First of all, let me preface this by stating that Peter Enns is crystal clear that his audience is Christians who accept evolution as a powerful explanatory force. Thus, it is pretty obvious that anyone who doesn't share his assumptions will necessarily give the book a bad review. Peter is not trying to be convincing to creationists of any sort; instead, he focuses his attention on those for whom evolutionary biology is theologically challenging, yet a scientific reality. Any review that doesn't share these pre-commitments will by necessity lack much force in determining the book's effectiveness. I begin by admitting that I share Enns's assumptions and, on that basis, find this book to be extremely helpful.
The book is divided into two sections. Section one is focused on Genesis, while section two aims to deal with the question of Paul.
First the section on Genesis:
Enns begins by discussing issues that shape the way Genesis is understood today. He introduces both internal and external issues that suggest that genesis is concerned with far more than just a simple history. His thesis is well respected amongst biblical scholars today, namely, that Genesis -in its final form- reflects the concerns of an exiled people group and tells the story of primeval history to answer questions relevant to that time period. Externally, Enns brings up the issue of similarity to other sources, but he doesn't accuse the writers of genesis of plagiarism. He asks probing questions that challenge the legitimacy of viewing Gen 1-11 as pure history. The question for Enns (here, as well as in the rest of the book) is this: are we being true to the text, or arbitrarily asserting things to solve problems?
Next we come to the section on Paul's view of Adam:
Up until the last chapter, Enns says very little about the Adam problem, except to remind readers that that is indeed the topic of the book. Much time is spent laying the groundwork so that when Adam is discussed, everything falls into place. Enns does not pretend to have all the answers, but only hopes to be a voice in the dialogue, one that recognizes the need to deal with Adam and evolution responsibly.
As one of the reviewers of the book (on the back cover) stated, Peter Enns has felt the ramifications of thinking long and hard about the issues of this book. He has every reason to be bitter, yet he comes across as very gracious and charitable. That alone makes it worth picking up. However, my hope is that one will find helpful suggestions for approaching the issue of Adam and evolution and Paul. Just remember that Enns assumes evolution to be true and assumes that biblical scholarship is on the right trajectory. Thus, he doesn't TRY to address creationist objections to those positions, and reviewers should bear this in mind before putting him down because of it. Do with Peter's book what he asks you to do with the Bible: Read it and try to understand what the author is saying. Be creative if necessary. Don't take everything he says on faith, but work it out. If you do those things, this book promises to bear fruit.
There is some good material in this book with regard to OT studies. However Enns makes the unfortunate assumption that if something is written in Babylonian literature that it must not have happened in any historical sense. For example he states that because the Biblical creation account has some commonality with other creation stories in Near Eastern literature that this makes the Biblical account mythical and only symbolic since he assumes that these other accounts are purely mythical. But wait a minute! Isn't it possible that there is historical truth that has been misrepresented in Near Eastern literature which the Biblical narrator corrects? Enns really is trying to convince us to believe that Adam was not a historical figure, but some mythical symbolic representation of humanity. He doesn't make his case. Thus his hermeneutic is VERY flawed. Would the first hearers and readers believe that the Biblical Adam was a mythical figure? He doesn't make that case at all. Adam is viewed as an historical figure throughout the genealogies in both the OT and NT texts. Adam is given a specific age in which he died just like other persons of the Bible! He doesn't even begin to answer that problem. If Adam is a mythical figure are the rest of the people in the genealogies mythical? He doesn't deal with this. He selectively chooses the material he wants to discuss while leaving out serious counter arguments to his own suppositions. His argument is so flawed it is hardly worth the time to consider. For that reason it is a pathetically weak and flawed presentation. But it is a good read to show at what lengths people who are Evolutionists want to twist the scriptural text to conform to their "science." To some degree it parallels how "young earth creationists" are willing to twist science to conform science to what they think the Biblical text is saying. Enns does have some interesting insights into OT theology that are helpful. That's about the only redeeming aspect of this book.