Last week in New York I met John Walton, a Wheaton College Old Testament professor who has a new way of reading Genesis 1-3. My initial response to his theses was mild skepticism. Too often when somebody claims that they see something in the Bible in a whole new way, the result is idiosyncratic or crotchety—interesting, but not particularly convincing or helpful.
As I listened to Walton, though, I grew increasingly appreciative. He’s a thoroughly conservative reader, taking the text with dead seriousness and not overruling anything from a modern sensibility—“We now know.” He reads Genesis in a very unfamiliar way, but in a way that fits into and fills out the rest of Scripture. It avoids “modern” controversies and fits an Ancient Near East context.
Briefly, he sees the first chapters of Genesis as speaking of the earth as God’s Temple. The “action” is the establishment of that Temple as a place for God to live, and human responsibility to serve God in that Temple. It’s not a material history of the earth, Walton says, but a “spiritual” history. (My word, not his.) It sets the stage for everything that comes out in the rest of the Bible.
He lays out the details on Genesis 1 in his book The Lost World of Genesis One. I haven’t read this yet. In the talk I heard and the subsequent discussion, he built on that material into Genesis 2. Very, very interesting stuff. I thought you might like to know.