Review: The Lost World of the Flood

A1SGm1PXu5LThe Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate by John H. Walton and Tremper Longman III is a thought-provoking engagement on one of the most emotionally charged controversies of biblical history—the Noahic Flood. Walton and Longman offer readers a fresh and intellectually stimulating analysis of the Genesis flood narrative within the context of the ANE world. The outcome is accessible and thoughtfully presented, and its treatment is worth careful consideration from all sides of the theological debate.

Those familiar with the format of the previous volumes in theLost World series will appreciate its prepositional approach applied to the flood narrative of Genesis 6:9-9:17. Walton and Longman divide the book into four major parts: (1) Method: Perspectives on Interpretation, (2) Background: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, (3) Text: Understanding the Biblical Literarily and Theologically, and (4) The World: Thinking About Evidence for the Flood. The hermeneutically sensitive outline of the book entertains 17 prepositions related to the interpretive approach and conclusions argued by Walton and Longman. Each of these prepositions logically build upon the previous and provide the reader with specialized guidance through the mind and literature of the ancient author.

Walton and Longman begin by appropriately encouraging the reader to approach Genesis as an ancient document. This is an essential entrance because it informs everything about how we are to read and interpret the flood narrative. Moreover, for Walton and Longman, it also safeguards their interpretative propositions from forsaking an Evangelical commitment to biblical inerrancy. This doesn’t mean that the conclusions therein are anything less than controversial. Walton and Longman affirm that the flood was a historical event in the ancient world—a local cataclysmic flood that is intentionally described by the biblical writer as a global flood. Additionally, Walton and Longman suggest that the biblical writer intentionally used hyperbole to describe the flood for rhetorical purposes and theological reasons. If Walton and Longman are correct, then most interpreters of the flood narrative have been either misinformed, misguided, or both. That is, it’s been lost.It is here that The Lost World of the Flood warrants careful consideration as the reader wrestles with the narrative without the filters of tradition and theological presuppositions.

The Lost World of the Flood unsurprisingly affirms a local flood theory. Agree or disagree with their conclusion, Walton and Longman do a phenomenal service for readers as they guide them one preposition at a time towards the projected conclusion. Moreover, as one would expect, they spend a good deal of space wrestling with the evidence marshaled by global flood proponents, including an excellent chapter (Preposition 15: Geology Does Not Support a Worldwide Flood) by geologist Stephen O. Moshier. Those familiar with the flood debate won’t find much new in the discussion of evidence. Where The Lost World of the Flood shines most is in its presentation of the ANE world as a springboard for the biblical narrative, which establishes the grounds for a proper evaluation of the evidence. It is here that the reader will discover a treasure trove of firm exegetical insight and persuasive historical analysis.

Like many readers, there hasn’t been a single volume in the Lost World series that I haven’t appreciated. Despite the interpretive and methodological differences which undoubtedly arise from the bedrock of each of the volumes, I have always found them to be both stimulating and informative in more ways than not. This in mind, in my opinion, The Lost World of the Flood is among the best volume in the series. Walton and Longman are specialists in the ANE world and its intersection with the biblical text, and the flood narrative of Genesis is a perfect candidate for a project of this scope and its treatment is worth careful consideration. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate is controversial, coherent, and cogent, and readers will find nothing short of interpretive gold on almost every page. It comes highly recommended alongside the rest of the Lost World series!

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