Lectionary Year A
February 24, 2002
Genesis 12:1-4a

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(CB)The preceding pericope to Gen. 12:1-4a is found in Gen. 11:27-32. This is the genealogical record of Terah, father of Abraham. In this pericope, references to Lot, the orphaned son of Haran, as well as to Sarai, who is labeled as barren, are given.
The pericope following Gen. 12:1-4a is Gen. 4b-9. This tells of Abram journeying on from Haran with Lot and Sarai and all of their possessions. They set forth to Canaan, where God promises Abram this land. Abram builds an altar here and moves on to Bethel, where he also builds an altar to the LORD. The pericope ends with Abram continuing toward the Negeb.
The Harper Study Bible indicates the call of Abram, the subject pericope, as 12:1-3. The New Interpreter's Bible lists Gen. 11:27-12:9 as a single pericope, as does the Word Bible Commentary.

(BD)The immediate text before Genesis 12:1-4a is Genesis 11:27-32. This pericope gives the reader the history of Abram's father Te'rah and brothers Na'hor and Har'an. The pericope introduces Lot as the son of Har'an, who dies prior to his father Terah. The text also introduces the wives of Abram, (Sar'ai) and Na'hor's wife (Mil'cah). Verse 30 tells us that Sar'ai was barren and has no children. Terah left the land of Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan with his son Abram and wife Sar'ai, along with his grandson Lot. When they came to Haran decided to settle there.

There are some commentaries that suggest Genesis 11:27-32 should be part of the pericope of Abram's call because of the introduction of Lot and Sar'ai. Another reason for this inclusion of the pericope is that it tells us Sar'ai is barren and without child.

The pericope immediately after Genesis 12:1-4a tells us how old Abram is when he leaves his homeland. It also tells us that Lot and his wife Sar'ai begin their journey to the place Yahweh will cause them to see.

The pericope is the start of the story of the promise of blessing to the patriarch. This blessing will be seen again with the story of Isaac and again with Jacob.

The call of Abram begins to develop the relationship between Yahweh and Israel. The pericope is found in Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch.
A brief outline of Genesis:
I. Creation
II. Man's alienation from God
III. Beginning of civilization
IV. The flood
V. Call and life of Abraham
VI. Life of Isaac
VII. Life of Jacob and his sons

This pericope is referenced in Isaiah 19:24, 51:2, 49:6 and Romans 4:13, which is part of the lectionary for this week's sermon.

The text is made up of two originally separate documents named J E and P. It is difficult to pinpoint the actual author of these documents.

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

(CB)Following the suggestions of the New Interpreter's Bible, I have grouped the story of Genesis into four major components.

1. Primeval Story Gen. 1:1-11:26
2. The Story of Abraham Gen. 11:27-25:18
3. The Story of Jacob Gen. 25:19-36:43
4. Joseph, Judah and Jacob's Family Gen. 37:1-50:26

C. Issues of Authorship

(CB)All of the following references are from:
Wenham, Gordon J.. Word Bible Commentary: Genesis 1-15. Waco: Word Books, Publisher. 1987.

The work of Wellhausen (1876-77), accepted by many scholars, suggests that the Pentateuch is composed of four distinct sources and time frames of assemblage. First is J, or the Yahwistic source dating to the 10/9th century. Second is E, or Elohistic source dating to the 9/8th century. Third, D, or the Deuteronomist source, dates to the7th century. Finally, P, or the Priestly account, dates to about 6th century (xxvi). The existing Pentateuch was culminated in about the 5th century.

Terms for review when reviewing the compilation of the Pentateuch include:

Documentary Hypothesis - Wellhausen: Lengthy narratives successfully combined by a series of editors (xxvii).

Supplementary Hypothesis - The Pentateuch grew like a snowball, from one main source that editors have expanded over the centuries, adding extra material from other traditions or the editors' imagination to round out the narrative.

Fragmentary Hypothesis - The Pentateuch was formed from a large number of relatively short sources. These series of short stories were strung together by an editor or editors to form the present Pentateuch. For example, the Book of Kings is thought to contain deuteronomic inclinations from the theological/ commentary contained therein.

Gordon J. Wenham in Word Bible Commentary, notes that Gen. 11:28-12:1-4a, 6-9 are attributed to J (270). This is due to the referencing of the divine as Yahweh. Others support two parallel sources. Westermann, followed by Coates, claims that the genealogical fragment must begin with 11:27b. 12:4a presupposes knowledge of Lot's identity defined in 11:27-32. Therefore, in12:5c, Westermann argues that both J and P are sources.

Another view taken by J. Rendtorff and Kikawada argue that 12:1-9 is a coherent unit; only the chronological notice (12:4b) would be assigned to P editor.

Gen. 12:1-3 is usually seen as expressing the quintessence of Yahwist's theology (note sources 270). It binds together the primeval and patriarchal history by presenting the call and blessing of Abram as the answer to the calamities that have befallen humanity in Gen 1-11. However, 12:1-3 is subtly different from that found in the J sections of Gen. 1-11. Of note are terms for "nation," "family," "homeland," link it with P's table of the nations in Gen. 20. He [Crüsemann] argues that 12:1-3 presupposes that J and P were already combined in Gen. 1-11, and that it therefore represents a late redact ional element in Genesis. Also, Alexander argues that 11:27-12:9 is the work of the final editor of Genesis, whom he identifies with J.

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