This is my third and final post on John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One from IVP-Academic. You can read my posts on the author and contents: here and here. Thanks again to IVP-Academic for sending a review copy.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. First, John Walton is an expert on the conceptual world of the Ancient Near East. His expertise is apparent from the titles of many of his previous works, and it shines through in The Lost World of Genesis One. He displays the breadth of his knowledge most clearly in the chapters concerning the functional, rather than material, orientation of ancient cosmologies and in the chapters concerning divine rest taking place in temples. Readers may disagree with Walton, but I don’t think they can do so because they feel he hasn’t done his homework.
Second, Walton communicates in clear, ordinary language. If you have paid attention to recent posts on this blog, you may have seen Joel mention Walton’s forthcoming academic work on Genesis 1. Academic writers sometimes experience difficulties writing books intended for a wider audience; Walton has avoided this problem. As a result, The Lost World of Genesis One is a book on the first chapter of the Bible that I would not hesitate to recommend to an interested lay person in my parish.
Third, I appreciate the author’s forthrightness concerning Genesis 1, the theory of evolution, and public education. Walton declares:
The concern of this book is neither to tell scientists how they should or should not do science, nor to determine what scientific conclusions are right or wrong. It should be noted that this book is not promoting evolution. The issue I have attempted to approach concerns what scientific ideas or conclusions that the believer who wants to take the Genesis account seriously is obliged to reject … Biological evolution is the reigning paradigm, so we have asked whether this view requires the believer to compromise theology or biblical teaching. We have concluded that there is nothing intrinsic to the scientific details (differentiated from the metaphysical implications that some draw) that would require compromise.
Amen. Now I only hope that Walton can keep his job.
I will conclude with one critique that I did have of the book. I could mention that I would have liked to have seen more discussion of Genesis 1 as polemic, but other scholars have taken on that task elsewhere. My main concern was with the front and back covers. Although I realize words like “new” and “landmark” help sell books, I think they were overdone on this one. While many readers, especially pastors and lay people, will find this book helpful, I wasn’t blown away by the newness of it all. The cultural climate makes the work timely, and Walton certainly adds to the discussion about Genesis 1, but “landmark” (see back cover)? I don’t know. Maybe I have drunk too deeply of Qohelet’s teaching (Ecc. 1.9).
Overall, I highly recommend The Lost World of Genesis One. The combination of Walton’s expertise and his ability to communicate in ordinary language makes for a beneficial, easy read. I also look forward to reading Walton’s academic treatment of Genesis 1 forthcoming from Eisenbrauns.
*** update – I have been informed that the forthcoming title had already forthcome when I wrote this – you can also find it here