Hoffmeier, Wenham, Sparks: The Genesis-Genre Debate Continues (Gupta)


You may have caught the hoopla in the news recently over statements Christian music artistic Gungor made about his view of Genesis and creation. Michael Gungor is quoted as saying this:

I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…

If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter.

Gungor did not realize the backlash from the evangelical public he would receive over this perspective, including quite a few show cancellations from offended venues.

Some things never change. Debates over how to read Genesis properly are repeated in nearly every generation.

And there is no lack of publications on this subject. In 1999, Zondervan published a multi-view title called Three Views on Creation and Evolution. In 2013, Four Views on the Historical Adam appeared. And now, in 2015 we await the release of a new conversation: Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Zondervan, Jan 2015). This volumed, edited by Charles Halton, offers perspectives from these scholars

  • James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History
  • Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History
  • Kenton K. Sparks: Ancient Historiography

When I first saw this book advertised, I wondered, do we really need yet another iteration of this conversation? But three things give me hope for this book generating some positive reflection.

(1) The Contributors: I don’t know the work of Hoffmeier, but Wenham is one of the finest living Old Testament scholars and I imagine will present a very cogent perspective. I got to know Sparks when I worked for a time at Eastern University and he has also distinguished himself as a knowledgeable scholar and capable communicator with some important things to say about Scripture/canon, hermeneutics, ethics and history.

(2)  The Focus: Genre. I doubt all matters relating to genre will be solved in this book, but focusing on the genre in general is an important step towards understanding interpretive fault lines. The what are Genesis 1-2 trying to communicate approach is the right place to start before talking about historical evidence and inerrancy.

(3) The Length: Mercifully, the book is under 200 pages (176p to be exact). That makes this potentially useful as a supplemental textbook for a Pentateuch course or a seminar on hermeneutics.

Check out the Amazon page here.

Jesus in Contemporary Culture: Part 4; Restraint and Masculinity (Skinner)

Muscle JesusOver the past three weeks, I have been blogging my way through a new course that I’m currently team-teaching with a colleague from my department. The course is called, “Jesus in Contemporary Culture.” Here are the first three installments if you need to catch up (1, 2, 3). On Monday our class finally finished watching The Passion of the Christ. Our past two sessions–Wednesday and today–have served as our “wrap up” before moving on to our next film, The Last Temptation of Christ.

During our Wednesday class, one of the students commented on Jesus’ “composure” just before and during the flogging scene. That scene in particular seemed to stick with students more than any other part of the film. The student was interested in how Jesus was able to remain so restrained in the face of cruelty, mockery, and suffering. As I was watching the Passion again this time, it hit me that there are some striking similarities between the torture Jesus undergoes and the final scene from Braveheart (another Mel Gibson film). In the scene in question (embedded below), William Wallace (played by Gibson) has been captured by the English authorities and is mocked and tortured relentlessly before being “drawn and quartered.” Just like the Passion, William Wallace’s last moments unfold before a bloodthirsty crowd that calls for his death. Just like the Passion, there are continued cutaways to Wallace’s followers who stand disguised in the crowd and stoically watch his death. Just like the Passion, Wallace displays both strength and defiance in the face of cruelty. And, just like the brief hint at resurrection at the very end of the Passion, there is a brief battle scene at the end of Braveheart that reveals the ultimate victory brought by Wallace’s death. In light of these parallels, it’s hard to deny the influence Gibson’s Christianity had on his shooting of Braveheart. (For what it’s worth, I think Simon Joseph’s recent blog post on Jesus in film is helpful and has some points of contact with my recent discussion here).

Today’s session was devoted to looking at Jesus and masculinity. We looked at Fight Club churches, some quotes about the “masculine Jesus” from prominent evangelicals like John Piper and Mark Driscoll, and other phenomena that emphasize a muscular Christianity rooted in a “punch-you-in-the-face” type of Jesus. There is little doubt that this conception of Jesus in contemporary Western culture influenced Gibson’s Christ who “takes his beating like a man.” Though we sought to problematize this understanding of Jesus and related conceptions of Christianity, many of our students indicated that these ideas were quite familiar to them.

I’m really looking forward to next week where we look at Willem Dafoe’s Jesus who is anything but “composed” and “restrained.” I’m hoping the contrast will spark some good discussion.