We are proud to present this new Companion to the Bible to readers and students of the Bible. By its very nature as a Companion, this volume is by no means intended as a substitute for reading the biblical text itself. Rather, we envision the reader approaching Scripture with the Bible in one hand and the Companion in the other. In this way the Companion may serve as a guide to the Word, a practical resource for studying and reflecting on the biblical account. It may be used with any translation of the Bible.
The editors and contributors to this book have garnered a vast array of useful information and presented it in clear, reader-friendly fashion. Recognizing that some readers may be new to the Bible, with no previous background in biblical studies, contributors have kept technical matters to a minimum. Rather, the focus is on the content and meaning of the Bible, sensitively reflecting readers' concern for issues directly relevant to the quest for greater understanding and appreciation of what the Bible has to convey. Because the biblical text may at times appear difficult or puzzling, separated from the modern world over many centuries by language and culture, our goal has been to enable modern readers to benefit from the fruits of recent discoveries and the insights of responsible, current biblical scholarship into the lives and times of the inspired biblical writers and their setting.
In keeping with its aim of stimulating and guiding the Bible reader who seeks to grow in understanding what the text has to say, the Companion opens with an introductory essay, "What Is the Bible?" by the General Editors. Further setting the scene for studying the Bible as a whole are discussions of inspiration and authority, the formation, transmission, and translation of the biblical text, and surveys of the physical world of the Bible and aspects of daily life in its ancient setting.
The main focus of the Companion is the Bible itself. Each section dealing with the Old and New Testament begins with an introduction to the individual collections or genres—for the Old Testament, the Five Books or Pentateuch, the Historical Books, Poetry and Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets; for the New Testament, the Gospels and Acts, the Letters, and Revelation. The knowledgeable and lucid commentary by Connie Gundry Tappy summarizes and explains each book of the Bible, section by section, with fascinating insights into customs, natural phenomena, words and phrases, and more as recorded in the accounts. Articles by a host of foremost biblical scholars provide additional information on the setting and use of the Bible, with details of important historical, literary, and cultural interest that the student may encounter in reading or discussion.
Concluding the Companion are articles applying the sacred text to Christian faith and Christian living today. Handy reference tools include glossaries of terms, people, nations and groups, and places mentioned in the Bible.
A comprehensive work of this type depends on many talented persons who have generously shared their knowledge of the riches of the Bible, and the publishers wish to express gratitude to all who have directly or indirectly helped to make this Companion possible. Particular appreciation is due the General Editors, Robert L. Hubbard Jr. and Gordon D. Fee, distinguished scholars whose editorial expertise in shaping the volume is evident throughout. Thanks also to the consulting editors, T. Desmond Alexander, Joel B. Green, Richard N. Longenecker, Tremper Longman III, Marianne Meye Thompson, and Willem A. VanGemeren for their introductory articles and for vetting the respective articles. Connie Gundry Tappy has provided with precision and clarity a wealth of information and practical interpretation in the Commentary. John R. Kohlenberger III and Mike Peterson of Multnomah Graphics made significant contributions in the early stages of the project, and Richard Cleave graciously provided access to the resources of the Pictorial Archive.
We send forth this volume with the heartfelt desire that it bring new appreciation to the power and relevance of Scripture and its manifold riches. May this book truly prove a treasured companion, serving its readers in fruitful understanding of what the Bible has to say to our age.
The book of Genesis (Greek for "origin, source") gets its name from its opening verse ("In the beginning..."), which introduces the account of God's creating the world. Yet Genesis focuses on many more beginnings: the beginning of the sin of humankind; the new beginning of the world through Noah; the beginning of separation into nations; the beginning of the chosen nation of Israel; and, encompassing all these beginnings, the beginning of God's redemptive work in the world. Genesis does not simply describe the past, therefore; it also anticipates the future: God's triumph over sin through Jesus Christ and the final renewal of God's original creation. Indeed, the overarching concern of Genesis consists in conveying the theological message that not even human sin will thwart God's ultimate purposes—a message made even clearer by a presentation not only of the faith but also of the foibles of the chosen nations patriarchs.
Genesis does not attempt to prove God's existence; rather, the book assumes it. By narrating creation, the fall, the flood, and the Tower of Babel, chapters 1-11 tell why God's actions in the rest of Genesis—and in the rest of biblical history—are necessary in the first place. Called the "prologue" to Genesis, these chapters deal with proto-history, events that took place long before the invention of writing. Undoubtedly passed down orally for many generations before being gathered and written down, the stories in Genesis 1-11 display many parallels with other ancient Near Eastern tales. Yet certain distinctives make the Genesis accounts stand out as unique in the ancient world: their insistence on a single, all-powerful God; their portrayal of God's loving concern for humans and his faithfulness to them; and the moral regression (not progression) of humankind.
More substantive evidence exists for locating the events of chapters 12-50 (the patriarchal narratives) in history than for the earlier chapters of Genesis. The names of the patriarchs, certain of their social customs (such as adopting a slave as one's heir), and their marriage practices argue that Abraham and his descendants lived in the early 2nd millennium B.C. Yet the primary concern of the book as a whole remains theological, not historical or scientific, in the modern sense, and the central theme of chapters 12-50 emerges clearly: God keeps his promises.
By the end of Genesis, however, God has only begun to fulfill the promises of land, progeny, and blessing that he made to Abraham. But by concluding with the death of Joseph, the last of the patriarchs, Genesis sets the stage for the emergence of the nation of Israel, which will both embody them and realize them fully.
Genesis does not claim for itself a particular author or time of writing. The traditional view asserts that Moses authored Genesis, as well as Exodus through Deuteronomy (the "Five Books of Moses"), in the late 2nd millennium. Beginning in the 19th century a.d., scholars viewed Genesis as a compilation by three editors: the Yahwist (10th century B.C.), who used the name "Yahweh" for God; the Elohist (9th century), who used the name "Elohim" for God; and the Priestly writer (6th century), who added the "priestly" or "cultic" material. In more recent years, scholars have criticized and revised this "Documentary Hypothesis," but they have not reached a consensus concerning the date or authorship of Genesis.
Creation and Modern Science
The uniform and pervasive teaching of Scripture is that God, for his own glory, in a creative act of perfect freedom effected by his omnipotent word, brought into being out of nothing everything that exists, whether spiritual or material, invisible or visible, and that he has assigned to all of his creatures their distinctive attributes, behaviors, and relations. Scripture also uniformly and pervasively teaches that God, by his omnipotent word, upholds and sustains all of his creatures moment by moment in all of their attributes, behaviors, and relations. The regular patterns of the world are, in the view of Scripture, evidences of God's covenantal faithfulness toward creation and his people.