Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative

Word Bible Commentary - Genesis: Preface

Author's Preface

Commenting on Genesis, I have found my mood oscillating between elation and despair. I have been elated at the privilege of writing a commentary on such a central biblical text. I have been driven to despair by the impossibility of doing in justice, let alone dealing adequately with all that others have written about it.

Every commentator stands on the shoulders of his predecessors, and I am personally very indebted to the two modern and exhaustive commentaries of Westermann and Gispen, as well as the numerous monographs and articles on Genesis that have appeared recently. Despite all this help I realize the inadequacy of my work, limited as I am in time, energy, and wisdom. I simply hope that despite its shortcomings this commentary may help some to understand Genesis better.

In writing I have tried to keep three different groups of readers in mind. First are the pastors and laymen whose chief preoccupation is understanding the present text of Genesis. Although the commentary is based on the Hebrew text, I have tried to write the Comment and Explanation sections so that those who do not know Hebrew may still follow the argument. The Comment section attempts to elucidate the basic meaning of the text in its present setting in the book. The Explanation gives a broader view of the text, relating it to wider theological discussion and sometimes suggesting its contemporary relevance.

Second, this commentary has in mind the needs of the theological students for whom Genesis is often a set text. Those working on the Hebrew text may find the Notes of special interest, for they discuss not only textual criticism and points of Hebrew syntax, but they also parse the trickier verbal forms.

Third, this commentary is intended for biblical scholars, particularly those interested in issues of pentateuchal criticism. In the Introduction and the Form/Structure/Setting sections I have surveyed and attempted to evaluate the various positions currently advocated. Though these debates about criticism are often recondite, I believe that their satisfactory resolution may contribute substantially to the accurate exegesis of the text, which should always be the commentator's overriding purpose. The bibliographies are also primarily intended as a scholarly resource. Since Wetermann's commentary includes exhaustive lists of material published on Genesis, my bibliographies should be viewed more as a supplement than as a complete listing. Only the most significant earlier publications are cited. Nevertheless, the pace of publication on Genesis has quickened so much recently (on many passages as much has been published since 1970 as in the previous seventy years!), that even with this limitation the bibliographies are lengthy.

Finally, I should like to thank all those who have helped in various ways with the writing of this commentary: the Old Testament editor, John Watts, and the publishers, for entrusting me with the task and keeping me at it; the College of St Paul and St Mary, for allowing me a term's leave of absence spent at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; that school, for providing a congenial environment in which to work; W. G. Lambert, for his invaluable advice on the relationship of Genesis to ancient Near Eastern tradition and for allowing me to read his forthcoming VTSup article; D. Bryan, for allowing me to read his forthcoming ZAW article; T.D. Alexander, N. Kiuchi, and J. G. McGregor, for bibliographical help; G. Eriksson, A. R. Millard, J. Sailhammer, D. T. Tsumura, and my father, J. W. Wenham, whose acute comments on various drafts of the manuscript have greatly improved it; my colleague David Miall, for advice on word processing programs; Mrs. Margaret Hardy, for typing it; Mrs. Pat Wienandt of Word Publishing, for her careful editing; and last but not least, friends known and unknown, who have prayed for the completion of this commentary. My plan, D.V., is to complete it in one more volume, the introduction of which will discuss issues relation primarily to the patriarchal narratives.

Gordon J. Enham

Cheltenham, March 1987

Editorial Preface

The launching of the Word Biblical Commentary brings to fulfillment an enterprise of several years' planning. The publishers and the members of the editorial board met in 1977 to explore the possibility of a new commentary on the books of the Bible that would incorporate several distinctive features. Prospective readers of these volumes are entitled to know what such features were intended to be; whether the aims of the commentary have been fully achieved time alone will tell.

First, we have tried to cast a wide net to include as contributors a number of scholars from around the world who not only share our aims, but are in the main engaged in the ministry of teaching in university, college, and seminary. They represent a rich diversity of denominational allegiance. The broad stance of our contributors can rightly be called evangelical, and this term is to be understood in its positive, historic sense of a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation, and to the truth and power of the Christian gospel.

Then, the commentaries in our series are all commissioned and written for the purpose of inclusion in the Word Biblical Commentary. Unlike several of our distinguished counterparts in the field of commentary writing, there are no translated works, originally written in a non-English language. Also, our commentators were asked to prepare their own rendering of the original biblical text and to use those languages as the basis of their own comments and exegesis. What may be claimed as distinctive with this series is that it is based on the biblical languages, yet it seeks to make the technical and scholarly approach to a theological understanding of Scripture understandable by--and useful to--the fledgling student, the working minister, and colleagues in the guild of professional scholars and teachers as well.

Finally, a word must be said about the format of the series. The layout, in clearly defined sections, has been consciously devised to assist readers at different levels. Those wishing to learn about the textual witnesses on which the translation is offered are invited to consult the section headed Notes. If the readers' concern is with the state of modern scholarship on any given portion of Scripture, they should turn to the sections on Bibliography and Form/Structure/Setting. For a clear exposition of the passage's meaning and its relevance to the ongoing biblical revelation, the Comment and concluding Explanation are designed expressly to meet that need. There is therefore something for everyone who may pick up and use these volumes.

If these aims come anywhere near realization, the intention of the editors will have been met, and the labor of our team of contributors rewarded.

General Editors: David A. Hubbard, Glenn Barker

Old Testament: John D.W. Watts

New Testament: Ralph P. Martin

Taken from "Word Bible Commentary: Genesis" by Gordon Wenham. ©1987 by Thomas Nelson Publisher. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publisher, 501 Nelson Place, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000 (

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