Using contemporary studies as the foundation of his research John Walton reviews the ancient and Near Eastern and Israelite cognitive context. He provides guidance for students and general public to have a wider understanding and expand their knowledge of today’s culture, and historical culture interacts with the ancient world culture. In doing so, he tries to balance all audiences though examining artifacts to assist the individual’s understanding through these artifacts about both the historical prospective and culture and the parallel with the Bible. Summary of Book
The book is divided into five parts. Part 1, "Comparative Studies," consists of two chapters that introduce readers to the history and methods of comparative study and to the relationship between comparative study, scholarship, and theology. Part 2 consists of a single chapter in which Walton provides a summary of the literature of the ancient Near East. Parts 3, 4, and 5, Walton then draws on the aforementioned source material to explore comparatively understandings of religion (Part 3), the cosmos (Part 4), and people (Part 5). Part 1 – Comparative Studies
Chapter 1 – History and Methods
Walton details that comparative study "constitutes a branch of cultural studies in that it attempts to draw data from different segments of the broader culture (in time and/ or space) into juxtaposition with one another in order to assess what might be learned from one to enhance the understanding of another" (p. 18). His reasoning is that Bible students need comparative study because the literary genres, religious practices, and cultural dimensions of ancient Israelite theology are all rooted in ancient Near Eastern culture, and "without the guidance of background studies, we are bound to misinterpret the text at some points" (p. 25). In addition, he states (p.23) that a comparative study is helpful both for understanding and the background religious practice to which the biblical ideal is contrasted ….comparative study will reveal many areas of continuity alongside the noted discontinuity.” However, Walton cautions against "parallelomania" and concludes the first chapter with some suggested principles for comparative study.
What he is referring to is the comparison of the Egypt and Mesptomamia artifacts and the decipherment of the ancient languages that show some validity to the old testaments claims of culture and religion. He refers to the Babel and Bibel lectures by Delizsch and the impact of Assyriologist. Chapter 2 – Comparative Studies, Scholarship, and Theology
Walton suggests that the comparative study is used in two contexts or environments. 1. Cirtical scholars in the scientific study of the text (historical and literature reviews) 2. Comparative studies is a tool used in confessional contexts Comparative Studies
The idea of comparative studies in both scholarly and confessional environments will seek to work out a connectedness of the comparative study. He examines the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species (1859). Most of the time, religious theorist such as Christians denounces Darwin’s theory. However, Walton suggests that much of biblical scholarship conformed to evolutionary theory. However, Walton contends, "These evolutionary theories had been birthed in an environment where theorizing led to models and hypotheses - but one in which those ideas could not be tested against empirical data" (p. 30). With the "discovery" of the ancient Near East, the decipherment of its languages, and the publication of many of its texts, "the spate of primary source material allowed for the reigning theories to be placed under the microscope" (p. 30).
On page 31, Walton suggests that theorist have been pinned against each other. However, these theorist’s challenges and conflicts, Walton suggests that...