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Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible Paperback – November 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801027500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801027505
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Comparisons between the culture of biblical Israel and the other cultures of the ancient Near East have long been a fundamental part of biblical scholarship, but more often than not, they have been presented in piecemeal, isolated fashion. In his new book, John Walton offers a much broader reach, giving us arguably the most extensive review of these cultural comparisons now available together with a serious meditation on what the enterprise of cultural comparison is all about in biblical study. One may not always agree with his views, but invariably one will come away challenged to rethink the purpose and value of such comparisons for understanding the Hebrew Bible and its world."--Peter B. Machinist, Harvard University

"As no other author has done, Walton penetrates beyond the simple comparisons often made to bring back intelligence about the contexts and constitution of the ancient world, stressing the ideas Israel and its contemporaries held in common--such as 'deity is on the inside, not the outside' of life--and discussing accounts of creation, views of history and of the future. Yet Walton repeatedly demonstrates how Israel's faith was distinct, its God revealing his will by writing his law on his people's hearts, a metaphor from divination implying that they reveal his law to others. That's one of many cases where interpretation gains from 'comparative exploration.' This book deserves the attention of all serious Bible teachers and students."--Alan R. Millard, University of Liverpool

"This book is a must read for serious students of the Old Testament. John Walton has employed his extensive background and experience to write this excellent survey of the interface between the ancient Near East and Israel. I especially appreciate his sidebars on 'Comparative Exploration,' which enable readers to 'zero in' on the comparative topic of their choice relatively easily. The book is thoroughly readable yet very scholarly. Thus, beginning students, seminarians, and the interested public will find gold mines of conceptual information in this excellent work."--Mark W. Chavalas, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

"John Walton has produced an important and useful guide to entering into some of the major worldviews and value systems found in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Israel. As a unique contribution to the study of that era, his work both introduces readers to this thought world and bridges the gaps between ancient Near Eastern texts and the perspectives of the Bible. Walton's engaging style makes this an ideal introductory text for these important areas of Bible backgrounds."--Richard S. Hess, Denver Seminary

About the Author

John H. Walton (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Survey of the Old Testament, Old Testament Today, and The I.V.P. Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

More About the Author

John H. Walton (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Previously he was professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Some of his books include Ancient Near Eastern Thought Essential Bible Companion), Old Testament Today (with Andrew Hill), Genesis NIV Application Commentary and IVP Bible Background Commentary (with Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas).

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it quite informative.
Spellman
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a serious Bible student and has the responsibility of teaching others.
jewelfinder
The only 4 star review complained that the book seemed much like a college textbook (which I believe it is!).
David Kilpatrick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By David A. Bielby VINE VOICE on November 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
First off I want to say that I audited a course by the author of this book, and read through the book throughout the semester. It is part of the core curriculum for an M.A. in New Testament or Old Testament Exegesis at Wheaton. I am a pastor who preaches regularly. This book has impacted my entire understanding of the Old Testament in a powerful way.

The logical format of this book gives the reader a simple and effective way to slowly enter into the worldview of ancient people. The author is very good at giving readers hinge concepts to help understand the distinctions between our worldview and their worldview.

The book categorizes ancient near eastern thought into topics that are actually enjoyable to read. Each topic could easily overlap with other topics, and Dr. Walton does a great job of separating the topics without distorting them (in my opinion).

This book tackles thorny issues that separate Evangelicals from Liberals in the land of scholars, without alienating either side of the issue. Walton's premise is that we should abandon the old approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Thought and simply understand what they believed, and how it was different from or the same as Old Testament thought.

One concept that emerges as the book develops is the idea that some Israelite prophets argued for the support of the covenant with God rather than for the reinforcement of the Kings authority (as the prophets of other cultures and sometimes Israeli culture did). This sets Israeli prophets who held to the covenant with God at odds with everyone else who prophecied in Israel and around Israel. Coupled with the exclusiveness of the Jewish religion, and the people soon became alienated from those around them and sometimes from their own religion or people.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Divided into five distinctive sections, this book provides an introductory look at the conceptual world surrounding the Hebrew Bible. The five sections are Comparative Studies, Literature of the Ancient Near East, Religion, Cosmos, and People.

The section on Literature of the Ancient Near East is is a good, although very brief, survey of the literature of the ancient near east including Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hittite. The author has included a good cross section of ritual texts, letters, chronicles, legal collections, hymns, wisdom literature, and prophecy.

The section on Religion is subdivided into The Gods, Temples and Rituals, and State and Family Religion. Here the reader is exposed to ancient thought on these subjects with the intent that they come to understand the common beliefs and practices well as beliefs and practices that differentiated them from each other.

The section on the Cosmos examines both the geography of the cosmos and the beliefs surrounding them. The section on the geography of the cosmos is excellent and includes an examination of the structure of heaven, the earth and the netherworld. I found this section to be particularly interesting and very informative with an excellent exposition on the Hebrew word "bara" and the functional aspects of naming.

The final section on People provides an excellent examination of the various concepts of creation of the human race as well as what it means to be human. It also includes a very good explanation of the interaction between the people and their religion including prophecy, oracles, and their perception of history as a nation. This section ends with a discussion of the beliefs about the future of the earth and what happens after death.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By J. F. McCord on December 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Walton provides the reader with an excellent synthesis of the broad reaches of ANE study and the biblical text through the presentation of essential documents from the ANE (including Egypt). His aim is not to prove or disprove any aspects of biblical truth (polemics) or to establish the ANE as the father for the Old Testament's text and traditions (borrowing). Rather, he succeeds in laying out a framework of thought ("cognitive environment") that existed in the ancient world and seeing how these elements are shared by the people of Israel (contextualizing their culture and community). He interacts with leading scholars for each respective field (Assman for Egyptology, for example), but keeps the work from scholarly minutae, opting instead for a readable, well-documented and defended work on the way in which people of the ancient world percieved themselves (anthropology), their community (sociology), their god(s) (theology) and other key topics. An excellent work and a must read for anyone who desires to teach, preach or learn about Mesopotamia and/or the Old Testament.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Kilpatrick on March 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite having taken 8 seminary courses in Old Testament (OT), I found Walton's book allowed me to make a quantum leap forward in my understanding of the OT. It is like all these years I've been "watching" the OT on a 13 inch black-and-white TV and since reading Walton's book, I'm now I'm watching it on a 40 inch high definition color TV! It has really helped that much!

You can see from the other reviews how great this book is. I only want to reinforce two points.

First, in addition to the general understanding you will get from this book, there are two specific things that may happen to you as you read. If you take the Bible reverently, you may initially feel uncomfortable to learn about how much similarity there is in thought, behavior, belief, and even religious customs between the OT and its Ancient Near Eastern neighbors. However, by contrast, you will be delighted and amazed to see many of the most important, distinctive aspects of OT teaching stand out from that ancient background in a way you could have never before imagined. Both types of information, by the way, increase our understanding of the meaning of the biblical texts - that is, both types of information will provide you with many, many "Aha" moments.

The second point is this. As I write, this is the 12th posted review, and 11 of the 12 are 5 star reviews. The only 4 star review complained that the book seemed much like a college textbook (which I believe it is!). If, like that reviewer, you find it a bit tough going, I encourage you to stick with it! There's a lot to digest. But aside from some strange sounding names of "gods" and names of ancient practices, Walton writes in a clear style which the general reader can enjoy.

If you read the OT, or ever plan on doing so, get this or you are destining yourself to understand much less of it than you otherwise could.
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