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Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3: 22-24
Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover
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There are few texts as central to the mythology of Jewish and Christian literature as the Garden of Eden story of Genesis 2-3 and its attendant motifs. Yet the direct citation of this text within the biblical corpus is surprisingly rare. Even more conspicuous is the infrequent reference to creation, or to the archetypal first human pair. Though Early Jewish and Christian interpretations of Genesis 2-3 are numerous, there have been few analyses of the impact of the Eden account beyond the biblical canon. The few analyses that exist, moreover, often omit any discussion of Gen. 3: 22-24 dismissing this text as a late addition and therefore irrelevant. In Remembering Eden, Peter Thacher Lanfer argues that textual additions, interpretations, and translations are often the products of ideological and historically rooted decisions.
In particular, Lanfer analyzes the expulsion narrative as a text inserted into the Garden of Eden story in response to the ascendency of scribal wisdom in the late seventh- and early sixth-centuries bce. According to him, the tensions caused by this insertion are preserved by exegetical readings of the essential dialogues of the redacted Eden story. To this end, he proposes a new method of textual analysis, which embraces the biblical text's multi-vocality, yet imposes reasonable constraints on the range of possible interpretations. Lanfer seeks to recover the significance of the Eden account, examine the prominent place later interpreters give to the motifs contained in the expulsion narrative, and evaluate the impact of the insertion of Gen 3: 22-24 on the Eden story through the examination of texts that expand, translate, and explicitly interpret the expulsion from Eden.
Peter Thacher Lanfer is Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Religions of the Ancient Near East at the University California of Los Angeles and Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Early Christianity at Dartmouth College.
"An intellectual tour-de-force that ranges from the palace reliefs of 18th-century BCE Mari to the rabbinical literature of the 2nd century CE in order to explicate the interpretive history of the Garden of Eden's tree of life and associated motifs. Along the way, we learn of the nature of immortality, the pitfalls of wisdom, and hopes of a future paradise. A veritable feast of scholarly erudition from an exciting young scholar!"--Susan Ackerman, Preston H. Kelsey Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College
"The gates to Eden have long remained closed, but in Remembering Eden Peter Lanfer charges past Eden's protective cherubim and sword to expose the interpretive delights arising from the images, myths, allusions, and citations of the Garden of Eden passage in early Jewish and Christian sources and communities. His account of the reception history of Genesis 3:22-24 provides unique insight into the origins and robust vitality of this iconic passage."--J. Edward Wright, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism, University of Arizona
"Peter Lanfer has written a remarkable study of the interpretation of a major biblical theme in antiquity. Steering between the Scylla of historical positivism and the Charybdis of deconstruction, he shows how the meaning of the Genesis text was never static, but was nonetheless constrained by the tensions in the original story. Ranging widely over the literature of the Second Temple period, he shows how the understanding of the biblical text can be enriched by attention to its earliest interpreters."--John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale Divinity School
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