Sunday, February 12, 2006

Book Review: How to Read Genesis

If there is one book that needs to be read in our day and age it is How to Read Genesis by Tremper Longman III. There are so many competing approaches and interpretations of the first book of the Bible that it is often difficult to sort out which are right. Creation in six days, a woman from the side of a man, "sons of God" taking "daughters of men", a flood and animal rescue, dysfunctional families, and more. Who really wrote the book of Genesis? Is Genesis myth or history? How does Genesis relate to the flood stories of Israel's surrounding cultures? Are the days of creation meant to be taken literally? What is the relationship between the creation stories and the scientific understanding of origins? Why are there two accounts of creation in the Genesis? Questions. Questions. Questions. How are we to make sense of Genesis? Is there are right way of reading Genesis? Longman argues that, indeed, there is. In a superbly clear and sensible manner, he explores the book of Genesis with his reader and, in the process, identifies a series of interpretive questions for responsible reading of this intriguing opening to Scripture. These questions are derived from the nature of the book itself. They are:
  1. What kind of book is Genesis?
  2. How did ancient Hebrews tell stories?
  3. Was Genesis written at one time by a single person?
  4. What can we learn about Genesis from comparable ancient Near Eastern literature?
  5. When was Genesis written?
  6. What does Genesis tell us about the past?
  7. Does our knowledge of the ancient Near East help us understand Genesis?
  8. How does Genesis describe God?
  9. How does Genesis describe God's relationship to his people?
  10. How does Genesis fit into the whole of Scripture?
  11. What in Genesis is theologically normative for us today?
  12. What is my redemptive-historical relationship to the events of Genesis?
  13. What can I learn from Genesis about how to think and act in a way pleasing to God?
  14. How can I keep from imposing my own views on Genesis?

How to Read Genesis answers all of these questions in a model of clarity. In addition to the above, Longman also includes a final chapter on the special issue of how to read Genesis as Christians.

It may seem that a book on such important subjects would be hard to understand. Not at all. Longman writes plainly and engagingly in an easy-to-read style. And the book is only a couple hundred pages long. If you are looking for a responsible guide to reading Genesis then this how-to book is perfect for you.

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