John Walton on Genesis One

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament; Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context; Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan; The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; and A Survey of the Old Testament.

He has also written Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (academic text) and the popular version, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP, 2009), which I highly recommend.

I have found Walton’s interpretation of the biblical creation account(s) not only to be in keeping with the ancient historical context and the genres of OT literature, but also refreshing in how his views are throwing open the door to the allowance of scientific discovery in pursuit of God.

I think Walton’s research can be a tremendous encouragement to those evangelicals who wish to bridge the modern gap between faith and science.

Do you think evangelicals are often guilty of ignoring the ancient context of the biblical writers? Do you think a “literal” reading of all Scripture is more spiritual? How are you reconciling Scripture with scientific claims and discoveries being made about the nature of the universe?

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

4 responses to “John Walton on Genesis One

  • Jay B

    Greetings. Thanks for your web site!

  • revtimbrown

    Okay, I understand how Dr. Walton gets Temple imagery from Gen 1-2. And rest on the 7th day in the temple. But it doesn’t not follow that now the LORD God is working on the 7th day because the temple is a microcosm of the cosmos. I think his analogy to the Oval Office Rest becomes terrible eisegesis. According to Dr. Walton God’s rest is not the cessation of work, but the beginning of work. Huh?

    Literal or figurative, the text (Gen 2:2) says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he has done.” How does he turn that into “Now that he’s set up, he starts running it”?

    Maybe on day 8.

    • David D. Flowers

      Tim, have you read Walton’s book? It will be important for you to hear his entire presentation of Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology and temple imagery. It is definitely a shift in the way this has been interpreted among a great number of evangelicals.

      Walton’s view is that this really isn’t about Scripture telling us all of the details in God’s creative process (especially since this is a prescientific era), but instead it sums up his creative action by describing the construction of a temple and the deity which reigns from his place of rest, from the throne of heaven. The “Sabbath” then becomes a day of resting in the knowledge that God is reigning and ruling from his seat of power over the whole cosmos.

      Imagine that. Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. I think that’s where Jesus was correcting the interpretation of the Pharisees. Sabbath is about a time set aside to rest, in order that we recognize God’s power over all creation.

      His rest is for reigning. Our rest is for recognizing that reign. I think that’s good stuff.

  • Peter

    I found Walton’s thoughts interesting. I think that Genesis 1 is full of pictures of Christ and our Life in Him. The Temple view makes sense, in light of Christ as the Reality of the Temple. In response to your comment about bridging faith and modern science, here are some thoughts:

    There is some evidence to show that something happened between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. It seems that God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 and in Genesis 1:2 they had become fallen.

    A better translation of Genesis 1:2 is that the earth “became” a waste and a void.

    Jeremiah 4:23 describes the earth as a waste and a void under God’s judgement.

    Isaiah 45:18 says that God didn’t create the earth a waste.

    Also, in Genesis we see that the earth is under water, which is reminiscent of the earth being judged in the flood.

    I assume that the earth was under judgment from the rebellion of the angels with Lucifer.

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