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Monday, December 1, 2008

Leupold Genesis part 5 purpose and text

3. Purpose

The purpose of Genesis may be formulated thus: the book aims to relate how Israel was selected from among the `nations of the world and became God's chosen people. Since, however, this choice was not made because of the merit or the excellence of Israel's ancestors but wholly because of God's unmerited and unmeritable mercy, the book may also be said to be the story of God's free grace in establishing Israel for Himself as His people.

4. Text

Two major considerations deserve attention under this head. First, the matter of the state of the purity or the integrity of the Hebrew text. No one in our day errs in the direction of the one possible extreme, namely of venturing to claim that the Hebrew text is in a state of virgin purity, exactly as it appeared in the original manuscripts. But many err in the opposite extreme of considering the Hebrew text to be utterly unreliable and in need of continual correction. Such an attitude is dangerous and ungrounded. Occasional errors may be detected, a few may be surmised. The Jewish marginal corrections, the Keris, may occasionally prove suggestive. But on the whole we have a text which is quite pure and satisfactory. It is not to be tampered with or modified according to the far less reliable Septuagint, the Targums, the Peshitto, or the Samaritan Pentateuch, though occasionally these versions (or transliterations) may contribute a bit of material valuable from the standpoint of textual criticism. The text is, furthermore, not to be modified according to subjective principles, such as critical theories or clever conjectures, which are anything but scientific. Modern critical editions of the Hebrew text, such as Kittel's Biblia Hebraica, Stuttgart, (1929), contain much misleading material and must apart from the Masoretic text be used with great caution. The traditional Masoretic text is in a good state of preservation and deserves far more confidence than is usually accorded to it. In our Hebrew Bibles we have a very good Hebrew text.

The other matter that may be considered in this connection is the question whether Genesis is a poem and therefore to be considered as Hebrew verse. On the question, which are the poetical books in the Canon, the Jews have always had a very reliable tradition. It would be strange if they themselves should have lost sight of the poetic character of the first one of their sacred writings if it had actually been poetic. The method by which outstanding exponents of this unusual hypothesis, like Sievers, arrived at their conclusions is enough to make anyone suspicious of the idea. This method involves abandoning the first principle of Hebrew poetry (parallelism); it necessitates changes or substitution of the divine name; it includes occasional textual alterations merely for the sake of securing the desired meter; and even then the type of meter which seemingly was discovered is not in evidence as clearly as we are led to believe. Neither the present text nor the original sources, as others claim, were ever cast in verse form, with the exception of such minor portions that bear the earmarks of poetry (4:23, 24; 9:25-27; 49:2-27). But we are perfectly ready to admit that Genesis has many portions of very fine rhythmical prose that rise almost to the level of exalted strains of poetry (cf. 1:27-28; 12:1-3, and many other passages).