Calum Carmichael asserts that biblical texts, both in the Old and New Testaments, which have been the subject of interpretation for centuries, are themselves often the products of the ancient authors' interpretation of still other literary compositions. Claiming that parts of the Bible constitute major and very early examples of exegesis, Carmichael demonstrates that the author of the story of creation in Genesis 1 produced his work in reaction to troubling issues that arose in the story of the exodus. The author of John's Gospel, in turn, recounted the life of Jesus in light of the story of creation.
Pointing out that much of modern literary criticism has roots in biblical hermeneutics, Carmichael turns his attention to the richness and complexity of the ancient world's own modes of interpretation. By doing so, he is able to uncover the heretofore unrecognized influence of the exodus story on the creation story and of the creation story on John's Gospel. Carmichael first shows how the author of the seven-day scheme of creation in Genesis produced it in response to his reading of the exodus story, which was centuries old in his time. He then shows the extent to which the author of John's Gospel was influenced by first-century cosmological speculation, Philo's in particular. In the first five chapters of his gospel the author elaborated the details of the creation story to present, in allegorical fashion, incidents from the life of Jesus.