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A Misunderstanding of Genre…

July 10, 2011

One of my favourite adages is “A misunderstanding of genre leads to a misunderstanding of the text.” This can be seen in the following strip from Doonesbury:

A few years back I picked up the Society of Biblical Literature’s Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction (edited by Mark Ronance). One of the teaching strategies suggested was to have students explain the seven days of creation while you (the prof) systematically sketch them on the board.

Obviously, the result of such an exercise is a cosmology vastly different from our own—a flat earth surrounded by water, held back by a dome upon which the sun, moon and stars are pinned. It’s only at this point that most of them are willing to entertain that what Genesis is doing is not science. I wonder if the sentiments portrayed in the comic above are part of the reason this acknowledgement is so difficult.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2011 11:58 am

    A funny caricature of what Gen 6-9 is about. Is there a decent explanation of this textual block in English which ties together Urzeit und Endzeit a la Gunkel? There must be, but I can’t think of it. This is the best treatment I know of:

    Frank Crüsemann, “Nach der Katastrophe gesprochen. Bibelarbeit über Genesis 8,20 bis 9,17,” in idem, Wie Gott die Welt regiert. Bibelauslegungen (München: Kaiser, 1986) 25-44

    The prof could have drawn a true-to-text representation of the ark, though. For bonus points, he might have drawn and compared Utnapishtim’s ark with that of Noah.

    For true-to-text representations, visit Martin Shields here:

    http://blog.shields-online.net/?p=148

    • July 10, 2011 12:19 pm

      There are some good English articles that touch on it in the Eisenbrauns volume I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood, but I usually wind up just explaining this myself to students. I really enjoy the lego representations—thanks for the link!

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