Kyle Greenwood

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Book Review: “Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages” edited by Kyle R. Greenwood

Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages is an invaluable resource to understanding the book of Genesis and creation. The book’s scope is impressive, encompassing not only Christian interpretations but also early Rabbinic interpretations, Second Temple Judaism, and the rediscovery of the Ancient Near East with its implications for understanding Genesis. The book is a wealth of information for anyone interested in learning about Genesis.

Each chapter in the book is full of valuable insights. Greenwood himself starts it off by tracing the impact of these creation accounts across the Old Testament. Michael Matlock’s chapter on Second Temple Jewish literature and Genesis 1 and 2 is fascinating, both for its providing a brief introduction to that body of literature and for insights into how later traditions would shape one’s reading of the text. Some Jewish interpreters (eg. Josephus) seemed comfortable expanding on the story themselves, adding whatever details they believed might add interest or even theological emphasis to the text. Of course that doesn’t undermine much careful attention to details of the texts that modern interpreters sometimes miss. Ira Brent Driggers’ chapter uses the intriguing word “appropriations” to describe the New Testament’s use of the Genesis account. Among other things of interest, this chapter leads readers to wonder exactly how NT authors used the Old Testament and what that may mean for our own interpretations. Early Rabbinic interpretation is the subject of Joel S. Allen’s chapter, in which he shows some of the ways post-destruction of the temple Judaism saw figures like Adam and Eve.

Stephen O. Presley’s chapter on the Ante-Nicene Fathers touches on a number of major early Christian thinkers and shows how the interpretation of Genesis continued to develop in sometimes divergent ways. C. Rebecca Rine’s entry on the Nicene and Post-Nicene interpretations shows how Scripture was seen as a pathway to transformation (121) and so a focus on application of the text led to some unique readings (such as creating a baseline for spiritual writings based on the 6-day pattern). Questions raised by these Nicene/Post-Nicene thinkers included wondering why days were in the narrative at all–something that some modern interpreters would be baffled by for all their own emphasis on the importance of the days. Medieval Jewish theology is the center of Jason Kalman’s chapter, which demonstrates the sometimes radical divergence Christian vs. Jewish readings of the same verses could have. Some of these readings included seeing that Genesis didn’t actually entail an order of creation whatsoever (157). Timothy Bellamah’s chapter provides the Christian Medieval contrast to the previous chapter, showing how much fruitful theology continued in this period, often dismissed. Aquinas, of course, is the giant of this era, and he gets some due attention here. The Protestant Reformers were interested in Genesis 1 and 2 in part for their own polemical purposes and in part as their project to go back to the source continued. Jennifer Powell McNutt draws from this rich Christian tradition to highlight various points of emphases by the Reformers.

Another important aspect of the book is the chapter on the Ancient Near East by David T. Tsumura. Because much of this knowledge was lost for a lengthy period of time, many interpretations of Genesis through the ages did not take into account the actual cultural milieu from which it sprang. The Protestant Reformers, for example, had no access to these materials, so their call to go ad fontes–to the source–could not actually complete the task. The interpretation of Genesis ought not to be considered a settled matter from the Reformation to today, and even allegedly literal readings of Genesis owe as much to modern discoveries as to the texts themselves. Aaron T. Smith’s chapter on Post-Darwinian interpretations shows both how yes, in some ways evolution impacted readings of Genesis, but in others it caused a true pursuit of going back to the beginning. Cosmology is central to debates over how Genesis is to be read.

If it hasn’t already become clear, it should be stated plainly that this book is an absolute treasure trove of information, with many, many strands of further research to be pursued upon its completion. Each chapter is worthy of inclusion, and each is well-written and as intriguing as the next. That in itself is an achievement because the book is consistently engrossing.

I very highly recommend Since the Beginning to you, readers. It’s a book that will have you thinking about your own reading of the text, and may even give you insight into where that reading may have its origins.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Scripture and Cosmology” by Kyle Greenwood

sc-greenwoodKyle Greenwood’s Scripture and Cosmology might initially seem to be just another introduction to the study of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cosmology related to the Bible, but it is not. It is much more than that. Greenwood, in his excellent book, relates not just ANE cosmology to the Bible, but also reflects on how theologians dealt with changes in the prevailing views of cosmology throughout Christian history. That is, Scripture and Cosmology provides a means for readers to explore in brief the history of Christian thought on Scripture and, well, cosmology of different times.

The book is organized around three parts: Scripture and Cosmos in Cultural Context (which explores the ANE background of the Bible and finding that cosmology in Scripture), Cosmology and Scripture in Historical Context (which examines the cosmology of Scripture alongside Aristotelian and Copernican Cosmology, along with how Christians read the Bible in these periods), and Scripture and Science (which ties together the previous two sections along with discussing how we should consider the findings therein).

Greenwood frankly notes that the Bible’s view of cosmology is situated directly within the ANE background of the text and the understanding of people groups surrounding Israel. He challenges some of the modern revisionist attempts to take texts about, for example, the land floating as an example of Earth in space (Job 26:7). His counter is to show that such a writing would fit nicely within the ANE understanding of a cosmic ocean rather than favoring a modern attempt to fit it into Big Bang cosmology.

The chapters on Copernicanism and Aristotelianism show that Christians have historically adjusted their readings of Scripture in light of modern cosmology. He cites several interpreters, including Aquinas, Augustine, Calvin, and Luther to show how some of the greatest minds in the history of Christianity have been shaped by their own contemporary views of cosmology and Scripture.

The book ends with a pair of chapters on interpretation of the Bible and the authority of Scripture in light of Greenwood’s findings. These are invaluable tools for those wishing to take the Bible’s text as it stands. Greenwood argues that divine accommodation is one of the acceptable ways to reconcile scriptural authority and the ancient cosmology found therein. The last chapter addresses various avenues for research and science and how a proper understanding of cosmology in Scripture will help to reconcile these issues.

I was particularly interested in the findings which compared Aristotelian cosmology to biblical cosmology. It is important to see that Christians have constantly been part of their own cultural understandings of the Bible and the cosmos, and that we are no less victim to the short-sightedness that can come from equating our understanding with ultimate truth. We must be aware that our own understanding is incomplete and that we should not try to make the Bible read how we think it should.

Scripture and Cosmology is a superb book that is enlightening and challenging on many different topics. As someone who has read extensively on science-faith issues, I still found many new avenues to explore in this book and much valuable insight. It was exciting to see a work that addressed not only the ANE context of the Bible but also how Christians have interacted with more modern views of cosmology throughout time. I very highly recommend this book.

The Good

+Demonstrates the relationship between the Bible and ANE Cosmology
+Shows history of Christian interaction with their own understandings of cosmology and the Bible
+Provides means for readers to explore questions of relating Cosmology and Scripture
+Several solid insights into exploring related issues
+Opens avenues for further research

The Bad

-Feels a bit rushed towards the end

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not obligated to write any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Kyle Greenwood, Scripture and Cosmology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Was the Three-Tiered Universe Merely Phenomenological?

sc-greenwoodWas the Three-Tiered Universe Merely Phenomenological? 

There are many passages throughout the Bible which appear to show that the authors believed in a three-tiered universe in which there were the heavens, the earth, and the underworld/waters. Some Christians argue that these descriptions were merely phenomenological: that is, the authors were writing as observers rather than attempting to report anything about the actual world. It is like when we say the sun rises, we aren’t actually intending to say the sun is orbiting the Earth, but rather just reporting something we experience: our perspective shows the sun rising.

Kyle Greenwood, in Scripture and Cosmology, argues that the biblical authors did, in fact hold to a three-tiered cosmology, and so the language should not be reduced to being merely phenomenological. He cites four strands of evidence for this conclusion:

First, whenever we find physical descriptions of the cosmos, it is described as three-tiered. Second, whenever we find… images or drawings of the cosmos, they are three-tiered. Third, nowhere… do we find the authors explaining their cosmology in any other terms besides the three-tiered system. Finally, we know that ancients thought of the cosmos in terms of the heavens, earth, and seas because eventually these ideas were challenged by Aristotle and Ptolemy, whose ideas were later challenged by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. (69, cited below)

Greenwood’s argument seems to me to be quite convincing. If we want to hold that the Bible’s cosmology is phenomenological, we should have some textual evidence that demonstrates a different perspective was in mind. We don’t. Thus, when an author in the Bible speaks of the skies being “hard” (Job 37:18, for example), this reflects an ancient cosmology.

None of this does anything to undermine the authority or inerrancy of the Bible. Inerrancy, I believe, should properly be understood as meaning “The Bible is true in whatever it teaches.” (See my article on the term “inerrancy” and its usage.) The authors aren’t trying to teach us about cosmology, that’s just a background belief. They must describe the heavens somehow, and they used the understanding they had of the cosmos.

What do you think? Can we reduce the language of the Bible to being phenomenological? What reasons might we have for doing so? How might we best understand the Bible’s cosmology in light of other Ancient Near Eastern cosmology, and how could that help us understand what the Bible teaches?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kyle Greenwood, Scripture and Cosmology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Perspicuity of Scripture and your Study Bible

sc-greenwood

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Perspicuity of Scripture and your Study Bible

I just started reading through Kyle Greenwood’s Scripture and Cosmology, a book that looks at the ancient concepts of cosmology found in the Bible, and came across a wonderful discussion of the perspicuity of Scripture:

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture states that Scripture is clear and unambiguous on matters pertinent to salvation. It does not, however, apply to all matters. This should be an obvious conclusion, based on the overwhelming number of biblical commentaries and the voluminous sales of study Bibles. (10, cited below)

You see, many who disagree about science and Christianity in particular argue that the perspicuity of Scripture somehow solves the problem. Other times, Christians with disagreements about other issues also raise this doctrine as a kind of trump card. But Greenwood’s quote puts this usage in stark relief: if the Bible were so clear about things like the age of the Earth or other hotly-debated issues, there wouldn’t easily be so much debate, would there? Now, his point shouldn’t be overstated: simply having disagreement doesn’t automatically mean something is unclear. The point, however, is that the sheer amount of time and energy Christians have put into understanding some of these other issues demonstrates the depths of insight the Bible has for us.

Scripture and Cosmology is shaping up to be an interesting read. I’ll share a review once I’ve finished it.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kyle Greenwood, Scripture and Cosmology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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