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“Retro Translating” the Genesis Origin Stories


The new Adult Bible Study Guide focuses on the book of Genesis.  

For those leading discussion groups or studying on their own, a helpful resource continues to be the three-book series by the theologian-scientist duo Fritz Guy and the late Brian Bull.

In 2020, the journal Spes Christiana printed a review of the entire Guy and Bull trilogy by Aulikki Nahkola, DPhil (Oxford), principal lecturer in biblical studies at Newbold College of Higher Education, UK. It begins: 

These three volumes, published by the Adventist Forum over eight years, tackle one of the core issues in Adventism: creation, and beyond that, how the Genesis 1‒11 origin narratives could, and should, be read in the context of our current “Gutenbergian” and post-Hubble worldview, now relying heavily on our literacy and understanding of science. 

It continues: 

The authors Fritz Guy and Brian Bull represent some of the best and most learned minds in Adventism: the former as a leading Adventist scholar in various fields of theology and philosophy, the latter as an eminent Loma Linda scientist. And the beauty of this book is that it arises from a commitment to the Church and its responsibility to biblical truth and has nothing to do with the denouncing “memoirs of bitterness” genre occasioned by some who have decided to part company with the denomination. Central to the method they use in all three books is the recognition that while divinely inspired, the language, imagery, and worldview that the biblical authors employed, in this case mainly in the Genesis origin stories, and particularly the Creation and Flood accounts, were those of the narratives’ first, ancient Hebrew audience and thus need to be “retro-translated” for our 21st-century reader.

Read the whole review here.

For those who would like to hear Fritz Guy and Brian Bull in their own words, here they are at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School in 2018 presenting on their hermeneutical approach and raising questions that push beyond the usual faith versus science platitudes. 

You can order the books here:  

God, Sky, Land: Genesis 1 as the Ancient Hebrews Heard It

God, Land, and The Great Flood

God, Genesis, & Good News.


Alexander Carpenter is executive editor of Spectrum

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