In the eleventh proposition of John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One he critiques other approaches to reading Genesis 1 suggesting that his “Functional Cosmic Temple” reading makes the most sense of the text.
Yesterday someone commented on my post on Walton’s tenth proposition (see here) saying, “I guess it was God’s will that Christians all across the world, for thousands of years, to read Genesis for what it was until the day that he appointed John Walton to enlighten us through the 10th proposition in his book.” This remark is a good segue to proposition eleven. Walton argues that his reading of Genesis 1 is how the ancients would have understood it. In other words, he is not the revisionist.
Walton critiques four other approaches to reading Genesis 1:
(1) The “theological” reading emphasizes the “theological” points like God as Creator and Sabbath observance.
(2) The “literary” reading that relegates the problematic language of Genesis 1 to poetics.
(3) The “polemical” reading that assumes Genesis 1 shares a worldview with other ancient near eastern cultures, but differs where the Israelites seek to offer a critique of the stories of other people groups. What is important here is to note what is different about Genesis 1 to see how the Israelites thought of their God in contrast to other gods.
(4) The “concordist” reading that assumes that since this text is God’s Word we should be able to find places in the text that connect with modern science. For instance, since God knew of the “Big Bang” he inspired language about his speech bringing things into being and now we have the science to correspond to it.
Walton doesn’t deny that there are theological, literary, or polemical aspects of Genesis 1. He is much harder on concordist. All four views fall short of his view though (pp. 102-105).
Walton states, “…the most ‘literal’ understanding, if you will–is the one that comes from their world nor ours (p. 105).” In Walton’s estimation his view does the following:
1. “recognizes Genesis 1 for the ancient document that it is”
2. doesn’t “impose a material ontology on the text”
3. doesn’t need to concord with modern science
4. “avoids reducing Genesis 1 to merely literary or theological expression”
5. “poses to conflict with scientific thinking”