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Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible's Earliest Chapters

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There is little doubt that in recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies their position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contr There is little doubt that in recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies their position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contributes examples of its application to a variety of passages. The contributors and views include: James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History Kenton K. Sparks: Ancient Historiography General editor and Old Testament scholar Charles Halton explains the importance of genre and provides historical insight in the introduction and helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion. In the reader-friendly Counterpoints format, this book helps readers to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed conclusions in this much-debated topic.


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There is little doubt that in recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies their position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contr There is little doubt that in recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies their position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contributes examples of its application to a variety of passages. The contributors and views include: James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History Kenton K. Sparks: Ancient Historiography General editor and Old Testament scholar Charles Halton explains the importance of genre and provides historical insight in the introduction and helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion. In the reader-friendly Counterpoints format, this book helps readers to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed conclusions in this much-debated topic.

30 review for Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible's Earliest Chapters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alan Fuller

    Professors Hoffmeier, Wenhan and Sparks give different views of Genesis. However, they are unified in one way. Genesis 1-11 is historical in some sense. Like most modern people they seem to think that if it isn't history and/or science, it isn't real. Hoffmeier believes Moses corrected the mythical view of his neighbors. He also says real locations are given in Genesis, and that proves it is historical. The Greek Gods lived on Mt. Olympus, and so those myths are literal history. Just kidding. Wenh Professors Hoffmeier, Wenhan and Sparks give different views of Genesis. However, they are unified in one way. Genesis 1-11 is historical in some sense. Like most modern people they seem to think that if it isn't history and/or science, it isn't real. Hoffmeier believes Moses corrected the mythical view of his neighbors. He also says real locations are given in Genesis, and that proves it is historical. The Greek Gods lived on Mt. Olympus, and so those myths are literal history. Just kidding. Wenham sees history presented in an artistic way. Sparks, a source critical scholar, believes writers used history to send a theological message. He says we shouldn't blame the ancient Israelites for their misunderstandings. They were just primitive people. The message in Genesis is punishment for arrogance. Shall Sparks do any better than the ancients? At the end editor Charles Halton comments that the church fathers were interested in reading the Bible allegorically and symbolically. I would say that many pre-Christian Jews looked at it that way as well. Philo of Alexandria wasn't the only one. After all, Jesus taught in parables and claimed the scriptures were about Him. Far be it from modern scholars to look at the Bible in that way. Halton claims the church father Origen denied the resurrection of the body. It is true that some of his later detractors claimed this, even Phillip Schaff, editor of the ANF. Research shows that he closely followed Paul in 1 Cor 15. I think Halton's assertions are par for the course of this book. If you are confused about Genesis 1-11 now, I wouldn't expect the book to clarify things for you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Haines

    This book, presenting three contemporary evangelical scholars in conversation on the nature of Genesis 1-11, is an excellent introduction to the subject! There is more agreement between Hoffmeier and Wenham, than there is between either of them and Sparks (who adopts a re-microwaved Document theorist approach to Genesis). I personally found Wenham's full article, and Hoffmeier's response to sparks, to be the most interesting and helpful parts of the book. Anybody who wants to gain a grasp of how This book, presenting three contemporary evangelical scholars in conversation on the nature of Genesis 1-11, is an excellent introduction to the subject! There is more agreement between Hoffmeier and Wenham, than there is between either of them and Sparks (who adopts a re-microwaved Document theorist approach to Genesis). I personally found Wenham's full article, and Hoffmeier's response to sparks, to be the most interesting and helpful parts of the book. Anybody who wants to gain a grasp of how contemporary evangelical exegetes of the Old Testament, who are authorities in this area, are interpreting Genesis 1-11 needs to read this book, and then follow the sources which are quoted. There is less on Genesis 1-2 than I would have expected. Though it is clear that none of the authors accept a literal 24-hour, 6 day, creation theory, only Sparks (who clearly holds an extremely liberal interpretation of Genesis) actually explains why he rejects the literal 6-day creation theory. Of course, one would get a better understanding of their respective views by reading their books and commentaries; however, we couldn't ask for a better introduction to the subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Halloran

    A helpful analysis of three prominent views on the historicity of Genesis 1-11. I knew I would agree with Hoffmeier and Wenham more than Sparks, and yet found their interactions illuminating and telling. I didn’t get all my questions answered but got a solid overview of what leading scholars believe about the early chapters of Genesis.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bret James Stewart

    Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither edited by Charles Halton provides the views of three contributors, James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham, and Kenton Sparks, all of whom are recognized scholars in their fields regarding Genesis. The book allows each to argue for the importance and relevance and accuracy of several aspects of this biblical book. These include the genre of Genesis 1-11 and apply this genre specifically to the stories of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-4, Noah and the ark inn Genes Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither edited by Charles Halton provides the views of three contributors, James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham, and Kenton Sparks, all of whom are recognized scholars in their fields regarding Genesis. The book allows each to argue for the importance and relevance and accuracy of several aspects of this biblical book. These include the genre of Genesis 1-11 and apply this genre specifically to the stories of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-4, Noah and the ark inn Genesis 6-9, and the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Each author will then provide evidence as to why or why not these portions are historical. Each author will then critique the view of the other. A brief summary follows. Summary The front matter of the book includes information about the individual contributors and abbreviations that are used in the text. Next is an introduction by Charles Halton describing the book’s procedures and content. He defends the need to revisit the theory and practice of genre identification and argument for support of this choice. He supplies the general thesis of each individual contributor that will form the core of the text along with essays critiquing the argument of the primary essay. Chapter One is “Genesis 1-11 as History and Theology” by James K. Hoffmeier. As the title indicates, Hoffmeier has a conservative view of Scripture. He argues that recent genre studies are too dependent upon or concerned with the scientific worldview common amongst Western scholars. He addresses the literary genre of this section of the Bible and compares and contrasts it with known Ancient Near Eastern literature. Hoffmeier rejects the categories of legend and/or myth for the biblical narrative; instead, he proposes it is largely genealogical in nature and should be considered predominantly a compilation of family history. Hoffmeier deals with the Garden of Eden and the Nephilim narratives as historical remembrances from the time of the author(s) of Genesis that demonstrate the Fall and the subsequent descent into evil for mankind resulting in God’s desire to flood the earth. Hoffmeier provides support for all of the conclusions regarding the nature of the Nephilim, divine, semi-divine, or human, without making a personal choice. The evil during the time of the Nephilim resulted in the Flood destroying mankind. He compares and contrasts various Ancient Near Eastern stories with the biblical flood, reaching the conclusion that the true reason there are so many commonalities in the texts is a result of them independently recording the same flood event. He holds that the same approach is relevant with the Tower of Babel stories, and that, they, too, record some ancient event the various groups had in common. Overall, Hoffmeier believes that the biblical stories represent a literary genre based upon historical events. In response to Hoffmeier’s essay, Gordon J. Wenham, acknowledges that both authors have many ideas in common. He claims “more nuance” is needed in Hoffmeier’s arguments. One of these is that he agrees that the literary genre of Genesis is largely genealogical and that the original author(s) thought it historical rather than being truly historical in the contemporary sense. He also feels that Hoffmeier’s reliance on many parallels between the Bible and other Ancient Near Eastern accounts is unnecessary as the primary issue at stake is not historicity but authorial intent. This intent, he argues, will lead to a more accurate view of Genesis 1-11 and its component parts than Hoffmeier’s essay is able to demonstrate. Kenton L. Sparks more generally disagrees with Hoffmeier’s proposals. Sparks promotes that the material of Genesis is largely unhistorical and mythic. He provides evidence that the genealogies are fictive by appealing to other similar Ancient Near Eastern parallels. The biblical authors used sources per the Documentary Hypothesis that Sparks supports. The variety of sources in this hypothesis best represents the differing ideas and contradictions in the biblical text. He argues that the Nephilim story is a mythic event recorded in the text. Science and modern approaches do not allow for the Flood or Tower of Babel events; thus, Hoffmeier’s appeal to events-in-common must be rejected as accurate. Chapter Two is “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory” by Wenham. Here, the author argues for a number of literary types within this section of the Bible, though he does reject the term “myth” as a useful or valid term. Regardless of the individual genre, he promotes that the real purpose of the text in question is to provide theological truths. As a result, not all sections are going to fit neatly into the modern concepts of genre. For example, he views the genealogies as primarily didactic rather than historical. These and most other passages serve to “…explain present experiences by relating the past context.” For example, one can understand the story of Eve being formed from Adam’s rib demonstrates the closeness of the marital relationship. Wenham argues that “protohistory” is the best way to categorize this section of the Bible. “Proto,” he explains, refers to origins designed to explain to the contemporary reader why contemporary life is the way it is per the Eve and rib example above. Thus, the text is designed to convey theological and social concepts. The writing is neither history nor fiction nor does it require defense in genre-interpretation. This viewpoint is carried into the Nephilim, Flood, and Tower of Babel episodes. Regarding the Nephilim, Wenham proposes that the Nephilim were partially divine and that their intermingling with mankind represented a form of cultic prostitution for the human element in the story. This sin is what ultimately resulted in the Flood wherein God decides to destroy the power and wickedness of mankind. He maintains that the Israelites took various Ancient Near Eastern flood accounts to create the biblical account with the purpose of promoting monotheism and to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is the true power in the world. The Tower of Babel is also protohistory in that it provides a universal judgment by God against human hubris. These origin tales are best labelled protohistory. This negates much of the need apply a modern concept to narratives that were never designed to provide such characteristics. In response to Wenham’s essay, Hoffmeier acknowledges the necessity of determining authorial intent and the genealogies serving as the core of the passage in question. He supports Wenham’s idea that no part of Genesis deserves to be called “myth” in the contemporary sense of the term. Further, he accepts the idea of protohistory as described by the author as designed to convey theological truths and to be based on some sort of historical source(s). The Ancient Near Eastern parallels are pertinent, and the inclusion of both comparison and contrast provide for a richer understanding of the biblical account. In his response, Sparks believes that Wenham’s idea of protohistory is overly generic and ignores the genres and nuances of the text. These inhibit the proper understanding of Scripture. He feels that this approach also ignores scientific and the Documentary Hypothesis that any reasonable person would take into account. The “nebulous” protohistorical method does not allow for judgements regarding historicity. The Nephilim, Flood, and Tower of Babel accounts are obviously mythic, and, therefore, non-historic. Chapter Three is “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Historiography” by Sparks. In this essay, he promotes the idea that the Bible should constantly be reviewed and compared to contemporary methods and views and be modified as necessary by this approach. A literal reading of Genesis is impossible due to many scientific advances, especially in astronomy and biology, since the time the Bible was originally written. He argues that genre is an important element of interpretation as it serves an epistemic function whereby mankind is able to make sense of things via comparison and contrast. Seeking genre is a natural and usually unconscious human response. Genre and authorial intent should be determined as a matter of course as these influence understanding of a given text. These texts are created by men rather than God and are, therefore, not inerrant. They are also created by multiple authors who relied upon a number of sources, including a number of Ancient Near Eastern parallel materials. As is the case with the source materials, much of Genesis 1-11 is mythic and/or legendary. This includes the Nephilim story, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel episode. Regarding the Nephilim, Sparks believes that the story is about the evil daughters of Cain, which is a reworking of other Ancient Near Eastern accounts. Although the Flood tale may be based upon some local event, it was not the universal deluge depicted in the Bible as scholars and scientists have proven that such a catastrophe could not have occurred. The overall story is a modified version of the other preceding tales taken from Ancient Near Eastern sources. The Tower of Babel is likewise taken from various pre-existing sources and modified to fit into the biblical narrative. Linguistic science demonstrates that human language differences came into being in ways that do not align with the biblical legend. The sources are varied for the stories in the passage in question. Sparks has created a modified version of the Documentary Hypothesis to account for many of these sources. Although the authors of Genesis were not attempting to write literal history, they were attempting to convey something in that medium, and this goal makes Scripture worth reading. In reply to Sparks’ essay, Hoffmeier proposes that the author has failed to perform adequate comparative study of Ancient Near Eastern sources rather than relying upon mythology. He rejects that science and contemporary beliefs and practices should override biblical truth. Christians, he argues, should view Scripture as authoritative rather than science or worldviews. The Documentary Hypothesis has fallen under much criticism, and Hoffmeier prefers a more unitary view in regard to the formation of Genesis. Wenham also disagrees with Sparks’ reliance upon science and contemporary praxis. He also feels that myth is not the proper literary genre for this passage. Further, he feels that the Documentary Hypothesis and the use of Ancient Near Eastern sources to be problematic and inaccurate. Reading Genesis as an individual story rather than an amalgamation of disparate sources is a better approach to interpreting the book. Following is a conclusion by Halton. Herein, he points out that there are a variety of views regarding the passage in question, and that this is the normal state of scholarship. Christians have a wide range of views that are frequently contradictory and held in good faith by talented and experienced scholars. Although the book focuses upon differences, there are more similarities in the views generally amongst the three contributors than disagreements. It is important to realize that no one has a view that is completely accurate and that charitable interaction in such situations is vital. Ending the book are Scripture and Subject indices. I rank this book 4 of 5 stars. It is a useful resource for those interested in the primary views regarding the historicity of the Genesis account of the Bible, especially those interested in comparison and contrast of the views. The interaction between the authors also provides information in an argumentative manner. The book itself is laid out well and easy to navigate.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    Decent overview giving three examples of approaches to Genesis. The conclusion by the general editor in light of three "experts" with divergent views correctly calls for all non expert interpreters such as most lay readers to exercise humility and tolerance of other Christian's views. Perhaps that conclusion is the most concrete and valuable thing to be gained from the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Strong

    Well worth reading for a certain variety of scholarly perspectives on the first part of Genesis, chapters 1 through 11.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Drake

    Up to this point, I've really enjoyed the books in the Counterpoints series that I've read so far. They've been very helpful in cultivating a better understanding of different views and in developing my own views on various theological subjects as well. So I was disappointed to find that this volume did not achieve either of these goals. This is due primarily to the length of the book itself, which is only a little over 160 pages long. The contributors are only given about 25-30 pages to argue t Up to this point, I've really enjoyed the books in the Counterpoints series that I've read so far. They've been very helpful in cultivating a better understanding of different views and in developing my own views on various theological subjects as well. So I was disappointed to find that this volume did not achieve either of these goals. This is due primarily to the length of the book itself, which is only a little over 160 pages long. The contributors are only given about 25-30 pages to argue their case and about 10 pages to respond to the others. To put this in perspective: the last Counterpoints book I read (Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today?) was about 350 pages long, with the main essays being around 50 pages long and the responses around 16-20 pages. I am honestly not sure why Zondervan felt like this book should be so much smaller than the others, but it hurts the book's usefulness drastically, as the authors are simply not given enough space to flesh out their arguments and make a compelling case for their views. In addition to the issues regarding the book's length, I also found myself being frustrated with the contributors themselves. Hoffmeier argues that Genesis is largely historical (and makes good arguments for a historical reading) with some mythic elements mixed into the accounts; but he does not specify which details should be considered historical and which should be considered as myth. He had the opportunity to do so in his response to Wenham; but sadly, he only listed the things he agreed with Wenham about in his response and failed to highlight where they differed. Wenham views Genesis as "protohistory" and seems to believe that it doesn't really matter which stories are historical and which are mythical because the theological message of Genesis remains the same regardless of genre. But as Sparks rightly pointed out in his response to Wenham, it is impossible to interpret Genesis (or any other piece of literature) without at least some understanding of its genre. As for Sparks himself, his essay was ironically the most clear and well-organized of the three while being the farthest from orthodoxy. Sparks believes that modern literary criticism and scientific advancements must force one to conclude that Genesis is actually the product of multiple authors who contradicted each other and who believed many of the events to be historical that in reality never happened (Sparks also hints that this reflects his understanding of the Old Testament as a whole as well). Yet somehow Sparks doesn't see the inconsistency of allowing scientific theories and modern critical scholarship to shape his views of Genesis while rejecting such theories and scholarship when it comes to the resurrection of Christ and the historical reliability of the gospels. All of these inconsistencies, combined with the brevity of the book itself, made this an ultimately disappointing read. While I did gain some interesting insights into the structure and themes of Genesis itself (particularly from Hoffmeier and Wenham), my understanding of the issues surrounding the historicity of Genesis was not greatly enhanced by this volume.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave Lester

    Having read parts of this book for research for my Genesis sermon, I figured I should just finish the book and I'm glad I did. The parts I read prior to my message didn't connect with me but I think that has more to do with the information not being quite what I was after in compiling notes for my message. The scope of this book has to do with Genesis 1-11 (i.e. pre-Abraham) and my sermon was addressing Genesis 1 exclusively. Once I was able just to read the book (with no assignment attached), I Having read parts of this book for research for my Genesis sermon, I figured I should just finish the book and I'm glad I did. The parts I read prior to my message didn't connect with me but I think that has more to do with the information not being quite what I was after in compiling notes for my message. The scope of this book has to do with Genesis 1-11 (i.e. pre-Abraham) and my sermon was addressing Genesis 1 exclusively. Once I was able just to read the book (with no assignment attached), I got a lot more out of the work. As I mentioned, three scholars dive into the Bible's earliest accounts: creation, Cain and Abel, the Nephilim mixing it up with earth women, Noah's flood, the Tower of Babel and the table of nations. All three scholars consider themselves evangelical(ish) and hold the Bible to be the Word of God. The takes and interpretations on these early Biblical chapters certainly differ among them. Hoffmeier definitely weights the first 11 chapters of Genesis to be actual history. With the existence multiple genealogies in those chapters, he rationalizes that this is an accurate family history of Israel that communicates theology (specifically Israel's relationship to the true God). Wenham's view of Genesis 1-11 is more complicated. He argues that the text is "proto-history". The genealogies represent an expanded history of Israel and it is less important, in his view, that events “may not be datable and fixable chronologically, but they were viewed as real events”. Emphasis on "viewed" or one could say believed to be real events. Wenham moves a little bit away from an importance that every story in these opening Biblical chapters actually happened in history or perhaps if an event did happen, it has been recorded with hyperbole and certainly is not impartial. He would uphold the theological teachings and messaging to be truth. Sparks would be considered the most "liberal" of the three scholars. His belief is that the opening chapters of Genesis are ancient historiography. From his perspective, while Biblical writers probably intended to record historical events, the opening chapters of Genesis "do not narrate closely what actually happened. . . . There was no Edenic garden, nor trees of life and knowledge, nor a serpent that spoke, nor a worldwide flood in which all living things, save those on a giant boat, were killed by God”. Sparks, like Wenham, would uphold the theological teaching of these chapters as the Word of God and maintains their value in communicating humanity's relationship to God but would argue against their literal history and general scientific assumptions. He would ask: does something have to happen literally in history for it to be considered theologically (or philosophically) true? Of the three perspectives, Sparks seemed the most reasoned and persuasive of the arguments...and I don't agree with him on some of his points. Attempting to weave a theological truth with modern scientific consensus and an understanding of anthropological history is not an easy task and Sparks comes the closest to actually pulling this off. A few excerpts. Hoffmeier wrote the following in response to Sparks: "Human evolution and the biological sciences are by nature descriptive. They cannot tell us what caused or who made it happen, and what or who made matter and transformed inanimate material living to organisms. Even if one recognizes that biological evolution occurred, the Bible demands that we view this as how God created. God is the who behind the processes and He sovereignly controls them creating according to His will. Scripture answers the real questions the humans long to have answered." (page 144) "Augustine was very explicit that one should be open to changing one's mind when it comes to the book of Genesis: "(I)n matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision...we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.' The Bible, like every other text, is not self-interpreting. Augustine, along with those mentioned above, realized that humans construct interpretations from Scripture and these can be, and often are, in error. In his view, we should attempt to conform ourselves every closer to Scripture, not to human constructions derived from Scripture. Readers have an active role in forming the meanings and understandings that they embrace. The questions they ask of a writing, the ways in which they formulate synthetic conclusions, the methods they employ, the interpretive frameworks they bring, and even their emotional states and personal histories affect how they construct interpretations. The emotional needs of readers may be the most overlooked shaper of interpretive outcomes because they often work on a subconscious level. And as Roger Scruton observed, in many cases emotional needs precede rational arguments and shape theological conclusions in advance. Often times the conclusions we draw from the Bible have more to do with our emotional disposition- our fears and wants- than they do about the data that is in front of us. this is true when we read Gen 1-11 and this is one of the reasons why Christians often disagree over matters of Bible and theology. We bring different emotional needs to these debates." (Page 158) If anyone is interested in scholarly debate on the first eleven chapters of Genesis, this is a highly recommended read. The book is assessable (only 163 pages in the paperback) and introduces the audience to the interpretative challenges of Genesis in our modern era.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chad King

    It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did it was fascinating. Three different religious scholars present three different views on Genesis 1-11, namely (1) it's historically accurate, (2) the characters are historical but the stories are not, and (3) none of it's historical or scientifically accurate. All three scholars are believers and affirm that Genesis is God's word, but they each approach it differently. In addition to their own essays, each scholar has a chance to respond to It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did it was fascinating. Three different religious scholars present three different views on Genesis 1-11, namely (1) it's historically accurate, (2) the characters are historical but the stories are not, and (3) none of it's historical or scientifically accurate. All three scholars are believers and affirm that Genesis is God's word, but they each approach it differently. In addition to their own essays, each scholar has a chance to respond to each essay from the others, so it's a bit like reading a debate. The book provides much food for thought and is an excellent resource if you are interested in better understanding Genesis.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nelson

    This is a mostly literary approach to Genesis. I am probably most sympathetic to Hoffmeier’s contribution but I also differ with him in many respects. He has the most conservative views compared to the other authors, but he doesn’t seem particularly so to me. For example, he is sympathetic to the view that the Hebrew Scriptures were compiled after the Babylonian exile. But then on the other extreme, Sparks is on another planet. I couldn’t tell the difference between him and a sceptic. I was hopi This is a mostly literary approach to Genesis. I am probably most sympathetic to Hoffmeier’s contribution but I also differ with him in many respects. He has the most conservative views compared to the other authors, but he doesn’t seem particularly so to me. For example, he is sympathetic to the view that the Hebrew Scriptures were compiled after the Babylonian exile. But then on the other extreme, Sparks is on another planet. I couldn’t tell the difference between him and a sceptic. I was hoping this book would provide some historical and scientific arguments for their views, but I was disappointed in that respect. The book was just ok.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Justin Holmes

    The contents of this book do not actually address the main question about the historicity of Genesis. Only Kenton Sparks (the liberal view) even bother's addressing the historicity question. The others just skirt around it pretending it doesn't matter.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Boling

    The book of Genesis and specifically the exegesis and application of its first eleven chapters have resulted in a plethora of opinions among scholars and layman alike. Does the Genesis creation account reflect actual history or is it merely a symbolic representation of God being Creator. Did God truly flood the entire earth during the day of a man named Noah? How does science inform our understanding of these biblical accounts or vice versa? Finally, is Genesis actual recorded history or are the The book of Genesis and specifically the exegesis and application of its first eleven chapters have resulted in a plethora of opinions among scholars and layman alike. Does the Genesis creation account reflect actual history or is it merely a symbolic representation of God being Creator. Did God truly flood the entire earth during the day of a man named Noah? How does science inform our understanding of these biblical accounts or vice versa? Finally, is Genesis actual recorded history or are these merely stories provided by God to engage the pagan ideals of the surrounding cultures, kind of a I am better than your gods type concept? Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?, part of the ever expanding and helpful Counterpoints series from Zondervan books, contains three essays on how to approach Genesis. Each author also takes a stab at evaluating the essays of their fellow contributors. James Hoffmeier shares the perspective that Genesis shares both factual history and reliable theology, Gordon Wenham takes a similar yet slightly different approach noting Genesis 1-11 are more of a protohistory, a somewhat “fuzzy” picture that is not exactly history but isn’t exactly not history, and finally, Kenton Sparks takes the view that these chapters represent not actual history, but more of a reflection of the viewpoints one would find in that time period with God merely helping the people of that day understand how He differs and His actions differ from the gods of the surrounding cultures. Each author was tasked with identifying the overall genre of Genesis 1-11, supporting their choice of genre, examining the implications of their genre choice, and then applying that genre by interpreting the story of the Nephilim, Noah and the ark, and the Tower of Babel. All three authors are very careful to avoid describing Genesis 1-11 as being myth; however, Sparks does seem to toe the line somewhat while not overtly jumping into the mythological chair so to speak. I was especially interested to see how the choice of genre by these three authors impacted their approach to the events outlined in Genesis 6:1-4 as I have long been fascinated with this small section of Scripture. While Hoffmeier did go into great detail as to the various viewpoints throughout history on the Nephilim, he seemed to avoid providing a specific response. He does suggest the Genesis 6:1-4 recalls a “genuine memory from early human history”, yet in the end, I was not sure in the end what his stance truly was and why. It seemed as if he rejected the idea the Nephilim were fallen angels, but did not provided the reader with what exactly they were from a historical perspective. I was left wondering why they could not be fallen angels and why that approach had to be considered solely in the mythological construct. Wenham also aptly explained the various views on the Nephilim while noting in a bit more detail the connection between ancient myth and possible historical reality. I appreciated his honest questions about the Sethite theory, ones which I have posed myself. While at the outset of this book I believed I would be more in line with Hoffmeier in regards to the Nephilim, in the end it seems I found more to like in the approach of Wenham which was something of a surprise to be honest. When it comes to the approach taken by Sparks, his viewpoint that Genesis 1-11 is borderline myth did nothing to really engage the historical possibilities of the Nephilim or any other of the assigned topics for that matter. Part of the enjoyment of the Counterparts series is the interaction that takes place between the contributors. Given the similarity of the views of both Hoffmeier and Wenham, it was understandable that the response by Hoffmeier to Wenham’s essay was brief. Both Hoffmeier and Wenham had much to say about the essay by Sparks and understandably so given his embracing of evolutionary dogma and 19th century biblical criticism which cloud his understanding of Genesis 1-11. Overall I found this book to be quite enlightening. There were many points I agree with from both Hoffmeier and Wenham and of course points I disagree with as well. There seemed to be little if anything I found agreement with in the essay by Sparks. Even still, the three perspectives presented were informative, and the interaction between the authors was also informative while remaining irenic. Given the foundational nature of Genesis 1-11 for the remainder of Scripture, this is an important subject and I can certainly recommend Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? as a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion of Genesis and Scripture at large. It is a helpful book for scholars and laymen alike in the ongoing tradition of the Counterpoints series. I received this book for free from Zondervan and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Hurst

    Not very helpful. It was nice to see the positions laid out, but it doesn't help anyone determine anything as the responses are not all that helpful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryne Isaac

    I find these books helpful and frustrating all at the same time. In some ways, the views seem very similar to one another. But on the other hand, they tend to pick apart small sentences and thoughts from the other authors. Overall, I think this is a great start for someone who better wants to understand the different views on Genesis. Did it really happen? Is it a story that just tells us about who God is? Is it a myth (which doesn't necessarily translate to the way we use myth today)? Overall, I find these books helpful and frustrating all at the same time. In some ways, the views seem very similar to one another. But on the other hand, they tend to pick apart small sentences and thoughts from the other authors. Overall, I think this is a great start for someone who better wants to understand the different views on Genesis. Did it really happen? Is it a story that just tells us about who God is? Is it a myth (which doesn't necessarily translate to the way we use myth today)? Overall, I walked away believing each of these authors truly loved God and want to understand the Hebrew Scriptures to the best of their ability.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Genesis 1-11 has long been an intriguing topic but I had until this point only considered the first few chapters of Genesis in any detail. Not being an expert in the topic, i appreciated the spectrum of views presented here. The tone in which it was presented is a good model for us to follow when discussing such things. Each author presented their argument clearly and succinctly and each essay is well referenced; some counterpoints books have a tendency to be repetitive - not so here. Sparks pos Genesis 1-11 has long been an intriguing topic but I had until this point only considered the first few chapters of Genesis in any detail. Not being an expert in the topic, i appreciated the spectrum of views presented here. The tone in which it was presented is a good model for us to follow when discussing such things. Each author presented their argument clearly and succinctly and each essay is well referenced; some counterpoints books have a tendency to be repetitive - not so here. Sparks position was most unfamiliar to me and all authors helped me see new things in the text. Sparks’ was also the most interesting discourse but I’m not sure it is entirely adequate to sustain some of what the rest of the Bible talks about. Nevertheless, Genesis is a complex book so it is helpful to broaden ones understanding of others positions, and to perhaps momentarily approach the text as if through a different set of eyes. Recommended for those interested in Old Testament theology, origins, science & religion.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wesley

    Wenham most assuredly wins the day. Hoffmaier is a fantastic historian but a lot of his analysis results in overstatement. Similarly, Sparks, as a disciple of John van Seters, overstates the case for the pretty radical idea of Supplementary Hypothesis (similar to Documentary Hypothesis but with a later J). I found Hoffmaier's response to Sparks to be on point. Even though I may not have 100% with Hoffmaier, he effectively lampoons and discredits Sparks. Wenham's chapter is vague at times (I'm sti Wenham most assuredly wins the day. Hoffmaier is a fantastic historian but a lot of his analysis results in overstatement. Similarly, Sparks, as a disciple of John van Seters, overstates the case for the pretty radical idea of Supplementary Hypothesis (similar to Documentary Hypothesis but with a later J). I found Hoffmaier's response to Sparks to be on point. Even though I may not have 100% with Hoffmaier, he effectively lampoons and discredits Sparks. Wenham's chapter is vague at times (I'm still not too sure how protohistory is supposed to function) but his moderation takes the day. The other two squabble over the merits of Documentary Hypothesis which is purely speculative (interesting that Sparks unquestioningly embraces it while being a staunch advocate for science). The Final Form approach of Wenham is superior and allows him to be sensitive to science without capitulating to the kind of scientism so prevalent in modern academia.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Galarneau

    This is an excellent work that addresses the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Three of the top Old Testament scholars present their different views on how we should approach this section of Scripture, they also present responses to each other's essays. It makes for a very in-depth look at the three separate stances. For those that are literal interpreters of the Bible, this book may be hard to accept, as none of the views presented a strict literal interpretation. Still, I would not pass up the pos This is an excellent work that addresses the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Three of the top Old Testament scholars present their different views on how we should approach this section of Scripture, they also present responses to each other's essays. It makes for a very in-depth look at the three separate stances. For those that are literal interpreters of the Bible, this book may be hard to accept, as none of the views presented a strict literal interpretation. Still, I would not pass up the possibility of familiarizing yourself with the different views found in Christian Scholarship.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter Day

    This was a helpful study and all 3 viewpoints gave useful insight into the genre and structure of Gen 1-11. However, I was disappointed that one of the three views wasn't young earth creationism. This was rather dismissed out of hand by all three authors, rather than being engaged with sensibly. At the same time, the concluding chapter's call for charity (from Augustine) was helpful, as was the sobering reminder that learned scholars do disagree (and have disagreed historically). It is helpful to This was a helpful study and all 3 viewpoints gave useful insight into the genre and structure of Gen 1-11. However, I was disappointed that one of the three views wasn't young earth creationism. This was rather dismissed out of hand by all three authors, rather than being engaged with sensibly. At the same time, the concluding chapter's call for charity (from Augustine) was helpful, as was the sobering reminder that learned scholars do disagree (and have disagreed historically). It is helpful to approach issues such as the ones addressed in this book with an appropriate humility.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angel Graham

    Another one by Zondervan I cannot read. Again, the word "only" shows up in odd places, sentences split between two lines, odd sentences in the middle of those split sentences. Again, it appears they have slapped a print format into the Kindle and didn't bother to actually format for the Kindle. Beginning to think it isn't worth trying to read anything by Zondervan on my mobile device.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Biblical and historical record and scholarship of Genesis continue the Church's interpretative tradition of concurrences and disagreements. Convergences and divergences should not keep participants of critical debate from practicing charity and writing with clarity and precision.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marc Axelrod

    Great overview! I think this was an outstanding discussion about the genre of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. I personally prefer and lean toward Hoffmeier and Wenham's views, but I learned something from every essay.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zach Waldis

    Pretty decent survey of the opening chapters of Genesis; the perspectives range from very conservative to moderate. Hoffmeier at least does not believe in a young earth.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jambrez

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danny Barulli

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bloch

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Justice

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bourns

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

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