Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In his new commentary on Genesis, Bill Arnold has an interesting interpretation of the dietary laws in the Noahic covenant, which he evidently borrows from Edwin Firmage:

“However, the new order is not altogether the same as the old, since it also involves an alteration of the food chain (9:3). Many readers assume this text implies something inherently virtuous in vegetarianism, since it was the original cosmic order (“plan A”), or inversely, something innately blameworthy in meat-eating. Others have assumed the change in human diet is a concession to humanity’s weakness. But in reality, the only implication of the text is that the new order is also accompanied by a change in the animals’ relationship to humans (9:2). The fear of humanity is new, since pre-flood animals enjoyed a primitive fellowship with humans, now lost in the new natural order of things. Rather than placing value on either vegetarianism or meat-eating, this supplement of Noah’s diet with meat is part of a biblical progression toward holiness for humanity. By incremental steps, the biblical dietary laws bring humans from vegetarianism, to unrestricted meat-eating, and finally, to a dietary law that distinguishes Israelites from their neighbors (Lev 11). ‘[T]he dietary law represented the culmination of a progression in holiness, by which God had brought a people by steps to enjoy unprecedented proximity to himself’” Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 109.


  1. I must admit to a hearty fondness for a well-made steak (if it's prepared with lobster bernaise, all the better).

    However, I've also always felt a bit uncomfortable by the notion of eating something that once had a head. It seems so Darwinian: the strong prey on the weak and consume them for food after administering what is often a painful death. It seems that eating the bodies and consuming the blood of other living things is even a physical requirement for human survival: many people notice a depletion of energy and a lack of muscle tone after going vegan.

    It's perhaps one the biggest obstacles to seeing a benevolent Being running the universe. It just seems so wildly misanthropic to create creatures just so they can suffer a miserable existence and be food for others.

  2. Most of the animals I see on wildlife programs seem to be pretty pleased with their lot in life. You're guilty of speciesism. You're projecting your humanoid feelings onto the rest of the animal kingdom. I'm shocked by your elitist bigotry. Just because you're a glorified monkey doesn't give you the right to be so snooty about the quality of life of lower animals. What makes you think that humanoid ethics is the yardstick?


  3. However, I've also always felt a bit uncomfortable by the notion of eating something that once had a head
    Krynoids and Pod People" would disagree.

  4. Don't lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage have heads?
    And what about ears of corn?
    Eyes of potatoes?

  5. Steve, what do you think of the balance of the commentary?

  6. It's not the first commentary I'd reach for. It's fairly liberal, and it's not as detailed as some other commentaries on Genesis. It's useful for the way it summarizes the secondary literature on Genesis and related topics.

  7. Can you give a recommendation of another?

  8. Not trying to speak for Steve at all, but just wanted to mention he's got a list of commentaries here.

  9. AMC,

    Depends on what you’re looking for. Currid has the best all-around commentary. It’s written by a major scholar, but pitched at a popular leveled. It’s fairly detailed, conservative, and theologically sound.

    The only weaknesses are: it’s not as detailed as some other commentaries (e.g. Hamilton, Wenham), he’s not a very imaginative interpreter, and the application sections seem tacked on.

    Waltke has written a useful commentary. On the upside, it’s strong on theology, philology, and narrative flow.

    On the downside, the coverage is uneven, his handling of comparative mythology suffers from parallelomania, and his analysis of the structure of Gen 1 is a hodgepodge of conflicting views.

    Walton has written a useful commentary. If Currid’s commentary is the best from a YEC standpoint, Walton’s is the best commentary from an OEC standpoint. It’s useful for apologetics. Useful for getting at the original meaning of the text.

    The downside is that it thins out when it gets to the patriarchal narratives, and it’s not a verse-by-verse commentary. So it’s hard to find what it says on a particular verse, and it doesn’t give attention to every verse.

    There are also times when he overemphasizes continuity with the ancient Near Eastern background at the expense of discontinuity.

    Sailhamer’s commentary on Genesis (bound with commentaries on Exodus and Leviticus) is good on thematic development, Messianic prophecy, and philological analysis.

    The downside is that Sailhamer doesn’t have as much space to express himself (within the confines of the series), and he has quirky views about the identity of the “earth” (which he equates with the promised land).

    Hamilton and Wenham are moderately conservative commentaries which are useful for their detailed, verse-by-verse exegesis.

    Collins’ monograph on Gen 1-4 is useful for its detail, although the coverage is uneven. It’s written from an OEC perspective.

    Youngblood’s popular commentary is too brief to stand on its own, but it can supplement other commentaries. It’s written from an OEC perspective.

    Among forthcoming commentaries, keep your eye out for Garrett.