Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bible Book: Genesis

Well, it's July - and I'm not sure if I will be able to accomplish my goal of finishing a book this summer (this move to North Carolina made everything topsy-turvy!), but I've started in on a follow-up book to the Latin Via Proverbs book which I published last summer. It will be a collection of sayings from the Latin Vulgate, organized grammatically, just as in the first book. So, I've started going through the Bible looking for likely verses or parts of verses to include. I did the Book of Genesis yesterday, which is always a pleasure to work on.

There are so many marvelous stories in Genesis, and those stories in turn have provoked a huge body of legends and tales outside the Bible, filling in the gaps in the Biblical narrative or amplifying on the stories that are already there. The great scholar Louis Ginzberg compiled a collection of these extra-Biblical stories in his monumental Legends of the Jews.

Luckily for all of us, this book is now available at several websites, including Sacred Texts Archive. The book was originally published in six volumes, with four volumes of stories and two volumes of notes to the stories. Unfortunately, only the four volumes of stories are available online. To consult the notes, you will need to acquire a printed copy, although there are inexpensive paperback editions available of the notes volumes, along with a helpful index volume for all six volumes.

The stories that Ginzberg collected in conjunction with the Biblical book of Genesis occupy the entire first volume and the first half of the second volume! So, for example, if you have always been curious about the legend of Lilith, Adam's first wife, here is Ginzberg's account of that legend:
The Divine resolution to bestow a companion on Adam met the wishes of man, who had been overcome by a feeling of isolation when the animals came to him in pairs to be named. To banish his loneliness, Lilith was first given to Adam as wife. Like him she had been created out of the dust of the ground. But she remained with him only a short time, because she insisted upon enjoying full equality with her husband. She derived her rights from their identical origin. With the help of the Ineffable Name, which she pronounced, Lilith flew away from Adam, and vanished in the air. Adam complained before God that the wife He had given him had deserted him, and God sent forth three angels to capture her. They found her in the Red Sea, and they sought to make her go back with the threat that, unless she went, she would lose a hundred of her demon children daily by death. But Lilith preferred this punishment to living with Adam. She takes her revenge by injuring babes--baby boys during the first night of their life, while baby girls are exposed to her wicked designs until they are twenty. days old The only way to ward off the evil is to attach an amulet bearing the names of her three angel captors to the children, for such had been the agreement between them.
That's just one example out of the literally thousands of stories which Ginzberg collected from the Talmud, Midrash and other traditional sources.

Meanwhile, here is a random quote from the King James version of Genesis - although I've not provided chapter and verse number here, you'll find it easy to Google the words and look up the King James version online (if you are reading this post via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog in order to see the script in action):

If all goes well, I should have one or more Bible books to report on each day over the rest of the summer!

1 comment:

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