In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 (Van Dam)

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Reformation Heritage Books
Available for Purchase:
January 2021

Do the opening chapters of Genesis constitute real history?

Concerned with an apparent shift among conservative scholars to answer in the negative, Cornelis Van Dam argues that reading Genesis 1 and 2 as history is not only justified but necessary. Van Dam clarifies the different roles that ancient Near Eastern literature and scientific theories should play in our understanding of the Bible as he carefully deals with the exegetical details of the first two chapters of the Bible.

Pastors, students, and church leaders will find In the Beginning an informed guide that will restore their confidence in the complete reliability of the Genesis creation account.


Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Place of Extra-Biblical Evidence in Interpreting Scripture
  3. The Historicity of Genesis 1:1–2:3
  4. “In the Beginning”
  5. The Days of Creation
  6. “God Created”
  7. “The Heavens and the Earth” and Cosmology
  8. Days One to Six
  9. The Completed Creation and the Seventh Day
  10. The Historicity of Genesis and the Garden of Eden
  11. The Work of Creation and the Gospel

Appendix: The Creation of Heaven and Angels



Cornelis Van Dam is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of The Elder: Today’s Ministry Rooted in All of Scripture.



“This volume serves as an excellent introduction to the old earth/young earth debate. Dr. Van Dam argues for a plain reading of Genesis 1,2 and exposes the folly of rationalizing the creation miracle. The relevant portions of the original text are examined with the precision of an OT scholar but at a level of detail that remains accessible to the layperson. The work of other scholars who have opined on the Genesis account of creation is reviewed and the author’s bias is duly acknowledged. The analysis is crisp, frank and most importantly, pastoral. Highly recommended.” — Peter Buist, Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry, Carleton University 

“This book on the proper interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2, as it relates to modern theories of Scripture interpretation and theories of evolution, is a very valuable resource for those who want to maintain a scriptural understanding of the origin of the universe and the creation of man. Dr. Van Dam rightly affirms that the Bible is not a science textbook and that the limits of science must be recognized. As Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar stated ‘it is simply beyond the competence of science to answer the question “how did everything begin?’ In this book, faith seeks understanding with a close reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Highly recommended.” — Richard Buist, Retired research scientist, University of Manitoba

“Dr. Van Dan gives an excellent defense of the traditional reading of Genesis1 and 2. He tries to read the text on its own terms, informed by its usage in the rest of Scripture, letting the exegetical chips fall where they may. It is a refreshing contrast to many Reformed commentators who have been unduly influenced by Ancient Near Eastern literature or evolutionary science. This book gives well-grounded responses to various objections raised against the traditional view, good critiques of contrary interpretations, and many up-to-date references. I find it very readable, informative, and Biblically sound. A worthwhile contribution to the current debate, also within Reformed churches, on origins. Heartily recommended. “ — John Byl, Professor Emeritus, Mathematical Sciences, Trinity Western University.

“If you want to get to the heart of the message of this book, you could say: In the beginning there is truth. In this in-depth investigation, Prof. Dr. C. van Dam shows us that Holy Scripture opens with the revelation of facts. The first pages of Holy Scripture are in no way an oriental campfire fantasy or a human tale. In fact, the author convincingly argues that in Genesis 1 and 2 we have received the reliable account of how God brought the universe into being within a period of six days (qualified by evening and morning). It is no exaggeration that such an exposition about the origin of the world and about the historical Adam and Eve has probably never been as necessary as it is today. This book definitely meets a big need!” — Jürgen-Burkhard Klautke, Dean of the Academy of Reformed Theology [ART] Giessen, Germany

“The first chapters of the book of Genesis form the foundation of God’s message for mankind. The last few years have witnessed more and more new interpretations of these chapters with huge consequences for the church and its theology. Dr. Cornelis Van Dam has served the discussion well by thoroughly investigating these different visions and showing how they are in part based on current scientific notions of the origin of the cosmos and the human race. However, those who want to honor the self-testimony of Genesis have many good reasons to remain with the classic Christian understanding.” — Mart-Jan Paul, Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven (Belgium)