While Hannah and I spent the weekend in North Wales I found some time to read this new book by J. Richard Middleton (co-author with Brian Walsh of Truth is Stranger than it Use to Be). On first glance I thought this book would be useful for my minister Dave Morris, who is about to go on sabbatical, including some teaching time in a Christian college in Tanzania, where one thing he'll be teaching is Genesis 1-11. As I read more closely I found this is a brilliant and very important book on the meaning of Genesis 1 and the imago Dei in particular. I previously posted on Colin Gunton's trinitarian interpretation of the imago Dei here, Middleton brings a different and I think on reflection a better reading of the text.
The book is a detailed examination of the imago Dei in the symbolic world of Genesis 1 and against the social context of the Ancient Near East. He argues, not to uncontroversially (in my view anyway) for Genesis 1-11 as ideology critique; that is, it is a brilliant theological articulation of what it is to be human in the face of the known world. The book is completed with two chapters on the ethics of what is to be human that arise from Genesis 1. Chapters 5, 6 & 7 are very good read. Chapter 6 argues that the God's whose image we are made is not a violent god and that a proper reading of Genesis 1 'constitutes a normative framework by which we may judge all the violence that pervades the rest of the Bible' and 'for judging human violence in the contemporary world' (269).
It's good to see some great books on the Old Testament being published to join those of Brueggemann and Goldingay. Old Testament study can often seem like a debate over whether a text is from J or P, and so books like The Liberating Image and the many by Brueggemann continue to be a breath of fresh air, from which we have much to learn.