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The Book of Genesis: A Very Short Introduction

The Book of Genesis (Greek: Γένεσις, "birth", "origin," from Hebrew: בְּרֵאשִׁית, B'reishit (Biblical: B'reshiyth), "in the beginning") is the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. 

Genesis contains some of the best known biblical stories, including the Hebrew account of the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, the Call of Abraham, Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, the marriage of Jacob, Jacob and Laban, Sarah and Pharoh, Sarah and Abimelech, the battle of the Vale of Siddim, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob's wrestling with the angel at Peniel, Joseph and his coat of many colors, Joseph and the interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams, Onan and his sin, the seduction of Lot by his daughters, the Blessing of Jacob, the purchase of the cave of Machpelah, and others.  Structurally, it consists of the "primeval history" (Chapters 1-11) and cycles of Patriarchal stories (Chapters 12-50)--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (renamed, Israel), and concluding with Joseph.  While it contains traditions that developed during the monarchy and some poetry that may be even earlier, most scholarss believe its final shape and message come from the Ecilic and Persian periods (6th and 5th centuries BCE).

For Jews and Christians alike, the theological importance of Genesis centers on the Covenants linking Yahweh (God) to his Chosen People and the people to the Promised Land.  Christianity has interpreted Genesis as the prefiguration of certain cardinal Christian beliefs, primarily the need for salvation (the hope of all Christians) and the redemptive act of Christ on the Cross as the fulfillment of covenant promises as the Son of God.

In Hebrew the book is called Bereishit "in the beginning" after its incipit.  The Greek title is due to the Septuagint translation of the 3rd century BCE.  The Greek title has continued to be used in all subsequent Latin and English versions of the Bible.

Source:  "Book of Genesis."  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  16 Dec. 2010.  Web.  19 Dec. 2010.

Web Resources about the Book of Genesis