Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3: 22-24

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9780199926749: Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3: 22-24

"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"The experimental work of scholars such as Lanfer, and monographs such as Remembering Eden, will help mature the field by forging the theoretical and practical means to carry out further research." --The Marginalia Review of Books

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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.

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