The bottom line: An illuminating & thought provoking book that is equal parts commentary, exegesis, and philosophical analysis of Genesis’s first three chapters.
The book of Genesis is a story about beginnings, and these beginnings set the tone for the rest of the Biblical text.
In Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, Dietrich Bonhoeffer provides a meticulous analysis of the creation narrative, simultaneously extracting pivotal theological themes while explaining some of the most difficult and mind-bending concerns in the story about origins—concerns about science, God’s beginning, the why of Eve, the figurative “middle,” and the freedom of humankind are a few examples.
Creation and Fall proceeds verse by verse through the Bible’s first three chapters and each verse has an associated series of analyses. Roughly two thirds of the book is devoted to creation and the other third to temptation.
Two groundbreaking sections of the book—the chapter on “the religious question” and the section on temptation—are awe-inspiring, brilliant, and a wealth of theological insight. The “religious question” reveals how the Christian is trapped into doing evil under the pretense of that which is “good,” the origin of evil, and how the devil works. In his description of temptation, Bonhoeffer juxtaposes the two major temptation narratives in the Bible (Adam and Christ) in order to extrapolate the six degrees of temptation (my words). He also elucidates the fundamental purpose of sin and illustrates a map on how to break the cycle of temptation permanently. In my opinion, these two sections alone will forever change how you read the Bible.
This book is in no way an easy read and although it is very short, you may find yourself taking much time in order to get through it. This therefore becomes the book’s only shortfall—because it is so heavy and dense, you can often fall into a figurative black hole of philosophical and theological introspection that you lose track of where you started and where you’ll end up. Beginnings, middles and ends become blurred without a clear orientation.
In the end, it really is hard to go wrong with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. At worst, you will read a book that is quite good, and at best, you will be reading a masterpiece. This book falls somewhere in between. If you have a scientific or philosophical mind that refuses to stop asking probing questions, then I expect you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It plunges directly into some very heavy and deep philosophical territory that may require several reads in order to fully comprehend.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal