Tremper Longman on Genesis’ Theological Message and the Story of God
Genesis. What a fascinating book. And not a little controversial! It’s also profoundly “theologically rich,” according to Tremper Longman III.
In his new Genesis commentary in the ground-breaking Story of God Bible Commentary series Longman argues, “it provides a foundation for the knowledge of God and his human creatures’ relationship with him.” (13)
He goes on to reveal how “varied and profound” its theological teachings are. Each part contains a “unique focus” and makes an “important theological contribution.” Which is why we’ve provided commentary from Longman on Genesis’ theological message and its relationship to the Story of God.
It will help you grasp the significance of reading Genesis in its Old Testament context, from the perspective of the New Testament, in order to live the story in the twenty-first century.
Genesis in Old Testament Context
“The book of Genesis informs the reader about the creation and fall and initiates the story of God’s redemption.” (13) That’s a lot of theological heavy lifting! What we discover is a theology of creation, humanity, sin, and redemption that starts in Genesis and continues through the rest of the Old Testament:
- “God created Adam and Eve who…are moral beings who are innocent;”
- “They are in a harmonious relationship with God and thus with each other;”
- “We read about Adam and Eve’s sin which forfeited the divine blessing;”
- “God immediately begins the work of redemption as he passionately pursues his human creatures for the purpose of reconciliation.” (14)
An important word that holds Genesis together and binds it to the rest of the Old Testament is that of “blessing.” Humans are blessed at the beginning (Gen 1:22, 28); they forfeit that blessing through their rebellion; God blesses humans when he seeks reconciliation through Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:1–3). “Thus, the book of Genesis lays the foundation for all of the history of redemption…This story of God’s work of redemption continues throughout the rest of the Old Testament.” (16)
The notes and sidebars pay careful attention to how this “beginning” connects to the broader Old Testament.
Genesis from the New Testament’s Perspective
Longman asks a question Christians have been asking since the beginning: “how does the New Testament relate to the Old Testament? Or to put it another way, how should a Christian read the Old Testament now that Christ has come?” (18)
Perhaps the word “blessing” is the cipher key:
The goal of redemption is the restoration of blessing to humanity…The pivotal turning point in the history of redemption in the book of Genesis comes in Genesis 12:1–3, where God chooses Abraham and promises that he will bless him and his descendants and all the nations of the world through him. (18)
The story of redemption launched in Genesis 3:15, then in 12–50 continues through the history of the Old Testament. This period ends “on a note of expectation of future redemptive events, and so the New Testament understands that that expectation is met in the coming of Christ.” (20)
But there’s more. Because while the New Testament understands the first coming of Christ fulfills God’s mission of rescue, his second coming consummates it. As Longman argues, “This consumption takes us back to the opening chapters of Genesis. It involves a return to origins, only better…” (21)
This commentary provides a number of notes and essays which read key passages in light of this New Testament perspective.
Genesis for the 21st Century
“This commentary is written based on the premise that the book of Genesis informs our understanding of God, ourselves, and our world.” (22)
One of the most important features of the commentary that benefits readers is the Live the Story section. In it “we not only explore how these ancient stories inform our understanding of God and our relationship with him, and not only how they anticipate Christ, but we also ask whether and how these stories teach us how to live in a way that is pleasing to God.” (22)
For instance, Longman's comments on Genesis 1 & 2 remind us of something theologically important:
The repeated emphasis on the fact that God created the cosmos "good" plays a very important role in the formation of a biblical worldview…Genesis 1 and 2 are important reminders that God did not make the cosmos bad. He is not responsible for our present predicament. (40)
Elsewhere he writes of Abraham, “Abraham is a model for us…He will be an encouragement for us to hold on as he did, because we too are far far from perfect.” (163)
Like all contributors to the SGBC series, through Live the Story Longman treats Genesis “as a seed that can transform our life…” (23)
The Story of God has often been framed as a four-act story: creation, rebellion, rescue, re-creation. Longman's Genesis commentary brilliantly captures these first three acts in all of their profoundly theological richness,
Engage his work yourself to see how its message connects to Scripture generally and our lives specifically.
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