In recent years, the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Zondervan Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies his position on the genre of Genesis 1–11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contributes examples of its application to a variety of passages. James K. Hoffmeier argues that Genesis 1–11 is theological history, Gordon J. Wenham says it is proto-history, and Kenton L. Sparks describes the chapters as ancient historiography. Old Testament scholar Charles Halton explains the importance of genre and provides historical insight in the introduction and helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion. This book helps readers reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed conclusions in this much-debated topic.
“The point of the foregoing is to demonstrate that Genesis seeks to place the garden of Eden in historical ancient Mesopotamia and so offers minutiae (the ancient equivalent of coordinates) so that the reader could locate it. This does not look like ‘a timeless event set in the world of the gods.’54 Consequently, though the garden pericope may contain mythic elements, it is set in ‘our historical and geographical world,’55 which is hard to reconcile with pure mythology.” (Pages 34–35)
“For this reason I think these chapters should also be seen as protohistorical. These chapters contain stories that both illustrate important social and theological principles, as myths are often alleged to do, yet they also tell of unique occurrences. These may not be datable and fixable chronologically, but they were viewed as real events.” (Page 85)
“By using the formula ‘this is the family history,’ the author or compiler signals the genre of the book of Genesis, including chapters 1–11. Even if we concede that earlier records were used, the ‘family history’ structuring of the book indicates that the narratives should be understood as historical, focusing on the origins of Israel back to Adam and Eve, the first human couple and parents of all humanity. The use of a genealogical-historical framework for Genesis points the reader towards how the book as a whole should be understood, namely, the narratives are dealing with real events involving historical figures—and this includes Genesis 1–11.” (Page 32)
“Whatever the first chapters of Genesis offer, there is one thing that they certainly do not offer, namely, a literal account of events that actually happened prior to and during the early history of humanity. If Genesis is the word of God, as I and other Christians believe, then we must try to understand how God speaks through a narrative that is no longer the literal history that our Christian forebears often assumed it to be.” (Page 111)