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In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context

, 2012
ISBN: 9780825439278


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For years, the evangelical church and its members have debated whether the Bible should be interpreted literally or symbolically in regards to the age of the earth. In their groundbreaking new book, In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood, authors Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden say that all these arguments have missed the point. Rather, what Christians really need to know is how to interpret the Bible in its original context.

Exposing the fallacies of trying to make the biblical text fit a specific scientific presupposition, Miller and Soden offer a new approach to interpreting Genesis 1 that explores the creation account based on how the original audience would have understood its teaching. First, the authors present a clear explanation of the past and present issues in interpreting the first chapter of the Bible. Second, Miller and Soden break down the creation account according to its historical and cultural context by comparing and distinguishing both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian settings. Finally, they explore common objections to help readers understand the significance that the creation account has for theology today.

Christians need not look any further than Genesis 1 to find clues to its meaning. Both irenic and bathed in Scripture, In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood will equip every believer to navigate the creation wars, armed with biblically sound explanations.

Resource Experts
  • Examines the creation account in Genesis 1
  • Discusses the meaning of Genesis 1 to the original author and original readers
  • Presents clear and credible principles
  • Part 1: Past and Present Issues in Interpreting the Creation Account
    • Asking the Right Question
    • We’ve Been Here Before
    • Finding Meaning in Genesis 1 (Part 1): Does Genesis 1 Agree with Modern Science?
    • Finding Meaning in Genesis 1 (Part 2): Should Genesis 1 Be Read Literally?
    • The Purpose of Genesis
    • What Does It Mean to Whom? A Guide to Proper Interpretation
  • Part 2:The Creation Account in Light of Its Ancient Historical and Cultural Context
    • Genesis 1 Compared with the Egyptian Context
    • Genesis 1 Distinguished from the Egyptian Context
    • Genesis 1 Compared with the Mesopotamian Context
    • Genesis 1 Distinguished from the Mesopotamian Context
    • Genesis 1 and the Canaanite Context
  • Part 3: The Significance of the Creation Account for Theology Today
    • Objections (Part 1): Truth and Chronology
    • Objections (Part 2): The Meanings of Day and Death
    • Toward a Creation Theology
    • The End of Debate?
Genesis poses a huge barrier to young people who try to take seriously both the Bible and science. To complicate matters, the church presents a divided and often divisive response. This book, written by two who are committed to the integrity of both fields, offers a fresh and harmonious perspective on an issue of vital importance.

—Philip Yancey, best-selling author

As reverent, conservative, Bible-trusting Christians, Johnny Miller and John Soden enrich the meaning of God’s holy Word by showing what Genesis 1 meant when Moses wrote those words. Clearly and humbly, they walk us through the understanding of Scripture that has changed their minds away from the interpretation of Young Earth Creationism. Not everybody will agree, of course: these are deep matters. But after reading this book, surely everybody will agree that there is more than one way for those who love and obey the Bible to understand Genesis 1.

Tim Stafford, writer, Christianity Today

The Church is at a crossroads and is in need of judicious advice—particularly the sort that is provided by this book. Miller and Soden have tackled the important issue of the interpretation of Genesis 1 and have sounded a clarion call for the church to recognize the importance of interpreting in light of the perspective of the ancient context and the Israelite audience. Though one may disagree with individual details here and there, the clearly written, down-to-earth investigation will challenge readers as it offers in- sights that will help them to confront the evidence and perhaps reconsider their views in healthy, God-honoring ways.

John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

  • Title: In the Beginning … We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context
  • Authors: Johnny V. Miller, John M. Soden
  • Publisher: Kregel
  • Print Publication Date: 2012
  • Logos Release Date: 2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subject: Bible. O.T. Genesis 1 › Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • ISBN: 9780825439278
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2019-10-03T22:05:52Z

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Johnny V. Miller (ThM, ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a teaching pastor and professor who currently serves as professor emeritus at Columbia International University. He has contributed writings to many publications such as Decision Magazine, Leadership Journal, and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

John M. Soden (ThM, PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) teaches Old Testament at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. Prior to coming to LBC, he was a pastor in Colorado.


6 ratings

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  1. Graham Holcomb
    If you find yourself befuddled on how a Christian should understand Genesis 1 in the 21st century, especially in the light of current science, consider checking out "In the Beginning We Misunderstood" by Johnny Miller and John Soden. Miller and Soden remind the readers that the Bible is a theological book, not a science book, and thus, it must be read looking for theological truths, not scientific truths. Therefore, Miller and Soden do not even attempt to address any scientific issues. Instead, Miller and Soden help the reader understand Genesis 1 as the original audience would have understood it. Miller and Soden do not put Genesis 1 in light of modern science, but rather, they put it in the light of the competing ancient cosmologies from Egyptian mythology and Mesopotamian mythology. From comparing and contrasting Genesis 1 to the Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythology, Miller and Soden reveal the theology Moses wanted to teach the Israelites about God. A good to learn how our God revealed how different he was from the gods of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

  2. Aaron Priest

    Aaron Priest


  3. Ray Mills

    Ray Mills


  4. Prophet_kevin



  5. RichThay47



  6. Michael T. Regan
    In essence, the authors are saying that God, via Moses (or perhaps Moses on his own initiative), presented a fanciful account of the mechanics of creation, based on Egyptian mythology, simply because the Hebrews were too dumb to understand even a rudimentary but still accurate description of such events. Yet, this was done so as to teach them "accurate" theology about the true god, Elohim. The authors note that "we are not saying that Genesis 1 is untrue" (p. 156). They're just saying it's inaccurate. They say that Moses had the right intent on what he spoke, even though he misled people as to the true mechanics of creation. He had good intent, but his information was wrong. Could one say that Job did the same thing when he described in detail the majesty of God? The authors do this by claiming erroneously that everything revolves around how the Hebrews would have understood things. The authors use this cultural-dominance argument to then impose their own interpretation of science onto the Genesis text. What is so amusing about this approach is that it is in large measure the very thing they accuse "young-earth" theorists of doing. Moreover, they hold to "progressive revelation" (p 148), but tend to assume this means that newer revelation supersedes previous revelation. Thus, revelation is "evolutionary" and we can do away with things in the Old Testament, an argument that antinomians and even many dispensationalists would love. Of course, to make matters worse one could claim to give "new revelation" today that would supersede what the New Testament says. This cycle could be endless. A point the authors make early on is the notion that we should all just get along. The "old-earth" and "young-earth" theorists should just agree to disagree. Nevertheless, they then state that the "stakes are very high" in this debate (p. 23). Why if it is just a matter of a mere disagreement? The reason for this is simple: they wish to maintain fellowship with the "young-earth" group that they perceive hold the reigns of power in Evangelical Christian institutions. This is a common insurgency tactic by those in a small minority. However, one wonders if they will have such a generous spirit if they were to become the dominant majority. Speaking to this issue, J.Gresham Machen in his book "Christianity and Liberalism" notes that Christian institutions are voluntary associations. Those who do not agree with the principles of such voluntary associations should leave and cling to other groups or form their own. In other words, they should cease their insurgency tactics and be open and honest about what they truly believe and how they want to impose that on others. What the authors want is the fellowship of Evangelical associations, but not to accept the interpretations of Scripture connected to such associations. In many ways the authors share much in common with the early church father Origen regarding creation. Origen viewed the days of creation as figurative as well, while also saying that almost everything else in the creation account was figurative. Why did Origen do this? Because he could not believe that rational minds would accept such notions as the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or God walking in the garden with Adam. In other words, Origen wanted to have a theology that would be respectable in secular philosophical circles in Alexandria while still maintaining fellowship with the Christians. Origen's physical courage for the faith is not in dispute; he was persecuted and tortured more than once. But one must wonder about his moral courage. Perhaps it was much more difficult to endure the mockery of the learned men of Alexandria than it was to endure the hot brands of Emperor Decius' soldiers. The authors are in the same predicament. They want the praises of men in scientific symposiums and conferences. They want these men to speak well and highly of them, and not endure mockery and ostracism because they transgress the god of "science." Ultimately, they want the honor of men rather than of God.

  7. Chip Fields

    Chip Fields




Print list price: $13.99
Save $3.00 (21%)