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

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  892 ratings  ·  143 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

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Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 22nd 2009 by IVP Academic
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,074)
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David
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
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David Shane
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
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
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Keith
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
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
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Yoana
"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
Blake
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
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Rob
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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Austin
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.

Pros:
-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
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Spencer
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
David Holford
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
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Andrew
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
Chuck
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
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Joel Burdine
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
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
Erika RS
The premise of this book is that reading the first chapter of Genesis as an account of physical creation is, in fact, misreading it. A more textually accurate -- and in that sense, a more literal reading -- would be to read it as a functional account of creation.

Walton starts by comparing Genesis 1 to other ancient cosmologies. He does not claim that it is based on those other cosmologies. Rather, his claim is that Genesis 1 serves the same basic function as other ancient cosmologies because tha
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Susan
Started reading this for many reasons - one of which is the number of young adults who were raised by the lessons of the Bible but found that as they reached adulthood they had to choose between science and the Bible. That choice shouldn't be one a person has to make. This book was very helpful in reconciling the truth of the Bible with empirical science. Highly recommend reading this book if you or you know of someone who is struggling with this choice.
Greg Williams
If you're interested in biblical interpretation of Genesis chapter 1 and how it either does or does not contradict evolutionary theory, I would recommend this book. It is a quick read and is well reasoned. In a nutshell, the author argues that Genesis 1 was never intended to reveal the physical mechanics of how the universe came to be. In the minds of its original audience (ancient Near East people), that would not even have been an interesting topic. Instead, its focus is on the purpose of crea ...more
Tim Woody
Even without addressing the arguments in John H. Walton's book I still have quite a lot to criticize. His arguments often felt vague and even after the first few chapters I still was wondering what his over arching point was. Even once he got around to explaining Genesis 1 as an account of the cosmic temple I still felt unconvinced on the basis of his arguments. I needed more information, more biblical texts and word studies but found it lacking. He also felt comfortable talking about the neutra ...more
Gretchen
Walton proposes an understanding of Genesis 1 not as a description of material creation but of functional creation, which is capped by God taking His rightful seat in the temple of the earth He has just created, sitting at the controls and reining as He should. While this proposed interpretation is good and valuable, the attempted incorporation into discussions of prevailing scientific theories are inconsistent philosophically. I do like, though, that he ultimately points out that his interpreta ...more
John Ellis
This is a book that I will work through with my children as they get older and begin to interact more with the discussions of origins through their science classes.

Chapter 18, "Public Science Education Should Be Neutral Regarding Purpose", is excellent!
Frank Peters
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
Laura
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
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Garrett
Hmmm... Struggling with how to rate this. I'd probably do 3.5 star if I could, but I can't bring myself to give it 4.

Overall, a lot of good ideas in this book, and I think Dr. Walton's general approach (being aware and respectful of the ANE setting the first readers of Genesis) would be helpful in any OT study. I think this is a good contribution to the discussion of Genesis, and I'd like to read the more technical volume from which this is drawn some time. However, I couldn't really follow his
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Steve Watson
A scholar of Genesis and of ancient Near Eastern cultures, myth, and legend presents a careful reading of the first biblical creation narrative. Argues that its author never meant it to speak to material creation, but to functional creation. Makes wonderful sense of the text, and there's lots of really great stuff here, particularly in the first half of the book.

It's left me thinking about the significance of day following night, of how wonderful it is that all the world is made for humans with
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Scott Hayden
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
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Tom Robson
I found this really helpful for reading genesis faithfully. I have re-assessed my prior interpretation that may have been too heavily influenced by a modern British translation and cosmology.

It's actually liberating to see how genesis one is not hostage to modern scientific questions, ie either forces into their framework or directly opposed. The background on function as the appropriate covert begin create just seems to make a lot of sense. I need to read more widely on this but I thoroughly re
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Mike Decamp
IF you enjoy having your mind stretched...and IF you don't mind entertaining concepts that may be outside the traditions you've grown up with...and IF you can work your way through a very technical and intellectually written book...and IF you are tired of the age-old arguments about how old the Earth is...THEN, you will love this little book. This book takes the argument between those who believe Genesis 1 is literal & the Earth is only 6000 years old and those who believe the Earth is perha ...more
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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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More about John H. Walton...
Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament Genesis (The NIV Application Commentary ) Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority

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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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