Commentaries on Genesis

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This is part of a larger project reviewing commentaries on each book of the Bible. Follow the links from that post for more information on the series, including explanations of what I mean by some of the terms and abbreviations in this post. This is not an exhaustive list, just the commentaries that I think are most worth paying attention to.

Gordon Wenham's WBC (1987, 1994) receives the best all-around reviews of any commentary on Genesis and from a wide range of people. Wenham is a moderate to conservative evangelical. He spends some time on source-critical issues, generally taking a skeptical stance toward those who think they can delineate sources and identify different time periods for different parts of the book. Wenham is good at historical background, often defending the plausibility of the narratives, particularly in the patriarchal section. He spends more time than most academic commentaries dealing with matters of theology and even Christian application. Of the Genesis commentaries that are accessible enough for someone like me (i.e. someone not knowing any Hebrew) to read, Wenham's is the most detailed on textual criticism. One strength is his proportionally-greater treatment of the structure of individual passages, although some might think it's a bit much. I did think the commentary was a bit briefer than I expected once you get through the literary and source-critical issues. His structural analysis shows a tightly-woven narrative by a single mind, which undermines the credence he shows to the general source-critical approach (as skeptical as he is of particular proposals in source criticism). Wenham has an absolutely stellar NICOT on Leviticus and a pretty good exposition in TOTC on Numbers. He also has done a lot of more general work on the Pentateuch and is generally seen as one of the top Pentateuch scholars of our time.

Victor Hamilton's NICOT (1990, 1995) is about at the same level. He is a conservative evangelical, and the series is generally seen as being more conservative than WBC, which is probably the reason he gets a little less attention from the less-conservative end of scholarship. I think the commentaries are about equivalent in quality, with Wenham perhaps winning out a little more often in terms of incisive exegesis but Hamilton giving a little more depth on more issues, especially in his introduction. Hamilton is particularly better on linguistic issues such as grammar and close analysis of particular words, but I think he may sometimes overdo it chasing lexical rabbit trails, and he's perhaps less strong on big-picture thinking. He takes the time throughout his commentary to look at the New Testament use of Genesis. I would say that Hamilton and Wenham balance each other pretty well as a pair. Hamilton is also known for his Handbook on the Pentateuch.

Bruce Waltke had a set of exegetical notes he would distribute to his Genesis seminary classes, and one of his former students, Cathi J. Fredericks, talked him into letting her edit them for publication in this 2001 volume. He did expand on them in places, but these are mostly brief exegetical notes with theological summaries for each unit he discusses. I generally find his exegesis to be the best of any of the Genesis commentaries I've looked at, but there isn't a lot of detail here on historical background, language, and many other things you might expect to look to a commentary to help you understand. The book is uneven, having much more discussion on the parts he chose to expand on and much less of insight on the notes he chose to leave as they were. It makes it hard to tell the intended audience also, since it doesn't have enough depth on every matter for academic work, has a bit much on structural and rhetorical elements for the average paster, and isn't evenly balanced in amount of detail across the whole book to be a first choice for any purpose. Nevertheless, I recommend it with Hamilton and Wenham as an excellent supplement to their more detailed work. Waltke is a conservative evangelical, and he's also known for excellent commentaries on Proverbs (NICOT) and Micah (Eerdmans) as well as an oft-cited Hebrew grammar.

Kenneth Mathews' NAC (1996, 2005) nearly rivals Hamilton and Wenham for length, but it's more accessible than either and has much less detail on some scholarly matters. I haven't spent much time in it, but I think it's at least nearing their level in quality. This is a very underrated commentary, an excellent standout in a pretty good but often-ignored series. He's probably more conservative than either, certainly more than Wenham. Mathews is strong on ancient near eastern background, and he shows strengths in theological and literary analysis. He spends a lot of time on historicity issues.

John Sailhamer's EBC (now bound with Walter Kaiser on Exodus and Richard Hess on Leviticus, 2008) has been revised for the new series under Tremper Longman's editorial direction. I haven't seen the new edition, but I liked Sailhamer's original EBC. It seemed to me to be one of the best popular-level commentaries. I'm guessing it's significantly improved with the new edition, and it's pretty much hot off the presses as I write this, having come out earlier this year. Sailhamer is well-known for his The Pentateuch as Narrative, which reveals his fondness for literary analysis. He feels no compulsion to adopt mainstream conclusions (e.g. his is the only recent commentary in which I've found a positive treatment of the view that the sons of God in Genesis 6 are the faithful children of Shem, while the daughters of man are the unfaithful children of Cain).

John Walton's NIVAC (2001) is thought by many to be one of the better expositional/applicational Genesis commentaries. The strength of this series is tracing out how to bridge the gap between the original meaning and contemporary application, and those who do it well have produced some very good volumes, especially in the Old Testament. Walton is one of the editors of the series, and he has a better idea than some contributors of what the series was supposed to be like. Also, one of his scholarly strengths is ancient near eastern background, including literary genre. I've looked at it a little bit, and what I've seen has mostly been good. The original meaning section is pretty light, though, as is typical of this series. My biggest complaint has been Walton's endorsement of Walter Kaiser's view of Old Testament interpretation that there can be no truth expressed in a biblical passage unless the original human author intended it, which leads him to ignore many fruitful avenues of New Testament connections with Genesis.

Allen Ross has written an excellent guide to expositors who want to teach through the book of Genesis, called Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (1988). The introduction deals with the source-critical issues, but you won't see those issues much in the main body of the book. He doesn't see it as a commentary so much as an aid to thinking through how to teach the book, but a lot of commentating gets done along the way, and what I've read of it is indeed very helpful, especially on theology. It won't be very useful for academic work. Walton and Sailhamer are more up-to-date, but Allen is up to something a little different from either of them. Ross has a similar book on the exposition of Leviticus and a commentary in the EBC on Proverbs, which is on the verge of publication in its revised form as I write this. See also the forthcoming commentaries below for the upcoming CBC by Ross.

Derek Kidner's TOTC (1967) is getting very out-of-date now, but Kidner is so good that I had to mention it. This is a pretty brief volume, even by the Tyndale series' standards, but Kidner is a master of working a lot of excellent reflection into a compressed space. In some ways he's both more imaginative and more careful than most of the more detailed commentaries you'll find in this list. It won't be much help on issues of language or text, and it will be no help on recent scholarly issues.

Walter Brueggemann's Interpretation (1982) is especially interesting in a number of ways. Brueggemann is know for challenging tradition, and this commentary is no exception. He's very passionate about a number of things, some of which will be more welcomed by those toward the leftward end of biblical interpretation. He will challenge your preconceptions about the text no matter where you stand, however, and while I often don't agree with his views about the nature of scripture or with some of his political conclusions, I think it's worth a look to find insights you might not see elsewhere, and some of the assumptions he challenges are well worth challenging but still uncomfortable for many to move away from (e.g. Western, upper-class, holier-than-thou approaches). Brueggemann tends to be better than most with literary observations. He always has an eye out for the practical import of the text in contemporary society. Though he accepts a fragmented approach to the origins of the text, he does not spend much time analyzing its development but simply looks at the text as we have it.

Terence Fretheim's NIB (1994) is pretty much in the same category as Brueggeman's commentary above. The two of them are probably the biggest heroes of popular-level commentary writing for what some call the religious left. Fretheim is an open theist, and I think that mars his work considerably. Others, of course, will find that welcome. He certainly does reflect on biblical theology, though, and that's something a lot of critical scholars don't do as much of. He might be somewhat less critical on other issues than much of mainstream biblical scholarship, however. This volume begins with some essays on the Bible as an introduction to the series. I would describe them as moderately-critical in perspective. It also includes Brueggeman on Exodus and conservative evangelical Walter Kaiser on Leviticus. The price for each volume in this series is quite high, but this is one volume where all the commentaries might be worth having.

John Hartley's NIBC (2000) has received favorable enough reviews for me to include it here, even though I've not seen the book myself. Hartley is something of a moderate evangelical. I generally like his Leviticus WBC and Job NICOT. This series tends to be very brief on exposition, with some scholarly endnotes that I expect are unreadable to a popular audience, so I've never been sure who the audience is supposed to be. It's got too little detail to be used for serious scholarship, but the scholarly footnotes give far more detail than is necessary for an exposition. He defends idiosyncratic views about the structure of Genesis and of individual passages. He gives arguments for the authenticity of the patriarchal narratives and for a Mosaic role in the book. The volumes in this series are very inexpensive, so it's a nice, cheap additional resource if you just want one other perspective to balance out some other volumes.

David Atkinson's BST on chapers 1-11 (subtitled "The Dawn of Creation", 1990) is a very brief exposition of those chapters. I haven't seen it, but I know it's well-liked by those who tend to appreciate this kind of series, which is somewhat devotional in tone but usually backed up by careful scholarly study. As might be imagined, a volume in this series will spend more time on hot-button issues than you'd expect to find in a more traditional commentary. Thus Atkinson weighs in on evolution (he accepts theistic evolution), gender relations (he is a full egalitarian), and homosexuality (here he takes a more traditional view). He also discusses issues such as environmentalism, the mysterious origin of evil, and the seeming unfairness of extending grace only to some. The emphasis is on the overall story, however, and he spends as much time on the crucial first three chapters as he does on the rest of his assigned section (which actually goes to 12:3, despite its being advertised as going just through ch.11).

Joyce Baldwin did the second volume on chapters 12-50 (subtitled "From Abraham to Joseph", 1986). I really like most of Baldwin's work, especially at the expositional level. She wrote this before Atkinson wrote the first volume, so it's not exactly designed as a followup to Atkinson's commentary. One of Baldwin's interests is in connecting the stories of the patriarchs with archeological finds and defending the text against skeptical claims against its accuracy. Unlike Atkinson's much smaller portion of the book, Baldwin has to cover a huge amount of material and thus is much thinner. Much of that space is summary of what happens, with some use of background information to aid understanding and some reflection on principles of application, but this is somewhat brief for a series that almost specializes in that in most of its volumes.

Nahum Sarna's JPS Torah commentary (1989) is a very good representation of Jewish scholarship on Genesis. Those doing scholarly work ought to consult it. There are a number of commentaries I haven't listed, however, that that's true of. The main reason I'm listing it is because I think it's one of the most readable scholarly commentaries, even with the pages moving backwards and the Hebrew text being printed (with translation). It's a close analysis of the text, sometimes word-by-word, focusing on the final form of the text without denying multiple sources. I don't think most people teaching through the book will need it, but those who like to have a lot of input from diverse sources might want to go to this commentary if they want a purely scholarly work from a very different perspective from the ones above. Sarna pays closer attention to the history of interpretation, particularly Jewish interpretation, than most commentators. He isn't as sparse on theology as some older critical commentators, but I wouldn't say it's a strength of this commentary either. He is also helpful on ancient near eastern historical background and archeology.

Forthcoming Commentaries:

Richard Clifford's one volume Hermeneia will set a new standard. This series allows for large volumes, so it still might be more detailed than some of the two-volume commentaries, e.g. Wenham's WBC. Erhard Blum's HCOT, if it matches up to the standards of most of the series so far, will most likely be an important work for scholars to refer to but more difficult for someone with less scholarly background to handle. Ronald Hendel is doing the new Anchor Yale Bible replacement for Genesis, and last I'd heard the first volume, covering chs.1-11, was
supposed to be out in 2008. Hendel already has published work on the textual issues of those chapters. David L. Petersen is doing the OTL replacement, and his work is also well-received among scholars. If I had to guess, it will probably be more accessible than the other scholarly commentaries in this paragraph, just because this series usually is. All of these will represent generally-mainstream biblical scholarship and its critical assumptions.

Intermediate commentaries include Bill Arnold (NCBC) and David Baker (Apollos). I really like Arnold's work on Samuel. Baker has published commentaries on a number of the minor prophets in the NIVAC and TOTC series. Both are conservative evangelicals.

The three most notable beginning-level commentaries are probably Allen Ross's CBC, which will be bound with John Oswalt's Exodus, Walter Brueggeman's Old Testament for Everyone volume, and Theodore Hiebert's AOTC. The first two already have commentaries on Genesis. Ross will be the most conservative of the three.

I'm not sure whether to place Duane Garrett's KECOT at the intermediate or beginning level. Garrett is very good at this sort of commentary. Even though his scholarly  commentary on the Song of Songs hasn't been as well received, his low-to-mid-level commentaries on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Hosea, and Joel have done well in reviews, and my limited use of them fits with that. He's done work on Genesis before in Rethinking Genesis, a critical analysis of contemporary views of the authorship of Genesis and a defense of a more traditional approach. I expect this to be pretty good, although it does have some strong competition in lighter Genesis commentaries.

12 Comments

I'm pretty sure it's "Kenneth Mathews" who wrote the NAC volume.

I think your summaries are right on. I didn't know Garrett is writing a Genesis commentary. I studied Genesis under him back at GCTS. He's excellent, so I look forward to it. But honestly, there are enough good ones out there already that it's hard to get too excited for another one.

You're right. Victor Matthews did the New Cambridge Judges, but when that came out I thought it was the same guy who did the NAC Genesis (probably because I associated Genesis with Victor Hamilton and Kenneth Mathews). I've been mixing their names up ever since, even though I now know that they're very different scholars with very different approaches.

On Garrett, I think I'm less enthused also for the same reason. That's why I said he's got some serious competition already at that level.

You should review John Currid's 2-volume commentary on Genesis while you're at it.

Well, I haven't looked at it, so I can't say much. I know he takes the six-day literalist view, which puts it way down the list from any evangelical commentary in this list. It's very hard to maintain such a position even textually, never mind given what God has revealed through scientific study. I'm very reluctant to recommend any work that defends such a view, even if the rest of the work turned out ok.

I did look at his Exodus commentary, and I was particularly disappointed at his treatment of the lying issue with the midwives. He said a lot that tried to get around the text and treat lying as always immoral, but he didn't seem to be taking the text in a remotely honest way. He's not alone in that, but these things together worry me, and when you've got such a brief commentary you're going to end up summarizing the text and asserting your opinions without arguing for them. Given his views on two controversial topics where I think he exercises bad judgment, I'm not too quick to recommend his work. But I didn't think I was informed enough about the Genesis work to say anything helpful about it as an overall work, and there are plenty of very good Genesis commentaries at that level, ones that reviewers tend to list when they don't list his, that it didn't even occur to me to include it.

“Well, I haven't looked at it, so I can't say much. I know he takes the six-day literalist view, which puts it way down the list from any evangelical commentary in this list…I'm very reluctant to recommend any work that defends such a view, even if the rest of the work turned out ok.”

Isn’t that a rather myopic criterion, Jeremy?

“It's very hard to maintain such a position even textually.”

How would you know that if you haven’t even studied his exegesis?

“Never mind given what God has revealed through scientific study.”

But that isn’t the job of a commentator. Indeed, a commentator should avoid intruding these extraneous concerns into his exegesis. To shape his interpretation with a view of modern science would be blatantly anachronistic. A primary purpose of the grammatico-historical method is to avoid such anachronistic reinterpretations of the text.

I’ve read 19C commentaries on Genesis which reinterpret the text in light of cutting-edge 19C science. Needless to say, the exercise is hopelessly obsolete.

When we interpret a text from the past, including the sacred text, the first duty of the commentator is to assume the historical horizon of the ancient author and his target audience—not make the author/audience assume the historical horizon of a modern reader. The last thing we should do, exegetically speaking, is to bring the text into our own time and place. That’s a valid move after we’ve done our exegetical homework, and are now concerned with its application to our own situation.

It’s seem to me that you’re allowing apologetics to drive exegesis. Do you think that apologetics should dictate the exegetical agenda? Should apologetics prejudge what the word of God is allowed to say?

In my opinion, the job of apologetics is to defend the results of exegetical theology, not prejudge the results of exegetical theology.

“I did look at his Exodus commentary, and I was particularly disappointed at his treatment of the lying issue with the midwives.”

Once again, Jeremy, I think your priorities are askew, and you bring unrealistic expectations to a commentary.

You’re an ethicist, Currid is not. It wouldn’t surprise me if your understanding of licit deception is more sophisticated than his.

Currid is an OT scholar and a field archeologist. He brings a different kind of expertise to the text of Genesis or Exodus. He has a doctorate from the world’s premier institution in the field of ANE studies. And that background is still very useful in dealing with the Pentateuchal literature.

I also wouldn’t be as dismissive of the “six-day literalist view” as you are. Ironically, an uber-liberal like James Barr defends this interpretation on grammatico-historical grounds:

http://www.asa3.org/asa/topics/AboutScience/chronology_barr.pdf

Interpretation isn't just about exegesis. But the best exegesis of the best commentators has shown that there's no need to take the days to refer to 24-hour periods. The structure of the passage almost cries out to be read as a poetic structure describing what God did but not as if it's a scientific manual detailing what happened in actual 24-hour periods. I've read enough commentaries to see that very clearly. I do know the arguments others give, and I don't think they're remotely convincing. I've looked at Barr before, and he seems to me to be in the same category.

I don't see where apologetics is fitting in here. I didn't bring it in. I did bring science in. The role science plays is not to dismiss a biblical interpretation merely because our best science tells us something. What I said is that it's hard to derive that view from the text, and if you bring more into interpretation than just exegetical issues (since those don't settle it), you're not going to get any help from general revelation. But Augustine didn't need general revelation to see that the passage doesn't wear that interpretation on its sleeve. This isn't a modern observation.

I'm not a fan of attempts to fit Genesis to the most current science, matching up each bit with some event in contemporary cosmology. (Hugh Ross, for instance, engages in this sort of thing.) That seems to me to be as bad as the six-day view, which tries to do that with medieval science. What we ought to do is look at the text, observe its structure, recognize that it's saying something about God and his creation in contrast to the creation myths of other nations/religions at the time, and not expect the genre to accomplish more than what the genre accomplished for those other peoples of the ancient near east.

You seem to have a linear model of hermeneutics, and I don't find that plausible. Theology affects exegesis. Ideally you can try to do exegesis without letting theology affect it too much, and then you can try to develop your biblical theology, eventually asking more systematic questions, and so on, but that will then mean you need to start over again and do your exegesis in the light of what you've arrived at with the broader picture. The spiral model of hermeneutics is much more accurate to how people actually think and is at least psychologically possible. A linear model isn't.

I do ethics, but everyone does ethics. I have to think about possible cases of licit deception, because I have to teach ethics, but he has to think about them too, because he has to comment on Exodus 1. The text seems to treat what the midwives did as not just morally allowable but especially praiseworthy. This is a pattern throughout the Bible. Bill Arnold recognizes this in his Samuel commentary in the NIVAC series. His treatment of that issue is absolutely stellar. The Exodus one by Enns in the same series and the EBC one by Walter Kaiser (who has a book on Old Testament ethics) seemed absolutely terrible to me. They seem to go against the text in order to defend a view that seems to fit their moral intuitions. They do bad exegesis on other texts to get those texts to teach those views, and then they think this particular text must be read in a way that doesn't fit with its emphasis in order to maintain those views. The problem starts with their exegesis, not their ethical reasoning. I'm not expecting brilliant ethical arguments, although Arnold's navigation of those issues does meet my philosopher's standards. I'm just expecting them to look at the text and comment on what it does say.

Hi Jeremy,

“Interpretation isn't just about exegesis.”

That statement isn’t self-explanatory.

“But the best exegesis of the best commentators has shown that there's no need to take the days to refer to 24-hour periods.”

First of all, you’re the one who wants to turn this into a debate over YEC. You chose to single out that feature of Currid’s commentary. That had nothing to do with my initial suggestion that you include his commentary in your review.

“The structure of the passage almost cries out to be read as a poetic structure describing what God did…”

Are you alluding to the framework hypothesis at this point? Since you insist on debating this issue, there are several problems with the framework hypothesis:

i) The parallels are rather inexact.
ii) Apropos (ii), other scholars have “discovered” different internal lparallels, so the whole exercise is rather subjective.
iii) In the hands of someone like Kline, the literary analysis becomes rather labyrinthine.
iv) There’s a schematic, visual quality to the framework hypothesis. Indeed, proponents of the framework hypothesis often feel the need to illustrate their interpretation by showing the reader a diagram. But Genesis was written for the ear, not the eye. For a listener.

More to the point, the basic chronological structure of Gen 1 is the 7-day week. That’s linear, not parallelistic. And the reason for the 7-day week is, of course, to foreshadow the Sabbath. A six-day workweek followed by a day off.

That temporal sequence furnishes the structuring principle of Gen 1. The backbone.

So the only real question is whether the creation week is figurative or literal. That’s the proper way to broach the issue.

“But not as if it's a scientific manual detailing what happened in actual 24-hour periods.”

You know that’s a caricature, Jeremy. The question at issue is not whether Gen 1 is a “scientific manual.” That’s just a diversionary tactic.

The question is whether it’s factual and historical. Science is a second-order discipline. Science and history take the same world as their object. So if Gen 1 is factual and historical, then that will impinge on the subject matter of science. Gen 1 doesn’t need to be a scientific manual to have scientific ramifications.

Of course, you’re tacitly assuming a particular philosophy of science—scientific realism.

“I don't see where apologetics is fitting in here. I didn't bring it in. I did bring science in.”

You seem to be suggesting that any interpretation of Gen 1 which comes into conflict with science is out of bounds. So you seem to be taking a concordist position, which is a classic apologetic move. If you’re not concerned with the scientific fallout from a YEC interpretation, then why would you introduce science as an undercutter or defeater for a YEC interpretation?

So you seem to require an interpretation of the text that’s scientifically defensible. Which is why I said apologetics is driving your exegesis at this point.

“What I said is that it's hard to derive that view from the text, and if you bring more into interpretation than just exegetical issues (since those don't settle it), you're not going to get any help from general revelation.”

Now you’re treating science as a facsimile or transcript of general revelation. Hence, if an interpretation of Gen 1 conflicts with science, it conflicts with general revelation. How you arrive at that equation, I don’t know.

I suppose that depends, in part, on whether you view perception as a window or a veil. It also depends on what a world would look like if it were up-and-running in the span of six calendar days.

“You seem to have a linear model of hermeneutics, and I don't find that plausible. Theology affects exegesis. Ideally you can try to do exegesis without letting theology affect it too much, and then you can try to develop your biblical theology, eventually asking more systematic questions, and so on, but that will then mean you need to start over again and do your exegesis in the light of what you've arrived at with the broader picture. The spiral model of hermeneutics is much more accurate to how people actually think and is at least psychologically possible. A linear model isn't.”

I didn’t say we should do exegesis without theology. I didn’t say anything like that. What I said, rather, is that we should resist anachronistic interpretations which interpret the text beyond the historical horizon of the author and his target audience.

There is, however, a difference between exegetical theology and systematic theology. When I interpret Genesis, I don’t limit myself to Genesis, for the Pentateuch forms a literary unit. Themes in Genesis foreshadow later Pentateuchal developments. Yet intertextuality stays true to original intent. To the viewpoint of the narrator.

Systematic theology operates at a higher level of abstraction. We should interpret each author on his own terms, according to his own theological framework, rhetorical strategy, literary allusions, anticipations, and historical circumstances.

The job of systematic theology is to take the results of exegetical theology and integrate them at a higher level of synthesis. It’s a second-order discipline.

“I do ethics, but everyone does ethics. I have to think about possible cases of licit deception, because I have to teach ethics, but he has to think about them too, because he has to comment on Exodus 1. The text seems to treat what the midwives did as not just morally allowable but especially praiseworthy. This is a pattern throughout the Bible. Bill Arnold recognizes this in his Samuel commentary in the NIVAC series. His treatment of that issue is absolutely stellar. The Exodus one by Enns in the same series and the EBC one by Walter Kaiser (who has a book on Old Testament ethics) seemed absolutely terrible to me. They seem to go against the text in order to defend a view that seems to fit their moral intuitions. They do bad exegesis on other texts to get those texts to teach those views, and then they think this particular text must be read in a way that doesn't fit with its emphasis in order to maintain those views. The problem starts with their exegesis, not their ethical reasoning. I'm not expecting brilliant ethical arguments, although Arnold's navigation of those issues does meet my philosopher's standards. I'm just expecting them to look at the text and comment on what it does say.”

i) I’m not taking issue with your position in this respect. I agree with you that the Bible authorizes deception in cases where innocent life is at risk. Whether we can extend that principle to other, less dire cases is an interesting question.
ii) I wouldn’t be surprised if Currid’s interpretation is colored by John Murray’s classic discussion (Principles of Conduct, chap. 6), which is influential in Reformed circles. Ironically, Murray is using the very methodology you recommend for Gen 1. Murray was a systematic theologian, and he begins with the divine attribute of truth or truthfulness. He then uses that as an overarching framework to deal with Scriptural passages which seem to imply divine approval for deception in life-threatening situations.

I happen to think that Murray’s reasoning is flawed, and it does lead to a certain amount of special pleading when he has to cope with problem passages (problematic for his position). He resorts to hairsplitting distinctions to salvage his position. But that’s due to his starting-point.

The framework hypothesis as usually presented is too rigid for what I'm talking about. I just mean something more like what Wenham, Hamilton, and most other commentators now support. Kline's specific way of doing the framework-hypothesis view is not what I mean. I meant just a more general recognition of poetic elements, material that is very similar to genuine myth in other ancient near eastern literature, and organizing techniques of various sorts that aren't typical in prose.

All the views on this take the language literally. I've written about that before. The six-day view does not have a monopoly on taking the language literally. The days refer to days within the structure of the mythic poetry. The question is whether the mythic poetry itself refers to actual days, whether the literal days within the poem correspond to periods of time of greater length, or whether they do not correspond to any chronological pattern. I take the third view, but in all three views the days are not metaphorical for something other than days. They literally mean days within the account. It's how the account is taken, not whether the language is literal.

I stand by my caricature of the six-day view. It takes the account to refer to a chronological ordered of exactly what happened and when, as if it's giving a scientific account of the order of events in a way that you can hold it up to scientific views and compare them to see if the science disproves the Bible or the Bible disproves the science. What I'm claiming (and what almost all scholars who have written on this passage in the last few decades think) is that it's not that sort of passage at all.

Science is part of general revelation. It is the use of the abilities God has given us to understand the world. It is fallible, and thus it can be wrong. It has generally come closer to the truth over time, though. The Bible is infallible, but our interpretation of it is fallible, and thus we can't hold our interpretation of the Bible up over science if our interpretation might be wrong. We have to engage in probabilities. Is the result of our best science more likely to be true than our interpretation? That depends on how careful we are at each and how likely it is that we're closer to the truth that each method, when ideally practiced, would produce.

I very much do not hold the view that we should find biblical interpretations that match up with the best science of the day. See here, for example. What I said is that, on an issue where the biblical data don't cause us to have a strong leaning against science, we have good reasons to accept the results of science. The post I just linked to shows that it all changes if there really are good reasons from the text to resist the results of science. As I hint in that post, I think there's stronger reason with respect to evolution than there is with respect to contemporary cosmology. I think it can be rational to withhold belief on evolution (without thinking it's biblically impossible), because it does seem to go against several important statements in the early chapters of Genesis, but I think there are much more reasonable ways of taking those chapters with an old cosmology, and I think that makes all the difference. This isn't apologetics-driven. It's driven by a desire to see (with our fallible interpretation) what the text absolutely requires, what it makes likely, and what is totally unclear and then to compare the fallible results of science with that to see which cases are best to go with science, which we should suspend belief on, and which we should go with the clear statement of the text even if science seems to count against it.

“I meant just a more general recognition of poetic elements, material that is very similar to genuine myth in other ancient near eastern literature.”

Like what? The Enuma elish? There are scholars who reject that comparison.

“All the views on this take the language literally. I've written about that before. The six-day view does not have a monopoly on taking the language literally. The days refer to days within the structure of the mythic poetry. The question is whether the mythic poetry itself refers to actual days, whether the literal days within the poem correspond to periods of time of greater length, or whether they do not correspond to any chronological pattern. I take the third view, but in all three views the days are not metaphorical for something other than days. They literally mean days within the account. It's how the account is taken, not whether the language is literal.”

Um…isn’t that a rather Pickwickian definition of literal? On that definition, you could take Alice in Wonderland literally because the Cheshire Cat is a literal cat within the story. This isn’t what we ordinarily mean by a literal interpretation. Indeed, it turns the ordinary meaning into its opposite.

“It takes the account to refer to a chronological ordered of exactly what happened and when, as if it's giving a scientific account of the order of events in a way that you can hold it up to scientific views and compare them to see if the science disproves the Bible or the Bible disproves the science.”

Not “scientific.” Just factual or historical.

There are differences between Genesis 1:1-2:3 and virtually any piece of literature you can come up with from the ancient near east. So scholars who recognize those differences might easily miss the similarities. It would be wrong to assume that the author of Genesis is doing the same thing those other authors were doing, but there are deliberate references to pagan myths in order to make theological statements. Virtually all scholars recognize that.

Um, the Cheshire Cat certainly is a literal cat. I'm not sure why anyone would think otherwise. Anyone who takes the differences with actual cats or the fact that it's fictional as a sign that it's not a literal cat is misusing the term 'literal'. Anyone who takes the fact that a character might symbolize something as a sign that the character is not a literal person in the story is misusing the term 'literal'. People on both sides of this debate regularly misuse the term 'literal', which is a contrast with the kind of language Jesus uses when he says he's a door or the vine or the kind of language the prophets and psalms use when they describe God's nostrils as smoking. Those are metaphors. There's no metaphor in the word 'day' in the day-age theory, and there's no metaphor in the word 'day' in the more general old-earth interpretations.

I would insist that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is both factual and historical. Yet I don't think it requires anything like the six-day creation view. So the difference between those views is not that the six-day view takes it to be factual and historical, while the old-earth views do not.

I don't mean to wade into deep waters here but I've always found Ex. 20:8-11 to be a strong argument in favor of 6 24-hr days for the Creation. Personally, whether the earth is young or old is secondary. "God Created..." is my focus.

Consequently, I wouldn't discount a commentary for supporting this view. I see why you would & accept that. Of course, commentaries that deny "traditional" authorship I have a problem with so I do the same thing as you do here.

I don't find that to be all that convincing. It certainly depends on God's presentation of creation in six days, but I don't see why that dependence has to come from actual six days, as opposed to six days within the literary structure of how God presented it to us in Genesis. The order of the six-day week comes from how God chose to structure our understanding of creation in terms of days. It doesn't have to come from its having actually been six days.

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