A couple of days ago I finished reading John Walton’s book:
His view of Genesis 1 is that it concerns functional origins, not material origins. Walton contends that the ancient author isn’t concerned with the stuff of creation (matter), but how the matter that was already present works (functions). In other words, the ancient audience would have understood the author detailing how this “God” ordered the functioning of the un-ordered material all for the sake of humans, which are the chief recipients of this functioning creation. Walton’s view is when God says “and it was good” after each day of creation he is declaring that the order he is bringing to the un-order is now functioning correctly.
Walton uses the metaphor of a house versus a home. Making a house a home details ordering a family’s way of living inside of the house. This is what the author of Genesis is detailing–not how the house itself was built–rather how the house becomes a home. Lots of implications on this point, which Walton details at length in the book. For sure Walton believes that God created all the matter (the material). The reason he thinks that is an ancient Israelite (and their contemporaries) would absolutely think that. Of course the gods created the world… how else would it have come to be? Walton contends that modern interpretations are more interested in how the material came to be; how cosmological origins happened, when the ancients were more interested in how things worked and did they work properly.
Secondly, Walton thinks that the seven-day “pattern” is akin to a seven-day temple inauguration common among the seating of deities in their temples in the ancient near east. It would be blatantly obvious to an ancient Israelite what is happening in Genesis 1: the ordering of to-hu-va-bo-hu in order to prepare the planet/earth as a fully functioning environment for humans with this God being seated/resting in his temple (the world he ordered) on the seventh day. This is why Walton states that his particular interpretation is called the cosmic temple view of creation.
What did God do on the eighth and ninth day and every day after that? He rules in his cosmic temple… he is Lord! Walton walks through each day of creation, days 1-3 which establish the functions of time, seasons, and weather (respectively), and days 4-6 which establish the functionaries within their functions (sun, moon and stars; birds & fish, seed-bearing plants, animals and humans).
It is a fascinating interpretation of Genesis 1 and Walton has done his homework! There are lots of explanations and more research that Walton shares with the reader. If you are interested in a radical, yet faithful to the biblical text, view of creation, then you are in for a treat with this book!
You can order the book on Amazon.
If you want to watch or listen to some lectures by John Walton on this subject, check out the following:
- Anselm House: Origins Today: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes (part 1)
- Phil Vischer Podcast: Episode 16, Episode 80
As a teacher, I wonder if it would be worth doing a class on the various theories of origins:
- YEC: Young Earth Creationism (i.e. Answers in Genesis)
- OEC: Old Earth Creationism
- Gap theory
- Cosmic Temple theory (John Walton)
- Naturalistic Evolution
- Dedication theory (John Sailhamer)
It would be neat to present the theories and represent them well and then compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of each in relation to both the Bible and science. I wonder how that would go over with people and how they would respond? 🙂 I think those who wonder if there are alternatives to the current culture war between science and faith would appreciate such a class or learning environment. Those of have a stake in the culture war probably wouldn’t appreciate such a class 🙂