Aug 13

Genesis 1-4

By Kenneth Feucht books Add comments

Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary, by C. John Collins ?????

This book offers a detailed analysis of the first four chapters in Genesis in an attempt to bring clarity to our understanding as to the events of creation and the first few years of man on earth. Collins certainly possesses the necessary credentials, having an advanced degree in the sciences from MIT, as well as further M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees in theology and linguistics. I have heard criticisms of Dr. Collins, mostly related to him having abandoned a Biblical approach to Genesis, and having caved in to the the god of Science. Thus, the reading of this text was done in a critical fashion. I have found that the exact opposite of his critics is true. Jack Collins is a breath of fresh air in conservative scholarship, neither giving in to modernist approaches to creation nor to traditional theories of creation. Instead, Collins maintains a prevailing stance of the preeminence of Scripture over science, and that is seen on each and every page of this text. True, he doesn’t subscribe to a 24-hour young earth interpretation of Genesis 1, yet, he offers substantial support to an old earth hypothesis that allows for a 6 day creation in God’s time.

The flow of the book is somewhat different from what I’m used to in that the sources, authorship, and purpose of Genesis is left to the end of the book, and for good reason for one reading the text from front to back cover. He initiates the book with his method of discourse analysis. He briefly explores the questions that Genesis is trying to answer. He then does a step-by-step analysis on a linguistic basis of the four pericopes of Genesis 1-4, interestingly and for good reason, including the Cain and Abel pericope and aftermath.

Collins concludes the book first with a discussion of source criticism, laying claim that even if one were to identify various sources, it doesn’t contribute to analysis of the book, since the book was masterfully compiled by Moses in a manner that leaves it as a unity rather than a fragmented mishmash. He then puts on his science background hat to explore the claims of Genesis in the light of modern science, but refuses to force science and Genesis into two separate realms. Thus the book concludes by showing how Genesis 1-4 establishes a very distinct Judeo-Christian world view.

My greatest appreciation for this book was that Collins always held a high view of Scripture, and never allowed science to preempt Scripture. Collins maintained a sense of humility toward questions that could not be answered in Genesis even in the light of the remainder of Scripture. Collins offers a forceful and cogent response to the source critics. Of particular note is the hypothesis that Gen. 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-25 are two different creation stories that a redactor sloppily reassembled. Unfortunately, many “conservative” scholars have concurred with this hypothesis. Rather, Collins shows how Gen 2:4-25 was a masterful clarification of the sixth day of creation.

In all, this is one of the better books that I have read on the early Genesis pericopes, and I laud Collins for his perspicuity and insights over a controversial topic. This book is highly recommended to all who have a passing interest in the various debates regarding old and young earth creationism.

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One Response to “Genesis 1-4”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    “… Collins maintains a prevailing stance of the preeminence of Scripture over science,…”

    “… Collins always held a high view of Scripture, and never allowed science to preempt Scripture.”

    This can be a two-edged sword. Theology is what is preempted, not scripture. Theology can get it wrong just as surely as science. So there is no solace in deferring to theology over science. Tuebingen demonstrates that. So does much young-earth creation doctrine.

    Both the creation and scripture must be interpreted to be understood and thus science and theology are both inadequate means for trying to understand the whole. To subjugate either science or theology to the other is to close one eye to the three-dimensional truth before us and result in a view lacking depth. I do not know what Collins thinks in relating science and theology but he appears to have a healthy respect for both.

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