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A book review: The Generations of Heaven and Earth

June 9, 2020

This is a review for The Generations of Heaven and Earth, by Jon Garvey.

This was a much harder read than I anticipated - in a good way.

Like the title suggests, this book is about the Genesis creation account - specifically about Adam and Eve. New science has shown that a couple doesn't need to be the first humans ever to be the ancestors to all humans alive today. If they had lived just a few thousand years ago, they could easily be the ancestors of us all, simply by having their descendants intermarry with everyone else. The idea of the genealogical Adam and Eve (GAE) is that the biblical Adam and Eve were just such a couple.

This is a revolutionary new idea. It completely reshapes the discussion on interpreting the Genesis creation account. It compromises nothing on any front. It is, in my opinion, the most scientific AND the most biblical interpretation of Genesis. There is another book - "The Genealogical Adam and Eve" - which approaches this idea from the scientific side. This book approaches it from the theological side.

Now, I am in the rather unique position of having arrived at this idea independently. I've written on it extensively in another post. So when I started reading this book, I figured that I'd breeze through it, as I was already aware of the main idea and its theological implications.

I was partly right. Certainly, much of Jon Garvey's position as expounded in this book are very similar to mine. Some issues, like the question of Cain's wife, have obvious answers in the GAE model. Huge chunks of difficult passages fall into place, and just these low-hanging fruits can get us very far in better understanding Genesis and some of its key doctrines. It was a pleasure to read these sections where our thoughts lined up: it's a good sign when multiple people independently arrive at the same idea, and work out the same implications from it. Truly, GAE is an idea whose time has come.

But Jon Garvey goes far above and beyond that - and explores many topics related to GAE from many different angles. Some of these were very new to me: that's what made this a much harder read than I anticipated, in a good way. I learned a lot. In this book he covers topics as varied as the possible locations for Eden, comparative ANE mythology, primeval 'monotheism' all over the world, theories of salvation, the meta-narrative of the Bible, the all-important "image of God", and more. Some of these topics are rather speculative. Others are tangential. But they're all interesting, and the author carefully navigates through each of them, connecting them all back to the GAE model.

In so doing, this book shows that the GAE model is not just plausible or defensible from a theological standpoint, but actively helpful. Reading this book, and navigating through its many topics, has sparked many new insights for me - in theology, but also in its implications in the real world, in my personal life. These real-world associations for me include things as disparate as my career progression, interpretations of Frozen II, and Jordan Peterson's talking points. Truly, this book covers a wide range of topics and connects them all.

So, this book has further illuminated the ideas of GAE to me, even though I was already quite familiar with it. It did so in a way that actively enriched my theological understanding, which then carried over into topics in my personal life. In short, it has made my faith more whole - and there is no better class of recommendation I can give than to say that.


You may next want to read:
Interpreting the Genesis creation story
A book review: The Genealogical Adam and Eve
Another post, from the table of contents

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