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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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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 (PhD, 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 IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.
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Top customer reviews
1) The first three chapters are more helpful as a reference than they are as a read. Perhaps that could have been noted somewhere.
2) His conclusions can overstate the evidence at points (e.g. functional ontology,etc.)
3) Most of the ancient Near Eastern material is textual (in fact, "canonical"); it has an impoverished appreciation for non-textual (and "non-canonical") archaeological data. However, perhaps the archaeological material would be too burdensome to the readers he is trying to reach.
4) He is not concerned with establishing the feasibility of these particular cultural influences through the likes of trade interconnections, migrations, proximity, etc. Instead, the approach is more "this text/idea is ancient, so it can speak to biblical things regardless of historical, geographical, and linguistic barriers." However, this is not to say that this approach can still not be employed with caution.
Considering everything said above, Walton's book is still valuable for those beginning their comparative studies. The critiques are only meant to help the untrained reader, and with that said, I would still highly recommend this book. Compared to other OT scholars who are too caught up in commentaries and lexicons to deal with the ancient Near Eastern material, Walton actually deals with it and makes it accessible to the student of the Bible. Hopefully there will be more confessional efforts to interface the Bible with the ancient Near East.
As a long time Christian scholar, Walton avoids the all to common mistakes of simply saying that all of the OT is merely borrowing from the ANE, and the other mistake of saying that there are enough differences that we ought not busy ourselves comparing the two.
This by no means an easy book to read and I would not recommend it as an introduction to this kind of field, but if you can handle the footnotes, if you have a basic working understanding of some of the major ANE myths, and are interested in how the Hebrew Old Testament fits in all of that, it will be well worth your time.
On a final note, I hunted down Walton's email address at the university where he teaches, and wrote an email thanking him for the work put into this book and how thoroughly I enjoyed reading it both times I read it. Believe it or not, I got an email back from him the following morning! Five stars for that alone.