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Sunday Quote! – Does reading Genesis Require a PhD?

readinggenesis1-2-CharlesEvery Sunday, I 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!

Does Reading Genesis Require a PhD?

One of the topics of major interest to me is the debate within Christianity over the means and timing of creation. Recently, a friend sent me a copy of Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation. I started it immediately and I’ve been working my way through the views before I go back to read the responses. One interesting quote came up in the portion from the scholar advocating a “literal” reading (Todd S. Beall):

Genesis 1 should be read… as historical narrative that is meant to be taken literally. This is the normal reading of the account… It does not require a person with a PhD to unlock the key to these chapters by appealing to A[ncient] N[ear] E[astern] literature or a special genre or some other special figurative approach. (48)

The quote is in context of Beall’s discussion of various evangelicals “coming out” as not reading the text literally for various reasons, such as ANE context, notions of genre, or the like. Basically, Beall’s point seems to be that we can (and should?) just read the text straightforwardly without having to study all kinds of topics to understand it. What do you think of this notion? What might this say about the cultural context of Genesis? Does that context matter? Should we be concerned with possibilities regarding such a context, differing genres, or the like?

Bonus Quote

Interestingly, a later author in the same work, Tremper Longman III, confronts Beall’s allegation regarding the PhD:

…isn’t the Bible equally clear to everyone, even those who have not studied the Bible and its cultural background? The simple answer to that question is no, it is not. After all, unless you have studied Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic you cannot read the Bible at all without scholarly help. (121)


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Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).

Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t)” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).


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