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Jewish Understandings of Genesis 1 to 3

Justin Marston
S & CB 12 (2)
October 2000


This article examines the understandings of the creation accounts in Genesis 1–3 found in various early Jewish writings including rabbinical, philosophical and mystical/apocalyptic works. In general, Jewish writers distinguished various levels of meaning, including an allegorical as well as a literal or historical level. At the historical level of interpretation, however, certain aspects of the narrative were taken as symbolic or metaphorical, and a purely ‘literalistic’ understanding was not deemed natural to the language. The relevance of this historical material is discussed in the context of contemporary conservative approaches to interpreting the creation passages.

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