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Book Review on Biblical Portraits of Creation: Celebrating the Maker of Heaven and Earth

Biblical Portraits of Creation book coverBiblical Portraits of Creation: Celebrating the Maker of Heaven and Earth
By Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Dorington G. Little. Wooster
OH: Weaver Book Company, 2014. 164 pp. $15.99

 

 

 

Dr. Walt Kaiser needs no introduction to most Christian readers. He is president emeritus at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books including Toward an Old Testament Theology, Toward Old Testament Ethics, and Toward Rediscovering the Bible. His biblical theology of the Old and New Testaments, The Promise Plan of God, develops the theme of God’s promise from Genesis through Revelation.

As a teacher of Biblical Hebrew and seasoned preacher, Kaiser is well prepared to lead readers in a discovery of biblical truths. His motto for preaching, “keep your finger in the text,” captures his commitment to careful biblical exegesis and exposition. As he said in his introduction written in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Evangelical Theological Society, “The primary task of the biblical scholar is to unfold the meaning of the text of Scripture as it was originally intended to be understood by the writer of that text.”[1] Joining him in this most recent publication is Dorington G. Little, Kaiser’s former pastor, who serves the First Congregational Church of Hamilton, MA.

Biblical Portraits of Creation is a series of sermons that Kaiser preached at Cannon Beach Christian Conference in Cannon Beach, Oregon in the summer of 2013. Each chapter provides an exposition of an Old Testament biblical text relating to creation. Dorington’s chapters include an exposition of Psalm 148 and two New Testament texts, Matthew 1:1-17 and 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 5:17. Each chapter provides homiletical suggestions, a preaching outline and study questions to facilitate discussion.

The first chapter treats Proverbs 3:19-20 and 8:22-31 demonstrating the place of “wisdom” in creation. Kaiser points out that wisdom was the first of God’s works and functioned as an “agent of creation in the divine handiwork” (p. 10). Regarding Proverbs 8, Kaiser argues that while wisdom personifies divine attributes, it is incorrect to view wisdom as the pre-incarnate Christ.

Chapter two contains Kaiser’s exposition of Genesis chapter one. He believes that “in the beginning” is the absolute beginning of everything. “Heavens and Earth” are viewed as hendiadys where one concept is expressed by two words and means “everything.” Kaiser believes that the Hebrew narrative allows for a gap between verses one and two which allow for a “celestial disturbance” that appears to coincide with the fall of Satan.

According to Kaiser’s view, God did not create “days” until the fourth “day,” and thus the first three days need not be understood as time measured by the rotation of the earth in relationship to the sun. This chapter is just 10 pages long and one could wish that Kaiser had provided a few more insights into his understanding of Genesis one. What he writes is good, but it left me thinking, “Walt, give me more!”

In chapter three Kaiser considers the creation of Adam and Eve and argues that the word translated “helper” would be better rendered “power” or “authority.” He believes that rather than Adam’s “helper,” Eve is a “power” or “authority” corresponding to Adam. The case he makes for this is rather technical, but an interesting possibility.

In chapters 4-9 and 11 Kaiser treats poetic texts including Psalm 104, Psalm 8 and 19, Psalm 29, Psalm 33, Job 38-39, and Isaiah 65:17-25 and 66:22-24. His co-author, Dorington, provides expositions of Psalm 148 and two New Testament texts. The book concludes with an essay on the Literary Genre of Genesis 1-11 in which Kaiser argues against the poetic interpretation of the creation narrative. He demonstrates that the author is familiar with poetry (Gen. 4:23-24), but his use of the waw consecutive describes sequential acts as is the pattern of narrative literature.

I heartily recommend Biblical Portraits of Creation for readers interested in a fresh approach to discussing creation as reflected both in Genesis and other relevant Old Testament and New Testament texts.

 

[1] New Perspectives on the Old Testament, ed. J. Barton Payne (Waco, TX: Word, 1970), 48-65.

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).