The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor in the Old Testament and the Extra-Biblical Literature -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:519 (Jul 1973)
Article: The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor in the Old Testament and the Extra-Biblical Literature
Author: Richard D. Patterson


The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor
in the Old Testament and the Extra-Biblical Literature

Richard D. Patterson

[Richard D. Patterson, Associate Professor of Ancient Histories and Languages, Los Angeles Baptist College, Newhall, California.]

The time-honored thesis of conservative scholarship, that the Old Testament gives at each stage of its formation an accurate reflection of the cultural contexts of the area and the era with which it deals, has been increasingly demonstrated by the results of present day research.1 In turn, the study of the histories, literatures, languages, and religions of the Ancient Near East has brought greater clarity to the divinely inspired revelation of God.2 The Old Testament can

now be seen as part of a broader and intricately interrelated cultural milieu whose customs, institutions and linguistic and literary pattems were shared in large measure throughout the Fertile Crescent.3 Nevertheless, it must be quickly added that although the Old Testament partakes of that international culture and even utilizes it in the presentation of God’s life giving message, its concept of God, its high ethical standards and its objective verifiability make it distinctively unique among the writings of the pre-Christian world.4

Despite the veritable mine of information drawn from the culture of the Ancient Near East that is readily available, all too little of that wealth of resource has been tapped by present day students of the Old Testament. Kitchen rightly laments, “…Old Testament scholarship has made only superficial use of Ancient Near Eastern data.”5 This is particularly true in the realm of linguistic studies and even more true in the area of literary comparisons.6 All

too often these disciplines have been left to liberal scholars, with disastrous results.7 This is due to the fact that such treatments usually fail to distinguish literary form or motif from theological content or perspective. The readers of this journal will no doubt recall the words of Herbert M. Wolf:

If a culture supplies the form, does it not also dictate the content, the very words used? Inspiration will be weakened unless a careful distinction is made between form and content. At this point, the flexibility of forms eases the dilemma somewh...

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