Thursday, June 4, 2009

Genesis 1 - John Walton and A New Perspective on Genesis?

The fun thing about reading more than one book at a time is finding similar thoughts expressed in widely different contexts. I started reading John Walton's new book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origin's Debate, and thought it soundly strangely familiar to another book I'm currently reading: Justification by N.T. Wright. Here's what I'm talking about. The first quote is from Wright and the second from Walton.

"If you read your own question into the text, and try to get an answer from it, when the text itself is talking about something else, you run the risk not only of hearing only the echo of your own voice rather than the word of God but also of missing the key point that the text was actually eager to tell you, and which you have brushed aside in your relentless quest for your own meaning." (42)

"All of these issues are modern issues imposed on the text and not the issues in the culture of the ancient world. We cannot expect the text to address them, nor can we configure the information of the text to force it to comply with the questions we long to have answered. We must take the text on its own terms--it is not written to us. Much to our dismay then, we will find that the text is impervious to many of the questions that consume us in today's dialogues. Though we long for the Bible to weigh in on these issues and give us biblical perspectives or answers, we dare not impose such an obligation on the text. God has chosen the agenda of the text, and we must be content with the wisdom of his choices. If we attempt to commandeer the text to address our issues, we distort it in the process." (21)

I'm about a third of the way through Wright but one of the endorsements on the back of Walton's book said "every Christian. . .must put aside all other reading material this minute and immediately begin to absorb the contents of [Walton's book]." So I did. I must say though I was already familiar with Walton's views I'm already impressed with the clarity this book provides. This is an important work and should be must reading (admittedly an over used phrase) for anyone interested in creation and Genesis.

Both Wright and Walton are prepping the reader for what is to come and the necessary ground work for that is, in part, to make them aware of how terribly easy it is for us to impose our own thoughts and concepts on to a text. No one is calling Walton's view the "New Perspective" on Genesis but given the similar cautions and warnings as Wright he is clearly preparing the reader for somthing new. So, I called it the New Perspective on Genesis. The similarites end there since both are dealing with very different contexts. But while the material context may differ both are advocating for a serious and careful consideration of the cultural context for a proper interpreation of the Biblical text.

I will do a proper review in a latter post but for now I should say Wright may have to wait till I'm done with Walton. I have been anxiously awaiting for Walton's book. I won't tell you to stop what you're reading and start Walton but maybe you could make it number two on your list.

1 comment:

Paul said...

If you keep this up, then I'll need a bailout to support my book-buying habit!