Bibleamong the Myths
Bibleamong the Myths
Forquite a long time, a large number of biblical scholars stated thatIsrael religion was distinctive and that it was different from thefaiths pertaining to the ancient Near Eastern neighbors. In thepresent times, there are wide-ranging arguments that Israel religionis a reflection of other West Semitic societies. This triggersquestions regarding the reasons for the radical change and theimplications of the same for the comprehension of the Old Testament.In the book “The: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?”JohnOswalt underlines the notion that the new attitude emanates from thehostility of the Western society to the notion of revelation, whichis known to presuppose a reality that goes beyond the world ofsenses, and underlining the existence of a realm that human beings donot have the capacity to control. Oswalt states that as much as thereis uniformity in the manner in which ancient literatures viewedreality, the bible was radically different on every major point.
Chapter1:The Bible in its World
Inthis chapter, Oswalt starts by coming up with the historical contextpertaining to the Greek philosophy whose basis is the notion thatsomething cannot be and not be simultaneously (the law of noncontradiction). It is worth noting that the Greek philosophers triedwith no success to have this radical concept accepted in theirculture.
Withinthe same time, Hebrews’ notion pertaining to a single God whocreated the Universe (a notion that is also distinctive amongcultures at that time) was facing immense challenges in the minds ofthe same individuals that carried the tradition as a result of theincreasing military powers1.This situation affirmed contradicting theologies that at last tookover the nature of Israel. It is worth noting that this created aplatform or set the stage for Christ to be inculcated into thepicture and have the two culturally autonomous but correctcomprehension of reality together into a single consistent worldviewcalled Christianity2.
Inthis regard one God, who established the Universe, became themetaphysical foundation or basis for the law of contradiction thathumanity and all reality has to adhere to. This underlines the notionthat the Christian worldview was imperative for science and logic todevelop completely and function in seemingly full independence3.
Chapter2. The Bible and Myth A Problem of Definition
Thischapter provides an explanation regarding the word “myth” andacknowledges that there are numerous definitions for the word. If theBible is to be placed in the mythical category, it is imperative thatone determines which category it is4.The definitions of myths may be grouped into two primary formsincluding phenomenological and historical-philosophical.Phenomenological category merely concentrates on assigning humantraits to nature so as to offer an explanation to it, while thehistorical-philosophical category defines myths through thefunction-value or truth value pertaining to the story.
Thereare varied philosophies and functions of the varying definitions,with some definitions being so broad that they incorporate storiesthat may be accepted as myths but all incorporate some aspects ofmyths. In essence, it becomes considerably difficult to make a choiceregarding the best one.
Nevertheless,coming up with a single definition is not necessary so as toascertain the mythical nature of the Bible. Instead, it may bedetermined whether the necessary characteristics that all definitionsshare my be identified and demonstrated to be either absent orpresent in the Bible5.A noteworthy characteristic that all definitions share is the notionof continuity, which implies that all differences in realityincluding the individual objects are actually illusions, with onlyone reality existing, and that the objective of existence revolvesaround eliminating all the differences and being one6.In case the bible does not teach this worldview, it may not becategorized as a myth irrespective of the definitions that anindividual would like to use.
Chapter3: Continuity: The Basis of Mythical Thinking
Inthis chapter, Oswalt states that the basic worldview that isincorporated in every myth takes on a pantheistic form where itincorporates continuity between the divine, humanity and nature. Thisimplies that there exists no distinction or difference among them andthat everything that is done and that occurs to the others. thisunderlines the fact that there exists no true individuality as all isone.
Further,Oswalt explicates that this view alongside other things enabledscientists to have a particular level of security in the notion thatthey had the capacity to control or regulate nature by merelycarrying out a particular ritual or doing some activities close to oreven to the idols of gods. It is noteworthy that each of the gods wasa representation of a different characteristic of nature albeit inextremely human form. Oswalt lay emphasis on the notion that thisthought pattern pertaining to the metaphysical emanated from thetaking up of what has been observed in life and extrapolating it toevery other reality including metaphysical.
Inthis regard, Oswal comes up with nine varied logically necessaryimplications pertaining to this form of worldview. As Oswalt tried todetermine whether the Bible is a myth, he examines the biblicalteachings pertaining to the features. In case the features are notincorporated in the Bible, then it would not be reasonablycategorized or grouped with myths pertaining to the east or theancient.
Chapter4: Transcendence: Basis of Biblical Thinking
Oswaltbases this chapter on the concluding statement pertaining to theprevious chapter through an examination of the varied attributes thatare offered in the bible and starts to contrast them with theworldview pertaining to the mythologies of the Near East and theancient. The basic comprehension of the world that differentiates thetwo is continuity (near-east and ancient mythologies-all are one) andtranscendence (the Bible-God, nature and humanity are distinctive orseparate)7.
Transcendencecomes with numerous necessary implications present throughout thebible including iconoclasm (the prohibition of the representation ofGod through material objects like statues), monotherism (thecomprehension of God in the Bible), spirit (the spirit precedes allthings including creation), high perception of humanity (human beingswere created in the image of God, in which case they are valuablebeyond the things that they can do for the gods), creation outsideconflict (creation did not come as collateral damage pertaining to adivine domestic dispute rather it occurred by the will of God), thereliability of God (particularly in the fact that God does not lie),the prohibition of magic (given the separate or distinct naturebetween human beings and God, any attempted manipulation of God viaactions on nature is impossible)8.
Itis noted that the notion of transcendence a further takes moralityfurther from the commands of a state while still making individualsaccountable to the personal, Supreme Being for any decisions thatthey make irrespective of the provisions of the state regarding thebehavior. Eventually, transcendence results in the fact that lifedoes not revolve around an individual rather it is about the creator.The ancient near east mythologies are distinctive in that theyconcentrate on the individual being enabled to do all they can andobtain all that they want without considering the effects or moralconsequences on other individuals9.
Chapter5: The Bible versus Myth
Thischapter examines the varied parallels that exist between the bibleand the surrounding cultures. As much as there may be similaritiesbetween the worldviews expressions, they cannot be utilized instating that the worldviews are similar as their foundations directlyconflict. A large number of skeptics argue that the similarities inexpression come as powerful evidence on the similarity of theworldviews or at least that they emanated from a single point ofcontinuity10.Oswalt, on the other hand, states that given the contradictingfoundations, the shared traits are trivial since it is the variationsthat are crucial. Of particular note are the common argument thatseem to render credence or support the notions that passages inHabakkuk, Psalms, genesis and Isaiah are a specific reflection on theworldview pertaining to the ancient near-east mythologies. As much asthere may be similarities between the worldviews, which are actuallynot entirely insignificant, the similarities are simply evidence thatthe Israelites made some effort to communicate their distinctiveworldview to the neighbors in concepts and language that they wereaccustomed to11.
Chapter6: The Bible and History: A Problem of Definition
Inthis chapter, Oswalt examines the notion of history and starts bystating that history does not incorporate as many likely uses as isthe case with myths. The comprehension of history that is used in theidentification or determination of whether ancient mythology and/orthe bible are part of history would be the recording and analysis ofhuman events in the past with the aim of discovering the mistakes andchanging behavior so as to avert their possibility in the future. Ofcourse, there exists varied writings from the ancient near east thatrecord past human events. Nevertheless, these writings concentrate onthe victories of the kings in battles, as well as greataccomplishments. Since the writings do not include the failures,there exists nothing that writers can analyze so as to make futurechanges.
Thischapter borrows from the first part where Oswalt explained howancient mythology worldview (continuity) hinders changes of thefuture, concentrates on the present, a deficiency of purpose whethergood or evil, and nearly infinite causes for events12.There is no mechanism that can be used for reliable analysis, and noway or need for act on any analysis. In essence, it is not surprisingthat the records of past events by the ancient near eastern culturesis deficient of history.
TheBible, however, holds the transcendence worldview that enables pasthuman choices that may be traced to particular events to not be doneagain in case the event was undesirable13.The bible, in this case, comes with teachings to the effect that Godhad a purpose for creating the entire Universe and everything in itincluding human beings. In essence, any decision would be evil ininstances where it goes against the purpose of God. Human beings havefree will that enables them to make conscious choices in line withthe will of God. The Bible does not only incorporate a worldview thatcomes with a mechanism for analysis but also incorporates a reason toact, as well as a mechanism or means to act on the analysis14.
Chapter7: Is The Bible Truly Historical? The Problem of History (1)
Itis not sufficient to have a basis for historical content rather theBible has to incorporate historical content. The Bible incorporatesthis historical content as shown by varied evidences of argumentationpresented in the book. First, if God actually revealed Himself vianon-repeatable historical events, it becomes necessary that recordspertaining to these events are accurate for the sake of futuregenerations since they would not experience them. Secondly, Hebrewworldview incorporated the notion that the God is the judge of everyperson including the individuals that recorded the events, in whichcase if they falsified the events, they were judged15.Thirdly, interpretations pertaining to any observation or event aresubject to the facticity of observations or events. Given the factthat the bible incorporates interpretations for the events, it isonly logical to conclude that the events took place as events cannotbe interpreted unless they happened.
Ofcourse, the standards used to record past events are incomparable topresent-day standards since the two do not have similar standards.The purpose of Israel was to provide information pertaining to God,in which case the Bible only incorporated the necessary information16.Indeed, every detail may not have been necessary to be recorded so asto explain how events pointed to God. The deficiency of detailscannot be used in rejecting interpretations although theinterpretations would not necessarily enable for precisereconstruction of events. As much as details have to be factual,uncertainty of details that are not included is not important. Thereis evidence that powerfully points towards the accuracy of thebible’s historical claims, with the deficiency of the Bible tooffer present-day’s expected specificity level pertaining tohistorical records not being sufficient to discredit the evidence.
Chapter8: Does It Matter Whether the Bible Is Historical? The Problem ofHistory (2)
Scholarshave underlined the notion that the bible incorporates incorrectrecords pertaining to the past. Based on the assumption that thefuture scholarship would not vindicate biblical records, variedtheories have been crafted so as to separate the biblical record ofpart events from the interpretation of the events in the same(theology), with the aim of preserving intellectual acceptance oftheology in case the records of past events are shown to haveinaccuracies in the future. A notable scholar is Rudolph Bultmann whotries to accomplish this through eliminating two distinctionsincluding events and their interpretation, and subject and object17.Bultmann states that there exists no way for objectively knowing theoccurrences of the past as all history is subjectively experiencedrather than known. This allows for the separation of interpretationsthat are provided by individuals from reliance on an actual event, inwhich case the question regarding the incorporation of historicallyaccurate records becomes moot. Nevertheless, such distinctions,according to Oswalt, are impossible18.
Second,there is process theology which states that God is not transcendent and is instead the process of history. Since pantheism propagates thenotion that God is equal to His creation, Process theology equatesHim to the unfolding of events. This view implies that God is nottranscendent, in which case there exists no purpose by whichindividuals can assess the progress of human events to a particulargoal. Previous chapters have underlined the fact that the Bible doesnot incorporate such teachings about God, in which case this is not aviable option. In essence, it may be concluded that it is impossibleto separate the accuracy and interpretation of past events aspresented in the Bible.
Chapter9: Origins of the Biblical Worldview: Alternatives
Throughoutthe book, there has been an implied notion that the biblicalworldview is radically different from the ancient near east worldviewto the extent that there exists no logical thought connection thatmay result from the continuity or persistence of mythology to thetranscendence of the Bible. Indeed, a large number of skeptics acceptor may accept the critique offered so far but still hold the ideathat it is possible to tie Israel to the ancient near eastmythology19.
However,it is worth noting that this feat is not accomplished through the useof the biblical content rather it is attempted through stating thatIsrael incorporated a worldview pertaining to continuity and that itevolved over time to become a worldview of transcendence both inwritten form and/or in practice. Indeed, the four distinctive modelsthat are presented by scholars are inadequate as none of them arepropped by evidence as much as explanation pertaining to theworldview of transcendence being originally present in Israel, inwhich case it is the original source of biblical records20.Indeed, it may be reiterated that there exists no logical pathwaypertaining to continuity to evolve into transcendence. In essence, ifIsrael still holds beliefs pertaining to transcendence today, theystill held it in the past and that if the Bible incorporatesteachings pertaining to transcendence today, it also taught them inthe past. This results in the conclusion that there exists no way forconnecting the Bible to mythology.
Inthis chapter, the author offers a conclusion to the book with a shortsummary pertaining to the contents, as well as a list of predictionspertaining to the future state of a culture that has been rejectingthe notion that the Bible is history. It is noteworthy that some ofthe predictions have already been realized today while some are yetto pass in spite of their potential to be realized. Of particularnote is the assertion that the downturn in morality experienced inthe West has resulted from the embracing of the continuity worldview,coupled with the abandonment of the biblical transcendence orcontinuity. It is well acknowledged that theological claims made inthe bible cannot be eliminated from the historical claims, in whichcase the historicity of the biblical events is crucial. Even moreunderlined is the contrast between the non-biblical and biblical viewpertaining to reality. The non-biblical view has its basis incontinuity while the biblical one has its foundation intranscendence21.
Itis evident that Oswalt has presented numerous topics that would getthe reader identifying the holes that exist in other theologicalpositions and worldviews. On the same note, he seems to take thereader to unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory while presenting acase that would force the reader to re-examine and reconsider somepositions. In essence, the book comes as a welcome addition to thedebate pertaining to the character of the Bible with regard to theancient Near Eastern evidence. Oswalt is right to assert thattheological claims in the Bible cannot be divorced from thehistorical claims or rather the historicity of the biblical events iscrucial. He comes up with an insightful description pertaining to thepagan worldview and biblical worldview, as well as theirdistinctiveness. Nevertheless, critiques opine that Oswalt does notseem to be conversant with the present-day debates pertaining tohistory and even fails to combat the numerous critical issues.
Oswalt,John N. TheBible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009.
1 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 27
2 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009.
3 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 27
4 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp 29-30
5 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. 33-36
6 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. 39
7 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 48
8 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 50- 55
9 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 55-61
10 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 85-87
11 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 91-107
12 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. 112-117
13 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 117-122
14 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 127
15 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 138-151
16 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 138-151
17 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 157-168
18 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. 169-171
19 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009.172-175
20 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 176-179
21 Oswalt, John N. The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009. Pp. 181-185