Book Summary: the Bible Among the Myths by John N. Oswalt

Topics: God, Bible, Old Testament Pages: 11 (3530 words) Published: February 20, 2013
John Oswalt, in his book The Bible Among the Myths, presents his position to the reader that the bible is different and separate from other writings of the Ancient Near East. He asserts the Bible is both historically accurate and theologically sound. He makes the defense the Bible was divinely inspired and revealed to humanity and unique from other Ancient Near East literature. There was a time when the Bible, and the Israelite religion was different from its neighboring societies. But as times have changed, many people now lump the bible with other Ancient Near East myths.

The book is broken up into two sections. The first half of the book, “The Bible and Myth,” Oswalt takes the time to define what a myth is and what differentiates the Bible from a myth. He then describes the different between the worldview of the Ancient Near East and continuity is different from the Bible’s transcendence. The second half of the book, “The Bible and History,” examines several philosophical thoughts proposed by others that attempt to explain the Bible’s relevance separate from historical validity. Oswalt provides excellent arguments against the new age philosophies. Oswalt provides an articulate argument for the veracity of the Bible’s history and theology by providing several convincing points to affirm the Bibles varicity.  


John N. Oswalt, in his book The Bible Among the Myths, provides the reader with a brief, yet comprehensive view of the differences and similarities between the Old Testament and Ancient Near East religions. In the introduction, he provides a brief overview of scholarly thought regarding the Old Testament literature and Ancient Near East literature and how perspectives have changed in nearly 50 years. Oswalt states at the time he was introduced to the subject, scholars believed the Old Testament and its theology stood alone from other Ancient Near East religions. He now contends that present day scholars believe the Old Testament is just one of many Ancient Near East religions.

Oswalt states it was the differences between the Old Testament and other Ancient Near that separated the two. But today, scholars are taking the same data and looking their similarities (11-13). He states that this is a “vital philosophical distinction between “essence” and “accident.”” “Essence” has to do with the essence of the subject whereas “accident” is those things that are not essential to the subject (13). He insinuates that scholars of today are centering their attention on the “accidental” attributes of the Old Testament and Ancient Near East religions and not centering on those things that are the essence of the subject; those things that make the religions different. It is these similarities and differences Oswalt states he will center his attention (14). Oswalt then turns the attention of the reader to the definition of a myth. He states there are different definitions of a myth but the Bible is not one of them. He states when people start to think of this word as “typical of a myth,” then four things happen: 1) The individual is devalued; 2) There becomes a disinterest in history; 3) People become open to the occult; and 4) People do not take responsibility for their actions (14). Oswalt believes what makes the difference between the Old Testament (OT) and the Ancient Near East (ANE) literature is how God makes himself divinely known to his people.

The next premise Oswalt boldly states is that if we believe in Scripture theologically, then we can also believe that the Bible is historically true. He states, “the veracity of the theological claims of the OT is inseparable from the veracity of the historical claims” (16). The Bible maintains a “unique worldview” and is one that has been revealed by God to his people, Israel. He states there are things we must wrestle with when it comes to investigation the Bible historically from its theological stand but the Bible can...
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