Tuesday, July 18, 2006

John Walton on Genesis

Since John Loftus, having copycatted Ed Babinski, recently brought up the issue of John Walton’s views of Genesis, why don’t we actually quote some of the things that Dr. Walton has to say in the course of his commentary.

In general, I’d note the apologetic thrust of Walton’s commentary. He devotes more time to the relationship between science and Scripture than any other major commentator I’m aware of, viz. Currid, Hamilton, Ross, Sailhamer, Waltke, Wenham.

He does make use of comparative Semitics, but he does so to defend the inerrancy of Scripture. We may or may not agree with his interpretations, but we should be clear on his aim. Let’s take some examples:

“The Hebrew word translated ‘lights (me’rot) is not used frequently (19x) in its various forms). Most occurrences are in the Pentateuch (15x), with the remainder in Psalms (2x), Proverbs (once), and Ezekiel (once). The occurrences outside the Pentateuch speak either of the celestial bodies or metaphorically of the face or eyes that shine. What is intriguing is that the ten occurrences in the Pentateuch outside Gen 1 (Exod 25:6; 27:20; 35:8,14[2x],28; 39:37; Lev 24:2; Num 4:9,16) all refer to the light of the lampstand that lights up the tabernacle. The use of the word ‘lights” may then be our first clue that there is another whole dimension to this text [1:14-19) that has often eluded us: the description of the cosmos as a temple or sanctuary of god. This will be further explored n the next chapter,” Genesis (Zondervan 2001), 123-24.

“What did God do on day four? In v16 the NIV translates, ‘god made two great lights.’ The Hebrew verb for ‘made’ here (‘sh) has a wide range of meanings. It is usually listed in the lexicons with the primary meaning of ‘to do or make,’ but that is only the tip of the iceberg. So, for instance, one current lexicon used in scholarly circles, the third edition of Koehler-Baumgartner (Hebrew- Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament), lists no fewer than sixteen meanings for the Qal form alone,” ibid. 124.

“On the basis of these passages, there is good reason to conclude that the author of Genesis is using the term functionally. It is indefensible to claim that the use of ‘sh demands that the heavenly bodies are manufactured on day four. Usage in cosmological texts favors taking ‘sh in v16 as a summary of the setting up of functions for the heavenly bodies as reported in vv14-15,” ibid. 125.

“The garden of Eden is not viewed by the author of Genesis simply as a piece of Mesopotamian farmland, but as an archetypal sanctuary, that is a place where God dwells and where man should worship him. Many of the features of the garden may also be found in later sanctuaries particularly the tabernacle or Jerusalem temple. These parallels suggest that the garden itself is understood as a sort of sanctuary,” ibid. 182, quoting Wenham.

“Since we have suggested in our treatment of Gen 1 that creation as a whole was understood in terms of a cosmic temple complex (see above, pp147-52), it is logical to understand the garden as the antechamber for the Most Holy Place. As indicated in the Original Meaning section above, Eden is in effect the Most Holy Place, and the garden adjoins it as the antechamber. In this regard it is important to note that the objects kept in the antechamber of the OT sanctuary are images intended to evoke the garden. The menorah is a symbol of the tree of life, and the table for the bread of the Presence provided food for the priests,” ibid. 182.

“In 7:20 this phrase [‘fifteen cubits above’] is difficult to decipher, largely because of the word that the NIV renders ‘depth’ The Hebrew text says, ‘Fifteen cubits from above [milma’la] rose the waters, and the mountains were covered.’ It is therefore not at all clear that it is suggesting the waters rose fifteen cubits higher than the mountains…As an adverb modifying the verb ‘rose,’ it suggests that the water reached fifteen cubits upward from the plain, covering at least some part of the mountains,” ibid. 325-26.

“We must still consider whether 8:3-5 strikes us the way it does because we are thinking in terms of our understanding of the world. Would this text have meant something different if we could read it with an ANE mindset?” ibid. 326-27.

“This way of think yields a flood of the then-known world (with boundaries as described, for instance, in the Sargon Geography and in the list of Noah’s descendants in Gen 10); it covered all the elevated places that were within eyesight of the occupants of the ark. Though this would be a geographically limited flood, it could still be anthropologically universal if people had not yet spread beyond this region,” 328.

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