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North Syracuse, NY
5 Stars Out Of 5
A tremendous book! A real game changer!
July 6, 2012
North Syracuse, NY
I begin by responding to the first reviewer who gave this book a 1. He was expecting something for the average layperson to read. It is therefore most unfortunate that his mistaken assumption resulted in a negative review of such an outstanding book. This book is written by a scholar for other scholars (primarilyâ€”though many informed pastors and laypeople can appreciate it if they have sufficient background). "Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology" was not intended for the average reader like "The Lost World of Genesis 1" was.
With that said, here's my review. Dr. Walton had a major insight back in 1998 that he followed up on with extensive research. It dawned on him that the ancients used a "functional" way of viewing creation vs. a "material" one, like we modern readers. This dramatically affects how we view Genesis 1 and other creation passages.
Walton published his idea in popular resources, apparently without first running it through the gauntlet of peer-reviewed scholarly evaluation. He wrote about his insight in his IVP Background commentary in 2000, his NIVAC commentary on Genesis in 2001, and of course in the "Lost World" in 2009. However, it's one thing to convince the general public who can't verify his insights from the Ancient Near East, it's another to persuade the scholarly community. In part, I'm guessing that's what "Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology" is all about.
In this book, Walton provides the firepower for his insight that unlocked many mysteries about Genesis 1. Genesis 1 has been so mysterious that it has generated countless different perspectives and interpretations, all of which somehow project our modern understandings onto the ancient author. In a sense Walton's insight and subsequent research allowed him to solve the mystery and provide a very clear understanding about what Genesis 1 is saying, verse by verse. He built on other scholars who provided well established "pieces" of the picture, but his insight tied it altogether.
As a scholarly treatise, this was a great read. I've read similar treatises that quote from German, French, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin without translating. So, while directed toward specialists, he made this more accessible (for folks like me who wanted a more rigorous investigation of the proposal in Lost World?).
This is an outstanding contribution to biblical scholarship. I think this book is a game changer that will affect the way that scholars, pastors, and lay readers will think about Genesis 1 for generations to come. They will acknowledge that the basic understanding of Genesis 1 has finally been apprehended with a great degree of confidence. His proposal makes SO much sense. Personally, my understanding of Genesis 1 has benefitted tremendously from Walton's writings and I am very grateful to him for that.
Thank you Dr. Walton!
I marked "value" not so high. The publisher could have produced this as softcover and sold it for $10-15 less. But that publisher specializes in scholarly treatises, and this volume was actually kind of cheap compared to their others!
After reading Mr Walton's other book: The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in this subject), I was eager to read this book also. My enthusiasm has dissipated significantly, however. The pages seem to drone on endlessly citing examples from what must be every last deity figure of the ancient world. I am 61 years old and have six years of post-high school education, and have an extensive Christian library which I am regularly adding to. In all my years of reading I can't recall a more tedious book than this one. It is excessively documented and footnoted with what seems to be every conceivable ancient religious, and modern theological reference to this subject. I would not recommend it to anyone, other than as a reference work for someone doing a doctoral dissertation on ancient cosmologies- for this it would be excellent! By the end of the second chapter my mind was swimming from the frequency of names of ancient deities, tablets, temples, and quotations of ancient texts, both in the text and in the abundant footnotes. I have no reason to believe that all of Mr walton's citations do not, in fact, support his conclusions; but for me they proved prohibitive to enjoying the book. This book would have been much more useful to ordinary christians to use in formulating (or adjusting/correcting) their beliefs regarding the origins debate if it were not (as I believe) so over-documented. I was hoping for a book which I could offer to my Christian and non-christian friends as a source of discussion in this very important area of debate. This book is not that book.