Genesis (Hebrew: ???????????, Be-reshit, meaning "In the beginning") is the first book of the Bible. It is one of the five books of Moses, commonly referred to as the Pentateuch. The authorship of Genesis is tied to a larger argument for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.


Organizational Structure

There are basically two theories of the organizational structure of the text. The first dividing the book into two sections: the Primeval History and the Patriarchal History. The second structuring it by the generations of several people throughout the work.

Primeval/Patriarchal Theory

The first eleven chapters of Genesis deal with a wide range of topics. Obvious are those of creation, humanity, sin or the Fall, and God's action(s) involved in these issues. Chapters 3-11 establish a major theme: the moral failure and decay of humankind. It was clear that "the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, and... every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually," (Gen 6:5). The flood shows God's determination to deal with the human condition, and after it takes place, God makes his covenant with Noah.

Chapters 12-50 take a turn as Genesis begins to deal with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Important to this section is God's covenant with Abraham through whom he will bless all nations. The remainder of Genesis traces the story of Abraham and his decendants. Theological themes emerge such as election, covenant, and promise, all of which can be seen in the stories throughout Genesis. Further developments involve the Abrahamic Covenant which contains New Testament implications (e.g., Galatians 3:16-18).

Toledot Theory

An additional theory of the structure of Genesis is known as the the Toledot Theory. This argues that this book is a book of generations, toledot. It argues that Chapter 2 begins the generations of Heaven; and that subsequent sections are started with the phrase: "these are the generations of." The sections would then be the generations of: Adam, Noah, Shem, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, and perhaps Joseph.

See also


  • Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer (eds.), Encountering the Old Testament. Baker, 1999.

Suggested reading

  • Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan, 2001.
  • John H. Walton, Genesis. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan, 2001.
  • ___, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. IVP Academic, 2009.
  • R. W. L. Moberly, The Theology of the Book of Genesis. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Nathan MacDonald, et al. (eds), Genesis and Christian Theology. Eerdmans, 2012.