Genesis calls its readers into a vision of human community unconstrained by the categories that dominate modern thinking about identity. Genesis situates humanity within a network of nurture that encompasses the entire cosmos—only then introducing Israel not as a people, but as a promise. Genesis prioritizes a human identity that originates in the divine word and depends on ongoing relationship with God. Those called into this new mode of belonging must forsake the social definition that had structured their former life, trading it for an alternative that will only gradually take shape. In contrast to the rigidity that typifies modern notions, Genesis depicts identity as fundamentally fluid. Encounter with God leads to a new social self, not a "spiritual" self that operates only within parameters established in the body at birth.
In Belonging in Genesis, Amanda Mbuvi highlights the ways narrative and the act of storytelling function to define and create a community. Building on the emphasis on family in Genesis, she focuses on the way family storytelling is a means of holding together the interpretation of the text and the constitution of the reading community. Explicitly engaging the way in which readers regard the biblical text as a point of reference for their own (collective) identities leads to an understanding of Genesis as inviting its readers into a radically transformative vision of their place in the world.
A Note on Terminology and Translation Acknowledgements 1. Playing by Different Rules: Reading Genesis through its Deferrals 2. (Un)conventional Genesis: Two Ways of Reading Identity and the Divine Word 3. Family Storytelling: The Relationship between Genesis and its Readers 4. The Theology of Genealogy: A Boundary Breaking Foundation for Identity 5. The Social Ladder and the Family Tree: Competing Approaches to Structuring Identity 6. Fruitfulness: The Emergence of a New Identity Beyond Insider/Outsider Dichotomies Postscript Works Cited Index
Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi is Assistant Professor of Religion at High Point University.
Amanda Mbuvi's provocative book critiques the oft repeated claim that the Bible's genealogies, along with its recurring affirmation that the descendants of Abraham are God's chosen people, demonstrate ancient Israel's ethnocentrism and inevitably result in religious strife against all outsiders. Belonging in Genesis seeks to recover the Bible's novel and iconoclastic understanding of identity formation and human interrelationship, thus providing a theological vision for transforming our fractured world.
~Joel S. Kaminsky, Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Bible, Smith College
Belonging in Genesis is a provocative and rigorous challenge to social hierarchies influenced by the Westernization of the Bible. The book is a must read for anyone interested in Jewish studies, biblical criticism, critical race theory, postcolonialism, and religious studies.
~Santiago Slabodsky, Florence and Robert Kaufman chair in Jewish Studies, Hofstra University
Academically rigorous and coherent
~Ryan T. O’Leary, The Christian Century
Mbuvi has produced an engaging and challenging exploration of Genesis, one that focuses on often neglected aspects of Genesis (such as genealogies), while also challenging deeply embedded assumptions of Western readers. Though relatively brief, the study covers much ground, probing notions of identity in light of race, gender, ethnicity, and colonialism.
~Bradford Anderson, Reading Religion
This book is a fascinating literary reading of Genesis that is informed by scholarship on identity formation, oral cultures, and social anthropology and is recommended for scholars, preachers, teachers, and students of Genesis.
~Benjamin D. Giffone, Review of Biblical Literature
A quality study based on a clearly articulated approach of applying family narratives to Genesis.
~Danny Mathews, Catholic Biblical Quarterly
A very welcome addition to recent scholarship about Genesis and about the politics of text and identity more generally.
~Megan Warner, Journal of Theological Studies
…this book asks important and timely questions about Genesis and contemporary concepts of difference.
~David M. Carr, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology