25 July 2011

Review: The Lost World of Genesis One (John H. Walton)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins DebateThe Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a bit challenging, and I knew that going in. This book strikes at a very traditional view that I have been a proponent of for many, many years. But I wanted to at least consider the position, and having finished Walton's other book Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible I figured I would follow up with this title. I will say that having read his other book prior to this one was a huge help and made it that much easier to understand his position from the get-go.

Here is a very fundamental overview of the main thrust of this book: word for "create" is bara and when understood as the original ancient audience would have, does not give a meaning of material creation, but is a term used for establishing function. His previous book went into incredible detail in understanding how the ancient's understood things, and so this aspect of this book was therefore easier to grasp than it may be for others.

Overall this was a very interesting discussion, with a very compelling argument for his case. Still, it is a real hard pill to swallow after 30+ years of a traditional view. Some noteworthy quotes from the book:
Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to Old World science of antiquity. (Pg 19)

It has long been observed that in the context of bara no materials for the creative act are ever mentioned, and an investigation of all the passages mentioned above substantiate that claim. (Pg 43)

All of this information leads us to conclude that the "beginning" is a way of talking about the seven-day period rather than a point in time prior to the seven days. (Pg 45)

All of this indicates that cosmic creation in the ancient world was not viewed primarily as a process by which matter was brought into being, but as a process by which functions, roles, order, jurisdiction, organization and stability were established. (Pg 53)
Worth a read even if you disagree. understanding ancient thought on issues of cosmology is always a plus for understanding other biblical truths.

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