Genesis for Normal People

Co-written with Jared Byas, Patheos Press, e-book, 2012.

This is a guidebook for normal people. In one sense, you might wonder whether or not you qualify as normal. If we knew you, we might wonder too. But what we mean is that this book is for the everyday person, the person who has never went to seminary but is curious about how to read the book of Genesis.

Given the fever-pitched controversies about evolution, Adam and Eve, and scientific evidence for the Flood, the average person might feel intimidated by the book of Genesis. But behind the heady debates is a terrific story-one that anyone can understand, and one that has gripped people for ages.

If you are not a Bible scholar but want to be able to read Genesis and understand its big picture, this brief, witty book is the guide you’ve been waiting for. Clear summaries and thought-provoking questions provide direction for personal reflection and group discussion.

Peter Enns, a Biblical Studies professor, and Jared Byas, an Old Testament professor, summarize the book’s key themes and help us see Genesis as an ancient story, one with continued relevance for human experience today. Genesis for Normal People illuminates the characters that fill the book of Genesis, causing us to resonate with their choices and struggles even as we marvel at their distant world. And that’s what you’ll find here-not scientific proof texts or simple moral tales, but a distant world made available, and a story that is often strange, sometimes dangerous, and always filled with rich possibilities.

“This book is a welcome antidote to the mystification about the book of Genesis that goes around. It is accessible for readers who want to take the plunge into this old text. It is gentle in leading readers to a critical sense of the text in response to a “late” trauma in Israel. It is imaginative in its articulation of a book that might otherwise be off-putting. The convergence of accessibility, gentleness, and imagination make this a very fine read.” ~ Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

Genesis for Normal People is the perfect starting point for Christians who want to read the book of Genesis more faithfully and honestly. Enns and Byas break down the history, genre, culture, and context of this fascinating book of the Bible, so that “normal people”—you know, those who can’t read ancient Hebrew—can get a better sense of its purpose, meaning and relevance. The authors manage to simplify without dumbing down, challenge without confusing, and dig for deep truth without compromising their intellectual integrity. A must–read for anyone who care enough about the Bible to want to read and understand it on its own terms.” ~ Rachel Held Evansauthor of A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“The stories in the book of Genesis are among the most well know in the Bible—so much so that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Genesis is an ancient document from a cultural setting very different from our own. Enns and Byas have provided a highly readable volume that reminds readers of its reality while explaining the meaning and significance of Genesis in light of its ancient context. An ideal book for individual and study groups interested in understanding Genesis on its own terms.” ~ John R. Franke, General Coordinator for The Gospel and Our Culture Network

“Evangelical Old Testament scholarship has come of age and is now coming out from behind the shadows of suppression and secrecy. No one represents this fresh coming of age more than Peter Enns, who, with co-author Jared Byas, makes available to any Bible reader a fresh engagement with Genesis—readable, responsible, and recognizably fresh.” ~ Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary

I’m almost finished reading “Genesis for Normal People” and I wanted to write to you and tell you how fantastically helpful and profitable it has been for me. And since I actually “get” the book, that must mean that I’m actually normal too. Hey, there’s a first time for everything I guess. ~ Tony

This is an excellent overview of Genesis in original cultural context. What did it mean to the original readers? How is it related to other narratives of the time? What were the ideas (and just as important, what were not the ideas) that God wanted to impart. Prepare to put on your thinking caps. ~ Donald

I thought that one of the best things they did was address complex and difficult issues in a way where they were faithful to the text while maybe challenging some pop-theology and pseudo-biblical beliefs that people have about Genesis. It was even funny at times. I took so much away from it and felt like it was very spiritually enriching as well as intellectually stimulating (as clearly those should not be mutually exclusive things…and I’m glad for people like Pete and Jared who speak in such a way). ~ CCL

This book certainly lived up to its name and I enjoyed it immensely! Jared Byas and Peter Enns did a great job of presenting an accessible look at ancient writings while not shying away from the faith-challenging questions. The recurring theme of reading the Bible for what it really meant as opposed to what we’d often like it to mean was a much needed wake up call (I almost said “kick in the pants”, but my wife told me that “wake-up call” would sound smarter). It is quite evident how much the authors love and respect the Scriptures as well as their faith. I wish a book like this was around when I took Old Testament Survey – it would have been a great introduction and guide to reading the first book of the Bible! ~ Dan

It can be difficult to find resources that are both relevant to the needs and interests of ordinary Christians while being academically solid. “Genesis For Normal People” does so in a way that is readable and at times humorous. This book combats Ill-advised and fundamentalist readings of scripture that results in theories such Young Earth Creationism and hostility to science while encouraging a high view of scripture. This is a great resource for small groups. ~ Allen

No matter what your views on Genesis might be, the authors communicate something simple yet rarely discussed in the church. The authors focus on the bigger picture and analyze what the authors and audience understood. This is a great little book that packs a punch and is well worth the money to get a bigger idea about the book of Genesis. I am personally waiting for “Exodus for Normal People”! ~ Gustav

If Jesus promised blessing to those who make peace, then I hope that Jared Byas and Peter Enns are receiving plenty of it – because that is exactly what they have done in writing Genesis for Normal People. Since the book of Genesis is central to a many contentious arguments about science, human nature, and various Christian doctrines, Genesis for Normal People is truly a work of peacemaking. . . . Honestly, this was one of the most pleasurable books that I’ve read in a while. I literally LOL-ed my way through it, which is why it is such a powerful resource for peacemaking. The authors are both scholarly and pastoral, with an added (and much needed) sense of humor. This approach relieves a lot of pressure for those who take these complicated, ancient texts seriously. It is much easier to learn new perspectives when the your teachers are humble, humorous, and genuine. This is the feel that I got from Byas and Enns while reading and I am the better for it. I recommend this to any/all readers. ~ T.

As an atheist with an interest in Christianity I found this an excellent, clear and helpful book representing remarkable value. If you live in a country that has been influenced or is still influenced by the Old Testament narrative I highly recommend buying a copy. ~ Geoff