Books and their authors

Meeting with authors usually has the added benefit of getting a free copy of their latest book. Recently I spent two weeks in Southern California for some speaking appointments (and in connection with receiving the Charles Elliott Weniger Award of Excellence). This also gave me the opportunity to meet once again with friends and some colleagues whom I greatly admire. Among them, for instance, are Richard Rice, David Larson and Zack Plantak, who all teach in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. In their respective field they are all eminent scholars and gifted teachers. But not very far from Loma Linda University is another Adventist university: La Sierra University. Near the campus meets every Thursday morning a small group of Adventist theologians. They call their informal gathering: The Dead Prophet Society. I had the pleasure of meeting with them in their usual meeting place: Starbucks.

One of those present was Fritz Guy. Though he is in the age category of the ‘strong’ (Psalm 90) his mind is as sharp as ever. If there were a list of the ten most influential Adventist theologians, he would certainly be among them. He may be best known for his book Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Andrews University Press, 1999). It was a faith-building pleasure to read it—now many years ago. Recently, Fritz Guy has authored, together with Dr. Brian Bull (a pathologist at Loma Linda University), a series of three books about an issue that remains very important for many Adventist believers, namely: How to read the book of Genesis, in particular the chapters 1-11. Fritz gave me a copy of the third book of the series, which recently came off the press. It is published by Adventist Forum, the parent-organization of the Spectrum Journal.

Arriving home, this book, entitled God, Genesis & Good News, was at the top of my reading list. It proved to be one of those books that confirm what one has been thinking, but that articulate it in all along, but does so in a way that helps to get a much firmer grip on the issue. Brian Bull and Fritz Guy set out to provide a new translation of the original Hebrew text, which they call the Original Hearers Version (OHV). They tell the reader of their book that they can only have a proper understanding of the Genesis account, if they ask how its original hearers understood it. The book of Genesis must not be used to find answers to modern scientific questions. It is theology rather than science or proto-science. It is about God and his works, as understood by the first hearers, several millenniums ago. If read in this way, there is no longer any need for a reconciliation between the biblical stories and the current state of scientific research. I have just ordered the two previous books of this trilogy and look forward to also reading those.

Ronald Graybill was also present at the Starbucks meeting. He is an accomplished historian. Thirteen years of his working life were spent as a key staff member of the E.G. White Estate, the office that cares for the literary heritage of Mrs. White. He gave me a copy of his meticulously researched book that has also very recently appeared: Visions and Revisions: A Textual History of Ellen G. White’s Writings (published by Oak and Acorn, 2019). I read this while I was still in the USA. Graybill gives a fascinating description of the process that begins with the handwritten manuscript and ends with a printed copy of Ellen White’s messages. The deciphering of these original documents is often much more challenging than most people know, and the role of her husband James and many assistants in the further processing of what Ellen White had written, was in most cases much greater than most current readers are aware of. Bonnie Dwyer, the editor of Spectrum, who happened (like me) to be a one-time guest at the Starbucks meeting, asked me to write a review of the book for Spectrum. I gladly agreed to do so. The review is now posted on the Spectrum website. See: