May 26, 2009
The Lost World of Genesis One (Part One)
Several weeks ago, In his Christianity Today review of Davis Young and Ralph Stearley’s The Bible, Rocks and Time, Marcus R. Ross of Liberty University was not satisfied with the authors’ handling of the six days of Genesis 1. Young and Stearley are critical of various views favored by young earth creationists (YECs), but in Ross’s view, they do not make a “positive case” for their favored “framework hypothesis.” Ross maintains that the YEC view is not built on simply one chapter of Scripture, Genesis 1, and that while Young and Stearley have given YECs much to think about, in their focusing on only the first chapter of Genesis, they have not gone far enough.
There probably is some truth in that critique, but not enough to apologize for another book that focuses exclusively on Genesis 1! This week we are releasing John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Davis Young has read Walton’s book and says this:
Not to put too fine a point on it, John Walton has laid an explosive charge at the foot of the main weight-bearing column of the YEC superstructure. We can talk about all those other things YECs would like to discuss, but first we need to talk about Genesis 1—in its ancient Near Eastern context.
One of the truly disheartening things for me, as an evangelical who has spent his career in biblical studies, is that so many of our brothers and sisters are stuck in an untenable reading of Genesis 1. I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that it will always be so, and that it is the never ending responsibility of the church’s teachers (from scholars to ministers and educated lay leaders) to teach. And how can you responsibly teach this “creation text” if you do not pay heed to its ancient Near Eastern context. Or if you continue to let contemporary issues and pressures (including pressures from your ecclesial community) determine the outcome of your interpretation of Genesis 1 (or 2, for that matter). In some evangelical communities this takes courage. But if our hermeneutical courage can’t be aroused here, then where and when?
Having said that, it should also be admitted that few of us have the opportunity to study the ancient Near Eastern background of a text like Genesis 1 in real depth. We might have a copy of Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, which we bought on someone’s recommendation, and we may have read a good deal of it. If we are more ambitious, we might have sprung for the affordable 3-volume paperback edition of The Context of Scripture. And it waits on our shelf for that day when we have the time to explore it more fully. But even then, on that distant and happy day, we might still find ourselves struggling with the broader hermeneutical context of The Context of Scripture. What shall we do with what we find?
Enter John Walton, who has spent much of his scholarly career exploring the OT in its ancient Near Eastern context. And he is a solid, centrist evangelical, having taught at Moody and now at Wheaton. So you know he is committed to the authority of Scripture. He is respected by his peers in evangelical OT scholarship. He is a voice that evangelicals can trust. And he deserves a careful and respectful hearing.
(To be continued)