Top positive review
Lost World Understood
on 30 March 2018
John Walton is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois, USA. In this book he re-examines the early chapters of Genesis in the light of the “cognitive environment” of the ancient Hebrews rather than imposing modern concepts and ways of thinking onto the text. We have to set aside our cultural assumptions and consider the text in relation to the ways of thinking of the ancient Near East. For example, “people in the ancient world had no category for what we call natural laws…they were more inclined to see the world’s operation in terms of divine cause…They would have viewed the cosmos not as a machine but as a kingdom…” (page 18). In particular we have to analyse the original Hebrew words and not rely on English translations. Walton has made a thorough analysis of the meanings of certain words, such as “bara” (create) and “asa” (made), as they are used throughout the Old Testament.
Walton’s twenty-one chapters are labelled as “Propositions”, which he sets out to establish. For example, in Genesis chapter one, God does not “create” in the sense of bringing material things into existence; He brings order, or organisation, to things; assigning roles and functions. So on Day Four the (already existing) Sun and Moon are given the functions of governing day and night and marking days and years and celebrations.
Human beings are created in God’s image to share this function of bringing order to the world. The garden in which Adam and Eve are placed is to be identified as “Sacred Space”, where God will dwell. However Adam and Eve tried to make themselves the centre of order and source of wisdom; and thereby brought disorder and chaos into the world.
While Adam and Eve are to be seen as archetype humans, Walton believes that the Bible does not teach that they were the first humans to be created nor that all humans today are genetically descended from them.
Walton’s conclusions will no doubt be unpalatable to Young Earth Creationists but for the rest of us, they will make more sense than a literal six-day creation. There is no case here for a clash between the Bible and Science.