In my study of the initial chapters of Genesis, one book has stood out from the rest as a most helpful tool in discovering the meaning and implications of the creation narrative. That book is Genesis Unbound by John Sailhamer. A good friend and fellow pastor recommended I read Sailhamer, one of the leading Old Testament scholars in the world, on the subject of creation in Genesis. Although he’s authored a number of books, articles, and commentaries on the book of Genesis, Genesis Unbound specifically focuses on the first two chapters of the Pentateuch.
Sailhamer’s major emphasis is letting the text speak for itself. In most of my research, the actual linguistic and historical contexts of Genesis 1-2 get obscured in a fog of scientific eisogesis, as well-meaning Christian scholars seek to parallel the biblical account with the latest flavor of the month from genetic, geological, biological, or cosmological studies. I’m not going to go so far as to say that this approach is a waste of time, but when it comes to discovering the meaning of the text of Scripture, we don’t approach any other area of the Bible this way. Why? Because it’s not a hermeneutically sound approach. Meaning: it’s not the best way to discover what the original author intended or what the original audience understood. These two factors are significant keys in discovering what a text meant and (thereby) means. Sailhamer doesn’t make this mistake. He offers an interpretation that is thoroughly sound linguistically, historically, and contextually. And in doing so, he gives answers on the “Bible vs. Science” debate that are refreshing and disarming.
All of this to say, Sailhamer’s approach and conclusions are a breath of fresh air. Genesis 1-2 is something I’ve studied from the Hebrew text since my second year in college nearly 15 years ago. I haven’t found a book, commentary, or scholar that I think hits the nail more squarely on the head than Sailhamer in Genesis Unbound. If you pick up this book, which I would highly recommend if you have even a passing interest in this subject, you’re going to find it to be readable, concise, and engaging. The book is certainly worthy of a greater review than I’m going to give here. Thankfully, Matt Perman has already written an extensive summary of Sailhamer’s text. Enjoy.