Creation has become one of those doctrines that can erect walls to divide people who are supposed to be united in Christ. Despite our shared creedal proclamation, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth," our stated views of how and when God created the cosmos and all it contains can quickly reduce the social temperature to a primeval chill. This is why a book like Biblical Portraits of Creation is so welcome. Instead of denouncing those who defend contrary interpretations, this book, as reflected in the subtitle, celebrates the Maker of heaven and earth by examining a series of biblical passages that exalt the works of his hands.
Wisely, the book begins, not in Gen 1, but in a study of Prov 3 and 8, passages that highlight God's exercise of wisdom before his acts of creation and portray personified wisdom as rejoicing to witness God's handiwork. Would that all of our investigations of creation reflect this kind of discernment. This account of God's creating before creation is followed by two chapters on Gen 1, which Kaiser interprets as an overview of creation in its entirety being God's work that is recognized as "very good," and Gen 2, which he sees as an in-depth examination of the creation of humans and their placement in the Garden.
Five subsequent chapters focus on the treatment of creation in six Psalms (104, 8 and 19, 29, 33, and 148), followed by an exposition of the divine speech in Job 38-41 that silences the titular character when questioned about God's work in nature. In ch. 10, Little examines Matt 1:1-17 and discerns a new beginning in the birth and ministry of Jesus. Kaiser then describes the new heavens and new earth from the vantage point of Isa 65-66 and a number of New Testament texts (ch. 11). In ch. 12, Little examines 2 Cor 4:6 and 5:17 and shows that Paul's confidence for proclaiming the gospel and living the Christian life comes from his understanding of the new creation that we become in Christ. The book concludes with a short epilogue, an appendix that gives new life to Kaiser's classic 1968 essay, "The Literary Genre of Genesis 1-11," and name, subject, and Scripture indexes.
The chapters of this book originated as sermons and could serve as models for preaching, as they highlight key homiletical concepts found in each passage studied and provide expositional outlines for them. Even so, they have largely been reworked for the printed page. Taken together, they offer a biblical understanding of creation that is well-suited for Christian laity, though many will find some terms and concepts challenging (e.g., determining meaning by referring to the Hebrew Qal infinitive absolute [p. 13] or the type of Masoretic accent used [p. 17], or discussing the morphological development of the Hebrew language [p. 33]). It is therefore appropriate that readers are encouraged from the very beginning of the book to study it with a small group (or, I would add, an adult Sunday School class) and discuss the questions found at the end of each chapter (p. ix-x). This, I believe, would be the most fruitful use of the book.
I warmly recommend this book to others, chiefly because it centers its discussion of creation on the God who made all things. This is a welcome relief that distinguishes it from other works that are more intent on gaining points over opposing interpretations than bringing glory to the Creator. I am also glad to see that both OT and NT passages of a number of different genres are consulted in the examination of the book's theme, as this gives a much broader understanding than can be derived from a single text. Sympathetic readers will learn to discern the breadth of the Bible's discussion of creation and how it can be discussed amicably even when interpretations differ.
Though I like the book, a few niggling issues prove disappointing. First, while they may serve as markers for sermonic inflection, the pages are littered with far too many exclamation marks. Second, there are frequent mistakes in the transliteration of Hebrew words (pp. 13, 27, 28, 29, etc.). Third, do we really need to be told six times that light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second (four of them within three pages [pp. 53-55])? Finally, a minor issue is that the addition of Kaiser's essay, "The Literary Genre of Genesis 1-11," seems a bit out of place in a book that is more geared toward a lay audience, and that the article has not been updated to reflect the shift in the discussion that has taken place in the past forty-five years.
I hope that this book will be read widely and that it will, as the authors desire, "stimulate a whole new conversation on the Bible's extensive view on creation" (p. 8) that will lead many to celebrate the Maker of heaven and earth.