What I’ve Been Reading(2)–The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation

Last week I reviewed a book, The Evolution Controversy, which surveys the various positions concerning the scientific evidence. This week I want to bring to your attention The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, a book that covers the biblical evidence, specifically the creation account of Genesis 1-2.  Evangelicals in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, are biblicists; and as such we hold the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.  So for us the proper interpretation of the creation narrative is of paramount importance.  The Genesis Debate focuses solely on interpreting Genesis 1-2 without addressing corollary matters (such as the empirical evidences for and the extent of Noah’s flood, or attempts to reconcile Genesis with the latest views within biology, geology, or astronomy).

Ligon Duncan and David Hall present the 24-hour view, Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer argue for the Day-Age view, and Lee Irons and Meredith Kline offer the Framework view.  The labels are fairly self-explanatory.  Duncan and Hall make the case for understanding the seven days of creation as seven literal, 24-hour days.  Ross and Archer contend the seven days represent sequential eons of divine creative activity.  And Irons and Kline argue that Moses used the seven-day framework as a literary device, intending more to establish a proper understanding of God’s sovereign relationship with creation than attempting to explain any details about how God actually created.  After each respective position is presented, advocates of the other views respond, and the presenters give a reply to the respondants.  This arrangement allows for give and take about the crucial points of difference.

Limiting the debate to just three positions was probably necessary for a format of this type, but the limitation is, well, a limitation. The book provides no discussion of other significant approaches such as C. John Collin’s Analogical Day approach, John Sailhamer’s Promised Land perspective, or the various Cosmic Temple views as argued by Greg Beale or John Walton.  The editors explain that they believe the positions they chose are the most popular; and that are probably correct.  But the Cosmic Temple view, rightly or wrongly, seems to be picking up support among a notable number of Old Testament scholars.

Passions run high concerning the proper way to interpret Genesis, and The Genesis Debate illustrates this.  At times the arguments are pointed; the discussion less than civil–they mix it up.  Fortunately, more light is generated than mere heat.  The authors, for the most part, stay focused on the interpretive issues relating to the text, and this is the book’s greatest strength.  For understanding the hermeneutical issues involved in interpreting Genesis 1-2, I recommend The Genesis Debate highly.

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