Why is it important to study the book of Genesis?

Q. Why is it important to study the book of Genesis?

This is an excellent and timely question, given the controversy and confusion that can Genesissurround the book of Genesis in our day.  That’s why I answer this question right inside the front cover of my Genesis study guide, even before the title page!  Here’s what I have to say under the heading “Why Read and Study Genesis?”

Sex. Greed. Violence. Deception. Betrayal. Annihilation. And in the midst of it all, God at work to restore a broken world and bring people back into relationship with Himself.

In Genesis, its first book, the Bible hits the ground running and shows us the kind of people we could see today on the news, or meet on the street, wrestling with God to find happiness, success and love in a world gone wrong. They struggle. They suffer. They do right, and they do wrong. With God’s help, sometimes they fight their way through to a happy ending. And God builds on the struggles, the suffering and the good and bad choices to start making a way for anyone in the world to find their way back to Him.

Maybe you’ve never read the book of Genesis. Or maybe you’ve tried, but never got past the opening because of arguments you’ve heard about Adam and Eve and evolution. You owe it to yourself to take another look. From a perspective deeply immersed in real human life, Genesis gives us the big picture of what kind of world God wants this to be, how it became something else instead, and what God has been doing ever since, by meeting people just where they are, to make things right again.

The main purpose of the book of Genesis is to explain how one family and its descendants came to have a special role in God’s plans for all of humanity. The book first shows God creating a world of order and harmony. This order and harmony are shattered when people turn away from God. The world is filled with violence and injustice that God has to take extreme measures to restrain. But then God begins to restore the beautiful world He’d designed by entering into a relationship with one person who trusts and believes in Him in a special way: Abraham. God extends this relationship down through the generations of Abraham’s descendants. Eventually they grow into a tribe that could become the beginning of a restored human community—if they could just live up to God’s friendship and favor.

This study guide will take you through Genesis story by story and character by character. You won’t see Noah in a bathrobe collecting cuddly animals for the ark. You won’t be asked to debate the age of the earth. But you will meet people just like you being disappointed and betrayed and rescued and blessed as the world God sets in motion goes careening off into the future without any brakes. Fasten your seat belt.

I hope this helps answer your question, and that it whets your appetite to dive into this challenging, engaging, and fascinating book!

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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