Books on Genesis

In this post, I will give a brief review of the Genesis commentaries I read in preparation for my Genesis sermons. All works are in alphabetical order by author.

Augustine of Hippo On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees, Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Trans. by Edmund Hill. New York: New City Press, 2002, 539 pages. Very interesting work. Understanding the people against whom Augustine wrote sheds light on his approach to this book, on which he seems to have written about 5 unfinished commentaries! The information is thus a bit difficult to find if you need it for that very week. However, the translation and notes are first rate. Recommended for pastors. Instantaneous creation view.

Baldwin, Joyce The Message of Genesis 12-50. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1986, 224 pages. Baldwin has a splendid literary sense, and I learned a lot from her. Buy it, especially if you are a lay-person.

Blocher, Henri In the Beginning. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, 240 pages. This is an incredible book. All pastors should read this book, whether they agree with his Framework view or not. He lays out the positions on the creation days well, and is full of literary insights. Recommended for pastors.

Brueggemann, Walter Genesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982, 384 pages. From a more liberal-critical scholar, this book is very interesting to read, and has many things not found elsewhere. Nevertheless, this book is not recommended for lay-people, unless they are very discerning. Brueggemann more than dabbles with open theism. His God is very small. Recommended, though, for a pastor who wants a complete library on Genesis.

Calvin, John Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1984, 1107 pages. Also available in print form here. There is no need to recommend what should be required reading of every exegete and Christian. 24-Hour view.

Candlish, Robert Studies in Genesis. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, reprinted 1979 (original date 1868). This volume is out of print. If you can find it, you should buy it. This was Spurgeon’s favorite. He called it “The commentary on Genesis.” It is full (844 pages), and rich. Candlish knew how to interpret Genesis in the light of the New Testament, a thing which few moderns know. Recommended for pastors and lay-people. 24-Hour view.

Cassuto, Umberto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part Two: From Noah to Abraham. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1961, 1949 respectively; 323 and 386 pages respectively. This is one of the two finest Jewish commentaries available (the other is Sarna’s: see below). It is unfortunate that he died before he finished the rest of Genesis. He was a strong defender against the Documentary Hypothesis, and was an unbelievably careful exegete. Gives access to many rabbinical interpretations. Recommended for pastors.

Coats, George W. Genesis, With an Introduction to Narrative Literature. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983, 322 pages. This book is mostly wasted paper. Only buy it if you have most of the rest of the books in this post. It is important for the complete scholar, but not for anyone else.

Collins, C. John Genesis 1-4. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2006, 318 pages. A fine book, aimed mostly at scholars and pastors. It is subtitled “A linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary.” Obviously, it only covers the first four chapters. It is a discourse-linguistic approach to the text. He is a Analogical Day advocate. I was extremely disappointed with his handling of the various positions on the creation day. He argues for the analogical view, and hardly even interacts with the other views. I expected more than that in a single volume commentary on only four chapters of Genesis, where one of the most important issues in our minds is still the creation days. Otherwise, however, it is a superb volume, and don’t let that one failing turn you off from the excellence of the rest of the book.

Cotter, David W. Genesis. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003, 366 pages. Anyone can read this commentary, if they wish. It is a literary analysis (mostly well-done) by a Roman Catholic priest. It is in the Berit Olam series. He is quite liberal, but that doesn’t usually get in the way of his literary analysis, which is often superb. Recommended for pastors and discerning lay-people.

Currid, John Genesis, Volume 1, and Volume 2. Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2003, 476 pages and 428 pages respectively. This is one of the very best commentaries on Genesis, and belongs on the short list of any pastor. John Currid teaches at RTS Jackson, and is very much like Richard Pratt in his approach to the OT. Highly recommended for pastors and lay-people. 24-Hour view.

Duguid, Iain Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality, Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999 and 2002, 167 pages and 162 pages respectively. Another must buy for pastors and lay-people. I buy everything Duguid writes. He is one of my very favorite OT commentators. He always preaches Christ from the Old Testament. The first volume covers the Abraham narrative, and the second volume covers Isaac and Jacob.

Fretheim, Terence Genesis, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume 1. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994, 353 pages. I would chalk this commentary up as a decent supplementary commentary, if you already have some of the other, more important commentaries. Fretheim is liberal and very open theist. I would never recommend this commentary for lay-people, therefore. But he does have some unique insights not available elsewhere. So the pastor looking for a complete library on Genesis will want this volume.

Godfrey, W. Robert God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1. Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2003, 141 pages. This is a great little book on Genesis 1. He does take a Framework approach, but one is willing to forgive that when so many other good things are in this small volume. Recommended for pastors and lay-people. Takes a Christological reading of the passage.

Hagopian, David G. The Genesis Debate. Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001, 319 pages. This is a book on the debate over the creation days. It has three views: 24-Hour view (represented by Lig Duncan and David Hall), the Day-Age view (Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer), and the Framework view (Lee Irons and Meredith Kline). It has some valuable interaction among these three views. Recommended for pastors and lay-people.

Hamilton, Victor The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990 and 1995, 522 pages and 774 pages respectively. This is one of the best commentaries on Genesis. It is a bit scholarly for the lay-person, so is recommended for pastors only. Takes a conservative approach to the text of Genesis. Connects the text to the New Testament often and well. Framework view.

Henry, Matthew Genesis in Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, nd, 269 pages. Undoubtedly the best 18th century commentator on Scripture. Every Christian needs to have this commentary on his bookshelf. Genesis is very good in this commentary. Literal 24-Hour view.

Hughes, R. Kent Genesis: Beginning and Blessing. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004, 702 pages. This volume is a model of moving from text to sermon. Highly recommended for pastors. If you want one “popular level” commentary that models preaching, this is it. He shows us Christ from the OT. Analagous Day view.

Keil/Delitasch Commentary On the Old Testament, Volume 1: Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1985, 413 pages. Every pastor needs to have this commentary. It will be slow going if the pastor doesn’t know Hebrew (shame on him!). This is a very technical commentary, and so is recommended to the pastor, but not the lay-person. 24-Hour advocate.

Kidner, Derek Genesis: And Introduction & Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967, 224 pages. Kidner has a knack for getting to the heart of the matter in few words. This may be a brief commentary, but it is good. Day-Age advocate. Recommended for pastors and lay-people.

Kline, Meredith Kingdom Prologue. Overland Park, KS: Two Age Press, 2000, 406 pages. A masterpiece of biblical theology. Not for the faint of heart, though it is not a technical grammatical commentary, and thus is accessible to the well-read lay-person. Difficult to find one’s way around and get to what he says on a particular passage, since it is not really a pssage by passage commentary. Framework view advocate. Read it before you start your lessons/sermons.

Leupold, H.C. Exposition of Genesis, Volume 1, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960, 1220 pages total (op). Very conservative Lutheran scholar of the mid-20th century. Unfortunately, he was so busy fighting the Documentary Hypothesis that he forgot to explain what the text meant. Not especially recommended. Pastors don’t need it, since half of the book is unpreachable in his estimation. 24-Hour view.

Longacre, Robert E. Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence, Second Edition. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003, 342 pages. This is an extremely technical discourse-linguistic discussion of the Joseph story. Richly rewarding, if you can slog through the difficult terminology. You may need to purchase his text-linguistic book first. I highly recommend reading the book before you get to the Joseph story, and indexing great comments on individual passages.

Louth, Andrew, ed. Genesis 1-11, and Mark Sheridan, ed. Genesis 12-50. Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001 and 2002 respectively, 203 pages and 392 pages respectively. These are the Ancient Christian Commentary Series volumes. They are refreshing, precisely because they are so old. It is a catena of quotations from the early church fathers. Recommended for the pastor and lay-person.

Luther, Martin Genesis, in 8 volumes. St. Louis: Concordian Publishing House, 1958-1966. Mostly a waste of paper. He has some very interesting things, but it is like finding a needle in a haystack. Again, this volume would be for the complete Genesis library. Read fast. 24-Hour view.

Mathews, Kenneth Genesis 1-11:26, Genesis 11:27-50:26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996, and 2005; 528 pages and 960 pages respectively. This commentary is another must. I know, I know, it’s very long (total of 1488 pages). But it is very good. Pastors and lay-people can read it, since the technical discussions are in the footnotes.

McDowell, Bruce Noah: A Righteous Man in a Wicked Age. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2004, 236 pages. Buy this book. Period. The best book on Noah among all the commentaries. Shows us Christ in remarkably helpful ways all throughout the book. Recommended for pastors and lay-people.

Murphy, James A Commentary on The Book of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint nd (originally published in 1873). An interesting commentary. Pastors and lay-people can read this. It is bound in Barnes’ notes. There were some helpful things in it. Definitely not a first choice, but a “complete library” choice. Day-Age view.

Pink, Arthur Gleanings in Genesis. Chicago: The Bible Institute Colpartage Association, 1922, 412 pages. Some really wierd stuff (he holds to the Gap theory; and some of his typology gets out of hand) mixed with some truly wonderful things (the typology of Joseph is especially helpful). Definitely worth reading. For pastors and laypeople. 24-Hour view.

Pipa, Joey, and David Hall Did God Create in Six Days? Greenville, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999, 339 pages. Great collection of articles holding to the 24-hour view, with 3 articles written in defense of the other views.

Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988, 744 pages. Fantastic book for preachers. It won’t give you a lick of help in typology, since he is a dispensationalist. However, his literary sense and theological acuity is probing. Has wonderful outlines. Recommended for pastors and lay-people.

Sarna, Nahum Genesis. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989, 414 pages. Buy this commentary. Along with Cassuto, one of the two best Jewish commentaries on the text. He is a liberal, but there are plenty of insights here to make up for that. Recommended for pastors, as it is a commentary on the Hebrew text.

Simpson, Cuthbert, and Walter Bowie Genesis, in The Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952, 391 pages. Incredible waste of paper. The exegesis section atomizes the text without ever explaining it (heavily DH). The exposition is almost (but not quite) worthless. Read only the exposition, as the exegesis section is a wonderful example of how exegesis ought not to be done. Go 180 degrees in the opposite direction, and you’ll be going places.

Skinner, John Genesis. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1930, 552 pages. This is the old International Critical Commentary volume. It is out of print. It is mostly for scholars. There is a very little bit of help for the pastor. But most pastors would be much better served with other commentaries.

Speiser, E.A. Genesis. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1964, 378 pages. The old Anchor Bible entry. Another profound waste of paper. This is a worthless commentary. I have hardly any underlining at all in my copy, though I trudged through the whole blasted thing. Don’t buy it (it’s out of print anyway).

Von Rad, Gerhard Genesis: A Commentary, Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972, 440 pages. Not an especially good commentary, but one worth picking up second hand, if you can find it.

Waltke, Bruce Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001, 656 pages. Splendid commentary, and one of the best. Ties the text to the New Testament admirably. This should be on the short list. Pastors and lay-people can read this one. Analogical view.

Walton, John Genesis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001, 759 pages. This is a good commentary. Spends too much time on the science/faith question, and not enough time on the latter part of the book (the unevenness is palpable: 322 pages on chapters 1-11, and only 60 pages on chapters 37-47, and 21 of those pages are the NIV text of the passage!). However, this is definitely one to read.  Not the first choice, but a good middle commentary.

Wenham, Gordon Genesis 1-15, Genesis 16-50. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1987 and 1994, 352 pages and 517 pages respectively. This is a very good commentary, though the pastor will get much more use out it than the lay-person will. This should be on the short list for pastors.

Westermann, Claus, Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-36, Genesis 37-50. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994, 1995, 1986, 636 pages, 604 pages, and 269 pages. This is the most liberal commentary on offer. The first volume is the best of the three, since he actually comes to some very sensible conclusions regarding Genesis 1. I have hardly any underlining in the second and third volumes. So, just buy the first volume. Anything good from the other volumes has already been culled in other, more recent volumes (especially Mathews).

Williamson, Paul R. Abraham, Israel, and the Nations. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, 309 pages. This is an exegesis of the Abrahamic covenant, especially considering how chapters 15 and 17 relate to each other. A very important book. If you can’t afford it, then buy the more popular version.

Wilson, Lindsay Joseph Wise and Otherwise. Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2004, 339 pages. Fantastic exposition of the Joseph story. It explores how the wisdom literature bears on the Joseph story. Highly recommended for pastors. A bit technical for lay-people.

Young, E.J. Studies in Genesis One. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1964, 105 pages. Very important collection of Westminster Theological Journal articles on Genesis one (they only deal with the first three verses plus the creation days issue).