Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
The Bible and Ancient Cosmology
Often, people who are discussing the various positions in the Christian origins debate and lining up as young earth, old earth, theistic evolutionist, and the like on a continuum (see my post on different positions on Creation) do not take into account the way that God worked in the Ancient Near East to bring forth God’s revelation. John Walton has some perceptive words on this issue:
Yahweh did not reveal an alternative cosmic geography to Israel in the Old Testament. But there can be no discussion of creation or many other important issues without presupposing some sort of cosmic geography. With no alternative presented and no refutation of the traditional ancient Near Eastern elements, it is no surprise that much of Israel’s cosmic geography is at home in the ancient world rather than in the modern world. (175, cited below)
Of course, Walton does not suggest that this means we reduce all discussion of the OT into discussions of the ANE. There were important distinctions: “The difference was that the natural phenomena were emptied of deity… they were instruments for [God’s] purposes…” (175).
Nevertheless, we should be aware of the ANE cosmology and see how that impacts our reading of the text. Rather than settling for ignoring the context of the text and what it meant to those to whom it was revealed, we should take into account this background. Walton’s book is simply superb for this.
Microview: “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” by John Walton– I wrote a brief review of this book, which I consider one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Books; Editiones Scholasticae, 2014).
John Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament is an introductory look comparing the thought and worldview of ancient near eastern societies (Egyptians, Mesopotamian, etc.) to the worldview of the Bible. Walton does an incredible job relating the two together in such a way as to neither trivialize nor lionize ANE thought and its use in interpreting the Bible.
The book is chock full of quotations from various documents from the ANE set alongside each other with comparative insight from Walton. It is organized in such a way that ANE thought is analyzed in regards to religion, cosmos, and people, with subdivisions of each. Throughout the text there are sidebars comparing what is being studied to the Old Testament, thus revealing many insights into the meaning of key OT texts. Walton’s approach is even-handed and fair.
I’d honestly say this might be the most interesting scholarly book I’ve read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
John Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006).
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