Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 20:3 (2010) p. 433
Mark S. Smith. The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1. Philadelphia: Fortress, 2010. Pp. xix + 315. ISBN 978–0-8006–6373–5. $25.00 paper.
John H. Walton. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009. Pp. 192. ISBN 978–0-8308- 3704–5. $16.00 paper.
Two books appeared within a few months of one another that are devoted entirely to the study of one chapter of the Bible. The volumes provide different directions for the study of the text. We will look at each book separately and then briefly compare the two.
Smith’s book endeavors to provide a summary of recent studies and the manner in which they inform our understanding of Gen 1:1–2:4. As such, there is not much in the way of a new thesis. However, a large bibliography informs the author’s presentation. The study begins by reflecting on the many creation accounts in various parts of the OT and then summarizes them in three categories: those that present God as a warrior and king who defeats the powers of chaos; those that represent God as a sage who constructs the universe with wisdom; and those that present God as priest and the universe as his temple.
Rather than a verse-by-verse exegesis or topically taking the reader through Gen 1 with each of these three themes, Smith focuses on a variety of topics related to the study of this text and the results of recent research. Thus, the first verse should be understood as a relative clause that is dependent on a main clause in v. 2 or 3. Smith emphasizes the similarity of this structure to that of Enuma Elish and other ancient Near Eastern accounts and he cites the evidence from the vowel points of the Masoretic Text. However, the Septuagint does not support this reading, and the manuscript evidence of the Hexapla is ambiguous. Smith accepts the possibility of this traditional alternative of verse 1 as a main clause but does so only in his lengthy and detailed endnotes. He suggests that the “beginning” identified here refers to the beginning of the process of creation, rather than the beginning of all things. The evidence is not so clear because, after all, this is the beginning of a process that seems to be placed at the beginning of all things. However, one suspects that the real interest in this argument lies in his denial of creatio ex nihilo in these verses. Indeed, bārāʾ does not require this conclusion, but only that this a...
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