Last year in September, I posted some thoughts on a book project dealing with the early chapters of Genesis. A good number of my (too rare) posts since then have dealt with those chapters in certain ways: Problems of language and culture (1, 2), issues of translation (six parts so far, begin here), the structure of the first creation account, and my posts from teaching a Genesis Institute class (start here). I started researching the book and doing some initial writing. Here’s a very quick update.
Timing– At this point, I don’t think you’ll see it for January 2014 when we hit Genesis 1 again. If I delivered it complete to a publisher tomorrow I doubt we’d see it in time, and it’s nowhere near complete. I do have something else in the pipeline that will appear in time, but you’ll have to wait several months for more details.
Scope– As I’ve done more research and talked to people of varying interest levels, it has become very obvious that the scope had to shrink, and shrink a lot in order to have the level of depth I wanted, and not have it take 20 years or hundreds and hundreds of pages. I’m focusing on Genesis 1-2:4, with all the necessary groundwork, ancient Near Eastern and LDS background. Science is noticeably absent; this lack is important. The book isn’t a re-evaluation driven by science, but a recovery or restoration of Israelite context, coupled with some history of LDS interpretation, some interpretive principles, and translation with commentary. It’s striking how, in all my reading, so many end up talking about Genesis 1 in terms of scientific history and Darwin, instead of looking at the history of interpretation and context. But that’s a different post.
Status– Lots of research. Lots of notes. Lots of books scanned in as OCRd PDFs, marked up, copied to iPad, excerpted into Evernote. Lots of things left to read, and finding new ones on a regular basis. 45 page draft, consisting of outline, rough writing, some notes, etc. I don’t want it to go longer than 200-300 lest it intimidate (as some have told me). I wonder if the order I followed in my Institute class makes more sense than the book order, but a book and a class are very different things. I keep most of my notes in Evernote (free, and v.5 is great!), which I’ve written about before in terms of using it for taking notes on the scriptures (part 1, 2, 3) and am writing in Mellel, since it allows for multiple footnote streams. Everything is backed up 3 ways from Tuesday in Dropbox, Time Machine, and both a laptop and desktop.
I fluctuate between thinking my research is overkill and thinking I’ve barely scratched the surface and am still speaking largely out of ignorance. Actually, it’s possible for both to be true; I imagine to the lay reader, it will seem like academic overload, whereas some of my cohorts who finished their PhDs may see it as lightweight and misguided. If I’d only read X or seen Y, I wouldn’t have made this or that argument. And that’s ok. I’m not trying to provide a Grand Unified Theory of Everything, as much as provide some basis for a Small Disparate Theory of a Few Things. I’d wager most people in the Church have never, for example, heard of Enuma Elish, known of the variety of GA interpretations, and feel caught between the odd and false framing of literal vs. figurative. To them, I certainly have things to offer. But I can’t shake the academic inferiority complex (somewhat justified given my academic history), that if I stop my research, I have or will miss some critical perspective that will inevitably prove to be my Achilles heel, the iceberg to my Titanic volume. The perfect has become the enemy of the good, perhaps.
Outline of book– The finished product will certainly look different from this (I already have some changes it doesn’t reflect), but I wanted to offer a glimpse of the work in progress. I anticipate most chapters will end with a Q&A and a few recommended readings.
I. Acknowledgments 3
II. Introduction 4
III. Prologue 4
IV. Starting Off Right 7
1. Reading in context 9
V. Prophets and Scripture 13
VI. Genre, Culture, and Communication: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra 15
VII. Creation Accounts in the Bible and the Ancient Near East 15
VIII. Did Moses Write Genesis? 16
1. Traditional Authorship 16
2. Problems with traditional Authorship 17
3. A brief intro to source criticism 17
4. Priestly Aspects of Genesis 1 17
5. Q&A 17
IX. Historical LDS Views of Genesis 19
1. Recommended Reading 22
X. The Book of Moses 22
XI. The Book of Abraham 24
1. What is the Book of Abraham and how did we get it? 24
2. Recommended reading 25
XII. The Temple 26
1. Recommended reading 27
XIII. Two Genesis Accounts 27
XIV. Timeline of Relevant Events 28
XV. The Near Eastern Background of Genesis 1 29
XVI. Translations 29
1. KJV 29
2. Formal vs. Dynamic Translation 29
3. Further Reading 30
XVII. Commentary 30
1. Day One 31
2. Day Two 34
3. Day Three 35
4. Day Four 36
5. Day Five 36
6. Day Six 37
XVIII. Notes on Hebrew 39
1. Structure 39
2. Hebrew Names 41
3. Alphabet and pronunciation 41
4. Recommended Reading 43
XIX. Glossary and Abbreviations 43
Questions– Does it matter if publication coincides with beginning OT again? Or, do I have another 3 years to work on this, or just get it done as soon as possible and who cares when it comes out? How does one write neutrally about someone’s negative influence or actions without being seen as besmirching their good name? Audience is important; I hope to make this very accessible. How many pages scares off the average reader?