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23 CHAPTER 3 Family Storytelling The Relationship between Genesis and Its Readers Auerbach’s discussion of Mystère d’Adam demonstrates the ways in which Adam has become a stock character in the popular Western imagination, rooting the biblical story in those social norms. Shifting from this prototypical (Western) man to the earth creature of Genesis can begin with the name.1 Rendering it as adam disrupts the familiarity with the biblical figure that enables him to fit seamlessly into English discourse, inviting us to reconsider “him” as “he” appears in the Hebrew of Genesis. Italics convey the status of import from a foreign language, while the lack of a capital letter serves as a reminder that Genesis uses MDdDa (adam) not only as a proper name for a single being, but also as a more generic term for a category of beings—­ humans. Significantly, Genesis allows these two functions to blur.2 1 The characterization of Adam as the prototypical (Western) man is meant to highlight the overlap between Westernness and masculinity. The designation “Western man” refers to geographical location and to gender, or to gender as inflected by geographical location. However, as discussed in the previous chapter, being Western and being masculine are imagined in strikingly similar terms. The opposition between the West and its Others is depicted in nearly identical ways to the opposition between men and women. 2 Cf. Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (OBT; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978), 80. 24 Belonging in Genesis While Adam epitomizes the timelessness of a certain conception of community and its assigned roles, adam demonstrates the way in which community comes into being through speech. In conjunction with the emphasis on family in Genesis, this insight leads to a new way of thinking about the relationship between the biblical text and its readers : family storytelling, which provides a means of holding together the interpretation of the text and the constitution of the reading community . Thinking about Genesis from this perspective provides a means of taking seriously the text’s relationship to its readers, bringing to bear the insights of scholarly literature specially attuned to the ways narrative and the act of storytelling function to define and create a community. Such an approach has the advantage of highlighting the role of identification in biblical interpretation, an essential aspect of the construction of communal identity in Genesis and its appropriation by readers. Explicitly engaging the way in which readers regard the biblical text as a point of reference for their own (collective) identities helps transcend the confines of a Eurocentric approach and facilitate a Yhwh-­centric reading. Speaking Forth Community In Genesis divine speech serves as the agent of creation, demonstrating God’s “absolute sovereignty over nature.”3 Though less remarked upon, the book’s depiction of human speech proves equally revealing. The first dialogue ascribed to someone other than God belongs to the adam and functions to confirm and celebrate his connection to the woman: taøΩz_hDjƒqUl vyIaEm yI;k hDÚvIa aér∂;qˆy taøzVl yîrDcV;bIm rDcDb…w yAmDxSoEm MRxRo MAoAÚpAh taøz This time, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called woman, because from man this was taken. (2:23) Godspeaksheavenandearthintoexistence;theadamspeaksrelationship.4 3 Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 7. Cf. Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (trans. D. M. G. Stalker; 2 vols.; New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 1:142. Susan A. Handelman argues that Genesis thereby establishes the priority of language over the material world, and, consequentially , the priority of textual interpretation over observation of nature as a means of apprehending “ultimate reality” (The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982], 28–­ 30). 4 Walter Brueggemann suggests that divine speech also functions to establish relationship . He argues that “the main theme [of Gen 1:1–­ 2:4] is this: God and God’s creation are Family Storytelling 25 Source criticism offers one means of accounting for the shift in tone from the exalted creation account of Gen 1 to the earthy story in Gen 2, attributing it to separate origins for the two stories. However, examining the role of speech points to an alternative.5 Gen 1 describes the construction of the cosmos, with divine speech standing majestically alone in both the process and the text. Gen 2 depicts a work of...


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