Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 3 “Genesis” pp. 45-73.
Genesis, the book of beginnings, records not only the start of the world, but the origin of God’s people and the promise of a savior (Lessing 2014, 45). Though there are difficulties inherent in tying Genesis to Moses, not the least being the fact that he was not born until hundreds of years later, Lessing sees strong suggestions that Moses was the author and that the Pentateuch is cohesive (Lessing 2014, 45).
Lessing notes that the literary focus of Genesis moves from a broad treatment of all creation to a narrower focus on just the children of Israel (Lessing 2014, 47). The structure also moves through a series of instances of God’s choosing a person or people by grace (Lessing 2014, 48). He repeatedly chooses the lesser rather than the greater(Lessing 2014, 49).
Lessing next discusses history and archaeology as they pertain to Genesis (Lessing 2014, 53). A Mesopotamian creation myth involving division of waters was discovered in 1876, leading some to think the Genesis account is patterned on this pagan myth. Lessing sees substantial and important differences, including a possible dating after the time of Moses (Lessing 2014, 54). There are also Egyptian creation myths which, though similar, bear substantial differences. Lessing observes that a Mosaic account of creation could have been written to refute an Egyptian myth current in his time (Lessing 2014, 55). Dating of events in Genesis is also problematic. Lessing points out that “father” and “son” may simply mean “ancestor” and “descendant” (Lessing 2014, 56). Te lineage and dating of the patriarchs is relatively easier due to information known about the Exodus (Lessing 2014, 57).
Striking theological themes include God’s creation by his spoken word and humans as the pinnacle of creation (Lessing 2014, 58). It is also highly significant that in creation there was no conflict or warfare. This differs from other creation accounts (Lessing 2014, 58). Lessing considers the “days” of creation and concludes that the cycle of “day” and “night” is best understood as we would interpret the day/night cycle, 24 hours (Lessing 2014, 60). He then considers the relationship of Genesis 1 and 2, seeing a parallel and supplementary function of chapter 2, rather than a different account (Lessing 2014, 61).
The fall into sin is central to Genesis (Lessing 2014, 62). All pain and discord are seen as related to the events in Genesis 3. Out of all humans, God chose a line of descent which would lead to a savior from sin. This line is traced in detail in Genesis (Lessing 2014, 63). Lessing also points to the idea of justification by faith as presented in Genesis (Lessing 2014, 65). This faith receives the pardon God has declared. It does not earn anything. Pardon is provided by God, based on His decision rather than human merit.
Lessing traces a Messianic promise through Genesis, observing the existence of the promise as soon as the curse on sin is known (Lessing 2014, 66). God then continues to make promises to the patriarchs, centered on the hope of a Messiah (Lessing 2014, 67). The need for a Messiah is illustrated by the many instances of sin and a need for grace.