Foundations in Genesis: Genesis 1-11 Today

Published in Ordained Servant

Rowland S. Ward, Th.D., Foundations in Genesis: Genesis 1-11 Today, © 1998 by Rowland S. Ward, New Melbourne Press, 358 Mountain Hwy., Wantirna, Victoria 3152, Australia. 208 pages, paper. Available from the publisher, $12.00 (+$3.00 shipping and handling). Reviewed by John W. Mahaffy, pastor, Trinity Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.

“Foundations” aptly describes Dr. Rowland Ward’s study in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Too brief to be a full commentary, the book explores the foundation set in Genesis and its relationship to the structure of the rest of Scripture. Foundations in Genesis starts from the position that the Bible is God’s word written. Dr. Ward understands Jesus’ words to the disciples in Luke 24 as he writes: “It is therefore not for us to contrive Christ into the Book of Moses to make it a book suitable for Christians, for Christ is already there” (p. 15).

The author is clearly conversant with recent scholarship, but he writes in non-technical language. The book grew out of preaching to Knox Church in Melbourne, which this pastor-scholar, a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, serves. Several tables help to focus on the structure of the book. A few minor typographical errors detract slightly.

Because he does not shirk the hard questions, some of the author’s conclusions are controversial. Likely few readers will agree with all of them (this reviewer does not). But he writes with an irenic spirit. Further, he maintains an (increasingly rare) ability to distinguish between the clear teaching of the text of Genesis and his own, sometimes tentative, conclusions.

Dr. Ward’s approach is balanced. He distances himself from those who “enter the holy place of Genesis 1-11 . . . visiting this cathedral” primarily to seek ammunition for their own view of the date and length of  time of  creation. But he also decries others who dismiss the early chapters as myths or legend and “have their own too narrow agenda which prevents Scripture from being heard for what it is, the word of God to sinners” (p. 5).

The three brief introductory chapters are worth the price of the book. After beginning with “Our Approach to Scripture,” he focuses on “Our Approach to Genesis,” and then examines “The Structure of Genesis.”  That approach is evident as, near the end of the book, he reminds us, “We must not interpret the narrative by our benchmarks of significance, but by God’s” (p. 178).

The serious student of Scripture will find fresh perspectives in this book. Pastors would do well to read it before preaching on Genesis. Ruling elders will find it a useful tool as they prepare for teaching classes. It is clear enough that the ordinary, discerning believer, as well as the ordained servant, will benefit from Dr. Ward’s pastoral concern.

Unfortunately, the book does not have a U.S. distributor. It is available from the author at the address above. (Due to the high cost of handling foreign checks, cash is the preferred form of payment for single, or a few, copies. In the experience of this reviewer orders are shipped promptly by air mail.)