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

(The Lost World Series #2)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,846 ratings  ·  387 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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Ciro I have not yet completed The Lost World of Genesis One, but the short answer to your question is: No. Walton's position toward evolutionary theory doe…moreI have not yet completed The Lost World of Genesis One, but the short answer to your question is: No. Walton's position toward evolutionary theory does not drive this particular work. Even if he had denounced evolutionary theory, everything written in this book could remain the same.(less)

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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
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
Ben Zajdel
Dec 17, 2011 is currently reading it
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
Scott Hayden
Nov 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
Not convinced - even after a second more careful reading.

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
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
Tim Casteel
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and important book that helps reconcile the supposed conflict between science and faith.

What is most impressive is the book's brevity and accessibility.

Walton asserts that Genesis 1 is not a recounting of material origins (that is not how the ancient readers would have read it), it is an "account of functional origins of the cosmos as a temple."

"Viewing Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as temple does not in any way suggest or imply that God was uninvolved
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
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
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.
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
Since 1970 there has been a tremendous amount of scholarly work to develop an understanding of ANE metaphysical world. This work has resulted in new insights into how the Bible should be understood - in its ancient context. John Walton's monograph puts for 18 propositions. Each one building on the previous addressing how an ANE world view applied to Genesis 1 alters how we understand what is being taught in this text. His propositions significantly shift Christian view points of not only creatio ...more
Brian Jay Kane
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best theology book I’ve read this year. Walton is engaging and thought-provoking.
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 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
Gideon Yutzy
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't go for 5 stars very often, honestly. But this is just a really good book. It has been at least 2 years since I read a work that has such impeccable clarity and also fairness. He drives home his point, which is that the details of Genesis 1 are referring to creation in the sense of assigning function rather than an explanation of how things came to be materially. In other words, God created plants as food. The part we should emphasize is the plants and their role, not the day they were cr ...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
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
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! ...more
Luke Wagner
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biblical-studies
John H. Walton's popular book "The Lost World of Genesis One" is simple and easy-to-read. It is not bogged down with too many endnotes or technical support, but Walton argues his position rather clearly and concisely. One who is not familiar with ancient cosmology, Old Testament studies, or science would still be able to easily work his/her way through the book. Walton proposes that rather than being at odds with biological evolutionary theories, Genesis 1 promotes a creation account centering o ...more
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
Hunter Smithpeters
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Completely changed my view of Genesis 1. Everyone needs to read this. Walton compares contemporary Near Eastern Ancient Cosmology to rethink the original author's purpose from Gen. 1 and how his audience would've understood it. According to Walton, Genesis, like all other Ancient Cosmology literature, spoke of "functional" creation rather than "material" like all 21st century minds tend toward. He proposes the Cosmological Temple Inauguration theory of Genesis and then unpacks how that has impli ...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 ...more
Evan Minton
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has been a fascinating read from beginning to end. John Walton makes the case that Genesis 1 actually happened thousands of years ago in a 7 24-hour period, but this period of "creating" was not a creation of material origins (that took place long before the creation week), but of functional origins. That is, God assigned functions to everything that exists in the 7 days. This function was not a scientific function (i.e the sun functions because it burns) as again, that was going on in ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Refreshing and compelling.
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
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.
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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

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32 likes · 15 comments
“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God's presence.” 12 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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