A study of the main unifying themes in the Hebrew text of the book of Genesis

  • James McKeown

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


During the last two centuries, the majority of academic studies relating to the Pentateuch have concentrated on questions about source analysis and the traditio-historical development of the text. Recently, however, there has been increasing interest in studies that deal holistically with the final form of the text. When Genesis is approached in this way, a number of unifying themes are highlighted. These themes show that Genesis is not an amalgamation of separate loosely connected narrative cycles but, rather, it is a carefully unified work. The same main concerns are followed throughout the book and they are developed in a consistent and progressive manner.

In this study, the main unifying themes of Genesis are identified as, 'blessing', 'seed', and 'land'. These themes are considered in detail and their development is followed throughout Genesis. This leads to a study of the interrelationship of the themes and to an assessment of their importance for the overall message of Genesis. This approach highlights the importance of Genesis 1-11. It is very easy to over-emphasize the distinctiveness of the primeval history in comparison to the patriarchal narratives. However, this study shows the significant way in which the main themes in Genesis are developed in these first eleven chapters. A failure to grasp the importance of the thematic development in the primeval history leads to a misunderstanding of the implications of the main themes in the remainder of the book. In particular, Genesis 1-11 highlights the creator's concern for the world embodied in the themes of 'blessing', 'seed', and 'land'. This creatorial concern, which was disrupted by man's rebellion, is redirected to the world through God's harmonious relationship with one specially chosen line of descent.
Date of AwardDec 1991
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorThomas Alexander (Supervisor)

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