Review: The Lost World of Adam and Eve

23055095John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Walton earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles, contributor to several academic reference works, and over twenty books both popular and academic. Walton is a household name in the arena of Old Testament Studies and a voice of reason when it comes to the ancient Near Eastern context and background of the biblical world. The Lost World series has sought to target controversial issues related the modern theological assumptions frequently (and unnaturally) placed upon the framework of the biblical audience. The most recent of such explorations has directed attention towards human origins, Adam and Eve, and the early chapters of Genesis.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate is comprised of twenty-one propositions concerning the nature and relation of Adam and Eve to both the biblical world and modern concerns. For Walton, the concern of the book is “particularly interested in determining the extent to which the biblical claims may or may not conflict with the claims made in the current scientific consensus about human origins” (p. 198). The book has much designated to the hermeneutical or interpretive concerns related to Genesis 2-3 and allusions to Adam and Eve in both the Old Testament and the New, and Walton does the reader a service as he carefully guides them through the contours of the conversation. Walton views Adam and Eve as archetypes of the human race and finds support for this reality in the pattern of though common among the ANE and its penetration into the biblical text. Thus, for Walton, while Adam and Eve should be considered as historical people, no biblical restraints exist to necessitate Adam and Eve as the first created humans.

There is so much to be praised about this volume and Walton’s approach in general. Walton is keen to the needs of the reader and sensitive of the way he approaches each of the propositions. It is also noteworthy to mention that Walton has included an extended excursus by N. T. Wright on Paul’s use of Adam to further establish a New Testament voice within a predominately Old Testament examination. The organization and structure of the book around propositions is also extremely helpful and user-friendly. These short chapters allow the reader to utilize the book as a reference work for answers to specific claims, or as a cover-to-cover read. That said the latter is to be recommended before the former as Walton’s argument is filled of circumstantial evidence established upon a cumulative case. Still, in my opinion, where Walton does exceptionally well is in bringing the academic ideas explored in this book to a gospel-centered plea to the Church to pursue faithfulness to the Scriptures within their proper context.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve is going to be filled with heated controversy for many modern readers. Nevertheless, in my estimation, the heat generated from Walton’s presentation should only help to produce gospel-light in a different, but still lost world.

 

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