Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis by John R Coats
An entertaining narrative voice, personal reflections from the author’s life and insightful interpretations combine to produce this accessible and lively new addition to Genesis scholarship. Coats, a former parish priest and management consultant, cogently applies source theory—the hypothesis that four separate documents went into the first five books of the Bible—to familiar stories whose ethical and spiritual DNA seeps through Western culture. Through his approach, the author makes complex biblical scholarship comprehensible, while challenging the reader to examine the actual text. Asserting that biblical characters are rather relentless in their mirroring, Coats uses second-person hooks (Imagine yourself as the first human being) to invite readers to use their own perspective to interpret the text. Cheeky chapter headings entice and inform; First, about the ark, which is most definitely not a boat begins his analysis of Noah and the flood. While cultural references from Maimonides to Mae West spice up the narrative, Coats’s exploration of how his own history and self-understanding inform his interpretations makes the most compelling reading. His reflections on his own aging and his analysis of the stories of Noah and Abraham prove compelling and thought provoking.