Book Review: The Lost World of Genesis One

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

by John H. Walton

IVP Academic

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book is a tale with two halves. The first half is worth reading, the second is not.

It also has a companion book: The Lost World of Adam and Eve.

In the first half of the book Walton lays out an alternative view to the Genesis 1 creation account where he makes the case for a “functional” creation description versus the traditional “material” creation account. Here is his description:

“In conclusion, analysts of the ancient Near Eastern creation literature often observe that nothing material is actually made in these accounts. This is an intriguing observation. Scholars who have assumed that true acts of creation must by definition involve production of material objects are apparently baffled that all of these so-called creation texts have nothing of what these scholars would consider to be creation activities. I propose that the solution is to modify what we consider creation activities based on what we find in the literature. If we follow the sense of the literature and its ideas of creation, we find that people in the ancient Near East did not think of creation in terms of making material things—instead, everything is function oriented. The gods are beginning their own operations and are making all of the elements of the cosmos operational. Creation thus constituted bringing order to the cosmos from an originally nonfunctional condition. It is from this reading of the literature that we may deduce a functional ontology in the ancient world—that is, that they offer accounts of functional origins rather than accounts of material origins. Consequently, to create something (cause it to exist) in the ancient world means to give it a function, not material properties.”

I thought this part of the book was well argued and compelling. The connection to temple and sabbath were especially interesting.

But like all conservatives they have trouble staying in their lane. So the last part of the book is a laborious conversation about how this view helps/hinders the origins debate – which only exists in their world, a lost world of its own. It includes an odd section on Public Education. If you, like me, consider the “origins” debate fundamentalist detritus that is both bad science and bad Bible reading, read the first half, skip the second.

3 stars = 1st half of the book 5 stars, second half 1 star.

This book makes me want to explore these books:

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