The Lost World of Genesis 1

The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and author of several excellent Bible commentaries, is a fascinating and insightful book.

It suggests that Genesis 1 was not written to describe the material creation of the universe, but rather was intended to depict God's ordering of the various parts of the universe into a functioning whole, one that reflected the Cosmos as a Temple, the dwelling-place of God (much as Isaiah 66:1 says: "“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool," NLT). Walton gets there, not from a desire to reconcile the Bible with science (or vice versa), but from a careful, methodical exegesis of Genesis 1 as an ancient, Near Eastern depiction of Creation, which (he says, quite convincingly) focused not on material origins but on functional origins. It sounds confusing to hear me describe it, but Walton makes his case quite compellingly, considering not only the demands of the Biblical text but also the expectations of ancient cosmology and comparisons with creation accounts in other ancient sources.

Walton says the ancient Hebrews (when Genesis was written) "thought about the cosmos in much the same way that anyone in the ancient world thought, and not at all like anyone thinks today. And God did not think it important to revise their thinking." He writes, "If we try to turn [Genesis 1] into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said." And, "To create something (cause it to exist) in the ancient world means to give it a function, not material properties." And (though I could easily include many more statements I highlighted), "Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture."

The Lost World of Genesis 1 should be required reading for every pastor, church leader, teacher--heck, every follower of Jesus and believer in the Bible's truth. Its short chapters and generally accessible style make it both entertaining and informative for anyone. I hope you'll read it. And I hope it will influence all of us in the Church and guide our discussions and debates about Creation, evolution, the age of the earth, and so on.

No comments:

Post a Comment