Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 53:2 (Fall 1991) p. 355
John Walton: Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. (Library of Biblical Interpretation.) Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan), 1989. 249. $19.95.
This work is a collection of a vast amount of data describing ancient Near Eastern inscriptional materials that scholars have related to the Bible due to similarities in their form or content. It is the nature of any such study that the material chosen must be selective rather than comprehensive. Between the introduction and the conclusion are nine chapters, each detailing a different type of literature which is studied relative to the Bible. Each chapter begins with a summary of the relevant texts and where they have been published, edited, and translated. This is followed by a description of the contents of the texts, with notes on similarities and differences with the Bible. Each chapter concludes with key areas where borrowing by the Bible is said by some to have taken place. Thus we find the chapters providing a bibliography of publications, a discussion of Walton’s perception of the relationship of the texts to the Bible, and a consideration of something of the history of scholarship regarding especially important “connections” between the Bible and the ancient Near Eastern data.
Methodologically, comparative approaches are filled with potential pitfalls. These include: comparing different sorts of items or different “genres” (itself an unclear term); inaccurate editions and translations of the texts; and philosophical/anthropological questions about the possibility of cross-cultural comparisons. Walton attempts to avoid these dangers by (1) dividing his chapters (and so his comparisons) according to the most general of types (historical, wisdom, apocalyptic) or forms (cosmogony, epic) of literature; (2) disclaiming any attempt at comprehensiveness in his survey; (3) affirming the bias of an evangelical Christian committed to biblical authority; (4) reviewing translations and comparisons already made by others rather than introducing new ones; and (5) relying on help from scholars such as Alan Millard and Kenneth Kitchen, specialists in their fields, whose insights and cautions are reflected throughout the book. The nature of a reference work such as this means that there is no overall thesis to be evaluated. Rather, I will consider the first of the comparative chapters in detail and then go on to make some brief observations regarding the remainder of the book.
The chapter on cosmology contains some of the oldest and most discussed comparisons that have been made between the texts of the ancient orient and those of the Bible. For the Mesopotamian materials, Walton lists the Eridu Genesis, Atr...
Click here to subscribe