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.


3 thoughts on “Hoffmeier, Wenham, Sparks: The Genesis-Genre Debate Continues (Gupta)

  1. So, if one takes the title seriously the interpretation of early Genesis in any form of a both/and hermeneutical option was considered unhelpful, but the Neither schema was included as a foil for the other two? Or, is the title a bit out of whack and all three present some nuanced kind of scholarly middle ground? I couldn’t find a good synopsis of the authors’ arguments, so I’m just winging it here. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. I don’t think the title has a direct relationship to any of the views. I think the title was chosen so people could immediately identify the basic subject matter. The views are not explained, but you can get a sense for Hoffmeier in his work on DO HISTORICAL MATTERS MATTER TO FAITH? As for Sparks, if you look him up, you will see what kinds of things he has written. Wenham has written a large commentary on Genesis which will indicate his view.

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