Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 24:2 (Fall 2020) p. 130
Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1–11. By C. John Collins. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018. 336 pp. Softcover $36.99.
The author of Reading Genesis Well is C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Liverpool. He has published four other books to date, all of which are relevant to the complex subject matter this book seeks to tackle. Those titles are The God of Miracles (2000), Science and Faith (2003), Genesis 1–4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (2006), and Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? (2011). He has also published numerous articles and book reviews in many different journals.
The hermeneutical challenges that confront the interpreter of Genesis 1–11 are neither minimal nor insignificant. It is no surprise, then, that the author invests the first six chapters (157 pages—essentially half the book) methodically laying down his proposal for the best way to read Genesis 1–11 so that the reader comes away with how the original audience (mainly ancient Israelites farmers) would have understood it. Thus, he assesses various critical tools that are popular among Bible scholars today. Specifically, he examines linguistic analysis, rhetorical analysis, literary criticism, and genre criticism. While acknowledging that these disciplines all make a significant contribution to biblical scholarship, he nonetheless concludes that each falls short in one way or another. He is especially critical of those who are committed to a literal interpretation. Now, while that immediately sounds an alarm, once he explains and illustrates what he means, it is not so alarming (yet we’ll issue a caution later). As one might discern from the titles of his other books (noted above), this is not to suggest that he discounts the historicity of the people and events in Genesis 1–11, nor the
JMAT 24:2 (Fall 2020) p. 131
possibility of the supernatural within the same. In fact, he repeatedly affirms this throughout the book.
Collins’s main concern is to show that many interpreters, in their zeal to be faithful to each word of the text, fail to see the socio-linguistic and rhetorical impact that would have been understood by the original audience. He reminds his readers that communication consists of more than the simple word-level meanings (locution). Other factor...
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