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

(The Lost World Series #2)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,223 ratings  ·  297 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 May 22nd 2009 by IVP Academic
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Mabel I don't think so. On page 170, he writes, "The interpretation set forth in this book arose out of my desire to fully understand the biblical text.…moreI don't think so. On page 170, he writes, "The interpretation set forth in this book arose out of my desire to fully understand the biblical text. Understanding evolution and its role is a much lower value."

To another question (on the same page) he writes, "I believe that this is a literal reading. A literal reading requires an understanding of the Hebrew language and the Israelite culture. I believe that the reading I have offered is the most literal reading at this point. Someone who claims a "literal" reading based on their thinking about the English world "create" may not be reading the text literally at all, because the English word is of little significance in the discussion."(less)

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4.22  · 
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 ·  2,223 ratings  ·  297 reviews

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Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 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
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
Paul Bruggink
Nov 02, 2012 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
Nov 01, 2011 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
Mary Fisher
Feb 23, 2012 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.
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Summary: Walton argues from our knowledge of the ancient cultures in Israel’s context that Genesis 1 is a functional account of how the cosmos is being set up as God’s temple rather than an account of material origins.

Some time back, I reviewed The Lost World of Adam and Eve, which is the sequel to this book. I thought it did one of the best jobs I’ve seen of showing how we must try to understand the book of Genesis as its recipients would have in their own cultural context, rather than trying t
Mar 11, 2014 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
Jan 09, 2015 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
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look at Genesis from a perspective that I can most relate to: literary. The author's focus is on Genesis as an ancient text, written to a group of people living in a certain time, and the perspective (and language) that they would have understood, and the implications to us reading it millennia later.

His premise that Genesis 1 is not actually an account of the material origin of the universe (not to say that God did not create the materials, but rather that this account is
Aurel Lazar
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Wow. Wow! It's rare I find a book that lays out an argument in a clear, concise, and readable way; an argument that presents its points and its conclusions as a series of propositions. Walton's book on the first chapter of Genesis is a fascinating look into how our modern empirical scientific worldview causes many readers of Genesis to impose a material ontology onto a story concerned with functional ontology. From this, he looks at its teleological implications in our modern society.

Walton come
Jacob Aitken
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Like the other “Lost World” books, this is written in proposition format, which makes the arguments easy to follow. Walton is very clear, even on points where I disagree. There are some flaws in this work, but it is a valuable text.

Proposition 1: Genesis 1 is Ancient Cosmology

This shouldn’t be a controversial claim. The earth might be 6,000 years old, but there isn’t any underlying science that matches with Genesis 1. Ancient man wouldn’t have been as interested in Answers in Genesis as he would
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
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
Jan 18, 2013 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
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!
Ko Matsuo
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is an eye opening look at Genesis 1. Walton asserts that we have engaged in "cultural imperialism" by lifting Genesis 1 out of its native context and moving it into our own context. In doing so, we have inadvertently translated the Hebrew culture into our own framework. Instead, by entering the culture of the ancient Israelites, he sheds uncovers new principles by which to view the verses: 1. The focus of Genesis 1 is not on material creation, but functional creation; 2. Genesis 1 is n ...more
Michael O'Flaherty
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit, I went into this book not knowing what I would find. As a Christian programmer who appreciates science, I have never bought into the young earth interpretation. God could quite easily create the earth is 6 days or 6 seconds or 6 billion years; not sure why that is so objectionable to Christians. The young earth crowd tends to treat us "old earthers" as denying ID, God's role in material creation, or that we somehow agree with the macro evolution crowd. This cannot be further fro ...more
Drew Darby
Aug 01, 2014 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
David Holford
Apr 25, 2014 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
Pam Staley
Thoroughly enjoyed a 'different' view of creation. Would def recommend
Scott Hayden
Nov 28, 2014 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
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Refreshing and compelling.
Marc Sims
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent insight into ancient Mesopotamian creation myths and their role in giving us insights in how to interpret Gen. 1. Genesis 1 isn’t giving us a scientific account of material creation, but an account of functional creation from human’s perspective. Both old earth and young earth creationists are asking the wrong questions of the text. Also, the section on the creation account revealing creation as a temple for God is excellent, but for some reason the author doesn’t conclude with dipping ...more
Philip Taylor
Mar 26, 2014 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.
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
Essential illumination of Genesis one's purpose.
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, religious
Professor Walton teaches the Old Testament at Wheaton College and takes a crack at explaining an ancient book to the modern reader.
My main takeaways from the book include:
1. Genesis is an ancient text written for a people different than ours. We subconsciously read meaning into areas that aren't there, and miss things that are there. Not because we're bad, but because we're not ancient Israelites.
2. The creation depicted in Genesis one is probably meant to be read as creating "function" not "
Josh Pannell
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I wish that I could rate the first and second halves of this book separately.

In his first half, Walton explains how Genesis 1 should be read in light of a functional ontology vs a material ontology. He references other Scriptures as well as other ANE literature to prove his point. He then examines the 7th day, and the ANE understanding of "rest." He concludes by calling his view the "Cosmic Temple Inauguration View" of Genesis 1. What I enjoyed about this view is that, while it takes the authori
Ben Schnell
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting position the author has: God created everything but Genesis 1 is not an account of that original material creation — it’s an account of a functional creation (like the creation of a new organization, all the materials already existed but the new company organizes them in a new way). The author demonstrates very effectively that material creation was not and could not have been on the mind of the author of Genesis and that it’s our modern worldview that wants to read that into th ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Walton argues that Genesis 1 does not describe the material origins of the universe, but rather, what he calls, the functional meaning of the creation as the cosmic temple of God. The question remains whether one cannot combine both of these views successfully, which is what James B Jordan aims to do in his book on the six days. I gave this four stars, even though I’m not committed to his view of origins, because there was so much good material in the book.
The conclusion on how these matters sh
James Scott
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent correction to the fundamentalist view of Genesis that pushes an anti evolutionary perspective. Walton takes us back to the original cultural context often missing in discussions of the Old Testament as a whole, and Genesis One especially. Explanation of what the original intent of the text was, and how we can apply it to our theology of scripture were extremely helpful. I was disappointed in some discussion of how this should apply to science classes, since Walton overstates the sci ...more
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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 Plan; The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; and A Survey of the Old Testament ...more

Other books in the series

The Lost World Series (6 books)
  • The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate
  • The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority
  • The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites
  • The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate
  • The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context
“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God's presence.” 10 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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