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Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and Tanakh Paperback – March 14, 2011
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Dr. Postell has written a brilliant treatise arguing that Genesis 1-3 serves as the literary introduction to the Pentateuch, and, indeed, the entire Tanakh. He is clearly conversant with all the relevant literature and he makes a persuasive case. This is a work that needs to be read carefully and taken seriously.
--David M. Howard Jr. --David M. Howard, Jr., Professor of Old Testament, Bethel University
In a stimulating study of the first three chapters of Genesis, Dr. Postell has argued convincingly that they were written as fitting prelude to and portent of the ensuing narrative. Instead of looking to presumed parallel or contrasting ancient creation accounts for its meaning, this study confirms that the opening narratives of the Pentateuch exhibit language and themes coherent with the entire narrative that follows. The persuasive argument expressed here points to the necessity of further studies of similar approach to the Hebrew Bible. --Robert Cole, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semetic Languages, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
To anyone who suspects that there is a divine order behind the compilation of the Hebrew Scriptures, this excellent work by Seth Postell will confirm that suspicion. Not only has he carefully described the methodology used in evangelical canonical research of the text, he has built upon the existing evidence to further substantiate the approach. Fresh new insights are always pleasing to the theological senses! Research professors and students alike will be strengthened in their devotion to the sacred text and spurred on to answer the research questions that naturally arise from this work. --Gregory Hagg, Professor of Bible Exposition, Talbot School of Theology
About the Author
Seth D. Postell, formerly Assistant Professor of Old Testament at the Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies (in partnership with Talbot School of Theology), is currently Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel.
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1. Postell unfortunately adheres to John Sailhamer's bizarre view that Genesis 1 describes the preparation of the Garden of Eden rather than the creation of the world. This throws a wrench in biblical theology as a whole. Genesis 1 describes the creation of the world as a Temple, and Genesis 2-3 provides an image of the Garden of Eden as a Sanctuary, guarded and cultivated by Adam as High Priest. But Adam is meant to actualize the whole creation's destiny as a Temple by expanding the boundaries of the Garden. That is why he is told to "subdue" the beasts of the field in Genesis 1. The beasts were outside the Sanctuary, and Adam would extend the dominion of the Edenic Temple and bring the beasts under his rule, turning them into cattle (which means domestic animals) as he grew in communion with God. Understanding this makes it clear how the Church is moving towards its eschatological Sabbath as she brings all nations under the feet of Christ. Postell's subscription to Sailhamer's theory means that he misses a number of important biblical-theological insights which result from the identity of the land of Israel as a miniature Earth.
2. A better title for the book would have been "Israel as Adam." The Adam typology which emerges from Israel's history is written into it- later biblical authors did not have to mold their telling of the story to make things fit. God called Israel as Adam, Israel recapitulated Adam's exile, and Jesus, in whom Israel's destiny is focused, dies and is resurrected- thus bringing about the return from exile. This brings Postell's thesis into profound connection with N.T. Wright's work on the return from exile.
3. Postell is a Messianic Jew, and thus never identifies the Church as Israel or exposits biblical theology along these lines. But his thesis seems to destroy the premise of Messianic Judaism, namely, that Israel and the Church are distinct entities. If Israel is Adam, and Jesus is the New Adam, then it seems obvious that Jesus is the one-person-Israel. Consequently, since since the Church is, in the New Testament, the new humanity in virtue of its union with Christ, it seems almost absurd to then deny that the Church is the renewed Israel under the new covenant.
Despite the length of my criticisms, my impression of the book was enormously positive. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to understand the theology of the Hebrew Bible in light of Christ. All of my criticisms are reducible to the fact that Postell simply fails to extend his insights as far as they should be extended.
Postell, a Professor at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel, evidences a high regard for Scripture and for the Lord who gave it to us.
This book may intimidate many readers because the author uses many words and expressions which are unfamiliar to them (e.g., Tanakh, text-centered analysis, inclusio, Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis, canon, canonical, typology, inner-textuality, intertextuality, theophanic, compositional analysis, canonical seams). However, readers should not shy away from this book. As scholarly books go, this one is fairly easy to read and understand.
Postell’s thesis is that Genesis 1-3 introduces key themes which resonate throughout the rest of the Pentateuch and indeed the entire Old Testament (which Postell calls the Tanakh, which stands for “the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings,” p. 155). In his view both the human and the Divine authors (Moses and the Holy Spirit) intended the history reported in Genesis 1-3 to serve as types of Israel’s future. Some of those prophetic elements include: a “longing expectation for the coming of the conquering king [the Messiah]” (p. 166), “a new work of God in the last days” (p. 4), “Even a cursory reading of Gen 1:1–2:3 reveals the author’s predominate focus on the eretz (“land”)…[which] occurs twenty-one times [in 1:1–2:3]” (p. 83), “The Pentateuch, therefore, opens (Genesis 1) and closes (Deuteronomy 34) with a focus on the unconquered land” (p. 147), “Jacob and Moses exemplify the eschatological hope in the coming of the conquering king (Gen 3:15) from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:8-12; Deut 33:7) who will one day gather the people of Israel from exile (Deut 33:5; see also 30:12-13); namely, a king who will fulfill Adam’s mandate” (pp. 147-48), “Adam and Eve’s cowering in fear [Gen 3:8] foreshadows Israel’s fearful (faithless) retreat from the theophanic appearance of the Lord on Mount Sinai” (p. 128). This leads Postell to agree with Schmitt who argues that “faith is a primary theological concern in the Pentateuch” (pp. 126-27).
Postell argues that Old Testament saints believed in bodily resurrection, the Promised Land as the eternal home for Israel, the coming Messiah as king and conqueror, and, though he does not say this directly, he implies that they believed in eternal security by faith alone, apart from works (e.g., “The ideal readers must trust God to fulfill his purposes through the coming-conquering king whom God will raise up in ‘the last days,’” p. 148).
Some readers will be disappointed if they expect to find in this book a defense of justification by faith alone. That is not Postell’s purpose, though as just mentioned he implies he sees that teaching in the Old Testament.
Some readers may reject Postell’s views since later Scripture does not specifically identify as types most of that which he says are types. However, if there can be types which are not specifically called types in Scripture—and I believe there can be, then Postell’s thesis makes Genesis 1-3 and the Pentateuch come alive.
This is the sort of book that is so full of interesting statements that it well worth reading more than once. I highly recommend this book.