In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 by Cornelis Van Dam
RHB. d.w. 400pp.
Do the opening chapters of Genesis constitute real history?
Concerned with an apparent shift among conservative scholars to answer in the negative, Cornelis Van Dam argues that reading Genesis 1 and 2 as history is not only justified but necessary. Van Dam clarifies the different roles that ancient Near Eastern literature and scientific theories should play in our understanding of the Bible as he carefully deals with the exegetical details of the first two chapters of the Bible.
Pastors, students, and church leaders will find In the Beginning an informed guide that will restore their confidence in the complete reliability of the Genesis creation account.
Table of Contents:
- The Place of Extra-Biblical Evidence in Interpreting Scripture
- The Historicity of Genesis 1:1–2:3
- “In the Beginning”
- The Days of Creation
- “God Created”
- “The Heavens and the Earth” and Cosmology
- Days One to Six
- The Completed Creation and the Seventh Day
- The Historicity of Genesis and the Garden of Eden
- The Work of Creation and the Gospel
Appendix: The Creation of Heaven and Angels
Cornelis Van Dam is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of The Elder: Today’s Ministry Rooted in All of Scripture.
“This volume serves as an excellent introduction to the old earth/young earth debate. Dr. Van Dam argues for a plain reading of Genesis 1,2 and exposes the folly of rationalizing the creation miracle. The relevant portions of the original text are examined with the precision of an OT scholar but at a level of detail that remains accessible to the layperson. The work of other scholars who have opined on the Genesis account of creation is reviewed and the author’s bias is duly acknowledged. The analysis is crisp, frank and most importantly, pastoral. Highly recommended.” — Peter Buist, Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry, Carleton University
“This book on the proper interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2, as it relates to modern theories of Scripture interpretation and theories of evolution, is a very valuable resource for those who want to maintain a scriptural understanding of the origin of the universe and the creation of man. Dr. Van Dam rightly affirms that the Bible is not a science textbook and that the limits of science must be recognized. As Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar stated ‘it is simply beyond the competence of science to answer the question “how did everything begin?’ In this book, faith seeks understanding with a close reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Highly recommended.” — Richard Buist, Retired research scientist, University of Manitoba
“Dr. Van Dan gives an excellent defense of the traditional reading of Genesis1 and 2. He tries to read the text on its own terms, informed by its usage in the rest of Scripture, letting the exegetical chips fall where they may. It is a refreshing contrast to many Reformed commentators who have been unduly influenced by Ancient Near Eastern literature or evolutionary science. This book gives well-grounded responses to various objections raised against the traditional view, good critiques of contrary interpretations, and many up-to-date references. I find it very readable, informative, and Biblically sound. A worthwhile contribution to the current debate, also within Reformed churches, on origins. Heartily recommended. “ — John Byl, Professor Emeritus, Mathematical Sciences, Trinity Western University.
“If you want to get to the heart of the message of this book, you could say: In the beginning there is truth. In this in-depth investigation, Prof. Dr. C. van Dam shows us that Holy Scripture opens with the revelation of facts. The first pages of Holy Scripture are in no way an oriental campfire fantasy or a human tale. In fact, the author convincingly argues that in Genesis 1 and 2 we have received the reliable account of how God brought the universe into being within a period of six days (qualified by evening and morning). It is no exaggeration that such an exposition about the origin of the world and about the historical Adam and Eve has probably never been as necessary as it is today. This book definitely meets a big need!” — Jürgen-Burkhard Klautke, Dean of the Academy of Reformed Theology [ART] Giessen, Germany
“The first chapters of the book of Genesis form the foundation of God’s message for mankind. The last few years have witnessed more and more new interpretations of these chapters with huge consequences for the church and its theology. Dr. Cornelis Van Dam has served the discussion well by thoroughly investigating these different visions and showing how they are in part based on current scientific notions of the origin of the cosmos and the human race. However, those who want to honor the self-testimony of Genesis have many good reasons to remain with the classic Christian understanding.” — Mart-Jan Paul, Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven (Belgium)
“This is an important book. Not only on Genesis 1 and 2 but also on the inevitable and crucial implications of the interpretation of these chapters for understanding the truth of Scripture as a whole, Van Dam succeeds admirably in meeting, in his own words, the ‘need to listen very carefully to God’s Word and conclude neither more nor less than what Scripture explicitly teaches.’ Clearly written, carefully and thoroughly researched, fair in dealing with views he disagrees with, and balanced in his own conclusions on issues, a commendable strength as well is the pastoral tone present throughout. Particularly helpful are the treatment of the place of extrabiblical evidence in interpreting Scripture and numerous comments at various points on the relationship between Scripture and science. One need not agree with Van Dam at every point to be both instructed and edified, as I have been, by this valuable work.” — Richard B. Gaffin Jr., professor of biblical and systematic theology, emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
"With In the Beginning Cornelis Van Dam offers a thorough examination of recent developments among scholars who are desperately attempting to reconcile the account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 with modern neo-Darwinist theory. Studiously avoiding technical jargon, Van Dam’s treatment is thorough and readable. His critique aptly highlights the awkward interpretive biblical contortions attempted by those who wish to weld an uncomfortable and untenable bond between Christian belief in a biblical Creator and faith in biological evolutionary hypotheses. Though Van Dam focuses much of his attention on developments within Reformed Churches, his book is worthwhile reading for any Christian who wishes to remain faithful to God’s Word and avoid modern secularism and its unbiblical ethics as they attempt to creep into the church." — Andrew E. Steinmann, Distinguished Professor of Theology and Hebrew, Concordia University Chicago
"A most welcome work! Van Dam’s defence of the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2 is most of all humbly obedient to God and his Word—biblical in its hermeneutics, sound in its exegesis, up-todate in its scholarship, and effective in its rebuttal of theistic evolution. Whether one seeks depth and relevance in the exegesis or a sophisticated yet accessible interaction with the multitude of non-literal and non-historical theories around the biblical creation account, the work at hand provides this. In addition, Van Dam ably accounts for the Ancient Near Eastern context of Israel, while rightly arguing that such material is not normative for our interpretation of divine revelation. I found the emphasis on worldview and the chapter on “The Work of Creation and the Gospel” particularly helpful. I recommend this book heartily as a challenge for all to educate themselves in Scripture—some to rethink their positions and others to be bolstered in the confidence of faith." — Theodore G. Van Raalte, Professor of Ecclesiology, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary
"The first two chapters of Genesis form the creation account as transmitted to us through the people of Israel. Nowadays it is customary to place this account side by side with creation myths of other nations and on that basis to speculate about the origin of heaven and earth, life, and humankind. It was a great relief for me that this particular book does justice to the biblical notion that God entrusted his Word to the people of Israel and to no other nation." — Prof. Dr. Ir. Cornelis (Kees) Roos, Emeritus professor of mathematics at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
"Do we need yet another book on the question of Bible and creation? Some will doubt it – but do not close the door too quickly! Prof. em. Van Dam´s dealing with many of the difficult issues around Bible and creation is very much worth reading. His book offers a large amount of illuminating, sober, and clear exegetical insights into Genesis 1 and 2 as well as many other related biblical passages. He relates these texts to scientific theories, especially the theory of evolution, in helpful ways, addressing also general methodological issues and reminding us of the limits of scientific knowledge in these matters. His arguments for the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2 deserve serious attention. From an Old Testament perspective, Van Dam´s remarks against an uncritical reading of extra-biblical ancient Near Eastern views into Genesis 1 and 2 are particularly important. I highly recommend this book, both for laypersons and scholars, including as a textbook for seminary courses." — Markus Zehnder, Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Talbot School of Theology, California
"In this clearly written volume, Cornelis Van Dam defends a historical interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 as an accurate account of the origin of the earth and the human race, using the language of normal human experience. He points out why the divine revelation found in these chapters cannot be reconciled with the theory of evolution. I recommend his book especially to all those who ponder such reconciliation, for it presents all the counterarguments upon which they should reflect." — Gert Kwakkel, Professor of Old Testament at Theologische Universiteit Kampen, The Netherlands, and Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, France