LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
BOOK SUMMARY OF “ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN THOUGHT AND THE OLD TESTAMENT” BY JOHN H. WALTON
SUBMITTED TO PROFESSOR DANIEL WARNER
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR OBST 590
JOEY F. LANGLINAIS
JUNE 23, 2013
History and Methods
John Walton begins this chapter by stating that the “rediscovery of Egypt began in the eighteenth century AD and of Mesopotamia in the mid nineteenth century AD.” This allowed the tens of thousands of texts that were being unearthed to be translated and studied. The motives of those involved ranged from political to interest in antiquities to biblical apologetics. ...view middle of the document...
Walton stresses that both similarities and differences must be considered. Similarities may suggest a common cultural heritage. They may appear on the surface, but one could find differences at the conceptual level, and vice versa. But whatever similarities and differences may be found should be taken in their own context.
Comparative Studies, Scholarship and Theology
Comparative study is used in two sorts of contexts, and each poses its own challenges. It was driven by Darwin’s theory of evolution in the nineteenth century. Somehow scholars thought that biblical studies and philosophy evolved and could be traced over millennia. Though the evolutionary theories led to models and supposition, they could not be tested against empirical data.
One thing that helped to shoot down this theory was ancient Near Eastern literature becoming more accessible. Rather, it revolutionized critical theory. Hermann Gunkel spearheaded the first attack on critical scholarship on the basis of Babylonian texts. He concluded that certain theories relating to late dating of Genesis 1 were simplistic.
A second challenge came against literary criticism as the division of biblical and near Eastern texts. This challenge does not seek to contradict the sources, it just indicates that comparative study is capable of offering correctives to some of the assumptions and conclusions of source theory.
The third challenge attempts to disregard the comparative data and maintains that texts be treated as autonomous interpretive units. Critical scholarship engages the data imparted by comparative studies and amends its theories appropriately.
There are three different roles for comparative studies: Critical analysis, defense of the biblical text, and exegesis of the biblical text. Critical analysis is helpful in supplying data needed to evaluate conclusions and expand understanding of historical proceedings. Defense of the biblical may reject preceding claims against biblical text. There are many scholars who don’t believe the Bible is under attack, and see no need to defend it. These fall under the third role, exegesis of the biblical text, and they think they correct connotation of the Bible may not always be clear. So understanding of ancient Near Eastern worldviews may be required to appropriately detect the significance of the text.
Summary of the Literature of the Ancient Near East
People understand myths in a number of ways, but generally they are stories where the gods are the main characters. Many do not believe that these gods actually exist and consider them to be fiction. In that spirit, many feel that the Old Testament is also myth and consider the God of Israel to be just as fictional as the gods of Egypt or Assyria.
Literary texts appear in the Early Dynastic period (2900 – 2000). These tales tell of kings who either connected or clashed with the gods. Walton briefly describes some of these kings....