Free Press, November 2009
In this vivid new interpretation of Genesis, former Episcopal priest
John R. Coats looks at the ancient text and its characters in a new
light, as stories about people whose day-to-day concerns, triumphs, and
failures are not unlike our own. In fact, understanding the people and
stories of Genesis can help you understand your own life, family, and
colleagues. In the relationships of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau,
Rachel and Leah, and Joseph and his brothers, for instance, you can see
an all too familiar escalation of the toxic sibling or even workplace
rivalries that tear at the fabric of contemporary life. And in
Abraham's ponderous response to the command to "Go forth," and Noah's
unquestioning commitment to build the ark, you can revisit the question
of your own life's path -- your calling.
In Original Sinners, these characters take on stunning
contemporary relevance as they find themselves confronted with
extraordinary situations and circumstances that they'd neither asked
for nor had anything to say about. Using stories from his life as well
as the lives of people he's known, Coats creates a model that can be
used to examine your own life and discover aspects of yourself in the
characters whose lives unfold in these primordial stories.
Weaving together biblical scholarship from many traditions with his
own reflections on modern life experiences, Coats explores the
character strengths and weaknesses of the men and women in Genesis (and
of his own character), revealed through their handling of ordinary
matters of life and death as well as in their encounters with the
Was Jacob a heartless grifter or simply clever? Was Eve the original sinner or an innocent? Was Joseph a self-absorbed brat or a forward-thinking leader? In Original Sinners, Coats pulls back the wrappings that have hidden the humanity of biblical figures and reveals the vibrant drama of these foundational narratives. "Different clothing, yes, and language, and customs, yet at the human level," he writes, "they were just as greedy and generous as we are, as gullible and crafty, as moronic and brilliant, as cowardly and brave. They are us, their stories, our stories, mirrors in which to see our best and worst selves."
Hardcover | ISBN: 9781439102090 | Publication Date: November 2009
"For far too long (forever, in fact), Western civilization has been rolling atop a wave-tossed sea of biblical assumptions about who we are, where we came from, and what on earth we're doing here. Anyone with a fresh desire to stand steady on the deck of Judeo-Christian theology could not hope for a better navigator than John Coats, the most perfect guide through these troubled waters, an eloquent and generous writer who casts illumination in all directions. Plus, there's a secret pleasure to Original Sinners: it's enormously fun to read."
--Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands and The Immaculate Invasion
"John Coats writes with insight, passion, humor, and wisdom about
core human narratives. Original Sinners reminds us that the
of Genesis are alive in each of us, and artfully braids in key episodes
from his own life to make the point. There is a verifying resonance in
these pages -- a sense that one's deepest questions have been
anticipated and addressed."
--Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
"This immensely readable book blends biblical exegesis and personal
memoir in a wonderfully engaging synthesis. The spiritual quest is
humanized by a taste for nitty-gritty honesty and humor. Coats's casual
conversational style becomes the perfect vehicle for his impressive
erudition, psychological insight, and wisdom."
--Phillip Lopate, author of The Art of the Personal Essay
"A unique, powerful way of looking at Genesis, Original Sinners is
a book of revelations -- about John Coats's riveting life and
all of the characters we thought we knew from the book of Genesis. From
the moment Adam finds 'a new creature in the garden who makes him feel
all funny,' Coats makes Genesis come alive in a sparkling, imaginative,
gutsy new way, pulling powerful new lessons out of ancient texts."
--Priscilla Warner, coauthor of The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew -- Three Women Search for Understanding
"John Coats is a damn good storyteller, and Original Sinners
you examine what you know or think you know about both religion and the
world. It matters not if you are versed in religion or just discovering
how it fits your life -- an entirely new understanding of these people,
places, and times unfolds beautifully."
--Michael Goins, professor of writing, University of Texas at San Antonio