Genesis (Bible)

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תּוֹרָה Torah ; Five Books of Moses; Pentateuch
  • Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshit "In the Beginning"; genesis
  • שְׁמוֹת Schemot "names"; Exodus
  • וַיִּקְרָא Wajikra “And he called”; Leviticus
  • בְּמִדְבַּר Bemidbar "In the desert"; Numbers
  • דְּבָרִים Devarim "words"; Deuteronomy
The 24 books of the Tanach ( T a N a K h )
T ora (instruction, teaching)
N evi'im (prophets)
K etuvim (writings)
Indented: the five megillots .
Order according to BHS ; may differ depending on the edition.
Old Testament books
History books


"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

The 1st book of Moses , Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית (b e re'šīt) Bereschit , ancient Greek called Γένεσις (Génesis) Genesis , is the first book of the Jewish Tanakh , the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Christian Old Testament (also referred to as the First Testament or Hebrew Bible), and thus the first book the various versions of the biblical canon .


The Hebrew name of the book reflects its first word: " In the beginning " (בְּרֵשִׁית, Bereschit ). The naming after direct or most significant initial words is linked to their use as Parascha or Sidra (“week segment”) for reading the Torah (“instruction, teaching”) in the synagogue in Judaism.

In Christianity, Bereshit is mistranslated as “in the beginning”. “In the beginning” implies that there was a beginning in the sense of a start. In contrast, “In the beginning” means that the beginning was a flowing process.

In Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, as well as in theological science, the title Genesis is used . It comes from the Greek translation of the Tanakh, the Septuagint , which was canonized as the Old Testament in Orthodox and Catholic Christianity . She sums up the content of the first verse:

"In the beginning God created heaven and earth."

- Genesis 1.1

The Greek noun Genesis (γένεσις) means "birth", "origin", "emergence". It describes the creation of the world. The first two chapters of the book tell of her.

The German name 1. Book of Mose goes back primarily to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible and follows the other traditional Jewish and ecclesiastical usage, which names Moses as the author.

The original book of Moses is written in the Hebrew language and is part of the Jewish Torah, which is also called Chumash in Hebrew or in Greek as Pentateuch in the Christian context . In German one speaks of the "Five Books of Moses". They form the first part of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) and the Old Testament in the Christian Bible .


The book of Genesis begins with an account of God's creation, which aims at man, serves him and which is entrusted to him. The biblical narrative of creation is linked to genesis myths and cosmogonies in Israel's ancient environment (especially the Atraḫasis epic ), but also clearly distinguishes itself from archaic- mythical ideas (e.g. the astral gods of Babylonia ). A theogony , that is, a differentiation and representation of different gods - as in the Greek sagas of Homer  - cannot be inferred from him. This is where the 1st commandment of the Bible ( Ex 20.3  EU ) worked.

Starting with the creation of the world, the book of Genesis first tells an early history of mankind about Adam and Eve , Cain and Abel , and Noah , which ends with the table of nations . The early history of the people of Israel follows with the narrative of the parents or the father, beginning with the calling of the patriarch Abraham . The life and family stories of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob represent the origins of the 12-tribal people of Israel under the aspect of divine election and the covenant until Joseph's death in Egypt.

Based on this, the so-called Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam refer to their respective interpretations.

The 1st book of Moses is closely related to the other four books of Moses in the written Torah or the Pentateuch.

Content summary

Rough structure with emphasis on important chapters and verses

The content of the book can be roughly divided into two parts: The prehistory in chapters 1 to 11 and the history of the father in chapters 12 to 50.

The prehistory includes the two stories of creation (chapters 1 and 2, Christian called Hexaemeron , six-day work) and the introduction of the Sabbath, the stories of the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from it; Cain and Abel, (chapters 3 and 4), the flood around Noah (chapters 6–9) and the building of the tower of Babel (chapter 11, first part).

This introductory part is followed by the stories of the fathers : the stories in the land of Israel about the patriarchs Abraham (chapters 12-25) and Isaac, Jacob and Esau (chapters 25-35). Through them God sets a blessed new beginning in the broken world ( Genesis 12: 1-3  EU ). The book closes with the stories about Joseph and his brothers (chapters 36–50), which moves the plot to Egypt , where the second book of Moses begins.

The creation

Depiction of creation in the monastery of St. Marienstern

Genesis begins with the creation of the world by God in seven days:

  1. The light and thus day and night are created.
  2. The vault of heaven is erected to separate the water below the earth from the water above the earth; reference is made to the ancient worldview, according to which there is water again over the firmament .
  3. Land and water are separated, and plants are created.
  4. Celestial bodies are attached to the vault of the sky (sun, moon, stars).
  5. Sea animals and birds are created.
  6. Land animals and finally humans are created, male and female
  7. Sabbath : God completes his work and rests; he blesses the seventh day and canonized it.

The source of the light before the celestial bodies were formed is not an issue. It's an artfully short narrative. God is there and sets the beginning of the world and time. The prehistory of the world melts together in the short sentence: "The earth was desolate and empty (confused)" (see also Tohuwabohu , Chaos ).

The report is said to have been written around the time of the Babylonian captivity (see priestly book ). In contrast to the polytheistic world view of the Babylonians, they now emphasized the uniqueness of their God, who is lord over all creation. The Israelites' faith in their God, in the Babylonian exile, in the external defeat of the people of Israel, was now recognized as a basis for identification for the people and should be strengthened. He had to resist the temptation of the seemingly victorious religion of Babylon with its sumptuous liturgies (for example the New Year celebrations).

Little Israel was surrounded by the great civilized peoples of the Babylonians and Egyptians , who among other things also worshiped the stars and the elements as gods. Contrary to the popular belief in most polytheistic religions of the time that they came into being through divine procreation , the Bible teaches that everything was created through the Word of God .

The creation account is an expression of the definitive turning away from the Levantine religions and the breakout from polytheism. The word of God (see Logos ), that is, the reason of one God alone, is the decisive enlightenment and clarification of history. The chaos, the desert, the wasteland, the tohuwabohu are completely subordinated to the sovereignty of a rational God who loves humanity. The extent to which existing ideas from other cultures ( Akhenaten , Jitro ) have been adopted is not clear. Other reports from the period before and during the Babylonian exile (especially with the prophet Jeremiah ) justify the kidnapping of the people of Israel with the apostasy from God and the devotion to the idols of the foreign peoples in the god-saturated neighborhood of Israel.

The introduction to the Gospel of John takes up Genesis 1 by starting with the words: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In the beginning it was with God. ”Here, too, it is emphasized that the word of God was at the beginning of the world. According to Johannes, this word became flesh and brought news .

Adam and Eve

Creation of Adam, fresco by Michelangelo , detail of the ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
Creation of Eve, woodcut from the early 16th century from a Latin Bible in the library of the Collegium Wilhelmitanum in Strasbourg

The second creation story deals with the world and humans in a less idealistic way, God creates (in two versions) humans:

  • Genesis 1:27: as male and female (zakhar u-neqevah bara '' otam ') or as male-female.
  • Genesis 2,7–8 / 15–22: ​​Adam (“man”), the first man, from earth (“adama”) and gives him the garden of Eden as his residence. Since Adam is lonely and does not want to find a companion among the animals, God creates a woman out of Adam's rib. The rebellion against God (Christian called the fall of man ), in which man and woman forbidden to eat from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" leads to the expulsion from paradise, since God does not want to risk that the two people also from the tree of eternal life , eat next to the tree of knowledge .

God forms man out of the earth of the arable land. That means that man is made of the same material as his environment. And as the wind sweeps the dust from the earth, so it is with mortal man. “Because you are dust, and you have to go back to dust.” He is not a god, he did not make himself, he is limited. All people come from earth, beyond all history, castes , races and culture.

In order for man to become man, a second thing happens. The basic material earth, from which God formed man, only really becomes man when God blows his breath, his spirit into his nose. So God enters man - his creation. Heaven and earth touch in it.

This man created by God out of earth, endowed with his breath, can also face God in a free decision. That is what the term sin describes. People want more from life, more freedom, more pleasure. He develops a true greed, disregards the God-given laws of nature, over any given order and considers himself alone to be the measure of all things. The account of the Fall is an epic story in which a theological statement is clothed.

The Israelites had occupied and populated the land of Canaan . The Canaanites had a flourishing cult that did not fail to impress the Israelites. The snake was a sacred animal that was depicted erect and stood for fertility and life. So the queue stood for paganism, and whenever the Israelites turned to a cult of other gods, calamity and hardship broke out. So the serpent is moved back to the creation account, in it the religion of the inhabitants of Canaan shimmers through. Whoever turns to the serpent falls into perdition, like the first people in Paradise.

All animals now pass Adam (Adama, good earth). He finds no helper among them. This is a demarcation from the animal cult of the pagan environment of Israel. The animal is placed among humans. God now uses a ruse, puts Adam to sleep and takes a rib from him. From this rib God forms a woman named Eve. It becomes clear that man and woman are of the same nature. That was a small revolution in the oriental world of that time with its animal and fertility cults and celestial star worship .

The snake promises the two an even greater attraction. They are to eat a fruit from the tree of knowledge. In the even then dust-dry regions of the Orient, the tree is a symbol of water, shade and life. Fruits grow on this tree of life, which mean an even greater increase in power for the two who are already living in paradise. After the fall you feel “arom” (naked, poor, ignorant passed out).

God now casts Adam and Eve out of the paradise garden with the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. You will be punished, from now on the forces of nature stand against man. Everything they do is finite and often only achievable with pain and suffering. Suffering and pain have now found their place in human life. At the same time, God curses the snake, which from then on will serve as a symbol for evil: “You should crawl on your stomach and eat dust every day of your life. I put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and their offspring. He hits you in the head and you hit him in the heel. "

Cain and Abel

Adam and Eve's first two children, Cain and Abel, are born. The older son Cain becomes a farmer, the younger son Abel becomes a herdsman. One day both sons offer sacrifices for God: Cain from the fruits of the field, Abel from the first fruits of his flock. God looks at Abel's sacrifice, but not Cain's. Cain becomes angry, kills his brother and is banished from the farmland, but is marked by God that the people do not kill him because of his murder guilt. Cain becomes the founder of a city and names it after his son Enoch. Humanity is begotten by the younger son Set ; the other children of Adam and Eve are mentioned only in passing.


Noach sees the flood , the illustration is a screen print work by Adi Holzer from 1975

The story of Noah begins with a short, relatively cryptic remark about "sons of the gods" or "God" and about "giants" who had children with human women, the so-called Nephilim . The antediluvian people become "ancient", sometimes over 800 years, like Methuselah . The sinfulness of people, which began in the following generations, is countered by the destruction of all people with the exception of Noah and his family. Noach builds a ship, the ark , on which he survives the following flood with his family and a pair of each species (certain animals also seven pairs). God recognizes that the surviving people, Noah and his family still carry the antediluvian depravity, but promises in a covenant with the people never to wipe out all life again by a flood, the rainbow becomes the symbol for this.

In the opinion of some scholars, the story about the Flood may have been taken from the ancient Babylonian Atraḫasis epic and reformulated as a story about God's covenant with man.

Peoples table

In Genesis 10 the so-called table of nations follows, a long list with the names of the ancestors of different peoples, countries and cities in the Mediterranean area, for example Egypt and Canaan. This personification of the city names reflects the Hebrew way of thinking of the time, according to which peoples have a progenitor.

The Tower of Babel

The summary lineage of the peoples, the descendants of Noah, which begins in Genesis chapter 10 and is continued in Genesis 11:10 with the ancestors of Abraham, is interrupted by the story of the tower of Babel (Bawel) . God confuses the language of people and scatters them over the world, as they are preparing to build a tower up to heaven and thus could put themselves in God's place. The language confusion is a mythological interpretation of the diversity of languages .

According to some scholars, the Tower of Babel was only built or existed during the Babylonian captivity and belonged to the supreme deity of Babylon.

Abraham and Sarai

Abram's father Tharah leaves his Chaldean hometown Ur with Abram and his wife Sarai as well as his grandson Lot , who comes from his son Haran, and comes to the city of Haran, where they settle.

Abram follows one of Adonai's call:

"And the LORD said to Abram, Go out of your country and from your friendship and from your father's house to a land which I will show you."

So Abram, who was later renamed Abraham, moves from Haran to a promised land of Canaan and his descendants. He is accompanied by his wife Sarai (later called Sara) and his family, as well as his nephew Lot and his family. After a drought-related stay in Egypt, Abram and Lot split up to avoid conflicts over grazing grounds. Lot lives in the valley of Sodom.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Three messengers (angels) appear at Abram and confirm that he and Sarai will have a son within a year, despite their advanced age. They also tell of God's plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sins of their people.

Abraham's request not to kill the innocent is accepted by God, but only leads to the salvation of Lot and his family; everyone else perishes. Lot's wife freezes to a pillar of salt at the forbidden look at the place of destruction .

Sara's childlessness, Ishmael and Isaac

To avoid childlessness, Abram and Sarai decide that Hagar , a maid of Sarai, should care for Abram's descendants. The child of Abrams with Hagar, called Ishmael , becomes the progenitor of the Arabs . God blames Abram and Sarai for their unbelief and makes a covenant with them by renaming them Abraham and Sarah and prescribing the circumcision of all male descendants as a sign of the covenant. Sarah gives birth to Isaac soon after. Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 years old when Isaac was born to them. Hagar and Ishmael are sent into the desert at Sarah's request, but survive thanks to divine help. God tests Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac . Abraham is obedient, but Isaac stays alive at the last moment because of God's hold-ups.

Jacob and Esau

Israel map from 1695

Twelve tribes of Israel

Isaac marries Rebekah and has twin sons: Esau, who becomes a hunter, and Jacob, who becomes a nomad. The following is the story of the firstborn's right, which Jakob Esau bought for a lentil dish . When Jacob also received Isaac's blessing for himself through deception, he fled on his mother's advice to escape Esau's wrath. He woos his mother's brother, Laban , for his daughter Rachel . For her he has to serve seven years. He then gets Lea , which he doesn't want because he loves Rachel. He marries Lea and serves another seven years to get Rachel. With two women and their two maids, he finally has twelve sons: Reuben , Simeon , Levi , Judah , Dan , Naftali , Gad , Ascher , Issachar , Zebulon , Joseph and Benjamin . From these the twelve tribes of Israel emerge. He also has a daughter named Dina .

On his return home, Jacob decides to ask Esau's forgiveness. When he found out that he was going to meet him with 400 men, Jacob was seized by fear and put together a reconciliation gift consisting of hundreds of goats, goats, sheep and other animals. With this gift, Jacob sent his servants ahead to convey his humble wish for reconciliation to his brother Esau.

The following night, Jacob finds himself wrestling with a mysterious being who is differently understood as God himself, an angel or a person. Jacob emerges superior from the wrestling match and asks his opponent to be blessed before he releases him. He then gave Jacob a new name: Israel , something like "he who wrestles with God". The next day Jacob and Esau meet, who moves his brother in his arms and initially refuses the gift, but finally accepts it at Jacob's insistence.

Joseph and his brothers

Joseph is Jacob's favorite son and often betrays his brothers to his father, so he is hated by his brothers. They sell him as a slave to a caravan moving to Egypt and pretend Jacob that Joseph was killed by wild animals.

Joseph is sold in Egypt as a slave to Potifar , a court official of the Pharaoh. His wife has Josef thrown in jail on false accusations when he refuses to sleep with her. However, because of his ability to interpret dreams, Joseph is set free and becomes an influential man in Egypt. When he correctly predicted seven fat and seven drought years in Egypt and saved the country from famine by means of a stockpiling plan, his position as vizier was secured.

Because his family is suffering from the drought in Canaan and wants to buy grain in Egypt, he can bring them to Egypt. Since his brothers do not recognize him, after his brothers come the second time to bring Benjamin with them, Joseph reveals his true identity. Now he was the second most powerful man in Egypt and the brother among the brothers.

Jewish tradition

In Judaism, the sequence of weekly Torah readings on the Sabbath begins with the Book of Bereshit. The section is read on the first Sabbath of Simchat Torah .

Moses as an author in the Jewish tradition

According to Jewish teaching, the book covers the period from the creation of the world in the first year to Joseph's death in 2309 (1452 BC). Moses is considered to be the author of this book, although according to Exodus he was born after Joseph's death. Moses received the entire Torah from God on Sinai .

Mitzvot in Bereshit

The following Mitzvot (commandments) are contained in Bereshit:

  • Shabbat and beginning of Shabbat in the evening
  • Be fruitful and multiply ( Gen 1.28  EU )
  • Circumcision ( Gen 17.2  EU )
  • Do not eat the tendon of the thigh ( Gen 32.33  EU )

Christian representation

Authorship and dating

Genesis itself does not name an author. The German name follows the Jewish and Christian tradition of an authorship of Moses, who sees the entire Pentateuch (the "Five Books of Mose") as written by Moses.

Scientific theories of genesis examine the text primarily using a historical-critical method . They are based on a multi-stage development history with various sources, revisions and editors. After that, the texts take up old traditions, but date from the time of the kingship in Israel at the latest (from approx. 1000 BC). The final editing of the text is set to 400 BC at the earliest. Dated. Some Christian groups (especially the followers of so-called evangelical and / or fundamentalist Christianity ) reject the application of the historical-critical method to the Bible as a revelation text. Accordingly, they believe in the authorship of Moses, who they consider to be a historical figure, and date the text considerably earlier (on the question of authorship and time of origin, see article Torah ).

In terms of content, there are some direct references to the dating of the text. Anachronisms such as the mention of camels (chapter 12, verse 14-16; chapter 24, verse 10-11) and caravans (chapter 37, verse 25-28), as well as the reference to Israelite kings (chapter 36, verse 31) indicate towards an emergence after the 10th century BC; only since then have kings found themselves in Israel. Camels were domesticated in the 12th or 11th centuries BC, and the oldest references to camel caravans in the Middle East date back to the 7th century. The reference to kings of the Philistines (Chapter 26, Verse 1) in the Middle East supports this dating: Archaeological excavations find the first Philistine settlements since the 13th century and the first cities (Gerar) in the 7th century.

With the dating of the patriarchs to the time between the 25th and the 16th century BC (depending on the doctrinal opinion), the result is a development several centuries after the (presumed) events.

Foundation of a biblical chronology

Religious Jews and Christians attempted to determine the age of the world from the sequence of generations and the dates given. This is done on the assumption that the stories can be interpreted literally. Since the dates in the Hebrew Bible differ from those in the Greek Bible and some statements are ambiguous, different results were reached: the Hebrew text gives 2666 years up to the Exodus, the Greek text of the Septuagint 3446 years.

Critique of Genesis

Various authors have criticized reports in the Book of Genesis (see also: Controversies about the Bible ). There are two main thrusts of criticism:

  1. It is argued that the reports are historically incorrect and do not reflect the actual course of events.
  2. Certain acts of God are incompatible with the idea of ​​a good God.

Both criticisms are made by critics of religion as well as by theologians, whereby the internal theological criticism understands this as a criticism of certain, especially fundamentalist, interpretations of Genesis, not as a criticism of the book itself.


The Bible contains two accounts of creation in the Book of Genesis, written by different groups of authors at different times. The older report was probably created around 3000 years ago by the so-called Yahwist .

The second report was written around the 6th century BC. By priests during the Babylonian exile.

The latter is to be understood as a criticism of Babylonian creation myths and takes up elements from Babylonian ideas of creation. Both biblical accounts of creation want to make certain statements about the nature of the world and man and were therefore both - regardless of the obvious contradictions - placed one after the other by later editors at the beginning of the Bible.

The differences between the two representations relate to a. on the order of the elements of creation. The contradictions to the scientific theory of the origin of the world are obvious, but they affect different levels of worldview. Some conservative Christians, who are to be assigned to creationism in the broadest sense , nevertheless hold on to the view that the creation stories are natural historical factual accounts. Many theologians and enlightened Christians, on the other hand, believe that the two accounts of creation should not be understood as a strictly scientific description, but as a description of the tasks of man in his world, which does not belong to him. An explanatory model that follows this approach is e.g. B. theistic evolution .

First account of creation

The creation story of the priestly scripture lets God create the light, the heavenly festivals, the habitable earth , then the stars, plants, various animal species and finally man in six days, followed by a seventh day of rest. The term “days” does not refer to 24-hour days because the Hebrew term for day can refer to a wide variety of time periods, not just a 24-hour day. However, the days of creation are marked as earthly days by the alternation of light and dark, or after the formation of the sun by sunrise and sunset. In Genesis 2,4 the creation is summarized: “This is the history of heaven and earth when they were created, on the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven” (Elberfelder Bible 1905), “days” is used here thus for the entire period of creation.

This representation does not correspond to modern scientific theories about the origin of the universe, the earth, living beings and humans. The widely accepted scientific theories, albeit rejected by some religious fundamentalists, are, for example, the theory of the Big Bang and the formation of galaxies , solar systems and planets including the earth, and the theories of evolution , geological history , geology and paleontology . The biblical accounts of creation, however, are not to be understood as "scientific" treatises and do not want to provide a "historical" picture of the origin of the world. For this reason, the history of creation and natural science are fundamentally incomparable.

Even so, there have been many attempts to reconcile creation accounts and scientific theories. For example, one tried to argue that a day of creation corresponds to several million years. Such attempts are widely considered to be a failure. Today many Christians assume that the creation accounts did not want to set up scientific theories, but rather intended to make theological statements about God, man and the world. They consider a “comparison” of statements from the history of creation with scientific theories to be dubious.

The following is a list of differences between the biblical creation myth and scientific theory:

  • The duration of the creation phase of seven days contradicts the theory from the Big Bang to the emergence of man in a period of billions of years. Even calculated from the formation of the earth , there are still more than four billion years until the formation of the first humans.
  • According to the creation account, light was created before the sun (which is why some associate the creation of light with the Big Bang). At the same time, this also marks the beginning of the change between day and night, i.e. the (earthly) calculation of time , which in turn does not fit in with the Big Bang and speaks more for the identification of light with the sun.
  • The pitch "of water" in a portion "above the bulge" and a "below the bulge" is a description of a global image, classical, the in Mesopotamien in the ancient common world image with the earth as a flat disc is surrounded on all sides by Water , corresponds. The curvature is to be understood as the "air bubble" that separates the upper water from the lower water. Rain was seen as a kind of "leak". Up until the 19th century there were groups which, based on the Bible, propagated such a worldview ( Flat Earth Society ).
  • The emergence of plants takes place in the creation story before the creation of the stars , including the sun. Here you can see that the sun and other stars were not viewed as a source of light. In fact, the idea persisted until the Enlightenment that the stars were not the source of light, but rather a kind of light conveyor. Immediate perception also suggests that light does not just come from the sun; because during the day the whole "sky" is bright, even if the sun is not visible at all. So it becomes understandable that the sun was not seen as crucial for the presence of light and for the alternation of day and night, and plants did not seem to need the sun to thrive. Accordingly, the story of creation also says that the two largest stars (sun and moon) were made “to rule” day and night - and not for lighting .
  • The order in which the animal species were created does not correspond to scientific knowledge either. The creation story lets aquatic animals and birds come into existence one day, and the animals living on earth the next day. The current state of science, on the other hand, allows the terrestrial animals to emerge from the aquatic animals and from them the birds. Some aquatic animals such as B. the marine mammals ( identified with the sea ​​monsters of the creation story) descend from terrestrial animals.

Second story of creation

In contrast to the priestly story of the creation of the world, Genesis 1,1-2,4a, the myth of the Garden of Eden focuses on human creation. In this the world is already presupposed as created. Man is made of clay , then plants are made, then animals , and finally man is divided into women and men. The Creator takes a " rib " (the exact meaning of this text is not known) from the person who has been put into deep sleep , which he forms into a woman. In this way, with the woman, the man comes into being. Before that, it is not possible to speak of a man with a man (compare Genesis 2:22 f.). In the first creation account described above, however, both are created at the same time from the start.

A correspondence with scientific knowledge about the origin of the species cannot be seen in this creation account; the myth can only be understood theologically: God creates man and cares for him by trying to create a suitable companion for him. None of the animals can meet the demands of humans, only the partner is made for this. Man's mandate to rule is often misunderstood. Man is used as the ruler of nature. That sounds like “tyrannizing” to people who grew up in a democracy. In ancient oriental literature, “to rule” always means “to protect” or “to keep in order”. So man is used as a kind of gardener in the Garden of Eden. Modern environmental ethics can see its points of contact here, even if the authors of the book had no idea that one day man would be able to seriously harm creation.

Noah and the Flood

The Flood from the Noah cycle by Adi Holzer, handprinted in 1975, catalog raisonné 263

Historians see in the report a mythical processing of a natural disaster that actually took place , which was also passed down in the myths of other peoples . According to this, the Flood legend is older than the Jewish religion. It originated in Mesopotamia. In the oldest Akkadian tradition known to us, Noah bears the name Atrahasis. In the polygods of that time, the legend is interpreted in such a way that the gods were not satisfied with the human labor and wanted to destroy them. A god (Enki) warns Atrahasis (Noah). The story was taken over from the tradition in a fairly detailed manner; its original interpretation could not be transferred conclusively into the monotheistic worldview, in which God is both the punishing and the warning God. This story was often perceived as shocking:

Some Bible critics see the story of the Flood as an example of how in the Old Testament family liability was taken for granted. God is saddened that humanity, his creation, has succumbed to malice and chooses to exterminate it. Other biblical critics interpret this situation as a design flaw that can be blamed on God. Practically nothing is learned in the Bible about the specific offenses for which such a drastic reaction could be justified. The Bible reports how God not only exterminates all of humanity - except for Noah and his family - which also includes innocent people, e.g. B. Including infants, but also the entire animal world living on land, except for the specimens that Noah rescues in the ark. You wonder whether God could not have been “a little more focused”.

Or else, if the almost complete annihilation of creation should have been necessary, why doesn't God just clear the table and create the world from scratch, which can happen in six days? Some biblical critics (such as Reimarus) do not really understand what qualified Noah for survival above all other people, for example taking into account the story of the curse of his grandson Canaan told in Genesis 9: 21-27 . Biblical critics complain that the operation did not have the success they expected. For as the further course of the Bible shows, there is no lack of malice afterwards either, and there are further reasons for summary punitive actions.

Lot and the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by God because of the sins of their inhabitants that have not been specified in the conversation between God and Abraham, only Lot and his family escape death. Before that, Abraham negotiates with God to avert the disaster, but fails in Sodom due to a lack of righteous people. In this conversation (Genesis 18: 17-32) God made Abraham's attention to the sinfulness of the inhabitants of the two cities, without any indication from God as to which specific sins the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were accused of were. Significantly, the male inhabitants of Sodom attempt to rape Lot's guests, who are identified as angels, only after God's decision to destroy the two cities has already been made, as can be seen from the story of the previous chapter (Genesis 18). The destruction of Sodom cannot be linked monocausally with the attempted rape, which took place only after this divine counsel, which as a whole is reminiscent of the cultural phenomenon of the "ritual rape of foreign intruders" that was widespread in the ancient Orient, even if this is within the pericope of Genesis 19 Principle of kin liability comes into play. It may also have had a reinforcing effect that, according to the source report, all male residents of Sodom, from boys to old men, participated in the attempted rape, which was ultimately foiled by the angels themselves. Lot's wife dies on the run simply because she looks around, against the express direction of God.

Lot, the only “righteous man” of Sodom, was seduced by his two daughters into indulging in wine, which, on two consecutive nights, led to both daughters recognizing Lot and producing offspring with his help, which resulted in two sons named Moab (Progenitor of the later enemies of Israel, the Moabites) and Ben-Ammi resulted (Genesis 19: 30–38). Indirectly, it becomes clear how bad the crimes of the Sodomites must have been viewed, which brought them the annihilation, especially since Lot became addicted to alcohol twice, which, according to the Bible, is clearly sinful and - unintentionally, but as a result - the possibility led to fornication, although it remains unclear which sins are specifically meant in Genesis 18 and Sodom and Gomorrah were charged.

View within historical-critical biblical studies

In historical-critical biblical studies, Genesis is assigned to the Deuteronomistic History (abbreviated DtrG). The first book of Moses therefore forms the beginning of a chronologically continuous narrative in which large parts of the Tanach are integrated. Elements of the originally disordered tradition were put into a sequence, related to each other and interpreted in terms of salvation history and theology. This happened in one or more steps and resulted in the Deuteronomic History (DtrG). This includes the complete Pentateuch, the Book of Joshua, the Book of Judges, the two books of Samuel and ends with the two books of the kings and thus with the beginning of the Babylonian exile. Many researchers also see references to this editorial team in various books of prophets.





Part 1: Genesis 1,1–11,26, ISBN 3-429-01451-4 ,
Part 2: Genesis 11: 27-25: 18, ISBN 3-429-02461-7 ,
Part 3: Genesis 25.19-36.43, ISBN 3-429-02734-9 ,
Part 4: Genesis 37.1-50.26, ISBN 3-429-03010-2 .


The Yahwist prehistory from an exegetical point of view. 10th edition. Schöningh, 1995, ISBN 3-506-76254-0 .
The Yahwist prehistory from a psychoanalytic point of view. 8th edition. Schöningh, 2000, ISBN 3-506-76255-9 .
The Yahwist prehistory from a philosophical point of view. 9th edition. Schöningh, 2000, ISBN 3-506-76256-7 .


Web links

Commons : Creation story  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Genesis 1.1  EU .
  2. See also the note on Genesis 1.1–2.4a in the standard translation.
  3. ^ Jn 1 : 1–2  EU .
  4. Jn 1.14 to 18  EU .
  5. ^ Sally Gross: Intersexuality and Scripture. In: Theology & Sexuality. Volume 11, Sage Publications, September 1999, pp. 65-74 ( 1998 online version ).
  6. Compare Genesis 3.22  EU .
  7. a b Genesis 2.7  EU .
  8. a b Genesis 3.19  EU .
  9. Genesis 1.28  EU .
  10. Genesis 2.21  EU .
  11. Genesis 3.1  EU .
  12. Genesis 3.7  EU .
  13. On God's cursing in Genesis, cf. Andreas Dorschel, 'Draft of a theory of cursing', Variations 23 (2015), § 30, pp. 167–175, p. 175.
  14. Genesis 4.17  EU .
  15. 1 Mos 11:31  Lut .
  16. ^ 1 Mos 12,1  Lut .
  17. Rudolf Smend : The emergence of the Old Testament (= Theological Science. Volume 1). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-17-001070-0 , p. 50.
  18. a b Genesis 2,4b – 25  EU .
  19. Genesis 2,4a  EU .
  20. Genesis 1,1-2,4a  EU .
  21. Benno Jacob : The first book of the Torah: Genesis. Translated and explained by Benno Jacob. Schocken Verlag, Berlin 1934, DNB 579494322 , pp. 98-99.
  22. GenesisEU .
  23. Genesis 6.5-7  EU .
  24. Genesis 9.21-27  EU .
  25. Genesis 19  EU .
  26. Genesis 18.16  EU .
  27. Genesis 19.4  EU .