Christians is the Book of Genesis.

There are many Christians who are solid in their faith on many issues until they come to the Book of Genesis.  They believe everything the Bible says, except for the Book of Genesis.  They say, “You can’t take that literally.  It must be figurative. It is poetry and allegory”  They become liberals when it comes to Genesis.

Many of you know what happened on Easter Sunday when two men walked seven miles to Emmaus and all of the sudden a stranger appeared and started talking to them.  It was Jesus in disguise but they didn’t know who He was.  They had a conversation with a man and did not know they were talking to Jesus himself after his resurrection.  What did they talk about?  They talked about current events.

They talked about the big thing that just happened.  A man had just been crucified by the Romans and these two men were upset and sad because they hoped that he would have been the one to redeem Israel.  Jesus’ response was very interesting.  He called them fools.  Now think about this for a minute.  These two men were BELIEVERS.  They LOVED Jesus.  They were SAD that he suffered this cruel death on the cross and yet Jesus called them FOOLS.

Jesus said, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken.   Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).  He does not call unbelievers fools.  He calls believers fools.  That is strange.  Why?  They believed some of the prophecies in the OT, the ones about the Messiah reigning but they did not believe all of them, the ones about the Suffering Messiah.

Many Christians today believe some of the Bible but not all of it.  Liberals today call you a fool if you believe the Bible.  Jesus said that you are a fool if you do NOT believe the Bible.  He said that you are a fool if you don’t believe ALL of it.  I wonder what percentage of the church today would Jesus call “fools” for not believing all that God has written (e.g, what God says about creation or spiritual gifts or prophecy).

Before we get started, I want to tell you the plan for the first three weeks.  Today will be an introduction and a preview to Genesis.  We could start with the first verse but that would not do justice to the book.  Today, we will be looking at some important background information to Genesis.

I want to answer four basic questions about Genesis.  Next week, we will look in-depth at one verse, Genesis 1:1.  The third week, we will look at the six days of creation.

The Author of Genesis

Who wrote the Book of Genesis?  Most Christians believe Moses wrote the book. If I polled everyone here, we would all say that Moses was the author of Genesis.  How do we know that Moses wrote Genesis?  Genesis does not say who the author is.  If you read the book cover to cover, you will not see the word “Moses”.  Liberal scholars believe that Moses did NOT write Genesis.  How do we know that he did write it?  We know that it for several reasons.

First, the first five books of the Bible (known as the Pentateuch or Torah) clearly go together and are written by the same person.  The other four books claim to be written by Moses (Exodus 17:14; 24:3-4; Leviticus 1:1; 4:1; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 1:1).  Second, the rest of the OT confirms this belief (Joshua 1:7-8; I Kings 2:3; Daniel 9:11-13).  Third, the NT believed that Moses wrote these books.  Jesus believed that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.

Jesus on Mosaic Authorship of the Torah 

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift MOSES commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matthew 8:4)

“Jesus replied, ‘MOSES permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.’” (Matthew 19:8)

“For MOSES said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’” (Mark 7:10)

“Now about the dead rising—have you not read in THE BOOK OF MOSES, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (Mark 12:26)

“Has not MOSES given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law.” (John 7:19)

“Because MOSES gave you circumcision … you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath.   Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that THE LAW OF MOSES may not be broken” (John 7:22-23).  That is interesting because circumcision is only mentioned in the Book of Genesis.  Jesus says that it was given by Moses.

The author of the Pentateuch was from Egypt (which fits the theory that it was written by Moses).  There are more Egyptian words used in these books than in any other part of Scripture.  He knew Egypt and He was very familiar with Egyptian geography and culture. The author was also was very well educated, which also describes Moses.  Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”.

Moses spoke several languages.  He knew Hebrew.  He wrote Genesis in Hebrew but he was brought up in Pharaoh’s court, a member of the Egyptian Royal Family, so he must have known Egyptian as well.  He probably knew hieroglyphics.  He was the only person at the time qualified to write the book.  The rest of the nation was comprised of uneducated slaves.

The Theme of Genesis

What is the theme of Genesis?  The theme of the book is beginnings. In fact, that is what the word “genesis” means.  Genesis deals with origins.  We call the book “Genesis” but all of the names “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number and Deuteronomy” are all Greek names.  These books were written in Hebrew.  The Jews called this book not Genesis but berishit because that is how the book begins in Hebrew.  It is the first word in the text. The word berishit means “in the beginning”.  It is a book of beginnings. What are some beginnings in Genesis?  Here is a list of twenty-two firsts in Genesis.

Some Firsts in Genesis

1. The First Humans.

Adam was the first man and Eve was the first lady.  [1] There are many questions about the first couple that we do not have the answer to.  What did they look like?  Were they tall were they?  How much did they weigh?  What color was their hair?

What color were their eyes?  What color was their skin?  The Bible doesn’t say.  I have a theory about that.  I think it is silent on purpose.  We have a tendency to pride and that might lead to racism.  We would think that our race is superior to another race because we were on the planet first.

We can make an inference however.  Genesis says that Adam was made from dirt. He probably had the color of dirt.  He probably did not have blond hair and blue eyes.  Does that mean that Adam and Eve were Africans?

Adam and Eve were the first humans and scientists today say that the first humans came from Africa. There is only one problem. Eden wasn’t in Africa.  The Tigris and Euphrates are not in Africa. They are Middle Eastern rivers.  Adam is described as a farmer, not a hunter or gatherer.

There is a famous story about three men arguing about the nationality of Adam and Eve. An Englishman, a Frenchman and a Russian all looked at a  painting of Adam and Eve in a museum.  They were frolicking in the garden.

The Englishman said, “Look at their reserve, their calm, They must  be British. The Frenchman said, “Nonsense. They’re naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French.” The Russian said, “They have no clothes, no shelter, only an apple to eat, and they’re told this is paradise. They must be Russian.”

2. The First Marriage

Adam AND HIS WIFE were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:25).  The first husband and wife.  Notice, it was a heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman, not between two women or two men.

3. The First Pregnancy

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” (Genesis 4:1 NIV)

4. The First Birth

The first birth results in the first child.  It was a big celebration.  Cain was the first child.

5. The First Parents

Adam and Eve became the first parents.  As their kids have kids, they become the first grandparents.

6. The First Family

This is not the family of Barack Obama but the family of Adam and Eve.  It was a dysfunctional family.  You thought your family was messed up. The first baby born into the world becomes a murderer and does not just kill anyone, he kills his own brother.  That does not sound like a very loving family.

7. The First Occupation

Adam was a scientist.  He had to name and classify all of the animals. He becomes the first taxonomist, the first zoologist.  He was also a gardener, a landscaper and a horticulturist, whose job was to work the garden and care for the plants.

8. The First Medical Procedure

The first surgery patient was Adam.  The first surgeon was God.  The first operation was rib removal surgery.  God caused Adam “to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.” (Genesis 2:21). We will talk about this when we get to the creation of man.

9. The First Anesthesia

Adam falls into a deep sleep and feels nothing as one of his ribs is removed.  Anesthesia was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century to reduce pain.  Doctors put people in a deep sleep when they give general anesthesia to patients, so they do not feel pain during surgery.  Here we see that God was the first anesthesiologist.

10. The First Language

Adam spoke the first language. He was so smart he spoke every language in the world.  What language did he speak? No one knows.  It wasn’t English.  Some of the church fathers taught that Adam and Eve spoke Hebrew in the Garden of Eden (so Jerome, Origen)

The Jews thought it must be Hebrew because some of the plays on words are based on Hebrew, like the word for woman “isha” (2:23) and the Hebrew for Eve “havah” (3:20) but language experts will tell you that Hebrew is probably not the oldest language on the planet. The oldest written language is Sumerian.

11. The First Words

The first words in the Bible are “Let there be light”. They were spoken by God. The first recorded words of man are also found in Genesis.  Most men are not too verbal.  Adam probably wasn’t either.  His first recorded words are when he laid eyes on Eve for the first time.

Adam was madly in love like most newlyweds, but things changed. Adam’s first recorded words (and the first recorded words of man in the Bible) were, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23).

His last recorded words were, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (3:12).  He blamed his wife for his own rebellion against God.  He blamed his wife for his own disobedience.

12. The First Prohibition

God put Adam and Eve in a perfect world with no sin but gave them both some rules to follow. The first prohibition had to do with food.  Genesis 2:16-17 says, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (NLT)

God did not say that they could not eat certain things because they were bad for them (too fattening).  There was nothing in the garden that was bad to eat or unhealthy.  He didn’t prohibit certain food because they were eating too much and He wanted them to diet.  He outlawed one fruit tree in the garden as a test.  I cannot wait to study that in more detail, which we will do in a few weeks.

13. The First Temptation

The first temptation did not involve sex but food. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve to eat something they were not supposed to eat.  They did not have to listen to the serpent.  They chose to listen.  The devil also tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  Unlike Adam and Eve, He did NOT listen to Satan.

14. The First Question

Satan was the first one in the Bible to ask a question.  He says in Genesis 3:1, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in garden?” Are all questions bad?  No.  God asked Adam, Eve and Cain some questions as well.  It is always wrong to question whether we should do what God clearly tells us to do.  In fact, it comes from Satan.

15. The First Lie

The first lie also comes from Satan.  “You will not certainly die.” The serpent said to the woman.” (Genesis 3:4).  God told them that they would die if they ate the fruit.  Satan said, “You are not going to die.  In fact, you will be better off”.  He was the one who invented lying. He is the “father of lies” as Jesus said (John 8:44).

16. The First Rebellion

God gives clear instructions and people decide that they are not going to do what God says.  They chose to deliberately rebel against God.

17. The First Sewing

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:7).  The practice of sewing is very old.  It went all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Eve became the first seamstress in history.

18. The First Clothes

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)  The first clothes were made by God himself.  He was the first tailor.

19. The First Sibling Rivalry

Siblings often compete with one another. There was a competition between Cain and Abel.  They were adult children, not little kids.

20. The First Hothead

The first hothead was Cain.  Cain and Abel both offer sacrifices to God.  God accepts one and rejects the other and Cain is angry. “But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” (Genesis 4:5). He has a temper tantrum, and goes into a violent rage.

21. The First Crime

It was not just a crime, it was a violent crime.  It was murder.

22. The First Murder

Cain committed the first murder on planet earth.  Genesis answers that question.  It was Cain. Cain killed Abel.  The first murder gave us our first homicide victim – Abel.  It was a bloody scene.  God said to Cain, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10).  With the first murder comes the first death and the first funeral, as Abel is laid to rest.  Interestingly, Genesis mentions the first one who died physically (Abel).  It also mentions a man who never died (Enoch).

The Genre of Genesis

What type of a book is it?  The Bible contains many different types of books.  Leviticus is a book of laws.  Romans is a book of doctrine.  Proverbs is a book of wise sayings.  Revelation is a book of prophecy.  Genesis is a book of history.

It covers the time period from the creation of the world to the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt.  It is written as history.  Genesis is not a book of poems.  The Bible contains some books of poems (Psalms, Song of Solomon and Lamentations).  Genesis is not one of them.  It is a book of history.

The Structure of Genesis

Genesis is divided into two parts.  It contains fifty chapters and those chapters are divided into two parts: Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-50.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis deal with the beginning of the human race.  It deals with the human race in general and mentions one covenant that deals with everybody, the covenant God made with Noah.

The last thirty-nine chapters of Genesis deal with the beginning, not of the human race, but of the chosen race.  They give us the history of the Jews.  It mentions the covenant that God made with the Jews (the Abrahamic Covenant).  Why is that important?  God chose the Jews to be his people because the Messiah would come through that nation.

Genesis 1-11 focuses on four major events (creation, fall, flood and the Tower of Babel Judgment).  Genesis 12-50 focuses, not on four main events but on four important people (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph).  The first part of the book deals with primitive history.  The second part of the book deals with patriarchal history.  The book goes from paradise to the patriarchs.

Genesis 1-11 goes from Adam to Abraham (twenty generations).  The second part of the book goes from Abraham to Joseph (four generations).  Most of the book deals with four generations (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph).  Those four generations cover two-hundred and fifty years.  One-fifth of the book deals with twenty-generations[2] (Adam to Abram).  Those twenty generations cover at least two thousand years and perhaps much longer.

Genesis and History

There are many people who believe the second part of Genesis is history but not the first part.  They believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were real people but the first part of Genesis is not history but mythology.  They do not believe that God created the world in six days.  They do not believe that Adam and Eve were real people or that there was a real garden of Eden.  They do not believe Noah was real or the story about the ark.

Some professing Christians believe this as well.  For those of you who do not know who Francis Collins is, he is one of the most famous scientists in the world.  He used to be the head of the Human Genome Project.  He is now the Director of the National Institutes of Health.  He is a professing Christian.  He also believes in evolution.

In 2006 he wrote a book called The Language of God. In that book, he explains how he interprets Genesis.  He says that it is just poetry and allegory.[3] The question is this:  Should we take Genesis 1-11 literally or symbolically?  Is it history or myth?

1) It is written as history.

There is one phrase that runs through the whole book – “these are the generations of” or “this is the history of” (toledoth).  It says these are “the generations of Isaac”, “these are the generations of Ishmael,” “these are the generations of Jacob.”  That is the way the whole book is organized.  These are like chapter divisions.

The toledoth formula occurs about ten times.  Half of the time it occurs in the first half of the book and the other half occur in the second half of the book. There is no way that you can take the first part of the book as fiction and the second part of the book as history.  You cannot say that Abraham was a literal person but some of his ancestors (Adam, Noah) were mythological. There is another important reason we know Genesis is history.

2) The NT writers accept Genesis as history.

Luke accepted Genesis as history. Luke put Adam in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:38.  That makes no sense if Adam never existed.

John accepted Genesis as history. John accepts the account of Cain killing Abel as historical (I John 3:12).

Peter accepted Genesis as history. He mentions creation (II Peter 3:5), the Flood with eight survivors (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6).  He believed that God actually turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes” (2 Peter 2:6-9)

Jude accepted Genesis as history. In just one chapter, Jude mentions Cain, Enoch, and Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7, 11, 14).

Paul accepted Genesis as history. He accepted Adam and Eve as historical.  Paul said Adam was the first human being on Earth (1 Corinthians 15:45).  He claimed that Adam was made from dust (1 Corinthians 15:47). He said that Eve was “from” man (1 Corinthians 11:8, 12), a reference to Eve being taken out of Adam’s body.  He believed that serpent deceiving Eve (II Corinthians 11:3). Paul compared Adam to Jesus (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49).

Paul was not comparing Jesus to a mythical figure but to a real person. You cannot call Jesus a historical person and Adam a mythological person.  Adam is just as historical as Jesus.  One is the First Adam and one is the Last Adam.

Paul also used Adam and Eve as the basis for male and female roles in the church today (I Timothy 2:13-14).  We can disagree what Paul meant in I Timothy 2.  What we cannot disagree on is the fact that Paul based his rules for women in the church on Adam and Eve.  That is undeniable.

Jesus accepted Genesis as history. Jesus refers to Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-6), Cain and Abel (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:50-51), Noah (Matthew 24:37), The Flood (Matthew 24:38-39), Abraham (John 8:39-40), Lot (Luke 17:28) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Luke 17:29-32) all as literal history.

3) The Bible condemns myths; it doesn’t endorse them.

Many think that the Bible is a book full of myths.  The opposite is true.  Myths existed in the ancient world.  The writers of Scripture were aware of them and told people to avoid them.  A clear distinction is made in Scripture between history and myth.  The Bible tells people to avoid myths. The word is used five times in the NT.  It preaches against myths.  It warns people about myths.  It is anti-myth.  It doesn’t endorse them.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths [μυθος] and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (I Timothy 1:3-4 NIV)

Have nothing to do with godless myths [μυθος] and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (I Timothy 4:7 NIV)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths [μυθος].” (II Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)

One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths [μυθος] or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. (Titus 1:12-14 NIV)

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories [μυθος] when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (II Peter 1:16 NIV)


[1] Some believe that Eve was not the first woman.  She was not Adam’s first wife.  Lilith came before her.  That does not come from the Bible but from Jewish mythology.  It comes from a medieval Jewish legend found in a book called The Alphabet of Ben Sirach.

[2] They are:1) Adam 2) Seth 3) Enosh 4) Cainan 5) Mahalaleel 6) Jared 7) Enoch 8) Methuselah 9) Lamech 10) Noah 11) Shem 12) Arphaxad 13) Salah 14) Eber 15) Peleg 16) Reu 17) Serug 18) Nahor 19) Terah 20) Abram.

[3] Francis Collins, The Language of God, p. 206.

 

2 Responses to Introduction to Genesis

  1. Skip Cross says:

    Alan, I just want to thank you for all the research and work you have put into these studies. Tony Kimbrell is using your lessons in Genesis with our Sunday morning men’s prayer breakfast at Westside and I have really enjoyed digging into this study.

    • admin says:

      Skip, Sorry to hear about your dad. Glad you are getting something from the lessons online. That is an encouragement to hear.

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