Author John N. Oswalt begins The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? with a concise and well-written introduction that whets the reader’s appetite, compelling one to continue reading. He begins by informing the reader that his novel has been in the works dating all of the way back to the 1960s, when he attended the Asbury Theological Seminary. Oswalt quickly points out that one of the main points that the book will focus on is determining if “the religion of the Old Testament [is] essentially similar to, or essentially different from, the religions of its neighbors.”1 Oswalt is swift to acknowledge a major difference between the Old Testament and the religions of the Israelites Near Eastern neighbors. The divine medium of the Israelites’ neighbors was nature. On the other hand, the Israelites relied upon a unique human-historical experience.
Oswalt also brings up that his book will address the ever-increasing amount of skepticism found within today’s society, when it comes to people believing in the validity of the historical facts found in the Bible. It is the classic example of what the Bible refers to of mankind getting “wiser but weaker.” Oswalt argues that even though biblical narratives might not conform exactly to modern history writing, they are still the closest thing that is on record that can give an account to what took place in the ancient world. He basically summarizes the entire literary work by stating, “I am arguing that the Bible will not allow us to disassociate its historical claims from its theological claims, and that our investigations of the history should not assume that they can be disassociated.”2 Basically, Oswalt feels as if the Bible should be given its due credit for the amount of historical claims that have been proven to be accurate. The Bible in Its World
Unlike almost everyone else in the ancient world, Greek philosophers of the seventh through the third centuries BC believed in a universe, as opposed to a polyverse. Furthermore, they realized that someone or something had to be in control of the universe. To the Greeks, every effect had a cause. However, conflict existed between the philosophers and the prevailing religious culture. Hebrew Thought
A lot like the ideas of the Greek philosophers, Old Testament Israelite prophets had a difficult time trying to share their message with the people. The prophets’ message of God being the sole Creator and His availability to all mankind through personal experiences was totally against the religious views already set in place throughout Israel. Combining Greek and Hebrew Thought
When the biblical worldview and the worldview of Greek philosophy combined, the result was an explanation of the universe and logical implications for monotheism. The Necessity of the Biblical Worldview
Oswalt argues that science and logic would no basis, if it were not for the biblical worldview. He writes, “They cannot stand on their own. It was not until the biblical idea of one personal, transcendent, purposeful Creator was allowed to undergird them that science and logic were able to be fully developed and to come into their own.”3 The biblical worldview is very important, and it cannot be overlooked or dismissed. The Bible and Myth: A Problem of Definition
A Shift in Understanding
Oswalt brings up the point how fifty years ago, God was not considered mythical at all. However, that was fifty years ago, and opinions have radically changed. In fact, Oswalt writes “Robert A. Oden claims that there is a real possibility that mythical thought and mythical literature are at the very heart of Israel’s religion. This is quite a bold statement come from Oden, and apparently there are many other scholars that concur with Oden’s opinion. Recent data discovery is not to blame for this paradigm shift. Instead, scholars began to shift their thinking in the 1960s. Contradictions...