Old Testament Theology: The Theology of The Book of Genesis

 
Author:
Moberly, R.W.L.
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press (2009)
ISBN:
9780521685382
Purchase:
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Moberly makes a promising start by defining theology  as: "an attempt to understand the world in relation to God" which orients the reader to the Anselmian pursuit rather than to a neutral starting point, a quite proper illustration of the principle that while an atheist can be a student of comparative religion or even a philosopher of religion, she can't be a theologian!

From this perspective, Moberly sets out to examine a variety of topics in Genesis - a book which he helpfully calls "The old testament of the Old Testament - from the history of Genesis stories to the relevance of Abraham to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Always anxious to put problems inside a broadly consensual framework, he frequently begins chapters with rather odd theories which he then moderates; clever enough but not all that helpful, although his use of the Jewish scholar John B. Levenson is greatly to be admired. On the other hand, his discussion of "Abramic faiths" does not cite a single Islamic source. It is also important to note that only one Chapter of his twelve deals with the Joseph story which makes up 1/4 of Genesis.

Perhaps it is the times we live in which prompt me towards observing that I was sorry he did not choose to discuss neither the conflicting accounts of the creation of human beings nor the 'marriage' of Adam and Eve but at least his handling of the issue of the apple is nimble and challenging.

The most interesting aspect of this book is the calling into question of the framework of the first Genesis stories. I have always been rather disturbed by the problem of who Cain needed to be protected from, not to mention the astounding growth of the human race before the death of Adam but  here Moberly is most helpful, as he is over the place of Abraham as a pre Mosaic figure.

This is not a book for beginners who would want to start with a good commentary (my favourite, in spite of Moberly's criticisms, is Von Rad) and I would certainly recommend the specialist to consult the bibliography of Levenson; but, still, there are some fascinating vignettes in what is a patchy and rather cautious work.