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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3:22-24
Lanfer, Peter Thacher

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 pp. x + 256. $74.00


Description: There are few texts as central to the mythology of Jewish literature as the Garden of Eden and its attendant motifs, yet the direct citation of this text within the Hebrew Bible is surprisingly rare. Even more conspicuous is the infrequent reference to creation, or to the archetypal first humans Adam and Eve. There have also been few analyses of the impact of Genesis 2-3 beyond the biblical canon, though early Jewish and Christian interpretations of it are numerous, and often omitted is an analysis of the expulsion narrative in verses 22-24. In Remembering Eden, Peter Thacher Lanfer seeks to erase this gap in scholarship. He evaluates texts that expand and explicitly interpret the expulsion narrative, as well as translation texts such as the Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums, and the Syriac Peshitta. According to Lanfer, these textual additions, omissions, and translational choices are often a product of ideological and historically rooted decisions. His goal is to evaluate the genetic, literary, and ideological character of individual texts divorced from the burden of divisions between texts that are anachronistic ("biblical" vs. "non-biblical") or overly broad ("Pseudepigrapha"). This analytical choice, along with the insights of classic biblical criticism, yields a novel understanding of the communities receiving and reinterpreting the expulsion narrative. In addition, in tracing the impact of the polemic insertion of the expulsion narrative into the Eden myth, Lanfer shows that the multi-vocality of a text's interpretations serves to highlight the dialogical elements of the text in its present composite state.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Interpretation

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Review by L. Michael Morales
Published 7/21/2013
Citation: L. Michael Morales, review of Peter Thacher Lanfer, Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3:22-24, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2013).


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