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The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,362 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
In this astute mix of cultural critique and biblical studies, John H. Walton presents and defends twenty propositions supporting a literary and theological understanding of Genesis 1 within the context of the ancient Near Eastern world and unpacks its implications for our modern scientific understanding of origins.

Ideal for students, professors, pastors and lay readers wi

Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 22nd 2009 by IVP Academic
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James I think that is an interesting but unanswerable question. We can't know his mind and motivations so we can only examine his arguments. His stated…moreI think that is an interesting but unanswerable question. We can't know his mind and motivations so we can only examine his arguments. His stated conclusions is that it doesn't matter if evolution is true or not because it doesn't take away from the authoritative nature that people attribute to Genesis 1.

I know a lot of people who would find that appealing not because it allows them to accept evolution but because it allows them not to address or even think about it. But again, that has no bearing on the validity of the argument of the argument he is making (of which I do not mean to take a stand on here).(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 15, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: bible
A great book on how to read Genesis 1. Walton argues that when we look at the ancient context we see that creation is Genesis 1 is not material, rather it is functional. In other words, though Christians believe God created the materials (the stuff), Genesis 1 is about how this stuff was given its functions (jobs). All sides in the debate on Genesis 1 are mistaken then, for they assume create is to create the materials when it actually is to give them function.

From this he argues that Christians
David Shane
Apr 14, 2013 David Shane rated it it was ok
I had mixed feelings about this book, and am rather surprised it has been so favorably reviewed, actually. The author's big idea is that Genesis 1 is not actually an account of material origins, but rather an account of functional origins - it is an account of God giving functions to the pieces of the cosmos. (Walton doesn't deny that God is also responsible for the material creation of the universe, he just doesn't think that's what Genesis 1 is about.) He offers the analogy of a computer - whe ...more
Ben Zajdel
Dec 17, 2011 Ben Zajdel rated it it was amazing
There are countless books arguing about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. At first glance, The Lost World of Genesis One would seem to be one more addition to what is becoming a frivolous library. But upon more careful inspection, one would find that it is actually an original approach with a much different conclusion.

John H. Walton approaches the first chapter of Genesis from a literary and historical context, rather than a scientific one. His idea is simple: read Genesis one thr
Nov 01, 2011 Keith rated it it was amazing
Certainly the best interpretation of Genesis One i've heard yet. Walton argues that Genesis One is meant to set forth the function of the creation rather than merely a materialistic account of how the world came to be. One of the main differences between the Hebrew creation story and other ancient creation stories, is that most other accounts show the world as being made for the gods and humans created to cater to the gods. The Hebrew creation account reveals a world that is meant to serve the n ...more
Paul Bruggink
Nov 02, 2012 Paul Bruggink rated it really liked it
The author is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and wrote the volume on Genesis in Zondervan's NIV Application Commentary series, as well as "Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context" and "Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament."

This book is written for lay persons, pastors and science teachers who want "some stimulating ideas for thinking about the Bible, theology, faith and science." The purpose of the book is to "introduce the reader to a careful reconsider
Jan 09, 2015 Blake rated it it was amazing
The basic premise of this book is that Genesis One is primarily about God and His Godhood, not earth and its materialhood. It is best served with a slice of Thomas Kuhn. Cue controversy.

While the scientific, theological, and spiritual questions (to say the least historical and social), that are raised by Walton's brilliant and thorough interpretation of Genesis One are quite serious and problematic, they possess the virtue of being the right problems. I agree with Walton that, while recognizing
Apr 09, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
My review:

John Walton is one of the top evangelical scholars on the Old Testament, so I was very pleased to hear he had written a book on this subject. The book has very careful, respectful, orthodox scholarship and remains accessible due to the clear writing style and the book's format of 17 propositions each supported by a short chapter. I found his argument very compelling.

My summary of the argument:

Scripture never attempts to modify Israel's scientific understanding of the world: a flat wor
May 03, 2016 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really helpful in flipping upside down the modern desires and questions that we place on Genesis 1. First and foremost, we should seek to know what Genesis 1 meant for the author and the original audience and then work back from there. Ultimately, Walton's thesis is that Genesis 1 isn't a scientific dissertation on material origins rather it is focused with functional origins, which the ancient Near East was far more concerned about. It's not that God didn't create all of the mater ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Yoana rated it it was amazing
"Nobody is an infallible interpreter, and we must always stand ready to reconsider our interpretations in light of new information. We must not let our interpretations stand in the place of Scripture's authority and thus risk misrepresenting God's revelation. We are willing to bind reason if our faith calls for belief where reason fails. But we are also people who in faith seek learning. What we learn may cause us to reconsider interpretations of Scripture, but need never cause us to question th ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Rob rated it it was amazing
A superb book! Walton's premise is that to correctly interpret the first chapter of Genesis, one must read it within the context of the time and culture in which and for which it was written. The conclusion is that there really is no conflict between modern science (evolution, old earth, etc) and evangelical Christian faith as long as the underlying metaphysical assumptions are properly considered. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I wish I had read it 15 years ago!
Mary Fisher
Mar 10, 2012 Mary Fisher rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I currently am rereading this book. I have been awaiting this book for years. It should be required reading for every student at Seminary and Christian Colleges. Along with Enns, Walton is causing the Evangelical world to be a lot more honest about how we read the teאt.
Drew Darby
Aug 01, 2014 Drew Darby rated it really liked it
Finally got around to reading this little book. As a person with a fair bit of training in biblical literature I was jazzed up at the idea of exploring the "world of Genesis 1," which I was thinking of as the larger religio-/mythico-/sociological views and ideas of ancient cultures of the Near East and how the vision of Genesis 1 might be interacting with those.

This book is not that, however, although Walton touches on those issues. Rather, it is a concise treatise organized around propositions
Scott Hayden
Jan 10, 2015 Scott Hayden rated it did not like it
Not convinced.

John Walton's main idea is that God never intended Genesis chapter 1 to communicate anything at all about the material origins of the universe. Instead, it's more a ceremony of temple inauguration in which God claimed the universe as his dwelling and sacred meeting place with man.

Walton starts in proposition 2 by sowing confusion about what "existence" would mean to ancient peoples, then builds his case from there. But Genesis never uses the word "existence".

Author assumes too m
David Holford
May 20, 2014 David Holford rated it it was amazing
This is a book that every evangelical interested in issues surrounding Genesis 1 should read. It is also a book that every evangelical who thinks they have no issues surrounding Genesis 1 should read. And it is a book that every non-evangelical should read to make clear that evangelical scholarship on Genesis 1 is not entirely mired in simplistic fundamentalism.

I wish this book had a different title. It sounds like either Walton is offering some sort of esoteric knowledge or a map to Atlantis. T
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
Essential illumination of Genesis one's purpose.
Jul 08, 2015 Daniel rated it really liked it
This book will certainly change no one's mind very far on origin issues. But Walton does introduce some pertinent issues about the Genesis account that usually go unknown or ignored.

The thrust of the book is that to get to a "literal" reading of Genesis 1, you have to put aside the thousands of years of translation and consider the most probable meaning of the original language. (As evidence he looks into similar language elsewhere in the Old Testament.) Further, you need to know how the origina
Isaiah the Ox
Jan 21, 2015 Isaiah the Ox rated it liked it
Shelves: christian, report
An interesting read. I read this book for a report I am doing for school, so I mostly skimmed, looking for important things to take note of. The following is my opinion of the book.

-The book had a very interesting explanation of Genesis 1. I have been looking Biblical metaphysical explanations of Genesis, and this definitely was helpful.
-I appreciated that the book explained the theory in mostly understandable terms. (see cons)
-I also appreciated that the author himself did not agree with e
Philip Taylor
Jul 05, 2016 Philip Taylor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 01_gen
Probably the most stimulating book I have read in the last 10 years. I have given it 5 stars for that reason (not because it is perfect). Any book that really pushes you to search the Scriptures is worth reading and pondering more then once.
The ideas are interesting but I don't really care for the writing style.
Apr 10, 2014 Spencer rated it really liked it
This is a great piece of thoughtful exegesis that argues Genesis One is offering an ontology (account of being) that has to do with spiritual function rather than material origin. In so doing, he points out that Genesis One is very much assuming the pre-modern cosmology of its day: domed sky, flat earth, etc. I have insisted that young earth creationists, far from reading Genesis One closely (much less thoughtfully) have completely disregarded some of the central descriptors in Genesis One in or ...more
Frank Peters
Apr 24, 2014 Frank Peters rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding book that is concerned about how one should perform a literal reading of Genesis 1 according to when it was written and the culture it was written to. The main point of the book is that Genesis 1 is not concerned with the material origins of the universe, but rather with the functional origins. The author refers to this as the Cosmic Temple Inauguration view. To support his case, the author delves through writings contemporary with Genesis showing that the ancients did not ...more
Joe Iovino
Feb 20, 2012 Joe Iovino rated it really liked it
In The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate John H. Walton asserts that a proper, and what he calls "literal," reading of Genesis 1 does not concern material creation of the world, but rather the functional creation of the cosmos. This does not deny that God is the creator of the material, but simply that Genesis 1 is an account of that process. The author of Genesis 1 is explaining God gives function to all that has been created, bringing order out of the chaos of ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the debate concerning Genesis and origins. Walton begins with careful contextual exegesis of Genesis 1, arguing that it offers a functional account of creation, rather than a material one. That is, Genesis 1 is about God giving function and purpose to the cosmos, rather than the creation of matter that takes on those functions. Modern assumptions - specifically, a material ontology - cause us to read it as an account of material origi ...more
Adam Shields
May 30, 2011 Adam Shields rated it really liked it
Short review: A careful and compelling book about Genesis one story of creation. The main argument is that the creation story is not about the material creation, but the functional creation (for instance day 1 was about the creation of order in time, not the physical creation of light photons.) Walton (a professor at Wheaton and Moody Bible Institute, so not 'liberal schools') is trying to show that the best reading of scripture is the one that takes into account what the author intended and wha ...more
Mar 10, 2015 Chuck rated it really liked it
The introduction and first chapters of this book are worth the cost. A convincing statement about why reading with a fresh view is so hard yet so essential. Walton's arguments for an ANE reading of the chapter are convincing. His model of how to evaluate word meanings is insightful.

Many readers will not agree with some of his conclusions relative to evolution, etc. He carefully and tactfully leaves the door open for all kinds of responses to the issues of science, evolution, etc.

This is a helpfu
James S. Martin Jr.
Absolutely awesome exegesis and overall interpretation. Challenging book.

Absolutely awesome exegesis and overall interpretation. Challenging book. Brings very timely and broad response to numerous contemporary issues from Genesis 1.
Joel Burdine
Feb 11, 2015 Joel Burdine rated it really liked it
Walton offers a helpful reading of Genesis 1 through the lens of ancient cosmology. He explains Genesis 1 in terms of the inauguration and ordering of the Temple (the cosmos). Wonderful read and exercise in reading the Bible through ancient eyes.
Christopher Sumpter
May 27, 2013 Christopher Sumpter rated it really liked it
This book made me seriously reconsider my view of Genesis 1. I have for some time felt that it was a poetic rather than a literal, scientific depiction of the creation of the cosmos. Walton's contention, however, is that Genesis 1 has nothing at all to do with material creation but rather with the creation of functions in the universe. His depiction of creation as a temple enthronement narrative was interesting but less clear than it might have been. The weakest part of his argument seems to be ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Jerry rated it really liked it
Walton, professor at Wheaton (and formerly at Moody when my wife was), uses his expert knowledge of ancient Creation stories to describe Genesis 1 as functional creation. His focus is what the original audience experienced when they heard it.

I find it excellent to create space for understanding Genesis along with a robust view of Science as it never has to be either/or. I would recommend this book in conjunction with Peter Enn's Evolution of Adam and James Jordan's Through New Eyes, for more ba
Brent Wilson
Jun 13, 2016 Brent Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This book approaches the creation story in Genesis in a way that maintains faith, a sovereign God, and Biblical authority. Intended mostly for Evangelicals (I assume), the author's stance is not critical as in challenging/question the text, but it does set some bounds on expectations - the text isn't a scientific treatise and won't fit 21st-century knowledge and worldviews in that way.

A central point: The story explains how things were made to work and fit together rather than how they came to e
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament; Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context; Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Pla
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“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God's presence.” 5 likes
“It seems to many that they have to make a choice: either believe the Bible and hold to a young earth, or abandon the Bible because of the persuasiveness of the case for an old earth. The good news is that we do not have to make such a choice. The Bible does not call for a young earth. Biblical faith need not be abandoned if one concludes from the scientific evidence that the earth is old.” 2 likes
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