Introduction to Genesis

Questions to think about during this lesson…

  • What do Christians call the first five books of the Bible?
  • What do Jews call the first five books of the Bible?
  • What do Christians call the first book of the Bible and what does this mean?
  • What do Jews call the first book of the Bible?
  • The Book of Exodus isn’t called “Exodus” in the Jewish Tradition. What’s it called and why?
  • How do the names of the books in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) show that the early Church used the Septuagint?
  • If you were going to catechize someone today – to teach them about Christianity — many of us would probably instinctively begin with the Gospels to beginning talking about Christ. But this wasn’t the case in the early Church. The early Christians began instructing catechumen by teaching them from the Book of Genesis. They began with the Old Testament. Why was this?
  • Why was it so important for the early Christians to be very knowledgeable of the Old Testament?
  • Why is it important that we discuss the “fundamental truths” that are found in Genesis about death, sin, God, creation, etc? (Hint: Sometimes when someone dies it’s common to hear someone erroneously say, “Well, death is a part of life. It was God’s will.” Or when someone commits a sin we hear someone say “Oh, that’s human nature.”)
  • Sometimes Christians believe that in order to affirm the truth of the Bible they have to promote a fundamentalist, highly literalist view of Genesis (Ex. the idea that God physically created the world is six, 24-hour periods). This has created a conflict between Bible and Science in the West. Why hasn’t this really been a problem in the East?
  • In the Eastern Tradition, we don’t try to dictate what can or cannot be taught in the realm of science. In fact, as Orthodox Christians, we allow for the greatest amount of personal freedom of belief in anything that isn’t doctrine or basic matters of morality. What are your thoughts on this and how has this helped avoid many of the problems that the West has faced in its involvement in these matters?
  • What was the “quest for the historical Jesus” and what was the idea behind it?
  • In the West it seems that people feel that they’re torn between either skepticism/rationalism or biblical fundamentalism. But Orthodoxy really has never suffered from this problem. Why?
  • Genesis is typically divided into three parts. What are they?
  • Why do we call the first section “pre-history? (Hint: Abraham is the first person in the Bible that we can assign some kind of a date to.)
  • Traditionally, who has been considered the author of the Pentateuch/Torah?
  • Besides Jewish and Christian tradition, what supports the idea that Moses is behind (in a general sense) at least these first five books of the Bible?
  • In relation to the question of written authorship for the first five books of the Bible, what is the “documentary hypothesis?”
  • Today, most biblical scholars believe there were multiple authors of the first five books of the Bible. What are some reasons they feel this way? (Hint: Reference Numbers 12:3 and Deuteronomy 34:5)
  • Most modern biblical scholars today believe there were four different written authors of the Pentateuch/Torah. Who are they?
  • What did St. John Chrysostom have to say about the authorship of Genesis? (Hint: In his 67 sermons on Genesis, it’s obvious he understood that Genesis was an Oral Tradition.)
  • Why is it obvious that the stories of Abraham were passed along orally?
  • Why will we spend so much time in Genesis compared to the rest of the Bible?

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