Reading "Genesis" with Lesley Hazleton

Saturdays at 10am Pacific, October 2nd - 30th

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Adam and Eve eating the best apple ever. How Cain made his mark and Noah made his ark. Abraham with his knife at Isaac's throat. Jacob with his balls in an angelic twist. Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat. All familiar stories that will turn out to be surprisingly — perhaps even shockingly — unfamiliar.

Like many ancient texts, Genesis can be seen as a grand soap opera. Murder, deceit, rebellion, betrayal, lust (lots of it), incest (quite a lot of that too) — all are vividly depicted, alongside a striking obsession with seed. Yes, seed.

So forget any ideas about 'Bible class.' Over five weeks, we'll read Genesis as we've read Melville and Ovid, Morrison and Woolf — both high and low, reverent and irreverent, in the spirit of inquiry and exploration. We'll ask lots of questions, like "What's really happening here?" And explore fresh ways of reading these stories, rescuing them from the mitered, bearded, fringed holy men who've claimed for far too long that theirs is the only 'right' way to read them. Together, we'll ace Genesis, and give it new life.

And we'll be using a great translation. Instead of torturing eyes and minds with the small print of the King James Bible or any of the dutifully dull "standard" versions, we'll use Robert Alter's wonderful modern rendering, direct from the original Hebrew. No haths, shalts, thys, thees, or thines — just limpid, lucid English, plus excellent notes. (We may refer to the King James now and then, as well as to that other great biblical authority, Robert Crumb, but Alter's Genesis is all you really need.)

Do read the first three chapters before joining the first session, and we can dive right in. Looking forward to seeing you in (and east of) Eden.


We recommend the paperback Robert Alter translation Genesis, though it may be difficult to find, even at used bookstores. If it's not available, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary has everything you need and more: 'Genesis' plus 'Exodus' etc, all from Robert Alter, fully annotated with his notes. Or you could simply read the King James Version of Genesis if you have a Bible handy.


Sponsorship funds are available to help make this experience possible if price is a barrier; apply here.


If you choose to pay $150, you are automatically making a $50 donation to the financial assistance fund. If you pay $200, you are making a $100 donation. Thank you for making this book club accessible to more people.


Illustrations by Michelangelo and Moshe Hoffman