Who was the author? Both the Old Testament and the New Testament indicate that Genesis, like the other four books of the Torah or Pentateuch, was recorded by Moses. Our belief in Divine verbal inspiration and in the resulting inerrancy is not denigrated by allowing either that Moses drew on sources such as oral tradition or that later editors fine tuned the work.
What is the book? Genesis gives ten accounts from "the beginning" of God's creation (sometimes called "primeval history") through to the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel (sometimes called "patriarchal history"). In between are significant events of sin and redemption: the fall into sin, God's first promise of a Savior from sin, near-total corruption and judgment by water that gave the earth a "new" start, God's promising to make a nation from the descendants of Abraham who believed God and so was made righteous and with whom God made a covenant, and His beginning to make a nation of the sons of Jacob (also known as Israel). Significantly along the way the Gospel promises move from being very general in 3:15 to being more and more specific in 4:25, 9:27, 12:3, 21:12, 25:23, and 49:10.
Where was it written? We aren't specifically told, but, since Moses most likely recorded Genesis during the 40 year wanderings in the desert, I'd say somewhere in the desert of the Sinai peninsula.
When was it written? We can approximate from 966 B.C. as the date of the fourth year of Solomon's reign and from 1 Kings 6:1 that the wilderness wanderings, during which Moses is thought to have recorded Genesis, were likely between 1446 and 1406 B.C.
Why? The name "Genesis" in its Hebrew and Greek originals describes the book as a book of beginnings, but more than that the book is a record of holy or salvation history-more than history that we think of as names and dates but the kind of record through which the Holy Spirit called the people of old and us today to sorrow over our sin and faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior Who now has come to save us from that sin.
How? Dr. Luther points to the book's numerous illustrations of faith and unbelief and of the fruits born by faith and unbelief. We also remember the recurring theme of great reversal as later sons are favored over those firstborn. Various literary devices also help entrench the accounts in the our minds, enhance our interest, and help us know what is especially important.
For further reading on the book of Genesis:
- Leupold, Herbert Carl. Exposition of Genesis in two volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1949, 1942. (I only have the second volume, but for the most part I like what I have made use of there.)
- Luther, Martin. “Lectures on Genesis” (1535-1545). Vols. 1-8 of Luther’s Works, American Edition, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan, Daniel E. Poellot, Walter A. Hansen, Hilton L. Oswald; tr. George V. Schick and Paul D. Paul. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958-1970. (Some good commentary by the “mature” Luther, although at times one has to wade through a lot of other stuff to get to the gems.)