Peter Enns

Review of Did God Really Command Genocide? Part 1

When I spoke to Paul Copan at a biblical studies conference in November 2013, he told me about a book he was co-writing on the Canaanite Genocide. I told him I’d look forward to reading it.  In November 2014, Did God Really Command Genocide: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God came out, authored by Copan and Matthew Flannagan (C&F). This new book is a much deeper discussion of a subject was addressed more briefly in Copan’s earlier work, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, a book I highly recommend (for more details, see my three blog posts on the topic here).

The overall tone is less casual, a bit more academic (about 100 pages longer), than Copan’s Moral Monster. While I really appreciated the readability of Moral Monster (I’ve been accused of being too informal, even snarky), I’m sure some academic types will prefer this book’s slightly more serious tone. I would have thought that for a more academic book, C&F would have gone with footnotes (which I prefer) over endnotes. A feature of the book that I really appreciated was the summaries included at the end of each chapter which, in a pithy format, reiterate the main points (particularly helpful for writing a book review blog).

While I should have been prepared for it if I had read the introductory chapter more carefully, I was somewhat disappointed that C&F didn’t begin by looking at the relevant biblical texts (a few in the Pentateuch, but mostly ones from Joshua). The first two chapters lay out their philosophical framework which sets up their discussion for the rest of the book, which probably makes sense since Copan teaches philosophy, but as a Bible guy, I just want to talk about the text. But I quickly got over my initial disappointment as I moved into the third chapter, a discussion of the relationship between the Old and New Testament. (As I like to say, “How does one reconcile the loving God of the Old Testament with the harsh God of the New Testament?”)

To examine the OT/NT relationship, C&F discuss two scholars who some think are pseudo-Marcionites, Peter Enns and Eric Seibert (it’s “e” before “i” even after “S”), both of whom are friends of mine, although on the issue of the Canaanite “genocide” my own views are much closer to C&F, than E&S (see my article in Relevant on the topic here).

Before offering a critique of them, Did God Really goes into depth discussing the perspective on violence of Enns and Seibert, fairly portraying their views, modeling gracious, irenic dialogue about a topic that often can become ironically hostile. C&F agree that it is good that scholars like E&S (they also list C. Wright, G. Wenham, D. Lamb, and J. Goldingay) are “thinking deeply” about the troubling portrayals of God in the Hebrew Bible.  But they also argue that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament “don’t actually read the Old Testament the way Seibert and Enns think they should” (p. 47).  I agree.

My review will continue in Part 2, but at this point in time I can highly recommend C&F’s new book to anyone troubled by one of the most disturbing problems in Scripture.


The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns. Part 1

I remember as a freshman in college (1980) in our InterVarsity fellowship at Stanford we had discussions about evolution and creation.  After a few years of discussing the topic in apologetic groups, I thought, “OK, we’ve solved that one.  Time to move on.”  I come from a science family.  (Dad’s a gamma-ray astrophysicist.)  Personally, I didn’t see a conflict.  In the 1990’s when Christians I knew wanted to discuss creation/evolution, I naively thought, “How passé!”

Well, apparently the problem isn’t solved.  The debate continues, and there’s been a spate of new books recently addressing the issues of Genesis, science, creation and evolution.

John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP, 2009).
Richard Carlson and Tremper Longman III, Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins (IVP, 2010).
C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Crossway, 2011).

Into this mix, Peter Enns (recently hired by Eastern College to each Old Testament) adds his own contribution, cleverly titled, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Brazos, 2012).

In his introduction, Enns discusses the problem, focusing not generally on the issue of creation, but specifically on Adam, since Paul seems to understand Adam as an actual historical figure which he perceives to be in direct conflict with any evolutionary interpretion of human origins.  Enns lays out four options to resolve the conflict:

1) Accept evolution and reject Christianity.
2) Accept Paul’s view of Adam as binding and reject evolution.
3) Reconcile evolution and Christianity by positing a first human pair at some point in the evolutionary process.
4) Rethink Genesis and Paul.  (I suspect this is going to be the option he’s going to choose).

Enns thinks most Christians who, like me, don’t see a direct conflict follow some variation of option #3.  He then informs us that his book will be divided in half.  Part 1 looking at Genesis, and Part 2 looking at Paul.

While I will wait to access Enn’s overall theory (I plan to have 2 more blogs on Enns), I’m attracted to his approach of taking Paul more seriously than most of us OT types typically do.  I have one preliminary question, How distinct will Enn’s perspective (#4) be from option #3)?