Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway to the Bible

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Back in the spring, I claimed I was re-booting my Genesis series. At this point, clearly that was wishful thinking. I did however review John Walton’s latest on the subject, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, as well as a multi-view book, Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? After reading the latter book, I was curious about Gordon Wenham’s thoughts in more detail. I’ve since added his Genesis commentaries (vol 2.) to my Logos library, but before that I read his Didsbury lectures, Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway to the Bible.

You may not have heard of the Didsbury Lecture series, but I’m guessing you’ve heard of N. T. Wright and his book Surprised By Hope? He hashed out some of the ideas in that by giving the Didsbury Lectures in 2005 (under the same title as the book). In 2013, Gordon Wenham gave the lectures on Genesis 1-11 and Cascade Books published them (and others). All of this to say, this might be a slim volume, but it is already a more expansive treatment of the early chapters than Wenham could offer in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? and it was helpful for him to point readers this way.

You could probably read this book on a nice Saturday afternoon (or whenever your regular reading time is). It is five chapters and the main text is under 75 pages. The first chapters is focused exclusively on Genesis 1. Wenham interacts some with John Walton’s view and gives a defense of his own “proto-history” view on the opening chapter of Genesis. Chapter 2 reads Genesis 2-4 closely. Chiasms emerge like you’ve never believe. Chapter 3 then turns to the flood and Genesis 6-9. Again, chiasms everywhere and this time Babylonian parallels for good measure. The final full chapter looks at Genesis 5-11. You’ll notice Genesis 5 was skipped earlier, and 6-9 have already been covered. Here though Wenham talks about the infamous Genesis 6:1-4 section and how it parallels Eve’s fall in chapter 3 (look at the verbs leading up to the transgression). He also wisely sees the sons of God as spirit beings, a point Mike Heiser has defended extensively in his recent book. From here, Wenham looks at the Babel incident in more detail, and oh, I meant to mention he has already talked about how significant the genealogies are. The final chapter is an epilogue and gets into wider issues of biblical theology and modern science (very briefly).

Wenham has extensive experience as an Old Testament commentator and careful exegete. In this book he brings that to bear on the early chapters of Genesis and does so in a highly readable way (probably because these were lectures). If you’re at all interested in understanding the early chapters of Genesis better, you ought to pick up this slim volume. You won’t necessarily agree with everything he argues (unless you’re a sycophant), but his analysis should stretch your thinking on how to best understanding the gateway to the Bible.


Gordon J. Wenham, Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway to the BibleEugene, OR: Cascade Books, March 2015. 86 pp. Paperback, $12.00.

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Thanks to Cascade Books for the review copy!

Author: Nate

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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