September 22, 2014

“Genesis for Normal People” — Pete Enns’ New E-Book

Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible
by Peter Enns and Jared Byas, Patheos 2012

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For a limited time, you can download Peter Enns’ new e-book, Genesis for Normal People, for $1.99 and read it on your Kindle or other device. Later, it will be sold for $4.99.

[UPDATE: The Amazon sale was apparently only a one-day sale. The price is $4.99.]

This is a great chance to read first-rate Biblical scholarship in a more popular format. We have featured Pete Enns on IM and will continue to do so because I think he represents one of the freshest and most honest voices in Biblical Studies today.

Here’s a sample from the first chapter:

So when we read Genesis as an ancient story, written at a particular time to a particular people, it opens up possibilities and worlds we don’t encounter in our limited existence. When we stop using Genesis as an argument, a textbook, or a code of conduct, and begin to see it as an ancient story—with memorable characters, twists and turns, ups and downs, accomplishments and mistakes—we find it fresh, deep, and more true and relevant than we might expect.

The best stories shape our lives precisely because as we read them, we are presented with both reality and possibility. The characters and circumstances resonate with us because they are mirrors of our own story, reminding us that we are not alone in our experiences. But they also pull us toward another world that we are less familiar with, a world that is often strange and sometimes dangerous, a world that doesn’t show me what is, but what is possible.

Why would we expect anything less at the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with humanity? But in order to see Genesis through ancient eyes, we have to admit that our modern eyes might get in the way. So this chapter is eye surgery. It is meant to help us suspend our twenty-first-century gaze and allow us to enter a new way of looking at the world.

Comments

  1. I guess I’m not normal. I read Genesis like Jesus and Paul did.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    When we stop using Genesis as an argument, a textbook, or a code of conduct, and begin to see it as an ancient story—with memorable characters, twists and turns, ups and downs, accomplishments and mistakes…

    Sounds like a more orthodox and highbrow version of what R Crumb did in his Illustrated Book of Genesis.

    Genesis. The Book of Beginnings. The Old Stories. The Old, Old Stories of the Origin of All from that Semitic tribal people we now call the Jews.

  3. The Previous Dan says:

    I understand Genesis as a true myth. The ram in the thicket. Saved in the Ark. Interceding before God for condemned men. A journey of faith. For a long time I have appreciated the writings of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, etc. and they have helped me value the power of myth. But of course, just because Genesis is myth doesn’t mean it isn’t also historically based. What is Enn’s overall point in this book? Is he open to a view that it may be both myth and history?

    • I’ve not read this book yet, but in The Evolution of Adam, his point is that Genesis is about establishing Israel as the people of God, and the stories of Adam and Eve are should be read as not so much as the stories of the first humans, but as a prototype of Israel. I would say he would say that some aspects of Genesis are historical, but not in the sense that they are simply passing along an unbiased record of what happened. They’re historical in the sense that it was the ancient Jewish people telling their stories.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Chaplain Mike has commented before that starting with the Industrial Revolution, Evangelicals started thinking of the Bible not as stories and true myths, but an engineering textbook of Fact, Fact, Fact. You see the aftereffects of this from Ken Ham re Genesis to Hal Lindsay re Revelation.

      Years ago over at Slacktivist’s page-by-page analysis of Left Behind, someone made the comment that in adapting Revelation to a “It-Can-Happen-Tomorrow” realistic setting (the specific example being the staging of “The Two Witnesses”, AKA “The Trip-and-Fall Guys”), they rejected the imagery and power of Myth and ended up with a third-rate imitation technothriller.

  4. I guess the time was very limited; $4.99 when I clicked on the link.

  5. “… a world that doesn’t show me what is, but what is possible.”

    Huh?

    What is possible? Here, in this world? Nothing but death (in the end).

    But God had to kill those animals to cover them (Adam and Eve). And He shed blood for us, as well. That we might hear that and believe it…is quite possible.

  6. If by “normal people” the author means to reject all fundamentalist readings out of hand for being obviously stupid, I agree with this instinct.

    Of course there are always lots of Bible commentaries. As for popular fare, a few years ago there was a PBS series “Genesis” with Bill Moyers. It was a roundtable discussion between Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians. “The Book of J” by Harold Bloom is a speculative but interesting look at the Jahwist material. Nahum M. Sarna’s “Genesis: World of Myths and Patriarchs” gives a mainstream Jewish reading; he has little good to say about biblical literalists.

    What’s a good, not too technical book illuminating the Iranian influence on Genesis? I vaguely remember that there are some…

  7. Yet again, here is another book proclaiming a “new” way of viewing the Bible, or some aspect of it.

    • Actually, what Enns (at least elsewhere) suggests is more of an old way of viewing the Bible. “Old” in the sense that we need to read it like the way the people who it was originally written for would read it.

  8. It’s $8.07 now – or is that a special price for the Old World customers? Longer delivery lines, I guess…

    • Welcome to the world of regional publishing rights. I can point you to several discussions on the subject. But note that they are no where near “safe for Sunday school” reading.