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Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11
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Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11

Reading Genesis 4:17-22 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Background

by Daniel DeWitt Lowery 7
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Daniel Lowery commences this work by suggesting that history is a subjective enterprise—it is controlled by those who record it. The power of the present decides what is counted as history, and how the rest of us are told about the past shapes our view of it and, concomitantly, our outlook for the future. In this sense, then, history fundamentally shapes the future. Few questions are more basic to human existence than Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my place in this world? The earliest chapters of Genesis have oriented hearers and readers for millennia in their attempts to address these concerns. And so, in several respects, Genesis shapes the future.
In this study, Lowery sets out to understand more accurately ancient Near Eastern language and claims about origins, specifically claims found in Gen 111. He uses Gen 4:1722 as a test case representing the Hebrew tradition explaining how the world came to be civilized. Lowery observes that this passage serves a function within the larger narrative of Gen 111 akin to other ancient Near Eastern traditions of civilized beginnings. Moreover, it occupies a place in the overarching "narrative of beginnings" corresponding to what we find elsewhere throughout the ancient world. Lowery focuses mainly on Mesopotamia, leaving other cultures for later study.
This study aims to demonstrate that much of the language of Gen 111 is similar in many ways to its Mesopotamian counterparts. More explicitly, here is an exploration of the nature of the language and terms of Gen 111 to ascertain what truths it communicates and how it communicates them. At its core, this is a study of the genre and generic claims of protohistory as found in Gen 111.

Product Details

Publisher: Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2013
Bibliographic info: Pp. xii + 284
Language(s): English


Cover: Hard cover
Trim Size: 6 x 9 inches



Lowery has done a great service by presenting hermeneutical theory (especially important is the discussion of relevance theory), surfacing crucial issues of literary analysis of Gen 4:17-22, and reviewing in some detail the relevant Mesopotamian texts. The summary of secondary literature and bibliography are exceptionally rich throughout. — John W. Hilber, Bulletin for Biblical Research 24.1 (2014)

. . . this is a valuable study. First, it gathers and applies a mass of data on the Mesopotamian background writings—a significant contribution to the field. Second, it wrestles carefully with the crucial issue of literary form, especially with the paradoxical genre of "mythic history." Above all, it helps to clarify how the biblical writers, even if they were not necessarily concerned about specific events, were clearly focused on communicating truth. . . . Lowery's work implicitly asks whether our modern focus on the past, while partly indispensable, is somehow at odds with the original spirit of the literature. — Thomas L. Brodie, in RBL (2014)

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