Adler and Van Doren said, “Many books are hardly worth even skimming; some should be read quickly; and a few should be read at a rate, usually quite slow, that allows for complete comprehension.” Upon first reading this book, I wrote a review. After writing it, I thought, “I really should read this book again to understand it better.” So I did. And then I wrote a second review. It was ten pages long. Then I thought, “This book deserves one more reading.” So I gave Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation a third and wrote this review.
This book deserves a thorough reading because of the rarity of its inclusive nature among evangelical works on the topic. Unfortunately, scholars who disagree about the interpretation of Gen 1–2 often spend more time talking about each other instead of talking to each other. This book brings together five distinct perspectives on these chapters from scholars who all hold to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. The chapters derive from papers presented at a symposium at Bryan College in late 2011. The papers have been updated to include more recent discussions among evangelicals and each of the other contributors have been allowed to write a brief response appended to the end of the five main chapters. It also includes two chapters concerning the teaching of Gen 1–2 and unresolved chapters in these passages by two professors from Bryan College and a fine introduction by prominent Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton. The structure promotes dialogue but might have been improved by the addition of a brief final response by the chapter’s author.
Instead of summarizing and responding to each chapter, I want to highlight the positive nature of the contributions, highlight two brief criticism and suggest areas that need further discussion. First, the inclusive nature of the discussions in the book must be highlighted. Discussions between the poles of the evangelical spectrum are rare. This book includes the full spectrum of evangelical perspectives. Second, the quality of the scholars should be highlighted as well. The organizers of the symposium and editor of the book included first rate evangelicals representing the various perspectives. Third, the book allows for dialogue between the contributors. This dialogue heightens the readers understanding of the various perspective, especially in regards to clarifying the disagreements. Finally, the book mostly avoids discussions of science. Many lay people mistakenly assume that the debates on the nature of Gen 1 stem from the rise of modern science. This is not the case, as each of these perspectives has historical precedents that precede its rise. For the most part, the contributors focus on textual issues only referring to science as addendum to their arguments. Interpreting God’s revelation in Scripture should first and foremost arise from exegeting the text.
I do have two criticisms. First, at a couple points throughout rhetoric attempted to fill the void of weak arguments. Evangelicals must frame our arguments around the evidence, and let the content be primary. Each of the contributors make strong arguments at points, and thus it only hurts their position to resort to rhetorical strategies for help. Second, evangelicals must avoid slippery slope arguments on this topic. Historically there has been great diversity of interpretation among exegetes of these chapters and assuming that one perspective has prize place denies the reality of historical disagreement as well as the complexity of interpretive issues in the passage. As evangelicals, we should note that slippery slopes are only dangerous if we are standing on truth to begin. If we are not, then a slippery slope may actually be the quickest route to the correct destination.
After considering the chapters and responses, some issues need further discussion and I hope that this book opens the door to them. First, more needs to be written on the connection between Hebrew literary styles and historical reference. Among the contributors to this volume C. John Collins discussed this with the most depth, although left much unsaid. I would argue that this issue undercut Todd Beall’s and Tremper Longman’s interpretations significantly. Although Beall’s arguments in support of the narrative nature of Gen 1–2 were effective, he did not adequately show that literary narrative necessitates historical referent. The same could be said of Longman’s argument. He effectively pointed out figurative elements in the text, but failed to address why figurative language could not have a historical referent. Hopefully, future discussions will make this crucial topic more central. Second, more work needs to be done in the connection between the mind of the author and readers and the text. Readers have no access to the mind of either and thus can only access it from the texts that they are trying to interpret. We must be careful to avoid circular reasoning on this matter. Walton has made strides in this area, but much more work remains. Third, the discussion often jumped from Old Testament analysis of the text to New Testament discussions of Adam. As biblical scholars and Christians this is perfectly acceptable and expected. With that said, the contribution of a scholar specializing in the New Testament use of the Old Testament would have been welcome.
This book excels at bringing together various accomplished voices to discuss pertinent issues with a long history of disagreement. As evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, and particularly as apologists interested in defending the faith, we need to know more thoroughly the variety of interpretation on these chapters. This book, while probably not for beginners, provides a helpful resource for apologists interested in topics related to Gen 1–2.
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer G. Kyle Essary served as a church planter in Asia from 2006-2013, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies in order to return to Asia and better teach how the Old Testament points to Jesus.
 Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book.
 These will not be addressed as they largely deal with only one perspective and are not as important to apologetic concerns.
 Examples would be Beall’s use of exclamation points and heightened language as well as fear tactics. Instead of helping his argument, these made them seem less academic and weakened what were interesting arguments based on content alone. At the other end of the spectrum, Longman frequently used words like “obviously” and “clearly,” which only reinforce that the matters are neither clear nor obvious—hence this book. Finally, Walton’s categories of “competent” and “ethical” reading seem to imply that those who disagree with the extent of influence of other ANE worldviews are reading the text incompetently or unethically. He surely does not hold this, so a revision of wording may have helped.
 For instance, the average Hebrew individual couldn’t read, much less would have been familiar with cosmological texts and ideas of cultures separated by long periods of time and geographical distance. We can rather confidently say that the cultures had similar understandings of the cosmos, but we should be careful in overstating those similarities and also note the dissimilarities that are just as frequent.
 An obvious suggestion would be G.K. Beale who has written extensively in both Old Testament and New Testament matters and specifically on the New Testament use of the Old Testament.