GUIDELINES FOR THE PRACTICAL BOOK REVIEW By La Tasha C. Williams Student ID: 25445478 Presented to Dr. Kristi Miller In partial fulfillment of the requirements of Introduction of Old Testament OBST 590 Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Lynchburg, VA April 7, 2013 ? The Bible Among The Myths I believe that Worldview is seriously influenced by culture, knowledge, politics, religion and upbringing. Therefore, it is not uncommon to meet people who view the Bible as mythical literature. Hence there have been occasions when I have found myself in an intense debate about whether or not information in the Bible is real.

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As a result, there have been occasions when my opponents have presented strong arguments that have compelled me to go home and do further research. Hence, this book is a valuable resource to my library as it is filled with clear concise information that refutes the theory that the bible is a myth. It can also be used as a reference to support research on Ancient Eastern culture as well as religious practices of antiquity. Chapter 1- The Bible in its World This chapter gives an overview of various worldviews of the Bible. It starts out be summarizing the two conflicting rationales held by Greek hilosophers which believed that there is a universe and poly-verse. Eventually, the views held by the ancient Greek philosophers concluded with the expiration of the philosopher’s and the Greek culture was influenced by the idea of a world of myths. The chapter later discusses the journey of various cultural views held by the Hebrews. Though the Hebrew culture initially believed in a monotheistic view of God, the military and political influence of the Assyrians and Babylonians caused some of the Israelites to struggle with the consistency of their faith.

However, the various prophets who proclaimed the word of the Lord were valuable contributors to the continuance of the Hebrew faith. The next topic discussed in chapter one is the “Combining Greek and Hebrew Thought” (25). Here Oswalt discusses the origin of the Christianity and the impact of the Greek and Hebrew views on Greco-Roman Empire which existed during the dispersion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, “the Greeks were able to show the Hebrews that in this real world there is a linkage of Cause and effect that the Hebrews tended to overlook in their emphasis on the First Cause”(26).

This notion progressed idea that logic and science had a coherent reality. Hence, the chapter concludes with the notion that science and logic are implausible without the undergirding of Biblical Principles. If one chooses to eradicate Biblical Principles, then he is in danger of “playing out the Bacchae again”(27) which will end in “the pursuit of survival, dominance, comfort and pleasure”(27). As a result, Oswalt goes on to discuss why the Bible is not a myth in chapter two. Chapter Two- The Bible and Myth: A Problem of Definition In chapter two, Oswalt deals with the problem of defining a myth.

Henceforth he deals with the issue that in order to begin to clearly determine what a myth is we should at least determine what a myth is not. He then informs the reader of various definitions associated with the concept of a myth. These definitions are separated into two groups; Historical-Philosophical and phenomenological (34). Under the etymological definitions, he classifies the following definitions as such: Myths were legends of false gods (33), a story of the gods in which results of natural causes are accounted for supernaturally, or a myth is a story involving a pre-scientific world view (34).

Oswalt then begins to discuss the problems with these definitions of myths from the etymological perspective as an issue because “the burden of proof continues to rest on those who say it is incorrect” and “they are frequently too broad”(35). Like the Etymological definitions of myth, the sociological-theological definitions face the same problem because they too are very broad. These types of myths are based on a truth that is perceived by the story teller.

One example Oswald uses to clarify this kind of view is the idea that the Israelite’s are expressing their view of reality in the language of personal relationships rather than in abstract logic(36). Thus in order to classify something as a myth, one must determine what is fact and what is persona? Oswald determines that literary definitions are beneficial to help distinguish types of literature; however the problem faced with this type of definition has to do with symbolism and the belief systems behind the symbolism. Therefore literary definitions are also very broad.

Once the phenomenological definitions defines myths as “the expression of an attempt to relate the actual to the ideal, the punctual to the continual” (41), it is clear that one must examine the full history of mythical studies in order to truly distinguish what is a myth and what is not. However I totally agree with Oswalds conclusion that the intended purpose of the Bible is very different from that of a myth as I believe that the Bible was implemented under the divine authority of God to provoke man to have a continual relationship with God through love, worship and obedience to God.

Chapter 3-Continuity: The Basis of Mythical Thinking In Chapter 3 Oswald gives a comprehensive analysis of how continuity affects mythical concepts. It discusses then notion that mythical thinking is a Western way of thinking which impacts worldview so that everything is characterized by continuity. Therefore everything coexists and there is no true distinction between man and divinity. Everything that happens has to happen and man really does not have a choice. There is also no difference between reality and symbolism and visible and invisible.

Continuity also implicates that reality is now and that is all that matters. It also proposes that there is no distinct god no boundaries between god, humanity and nature. Later in the chapter, Oswald gives an analysis of some of the similar features between the various myths such as polytheism, images, eternity of the chaotic matter, personality not essential to reality, low view of the gods, conflict is the source of life, low view of humanity, no single ethic of standards and cyclical concepts of existence (57-61).

These features seem to be foundational in pagan worship and they support some of the differences between pagan worship and Godly worship. This information was very thought provoking and made it clear to me. It made the message that the bible is very unique very clear to me. I was especially drawn to the text that discussed the low view of the Gods. The Bible is very different because the standard of God is high and I always argue that if it was man made, the standard would have been more obtainable. Chapter 4: Transcendence: Basis of Biblical Thinking

In chapter 4 Oswald sheds the light on the topic of Transcendence which is the foundational principal for believing the Bible. So God is a supreme being and man is a creation from God but is not compatible with God. Unlike the concept of continuity, there is a very distinct difference between God and man and man vs. all other creations. Since God created man in His image, man is given the authority from God to govern and rule everything else in the earth. Hence, there is a high view of humanity. In transcendence, God is consistent & “Supra-sexual”(71) and therefore sex is desacralized.

In my opinion, this is a very great distinction because it seems as if most references to pagan worship have to do with sex which seems to promote immorality. In a way, it depicts God as an out of control sex addict. Another distinction that Oswald deals with is the prohibition of Magic. During ancient time, the use of magic was very prevalent; therefore it is important to consider the fact that God distinguished himself from other pagan beliefs. Hence, I am reminded of the story of when God gave Moses the ability to turn the rod into a serpent.

This action was challenged by the magicians because most of the magicians were able to do something similar. God then proves that he is the absolute and divine God by destroying the serpents created by the magicians. The Transcendent God also requires Holiness from his people. Therefore, we are required to obey God as a demonstration of our worship. Oswald uses the Decalogue to illustrate how God requires obedience through religious, civil, and social actions. Thus the boundaries between God and humanity are clear and man cannot use anything to manipulate God or be a god.

God is ultimately in control of everything. This information also differentiates the Bible from the genre of other mythical literatures. Chapter 5 The Bible versus Myth For me Chapter five was a very important chapter in the book. It covered topics such as non-biblical and biblical ethics as well as, the obvious…how some of the writings in the bible are similar to mythical literature. The way Oswald surveys these topics clarified how I could use this information to help determine whether or not a text is written as a mythical piece of literature.

It also opens my understanding to worldview in antiquity. Under the topic of non-biblical ethics, Oswalt states that “there is no consistent rationale for ethical behavior on the earthly plane” (86). From this we learn that the gods in mythical writings are not involved or concerned about how humans treat others. This is very contradictory from the teaching of the Bible because God sees all mankind as His creation and give one of the greatest commands for man to love his neighbor as himself.

Also, the bible makes it clear that we should treat each other with love and kindness which are attributes that truly reflect our Heavenly Father. In addition, on major theme of the Bible teaches us that God is revealed to others based on how we treat one another. Thus it is very clear that God cares about mankind and we have an ethical responsibility to humanity and keeping this commandment determines whether or not an individual pleases God. When Oswalt deals with the Ethics in the Bible, it is clear that God’s ethical requirements from the Israelite’s were unlike any other nation.

Everything that God required was consistent and harmonious. The Israelites were to honor God out of obedience; however, love for the only true and living God was the source of obedience. This notion is different from mythical writings as many times multiple gods are involved and one law would conflict with a law of another god. God also requires that man be accountable to Him as well as one another which were not a practice of the ancient gods. So man often experienced cause and effect as a result of the ethical responsibility that God requires from man.

In chapter 5, Oswalt informs the reader that though there may be evidence that other nations may have developed a relationship with their god that bear resemblances of the Hebrew nations prior to the Hebrews we cannot discount the Hebrew religion as being authentic. This is because the belief systems of the Hebrews were totally different and consistent than any other nation; hence, authenticity is confirmed. Chapter 6 The Bible and History: A Problem of Definition Here in part two of the book, the theme of Oswalt’s writings focuses on the Bible as a Historical text.

He attempts to define what history is. I found the statement: “History is about human beings”(112) very relative to clarifying what I believe to be history. He then goes on to state that in order for one to understand or reap the benefits of history, “one must believe that humans are free and responsible” (p113). I never consider this notion but it seems to be true because skeptics tend to make the same mistakes because they refuse to learn from others. And I believe that learning from our forefathers is one of the intended purposes of the Bible which is divinely inspired by God.

Oslwalt further states that the following also affect understanding of historical writings: •one must also believe that cause and effect are linked to traceable time and space •falsification of data is vital to obscuring understanding •the writer of history must believe that the human experience is dynamic and goal oriented •relationships within time and space have fundamental significance •there is a consistent standard by which behavior may be evaluated (113-116) This chapter also gives descriptive information on materials that were commonly used in ancient non-biblical text near east.

I found this information fascinating because it helps to establish historical similarities consistent with biblical text. Chapter 7 Is the Bible Truly Historical? The Problem of History In this chapter we learn that historical accounts in the bible are very unique; however some historians have questions certain aspects of the historical accounts based on the ideas that biblical text that require revelation is flawed and the revelation cannot be authenticated and divine interventions and their interpretations could be based and revelations and could also be unfruitful as historical text.

On the contrary, Olswalt also discusses how the uniqueness, consistency and God’s interaction on humanity in Biblical text, authenticate the text. The chapter goes on to further to explore how the accuracy or inaccuracy of biblical text is conceptualized through various biblical accounts that were consist with Near Eastern literature as well as, exploring the origin of Israel’s unique understanding of God. He settles on the notion that there are two extremes that should be avoided when discussing the validity of biblical text.

One extreme is to say that none of the bible events actually took place or if they did, they were completely different from the way they were recorded. The other extreme to avoid is to say that the events took place “exactly” the way they are recorded in the bible (151). Chapter 8 Does it Matter Whether the Bible is Historica? The Problem of History II Chapter 8 starts out by exploring if it matters if the Bible is historical or not. Then Oswalt goes on to argue that the Bible in its entirety is a historical text as it has been canonized and considered the authoritative word of God.

Hence, the chapter attempts to consider whether or not Biblical faith and biblical history are inseparable. Oswald then reviews the teachings of several scholars such as Rudolf Bultman- Existentialist, Alfred North Whitehead-Existentialist & G. W. H. Hegal-Idealism. He also crtiques the thought processes by emphasizing the God has continual encounter with his people, He has created man as a free moral agent; therefore man has the power to choose, and “God does not cause evil” (167).

After much survey of various concepts, critiques and research, Oswalt answers the question that he proposed earlier in the chapter. He says “No” (171) and he uses a quote by Apostle Paul to substantiate his claim: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised: and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…. (I Cori. 15:13-17) I feel that this quote is very appropriate with the context.

If the bible is not a historical text then our whole faith would be in vain. Another closing quote that got my attention is when Oswalt states “We know God because He has broken into our reality (170). ” I found the quote very profound because I normally say that God steps out of eternity into time to work with us. Though our world is governed by events and time, God operates out of eternity because he is Alpha and Omega. We only exist and He exists to us because he broke into our reality.

Chapter 9 Origins of the Biblical Worldview: Alternatives In Chapter 9 Oswald shifts his attention to research developed by 4 scholars within more recent years. He critiques the works of John Van Seters, Frank Cross, William Dever and Mark Smith to determine “if current scholarship has been able to present a convincing explanation for the unique features of the biblical worldview and the ways in which that worldview affects the understanding of reality in the bible”(184).

After survey the claims of Cross, Oswald concludes that his claim that the Israelites, Thucydides and Herodotus were “naturally” from the same ground was viewed as unconvincing because of the various differences (174). He also determined that Cross’ and Dever’s arguments were weak because they were researching the wrong area to understand the origin of Israelite beliefs. Lastly, Oswalt states that Smith has too many inconsistencies with the fours suggested phases of Israel’s development. Thus he concludes that the “Bible explanation remains the best one” (184).

In Chapter 10 Oswald explains that worldview greatly impacts perception and understanding of the Bible. As various scholars have studied and continue to study the bible, the essential theory is people did not think scientifically during biblical times. One must also consider the notion that man was not privy to type of information that we currently have available and therefore his worldview would be very different. Oswald continues to give a brief synopsis of the concepts covered throughout the chapters.

He concludes the chapter with the essential belief that Bible is unique from any other literature in existence. Its message is divinely inspired by God to reveal God to humanity. Hence the Holy Spirit uses this recorded text to affect and affect humanity. Therefore the most significant question one should answer is whether or not there is a God? If the answer is yes, then one must understand that the purpose of the Bible is to help us to answer how we should respond to a Holy God. I found the book The Bible among the Myths to be very intriguing and informative.

There is some information that was not totally clear to me but the book is a good foundation on which to build for further research. After reading this book I feel better informed about what an actual myth is and how to begin defend the Bible against those who would argue that the bible is indeed mythical literature. My concluding thought is this: I can’t argue that every letter (literally) that we read today’s Bible is from the throne of God because the Bible has been translated several times, but I will support that the idea that the actual teachings are God inspired.

I believe that if man had written his own thoughts, he would have ensured that the standards were more obtainable and less strenuous. Only God would require that man meet the characteristic of Holiness which embodies all of His characteristics. He is a Holy God and He wants Holy people. This is a standard that is consistent throughout all of the teachings of the bible and helps to distinguish the bible from other mythical literature. Therefore, the Bible is worthy of being viewed as an authentic historical text.

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