Ancient Cosmology

   I’ve got a few flights and a short vacation in front of me, so one of the books I plan on reading is this 2009 IVP book by John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One.  Andrew said I’d appreciate it, and based on the first few paragraphs of chapter one, I think I will.  Here are some excerpts based on proposition one of the book, that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology (cosmos = universe; logos = study).  What does that mean?

“…It [Gen 1] does not attempt to describe cosmology in modern terms or address modern questions.  The Israelites received no revelation to update or modify their ‘scientific’ understanding of the cosmos.  They did not know that the stars were suns; they did not know that the earth was spherical and moving through space; they did not know that the sun was much further away than the moon, or even further than the birds flying in the air.  They believed that the sky was material (not vaporous), solid enough to support the residence of deity as well as to hold back waters.  In these ways, and many others, they thought about the cosmos in much the same way that anyone in the ancient world thought, and not at all like anyone thinks today.”

“Some Christians approach the text of Genesis as if it has modern science embedded in it or it dictates what modern science should look like.  …[However,] we cannot translate their cosmology to our cosmology, nor should we.   If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology.  If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said.”

Can’t wait to read more of that.  The other book I’m bringing with me is The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie, a Puritan Paperback that describes the basics of being a Christian. 

shane lems

1 thought on “Ancient Cosmology”

  1. I saw that book on Amazon a while ago, and added it to my “wish list”. It looks like a fantastic read, and probably a good antidote to a lot of the crazy material that gets unfortunately passed around in Christian circles. There’s some really weird creationist material that gets passed around in our circles that makes me just want to cry. I wish I could tell everyone that just because a person in a video or book is trying to defend scripture means that they are doing it correctly or giving you correct information.

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