Dr. Walton presents an interpretation of Genesis 1 that is basically new. He argues for an understanding of the creation account as one of function and that it should not be read as an account of physical origins. This is certainly a radically different approach than anything (conservative or liberal) that I have come across before and would seem to cause alarm in both camps. This new understanding is far more convincing on certain creation days than others. Nevertheless, his argument seems cogent and I very much look forward to seeing its reception in the broader academic world as I am still seeking other feedback on it.
I suggest you show my review to the owner of the company. I believe he or she will be surprised.
John Walton discusses Genesis in terms of the language God used to address the culture at the time. And I agree with this basic premise. God was setting up functions for man, and while he was making materials, the functions were made by God without explanation of how it was done. Agree. The culture and language of the Bible would have been understood in terms of a functional creation. I also agreed with the rest of the book....until I got to the FAQ.
Look at the second FAQ where it discusses how dinosaurs and fossil "homo" specimens fit it. Apparently, Walton hid this until this section and then postulates that these creatures preceded the 7 days of Genesis....wha???? So God did not make the dinosaurs with the other animals? and the "homo" fossils? are they men or apes???? They came before the Genesis 7 days?
This book tanks dramatically in the FAQ. Walton has excessively liberal ideas which he hides in the back section of his book. If I would recommend one thing about this book, I would say eliminate this book from your offerings.
The idea of understanding the Bible literally is often a rallying cry of Evangelicals. However, problems arise when we try to mesh scientific data with Biblical truth - especially when it comes to Genesis 1 and 2. Science says the universe is billions of years old, whereas a "literal" reading of Genesis would say it's only a few thousand. Numerous answers to this problem abound and Walton adds a fresh perspective to the mix. He points out that when most people say "I read the Bible literally", what they are actually saying is "this is what the Bible really means".
Walton believes in the literal truth of Genesis 1 and 2 and his book is a wonderful explanation of what this really means. Rather than impose modern ideas of the cosmos into Genesis, instead we should be asking "How would have the ancient Israelites understood this?" After all, Genesis was written originally for them. His main point is that Genesis isn't so much concerned about questions of age and how humans came to be, so much as God giving the various aspects to his creation a function. Walton works through the six days, explaining the functional aspect to them, as well as explaining how day seven fits in with the ancient idea of Temple and rest.
The latter half of the book deals with related issues to his proposal - critiquing some of the other main Creation theories, some of his thoughts on Intelligent Design, what science tries to achieve, teaching science in school and how his understanding strengthens our theology of Genesis 1.
Overall, this is a fantastic read. It's only 170 pages but don't let the brevity fool you - this is deep and very theological/philosophical stuff here. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how to understand Genesis 1-2 and I hope that this alleviates many faithful who try to reconcile the Bible with modern science. I'm sure this book will cause controversy with some, but I think Walton presents some fairly solid evidence with his 18 propositions.
I'm going to attempt to be as balanced as possible with my review. Like any book, this one has both positives and negatives, but in this case the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Positives: Walton is a very respected OT scholar in both evangelical and critical circles, so a book like this one is long overdue. Overall, his discussion of ANE concepts of origins is enlightening and it often challenges long-held assumptions.
Negatives: At times, Walton seems to be very redundant. If one has read his discussion of the issue in "ANE Thought and the OT" the issues will seem rather surface level. At times he doesn't make his functional/material distinction very clear. In fact, I wasn't quite sure what his view was by the end of the book. Nevertheless, this book will really get readers thinking about issues of interpretation.
Overall, Walton has made a much-needed contribution to the ongoing origins dialogue.