Following last week’s post about writing book reviews, here’s a first attempt at doing so. The book reviewed is a small, approachable volume that explores a figurative interpretation of Genesis 1 in light of Biblical covenant themes.
God’s Pattern for Creation
A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1
by W. Robert Godfrey
This is a very approachable book. It takes the view that Genesis can be looked at as the start of covenants in the Bible, which means its focus is to describe the start of the structure that God puts into place regarding the relationship between Him and His people. As such, Godfrey develops an essentially figurative interpretation, and explores a number of literary structures that supports his approach. The result is reminiscent of both the Framework and the Day-Age models, without developing either of them explicitly. It supports an old-earth view, presumably with animal evolution, but not human evolution from more primitive animals.
The description is dominated by exegetical and literary arguments, with little or no spiritual perspective other than the overarching theme of divine covenant. For the first couple chapters, Godfrey walks through Genesis 1 and notes the many figurative-indicating literary features. In the process, he also points out problems with the literal perspective. In the last chapter, he reflects on the nature of the covenant that’s beginning to be established.
The book also has a number of Appendices. The first is a discussion of Calvin’s perspectives in regards to exegesis of the text. Although Calvin comes to different conclusions, Godfrey attempts to correlate his own technique with Calvin’s. He does point out that the traditional view has been literal 24-hours, but claims that he is taking a “fresh” look at Scripture.
The remaining appendices review a number of other historical voices such as various confessions of faith and writings of highly-respect theologians. To be honest, I found those to be somewhat out of place. The rest of his arguments were focused on Scripture, and with the admitedly “fresh” approach, one wouldn’t expect the need to review what others have said throughout history. So I’m not sure what to make of that.
Overall, I liked the book although I find literary analysis to be a weak exegetical technique. (In my opinion, just because the text can be shown to be highly structured doesn’t mean the events described didn’t happen that way.) On the other hand, I liked the number of things he pointed out that supported a figurative perspective. It reinforced some things I’ve noticed, and clarified others. I liked the mention of Exodus 12:42 as an example of God’s spiritual perspective being an example for us to emulate in the natural realm. Although the translation he chose seems to have several possible variations, it is still interesting.
On balance, I think this is a reasonable book for anyone looking to understand some of the underpinnings of figurative interpretation, especially from a specific context such as covenant theology. However, it would have been nice to have had less emphasis on literary structure to determine theology.