Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and the Tanakh. Seth D. Postell. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011. 204 pages. Paper, $24.00.
Rarely does a book come around that is truly revolutionary. This book is one of the rare ones.
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 OT (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 OT 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).
JOTGES 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 OT.
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 is well worth reading more than once. I highly recommend this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society