The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
Walton (John H.)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
Colour-ConventionsDisclaimerNotes Citing this Book


Cover Blurb
  1. Here is a book that calls out to he read and discussed – widely and thoughtfully by serious-minded Christians, inquiring scientists, high school science teachers and students. Those entrenched on either side of the creation / evolution debate owe it to themselves and others to read and consider carefully John Walton's evidence, arguments, insights and remarkable conclusions.
  2. “Walton’s cosmic temple inauguration view of Genesis 1 is a landmark study … His view that the seven days refers to the inauguration of the cosmos as a functioning temple where God takes up his residence as his headquarters from which he runs the world merits reflection by all who love the God of Abraham”. (Bruce K. Waltke, Reformed Theological Seminary, author of Genesis: A Commentary).
  3. “Every theologian, every pastor, every Christian in the natural sciences … must put aside all other reading material this minute and immediately begin to absorb the contents of John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One … He has blown away all the futile attempts to elicit modern science from the first chapter of the Bible”. (Davis A. Young, Calvin College. Co-author of The Bible, Rocks and Time).
  4. “This book presents a profoundly important new analysis of meaning of Genesis … John Walton argues convincingly that Genesis was intended to describe the creation of functions of the cosmos, not its material nature. In the process, he elevates Scripture to a new level of respectful understanding, and eliminates any conflict between scientific and scriptural descriptions of origins”. (Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God).
  5. “John Walton offers a compelling and persuasive interpretation of Genesis, one that challenges those who take it as an account of material origins. His excellent book is must-reading for all who are interested in the origins debate”. (Tremper Longman III, Westmont College, author of How to Read Genesis).
  6. John H. Walton is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He has written many books on the Old Testament and its ancient Near Eastern background, including a commentary on Genesis, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context and (as co-author) The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.
Amazon Customer Review
  1. Here is a book that I hope will be put into the hands of every Christian who is interested in science.
  2. Dr John Walton is a very careful and established Old Testament scholar who teaches at Wheaton College. He has done a lot of work in Ancient Near Eastern studies and is also the author of the NIV Genesis commentary. The most crucial insight of his view is that the seven days of Genesis 1 are seven literal days, but there is no adequate reason to interpret these seven days as the duration in which the universe with the living things began their existence. Rather, there are better reasons to interpret the seven days as the duration in which the universe with the living things were organized (or re-organized) to function in a way that was compatible with the appearance of the first humans, who with the organized universe formed a cosmic temple. It should be noted that this view is not the same as the ‘Gap Theory'. The Gap theory proposes a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, but this is grammatically problematic in the Hebrew language. Walton's view does not have this problem as he does not propose a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Rather, the whole of Genesis 1 are taken to be the days in which God reorganized the universe to be functional with respect to man.
  3. It is most important to grasp the methodological principle that, to understand an ancient text, we have to find out how the ancient readers would have understood it. Based on studies of the Ancient Near Eastern culture as well as Hebrew texts, Walton argues that it is preferable to take the Hebrew word bara which is translated as 'create' in Genesis 1 to mean functional (with respect to the cosmic temple) rather than ontological creation. Therefore, there is good evidence to think that the functional view is how the ancient readers would have understood Genesis 1. And unlike some other approaches to Genesis 1, Walton's view does not involve linguistic gymnastics but it is a rather straightforward interpretation that is based on a better understanding of the Hebrew word bara.
  4. Hence, regardless of the scientific view that a Christian holds, he or she would have to consider this approach seriously as this is quite likely what the Bible really meant. If this was what the author of Genesis intended to convey to his audience, then 21st century readers should be wary of imposing their modern ideas (e.g. the Young Earth Creationism, which sees the seven days as the beginning of existence of the universe) onto the text. The reason why many people in the churches hold firmly to Young Earth Creationism is perhaps because they think that that is what the Bible plainly teaches. They should heed the words of Augustine with reference to Genesis, 'In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.' Young Earth Creationists should therefore be open-minded and be willing to consider other interpretations of Genesis 1, and in view of the Jewish background of the text it is actually more reasonable to interpret it in functional terms.
  5. The implication of Walton's view is that Genesis does not say when the universe (with the living things) began to exist. It could have been millions of years (for the purpose of which God did not reveal to us), and then a reorganization just before the creation of the first humans. Hence, there is no conflict between science and Christianity in the matter of dating the age of the earth, and therefore the age of the earth as a stumbling block for many unbelievers is totally unnecessary.
  6. It is also important to emphasize that, while Walton's interpretation has the implication that Genesis does not say when the universe began to exist, this does not imply that the Bible does not affirm that God is literally the first cause of the beginning of existence of the universe. On the contrary, there are other passages in the Bible (e.g. Colossians 1:16-17) which affirm (literally and regardless of duration) God's creation of the material cosmos ontologically, and Walton himself affirms this also on p.97. It should be noted that this point--God as the first cause of the beginning of the universe-- is well supported by philosophy, history, and recent discoveries in science (see The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, published by one of the world's most respected academic press, Wiley-Blackwell). Hence, Christians can have full confidence that God is the first cause of the beginning of the universe, and that there is no conflict between science and Christianity in the matter of dating the age of the universe.
  7. To conclude, Walton's view is the best interpretation of Genesis 1 currently available, though I feel quite sad that not many Christians are aware of it yet (most people are only aware of the Young-Earth and the Day-Age interpretations). This view has resolved the questions that I have, and I think that it can help many others (especially people from communist background such as mainland China) who have heard of Christianity and who are struggling with its apparent conflict with science. Get this book; the ideas in it are important for our understanding of the Bible, for teaching our children about the relationship between Genesis and science, and perhaps indirectly for the salvation of millions of people.
  1. Proposition: Genesis 1 Is Ancient Cosmology – 16
  2. Proposition: Ancient Cosmology Is Function Oriented – 23
  3. Proposition: "Create" (Hebrew bara') Concerns Functions – 38
  4. Proposition: The Beginning State in Genesis 1 Is Nonfunctional – 47
  5. Proposition: Days One to Three in Genesis 1 Establish Functions – 54
  6. Proposition: Days Four to Six in Genesis 1 Install Functionaries – 63
  7. Proposition: Divine Rest Is in a Temple – 72
  8. Proposition: The Cosmos Is a Temple – 78
  9. Proposition: The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration – 87
  10. Proposition: The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins – 93
  11. Proposition: "Functional Cosmic Temple" Offers Face-Value Exegesis – 102
  12. Proposition: Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough – 108
  13. Proposition: The Difference Between Origin Accounts in Science and Scripture Is Metaphysical in Nature – 114
  14. Proposition: God's Roles as Creator and Sustainer Are Less Different Than We Have Thought – 119
  15. Proposition: Current Debate About Intelligent Design Ultimately Concerns Purpose – 125
  16. Proposition: Scientific Explanations of Origins Can Be Viewed in Light of Purpose, and If So, Are Unobjectionable – 132
  17. Proposition: Resulting Theology in This View of Genesis 1 Is Stronger, Not Weaker – 142
  18. Proposition: Public Science Education Should Be Neutral Regarding Purpose – 152
    Summary and Conclusions – 162
    FAQs – 169
    Notes – 174
    Index – 191

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2020. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page