The Bible Among The Myths:
Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?
OBST 510: Old Testament Introduction
July 6, 2014
The author, a research professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary by the name of John N. Oswalt, attempts to explain the similarities and differences of the Holy Scripture and its teachings from that of the neighboring Ancient Near East beliefs. Moreover, he attempts to answer the question of how scholarly opinions of the disagreements found between Genesis and Babylonian accounts of the origins of the world.
He points out how the modern-day scholars are now comparing the Bible to other religious documents and considering it as just another mythical belief. Oswalt credits this world-view change to a study of similarities between the Bible and like Near Eastern writings rather than before when perhaps more interest was placed on viewing the differences. These studies are explained in the first half of this publication and sub-titled The Bible and Myth.
Within the second part of the book sub-titled The Bible and History, he solicits the reader to ask questions about the authenticity of the Old Testament, or is it even important that the Bible be historically accurate? Even if those inaccuracies are proven, does it hold any significance in the theological beliefs presented within? To summarize the book’s overall theme, Oswalt desires that his reader gives any evidence of accuracy the credit it is due. Not to be swayed by unsubstantiated conjectures that might diminish the focus of what is fundamentally true. His is not a request for us to look past the inaccuracies or to take a stance that if the Bible says it’s so then that’s all there is to it. Mr. Oswalt asks the reader to allow the possibility of ‘harmonization’ and not jump to any conclusions without allowing for the truth to reveal itself in the scripture.
The Bible and Myth
The Bible In Its World
In the opening chapter, Oswalt looks into the diverse views of world creation and being. He compares and contrasts how Greek philosophy influenced the monotheistic culture of the Israelites which ultimately contributed to the Western world beliefs we know today. Early Greek philosophers reasoned that there is but one “universe” with a sole point of unification and not a “polyverse” with variable sources of creation. They taught that everything could be reasoned and that something could be so and not so at the same time. This belief conflicted with that of the world view of the Ancient Near East (ANE). The world view supposed that existence on earth was the result of many unseen forces in the realm of the invisible. Apparently the Greek philosophers proposing this message didn’t win over the acceptance of that culture and they found themselves forced out and into hiding, some taking their own lives thus ending the age of Greek philosophical thought. This struggle was displayed in the play Bacchae by the Greek playwright Euripides wherein the conflict is played out between the rational human-nature component acted out by men who were pitted against the women that played the part of the irrational side of Human existence. The men were killed by the women depicting the two opposing views could not coexist and the polyverse of many deities would dominate cultural thought. At about the same time, it seems that the Israelites were experiencing a similar battle of faith. The Hebrew believed that there was a sole Creator that rewarded and disciplined based on obedience to God’s will. This view was quite the opposite from that of the polyverse thinkers and against the beliefs of the Ancient Near Eastern cultures that trusted in the parallel invisible world. Even them, the Hebrew held to their conviction of a monotheistic God and the prophet’s ability to predict the exile and return of the Israelites strengthened that resolve. Christianity was to be the...