Uniformitarianism In Old Testament Studies -- By: Jonathan F. Henry
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Uniformitarianism In Old Testament Studies
A Review Of Ancient Near Eastern Thought And The Old Testament By John H. Walton. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. 368 Pp., Paper, $24.99.
Professor of Natural Science, Clearwater Christian College
Chair, Division of Science, Clearwater Christian College
Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament is a difficult book to review, which is not because it is hard to read, but because it is a tangled web of orthodox/conservative assertions blended with uniformitarian concepts arising from evolution and critical scholarship (both of which typically regard the Bible as only a human document). The author has a theological background that this blending reflects. He has been professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College since leaving Moody Bible Institute, where he taught for twenty years. In coming to Wheaton College, he was returning to his academic roots, for the Wheaton Graduate School is where he earned his Master of Arts degree. His doctoral dissertation was from Hebrew Union College and concerned the Tower of Babel. Walton’s academic background therefore has included involvement in fairly conservative venues such as Moody Bible Institute, in addition to less conservative ones (Wheaton College and Graduate School, and Hebrew Union College).
While at Moody Bible Institute, Walton wrote a paper about the Tower of Babel, which included the kinds of issues discussed in his doctoral dissertation.1 This review illustrates the blend of conservative and uniformitarian features in his thinking. Walton maintained that the Tower of Babel was historical, saying that the “tower, as a ziggurat, embodied the concepts of pagan polytheism as it developed in the early stages of urbanization.”2 In contrast, he took issue with other elements of the Tower of Babel story that would appear to be firmly established. For instance, in Genesis 9:1-3, God had commanded post-Flood man to
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replenish the earth. Obedience to this command required dispersion; therefore, the gathering of all mankind at Babel in the beginning of Genesis 11 signifies that there was at least disobedience, if not rebellion, against God. Genesis 11:4 states there was a desire not to disperse, “lest we be scattered.” Furthermore, Nimrod is described as the instigator of the project at Babel (Gen 10:10). A simp...
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