Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 20:2 (June 1977) p. 166
Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. By John J. Davis. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975, 363 pp., $7.95.
In this attractive volume the story of Genesis is retold, illuminated by mention of archaeological evidence, clarified by discussion of difficult points and defended from all attacks of liberals. There are good illustrations, detailed indexes and a substantial bibliography.
After a brief discussion of “Evidence for Mosaic Authorship,” the theological themes of Genesis are summarized as ethical monotheism, anthropology, covenant and cosmology. The characteristic literary style of Genesis is stated to be narrative; but in general, although a few later additions to the Mosaic text are conceded, the results of literary criticism are studiously ignored (chaps. 1–2, for example, are interpreted as scientific prose describing the origin of the world, 1:1–5; life, 1:6–25; and man, 1:26–2:25). Davis’ enthusiastic conservatism is rather uncritical and often leads him to accept “conservative” views and reject “liberal” views without real examination or discussion. For example, the “canopy theory” of Whitcomb and Morris is adopted with no more than a brief mention of alternative interpretations of “firmament” (pp. 60-61), while two influential scholarly views of the nature of the Joseph story are rejected without comment in favor of Mosaic authroship (p. 262).
Davis has a simplistic understanding of the relationship between the Bible and science, often in terms of a conflict which is resolved by asserting that the Bible is right (e.g., trees were created before marine organisms, pp. 62-63; though occasionally science is preferred, e.g., the sun rather than the earth is at the center of the solar system, pp. 64-65). He scarcely considers the possibility that the Biblical and scientific accounts of the origin of the world are complementary and should not be set in opposition to each other (e.g., he advocates the “literal-day theory” in preference to the “day-age theory” and “revelatory-day theory,” without even mentioning the view that Genesis 1 is not a scientific account but a theological statement in dramatic form).
In spite of its inadequacy from a scholarly point of view, Paradise to Prison contains helpful insights into the book of Genesis. I suspect, however, that few serious students will be satisfied with this work; there are better conservative defenses of Genesis (e.g. Kidner), and more illuminating theological interpretations (e...
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