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Book Review John Oswalt: Bible Among Myths

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Book Summary

John N. Oswalt: The Bible Among Myths


The Bible in the last few centuries has undergone its most significant analysis and scruntinization. In the past, the academic community might have had question about the validity of the Bible, but would never outwardly deny the entire account of Biblical record as inherently false. They thought of the Bible as telling a stories of actions of God that were unable to be explained or completely understood, but in that last few centuries scientists, historians, etc. have been picking apart the validity of the Biblical account. Some in the academic community believes that the Bible is of a mythical and non-real origin, while contesting that the format, stories and root of the Bible is based in the stories and religions of the Ancient Near East. These scholars believe that the inspiration and format of the Bible come from the surrounding ANE peoples and is not completely or if at all inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.

John Oswalt vehemently disagrees with this view of the Bible. Oswalt makes a call for his readers to understand the evidence supporting the Bible's claims. Biblical accounts have been revealed and should be given the proper attentions on that which they deserve. Oswalt approaches this issue from an educated and thought provoking aspect of the discussion and posing his argument in a regimental manner in order to keep in line with the discussion involved. He begins with analysis and comparison of the Bible vs. the other ANE religions the time of the Biblical authorship. Then goes into a discussion on the historical accounts of the Bible and how they match up to modern day empirical evidence analysis. Oswalt argues for the veracity of the Old Testament, issues of poetic descriptions versus prose accounts, and how ancient Semitic people handled information must not be confused with the ways in which modern thinkers analyze data. The Israelites did not come up with the Old Testament. God broke into their lives and dragged them kicking and screaming into these understandings.


When considering the authorship and validity of the Bible and its historical account and record, it is essential to discuss the world of reality and its impact on the interpretations and realizations of the Bible. The western world was founded with a certain way of looking at reality. This view is based in no certain terms in regards to how the persons view the world around them. Do they have control over the things around them or are they just a speck in the middle of space just observing the actions of nature. When we speak of this view of reality, we are comparing the similarities and differences between transcendent and continuative thought about reality and the world around you.

The Old Testament has been shown to be the metaphysical foundation of many forms of modern thinking founded by the Greek philosophers and orators. Greek thought takes the foundation of the biblical accounts and provides a means of logically organizing the observations about reality found in the biblical narratives. Monotheism was not a completely foreign idea for the ancient near east, but how the Hebrews understood and believed in their God was inherently and completely different from any other group of people ever in the world. Monotheism does believe in one god vs. many gods of other religions, but what is more important is the reasoning behind the differences. The Hebrews believed in the transcendent nature of God. God is set apart and different from his creation. God created all things and stands apart from them; therefore, unable to be manipulated or controlled by the world of man or nature. God controls and is not able to be controlled. Logic and science are no self evident and cannot stand without the introduction of the Old Testament ideas of one personal, transcendent, purposeful Creator to under-gird its foundation. Without faith to give them life, science and logic come under a barrage of contrary information. We have tried to make logic and science stand alone, but they have begun to destroy themselves.


Chapter is the beginning of Oswalt's discussion on tearing down the definitions and foundations of Historical record and establishment of worldviews throughout the world. As stated before, recently (within the past century) the overall view of the Bible has made a significant shift in understanding and interpretations. The Bible currently is more like to be described as more 'myth' that history by many in the secular communities. That is not a major change for the secular community, but the empirical analysis of the historical accuracies of the Bible has brought more questions in the minds of Judeo-Christians than ever before. The lacks of 'physical evidence' of events or activities of the Bible are considered by some as grounds to disregard the entire Bible as mythical literature of a bi-gone age. This very point is argued later in the book, but was the major motivation for Oswalt's analysis and response to such a claim.

Much time in this chapter is given to description and definition of myth as it pertains to the Bible and other ANE religious accounts. Many scholars say that the Bible is a mythical work by definition; whether, the definition is philosophical, phenomenal, or phenomenological. This may help the authors of the particular view argue their point more efficiently, but one thing is certain by the argument presented by Oswalt: the Bible has a completely different understanding of existence and of the relationship between the physical and spiritual realm. The Bible is the rehearsal of non-repeatable acts of God in the identifiable time and space in the concert with human beings. Its purpose is to provoke human choices and behavior through the medium of memory (46). Myth does not serve as a correct description of the Bible. Biblical accounts are is not routed on the basis of continuity of invisible vs. visible world or are designed for any other purpose then to guide and instruct God's followers into a personal relationship and communion with the one God. There is no cosmic battle between Gods for power or human construct in manipulation of the Gods. The Bible serves as God's word for life, love and happiness and for a relationship with him.


A discussion of Continuity vs. Transcendence is at the core of the argument for the Biblical accounts being of myth or reality. Continuity in short is a world-view that sees all things (man, nature,



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