This may not happen every week, but since I’d like to read on average a book a week (in addition to the 12 bigger books to plod through) there will be a “book of the week.” In many cases, they won’t be books for review, but hey, maybe if there’s enough interest I might review one of them (next week’s by the way will be reviewed).
For this week, I’m going work through John Walton’s recent release that you probably didn’t even know about, Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology. It was published back in the fall by Eisenbrauns, though the manuscript for this had been available for several years (one of my Hebrew professors in an ancient Near East Literature doctoral seminary is good friends with Walton).
I really enjoyed Walton’s more popular work The Lost World of Genesis One, and this book is supposed to be the more scholarly counterpart to that one. Since my paper for said doctoral seminar was on Walton’s ideas of a cosmic temple in Genesis 1, I’m pretty anxious to see how he further supports that idea here. I find I really like Walton’s idea about how Genesis 1 would have been understood, but I also didn’t think he made the case well enough. We’ll see then how much more support he can marshal in this work and whether that seals the deal or still leaves more argumentation to be made.
For those of you wondering about the cover art, it’s one of the many pictures the Egyptians drew depicting their understanding of how their pantheon of gods made up the world. It would appear they had a “functional ontology” which means to exist requires you to have a function. A god without a vital function to the universes existence was essentially non-existent. As you can see from the figure with feet on the ground and making arch through the painting, their sky god (Nut) wasn’t just the god of the sky, she literally was the sky.
Now you can see why Moses, when writing Genesis 1 sometime after the exodus, would present Yahweh as assigning functions to inanimate objects (de-deifying them) and then naming them (exercising sovereignty over them).
But if you want more on that, you’ll have to pick up and read the book yourself. If you haven’t read The Lost World of Genesis One, start there. If you’re left wanting more, then get this one. Or, just ask me about it, and I’ll probably tell you more than you were really interested in knowing.