A broad overview of Christian interpretations of the initial chapters of the book of Genesis.
Diaz (The White Tortilla, 2006) offers readers a work four decades in the making. The author writes that he’s long grappled with the profound mysteries in Genesis’ first 11 chapters, which include the stories of Creation and Noah’s Ark, 900-year-old men, the Tower of Babel, and obscure genealogies. These are among the most debated and, indeed, labyrinthine passages of the entire Bible—hence, Diaz’s apt title. He aims to provide readings with “a broad spectrum of views…ranging from liberal to fundamental.” Chapter by chapter, he presents myriad interpretations, but he also avoids offering his own opinions on them in order to allow readers to come to their own conclusions: “There is room for variant understandings of Genesis” is a refrain that echoes throughout. For example, his chapters on the Creation story include a literal interpretation that God created the world in six days as well as modern glosses that incorporate the Big Bang theory and evolution into their understandings. Similarly, he gives equal footing to those who believe that Noah’s flood was a universal, worldwide event and others who believe that it was a local flood. Most of the book is an impartial survey of contemporary Christian literature on Genesis, but it also includes four appendices in which Diaz offers personal musings on apologetics, metaphysics, philosophy, science, and the concept of truth. All in all, this is an exceptional overview of contemporary, scholarly interpretations of Genesis, and it features an impressive bibliography. However, nonscholarly, ancient interpretations—particularly from Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish thinkers—are mostly ignored aside from occasional references to St. Thomas Aquinas. Also, although Diaz is fair in his synopses of conflicting Christian interpretations, he tends to turn the arguments of biblical skeptics and atheists into straw men, hastily dismissing them as “absurd notions” and “anti-intellectual absurdities.”
An impressively researched review of Christian biblical thought.