What do we mean when we, in the midst of our congregations each week, confess that “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth …” ?
Biblical Portraits of Creation was written to put some spiritual meat to that most basic of confessions as it points to the fundamental nature of the daily reality in which we find ourselves, a most basic, foundational truth of our divinely revealed faith and one well worth daily meditation.
The primary author, Walter Kaiser, mainly uses Old Testament passages to unpack the meaning of the historic confession of that first clause of the Apostle’s Creed. He is an Old Testament scholar of ~50+ years, a retired President of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, author or editor of ~ 40 scholarly books, and a believer.
In 12 chapters, Kaiser and his co-author Dorrington Little explicate what Scripture has to say about God and His creation of heaven and earth (the cosmos). He states that, based on definite semantic signals carefully placed in the text by the original human (and divine) authors, the account in Genesis 1-11 is clearly to be read as prose (vs. parable, myth, poetry, or borrowings of any sort from Near Eastern cosmological account. Those alternatives are profoundly unhelpful, destructive misreadings of that text). The prose found in Genesis 1-3 is formal, precise, carefully structured, and soaring but solid. See also the appendix he includes on this important matter.
In chapter one, he discusses the role of wisdom in creation from Proverbs 3 and 8.
In chapter 2, the focus is the literary form of the primary creation and foundational accounts in Genesis 1-11. Before there was anything – matter, space, time, darkness, light, etc. there was only God: fully sufficient, delighted in His eternal being, and in need of nothing. All that exists came into existence either directly or indirectly via divine command (the first two humans, however, were specially, directly created by divine decision and action). All this was definitively pronounced by God as being “very good”. The universe, consisting of structured, ordered, purposeful, goal-oriented matter is somehow not infinite in extent (but then too how can it be limited?). It has a definite starting point (and so is not eternal), and consists of the mysteries as noted above, being beyond human comprehension via rational, scientific capabilities.
Chapter 3 discusses the Garden of Eden showing that Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of certain parts of the big picture of Genesis 1. God made a garden for the man and made also a complementary gender and bride in the first female, giving them fulfilling work, etc.
The next chapter compares Psalm 104 to the Genesis creation account, filling in some detail and giving alternate perspectives on that account. In chapter 5 Kaiser compares Genesis to Psalm 8 which praises God for His creative acts while Psalm 19:1-6 speaks of the glory of God as seen in the heavens.
Chapter 6 covers Psalm 29, the ‘Psalm of Seven Thunders’ depicting God as sovereign over the earth as He providentially, skillfully, and with perfect precision directs the world of nature to His predetermined ends, even if He has only revealed those things in broad outline and we have only limited grasp of that glorious, coming reality.
The next chapter depicts Psalm 33:6-13 celebrating the awesome power of the spoken word / Word of God, Christ Who is the Creator of all things along with the Father. Chapter eight is the first by Rev. Little, explicating Psalm 148 which tells of the praise commanded by and rightfully due to the Creator / Redeemer God from all creation and those redeemed.
Chapter 9 is from Job 38-39, showing Job’s insolence in attempting to make God answer to him and God’s gentle but overpowering rebuke of Job for that attitude as He points to His sovereign activity in creation with no help or input from anyone else, thank you very much! Chapter 10 from Matthew 1 shows through genealogy that Jesus is fully human, the climax of Israel’s history, and the source of a new humanity.
Chapter 11 is from Isaiah 65 and 66 depicting the new heavens and new earth which will replace the current universe at a determined, future point. Chapter 12 from 2 Corinthians 4 & 5 speaks of the confidence for ministry that flows from the knowledge of a new creation.
As the sub-title indicates, this is book is meant to be (and in fact is) a celebration of the Maker of heaven and earth. That fundamental truth is foundational to a well-grounded faith (belief, assent, and trust). A solid work of scholarship, recommended. This book was received gratis in exchange for a review.