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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Types of Material.

The character and intention of Genesis as a completed book cannot be deduced from the wide miscellany of materials which constitute its sources. Gunkel (1901 ) (see Gunkel 1964 for ET of the Introduction to his commentary) identified many of the sources and demonstrated their nature. Particularly in chs. 12–36 he identified many Sagen—that is, brief, originally independent, folktales—which had been strung together only at a relatively late stage, eventually taking shape as accounts of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The somewhat different characters of chs. 1–11 , which narrate cosmic and universal events (often classified as ‘myths’—an ambiguous term) and of the story of Joseph in chs. 37–50 , a single, homogeneous narrative not formed by the combination of Sagen, has long been recognized. All this material has been pieced together and provided with a continuous narrative thread and a chronological sequence by a skilful editor and compiler, who by his selection and arrangement of material and his own original contributions converted it into an expression of his own view of history and theology. With regard to the Sagen used by this compiler, Gunkel held that much of this material had previously been transmitted in oral form over many generations and so may be seen as preserving, even though in garbled form, genuine reminiscences of the persons and events described, but this has recently been questioned: see Whybray (1987: 133–219).

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