Friday, June 29, 2007

How I Approach Genesis: My Method

Alice C. Linsley

Recently I was asked what motivates this research project of 25 years. I replied that what began as a teaching assignment became an obession. Later I pondered the question in the quiet of my cottage and realized that my casual reply represents but one facet of a more complex picture.

Initially I approached Genesis as a person of faith and prayer, confident that God would reveal to me the riches of His written word. I undertook the research as much a lover as a theorist and looking back I see that clues came at critical moments, often from unlikely sources. In other words, I believe that God honored my approach and rewarded my steadfast efforts to make sense of Genesis.

Out of curiosity I decided in the early eighties to apply what I had learned in kinship analysis to the begats of Genesis 4 and 5. This section of Genesis is rarely pondered as it lists people who lived long ago. It makes fairly boring reading so people tend to skip over it, yet I was intrigued by the possibility of discovering something new by applying the tools set forth in E.L. Schusky's Manual for Kinship Analysis. I've always loved the Bible, but by nature am a scientist, so the lover and the theorist in me had to work together if I was to accomplish anything.

In a sense, my method is what Thomas Aquinas proposed as the basis of a good education. Pursue the truth by your reason and when you hit a wall, go forward as an Anselm, by faith and love. The value of this method is that it shows that love of God and His written word do not repudiate logic or science.

As a lover I seek to know the singularity of the Genesis revelation. As a theorist I seek to know the universality of the Genesis revelation. As both lover and theorist I hope to discover what is evident from the text and demonstrate it to my readers without sterility.

Why am I motivated to continue this long research project? Because I am persuaded that Western modernity strips away all signs of the Creator and the Creator's love. Genesis is the foundation of the Bible, but it is also foundational to understanding what is ultimate and intimate. Many today echo Nietzsche's shout that God is dead, but the echo rings hollow from the shining mountains where God has self-revealed to our spiritual Fathers.

I fully agree with this statement: "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church can be understood in its christological sense, namely, Jesus Christ in the Life and Mission of the Church. This christological approach, linked by necessity to the pnuematological one, leads to the discovery of the Trinitarian dimension of revelation. Looking at the subject in this way ensures the unity of revelation. All the words and deeds, recorded in Sacred Scripture by the inspired authors and faithfully guarded in Tradition, come together in the Person of the Lord Jesus, the Word of God. This is seen in the New Testament, which narrates and proclaims the mystery of his death, resurrection and presence in the midst of the Church, the community of his disciples called to celebrate these sacred mysteries. Because of the grace which leads to the destruction of sin (cf. Rm 6:6), his followers seek to conform themselves to their Master so that each might live Christ (cf. Gal 2:20). Such is also the case in the Old Testament which, according to Jesus’ own words, refers to himself (cf. Jn 5:39; Lk 24:27).

Reading the Scriptures from a christological and pneumatological perspective leads from the letter to the spirit and from the words to the Word of God. Indeed, the words often conceal their true meaning, especially when considered from the literary and cultural point of view of the inspired authors and their way of understanding the world and its laws. Doing so leads to rediscovering the unity the Word of God in the many words of Scripture. After this necessary and ardent process, the Word of God shines with a surprising splendour, more than making up for the labour expended."

After years of studying the book of Genesis, I'm just beginning to see its splendour, and it is the splendour of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners, like me.

Related reading:  How Genesis Has Strengthened My Faith; Received Tradition: Pushing Back the Veil of Time


TLF+ said...

Bless your work, Alice. His Word will not return empty, but is like the rain! In fact, the very stones can shout out praise to the One who created all things in in Whom they hold together!

Alice C. Linsley said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Seraph said...


Could you please make some kind of outline or chronology of history in Genesis as you see it unfolding, with brief commentary?

Also, if Noah is from Lake Chad in Nigeria, do you then see Noah as having been black? That is very interesting! How does he tie in with the ancestors of Israel and the modern Jews, who seem to be lighter skinned? I ask this simply to understand what you are picturing happening to the Hebrews through history.

I love your thoughts!


Alice C. Linsley said...

Michael, I'll attempt a chronology for you in the days ahead. On Monday I'll post information on the symbolism of the number of years assigned to the patriarchs in Genesis 6 and 11. Because the numbers are symbolic, they can't be used to develop a timeline, as Usher attempted. However, there are both biblical and extra-biblical landmarks that help in establishing a timeline.

It is very likely that Noah's skin was black or at least as dark as most Arabic speaking North Africans. David's monarchy was oriented to the great chiefdoms and kingdoms of Africa (including Egypt) and Solomon had many brides from among those kingdoms as a way to forge alliances. In the Song of Solomon the beloved's black skin is praised as beautiful, skin as "dark as the tents of Kedar."

TLF+ said...

And Moses took a Cushite/Ethiopian wife (which led to some discontent in the family!) Numbers 12:1

Alice C. Linsley said...

Notice, Northern Plains Anglican, that this second wife (Numbers 12:1) is at the heart of Miriam and Aaron's complaint about Moses' authority. They understood by his action that he was claiming to be the ruling chief or elder. Moses followed the pattern of the Patriarchs by taking a second wife, for only ruling chiefs maintained two wives.

Remind me to come back to this topic at a latter date. There is so much of interest here!

Seraph said...

So, why do modern Jews seem so white? Or at least olive?

Is this because of mixing with Roman and European stock?

When did this happen?

Your blog is an eye-opener, and I'm so thankful for it.

Seraph said...

Perhaps you didn't notice my question about the relative "whiteness" or olive-skinned complexion of modern Jews. To what should this be attributed...?

Alice C. Linsley said...

There is a wide range of appearance among modern Jews living in Israel. Some are clearly of European descent with a range of features, depending on where they immigrated from, some of olive skin and features typical of Palestinians, and some black with negroid features, such as the Falasha. All are Jews. This range does suggest that Jewishness cannot be defined by racial appearance. That is why Jewishness is determined by whether one's mother is Jewish.

This is one of the things that fascinates me about Jesus' birth, not that people doubt that HE was Jewish. Still, as his humanity comes through his mother and Mary's family never went into captivity, her blood line remained Jewish. And, the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled that the scepter would never depart from Judah (Genesis 50). That prophecy is fulfilled through Mary.

Seraph said...

Could you please explain more about Mary's family never going into captivity and the scepter not departing from Judah being fulfilled through her?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Seraph, I'd like to respond to this more thoroughly than I have time right now (kitchen renovation going on and preparing to go on retreat to the Monastery of the Transfiguration), so please remind me to address this at a later date. A short answer is that Joseph's ancestors went into Babylonian captivity. Joseph was descended from Zerubabbel, who returned with former residents to Jerusalem and Judah (Ezra 2). Mary's geneological information shows that her roots in Judah were not disturbed.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your interest in Genesis. Your research and your insights have already helped me in my personal studies. Do not let anyone keep you from continuing your work, or from posting your findings on this blog.

Over the last 1 1/2 years, I have been working on a project to trace the ancestors of Joseph, natural father of Jesus, back to Noah. I am presently working on Terah, father of Abraham. Do you or any of your readers have any information on where he was born? Any comments you might have will be most helpful.