Genesis gets its name from the ancient Greek translation of the book; the word means 'origin' or 'beginning', and the title is appropriate enough, for the book traces history back to the very beginning of time. Many of the great Biblical themes have their point of origin in Genesis—notably sin, judgement, salvation and promise. The pivotal character of Genesis is Abraham; the early chapters [1-11] gradually restrict the field of vision from the whole universe to the one individual, Abraham, while the rest of the book shows how God's promise to him of a great nation descended from him began to come true. How did the nation of Israel come into being? Why did it have a special relationship with God? How did it come to find itself in Egypt so early in its national history? These are the major questions Genesis answers for us; but it also affords us a matchless insight into human nature and God's character, and leaves us with a clear (though undetailed) impression of God's ultimate purposes for Israel and mankind. Genesis is thus the essential prologue not only to Exodus but to the whole Bible, not excluding the New Testament.
On questions of date, authorship and chronology, the Bible student should consult standard commentaries (those by D. Kidner and E. A. Speiser are outstanding in different ways), Old Testament introductions or Bible dictionaries. See also the chronological table on page 37.