THE BOOK OF ORIGINS: Genesis Simply Explained
ISBN 0 85234 484 8
I wonder how many professing evangelicals still have such a thing as a ‘quiet time’ ? Not as many as would like others to think that they do, that’s for sure ! But for the faithful few who observe the practice and who seek plainly written explanation and application of the Scriptures in manageable parcels, the availability of Philip Eveson’s The Book of Origins: Genesis Simply Explained will be good news. It is interesting, readable and devout and combines a sure touch in handling the book of Genesis with a pastoral concern to make a spiritual impact upon the lives of the readers.
Eveson’s book follows the familiar Welwyn Commentary format. Unsurprisingly, the author devotes proportionately most space to the early chapters of Genesis and these sections are the most interesting. By contrast, some of the comment in the later chapters is a little too sermonic and it even felt to this reader that the use of alliterative headings increased as the book progressed !
One of the most appealing features of the book is the way in which so very many of the important Bible themes which appear in Genesis are given between a paragraph and a page in order to set the reader about the important task of following them through the whole Bible. Examples include Sabbath, guarding, the tree of life, Noah’s ark, the Sabbath, Eden, capital punishment and the gospel, the angel of the LORD, the eighth day, the numbers seven, twelve and one thousand, seed, covenant, blood, garden, Melchizedek, typology and East. And the author’s determination to demonstrate that theology flows from careful consideration of the text means that an impressive amount of basic Christian doctrine is introduced through the course of the book.
Another strength of the book is its unembarrassed conservatism on those points where the ‘science’ and historicity of Genesis has come under attack. The author keeps fairly brief his consideration of the length of the days in Genesis 1, the age of the earth, and the possibility of biological evolution but it is clear that his ‘traditional’ conclusions on these points are based upon deeper thought – as demonstrated, for example, by his throwaway comment on Genesis 1.30.
Not that the book is flawless. Even within the limitations of the series more could done to introduce the reader to the theological importance of the literary structure of the narrative units. Then again, the applications, coming as they do in the midst of a running commentary, can often feel somewhat piecemeal and unconnected; they also tend to be rather individualistic. There is room for more application to be made from the broader theological structures and to the world beyond the believer’s own life.
In short, the book is ideally suited for reading in small chunks in one’s personal devotions: to read it any other way – as an introduction to the study of Genesis, for example – may well leave the reader wanting more. But then, by most accounts that matter, a book explaining Genesis which can simultaneously nourish the reader and sharpen his/her appetite for a deeper study of Scripture must surely be judged a success.