The Bible Among Myth


OSWALT NAME OF STUDENT: FABIOLA REID STUDENT ID: 22379938 CLASS: OBST 590 INSTRUCTOR’S NAME: DR. ALVIN THOMPSON DATE SUBMITTED: 03/03/2013 INTRODUTION The author, John N. Oswalt, begins his introduction, speaking in regards to the differences between the Old Testament, religions and cultures of the people from the Ancient Near East.

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As The Bible Among the Myths begins it is the assumption that while there has been no change since the 1960’s, there has been a shifted.Before then, Scholars believed that the Old Testament was true and not compared to any other, however, now scholars questioned this belief and have begun to believe that the Old Testament writings are similar to the other religions of its day. [1] Oswalt continues by discussing a most important philosophical difference within the Old Testament and its contemporaries. He states that there is a clear distinction between “essence” and “accident. ” [2] Oswalt states that an accident can be something as similar as hair, while self-consciousness is an essential.To remove an accident will not cause change but to remove an essential, this thing will cease to be itself. [3] ————————————————- The author establishes to the reader the conception of myth also imitating the option that scholars continue to differ greatly on this definition; Oswalt insists that this ought to not dissuade the individual from seeking a good definition of the word. In order for him to define this word, he list four basic characteristics of a myth.

1. John N. Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, 11-12 2.

Ibid, 13. 3. Ibid.

The first characteristic; mankind having little or no intrinsic value and the second characteristic was the relative lack of interest in historical studies. The third is the practice of magic and involvement with the occult. The fourth is the refusal to accept responsibility for individual actions. [4] Oswalt concludes his introduction with a substantial claim. He emphasizes that theological claims are inseparable from historical claims.

[5] Oswalt states that trustworthiness must be contingent upon both the theological and historical claims.If the historical claims are patently false, then no credence ought to be given to the theological decrees, In the end, I am not advocating a “the Bible says it, and I believe it, and that settles it” point of view, although those who disagree with me may argue that to be the case. What I am advocating is a willingness to allow the Bible to determine the starting place of the investigation. [6] CHAPTER ONE ————————————————- The first chapter discusses the Bible in milieu of its surroundings and contribution to society as a whole.

Oswalt mentions that there are many contributions to way the Western world views reality. The Bible, however, is the most important contributor. [7] 4. Ibid, 14. 5. Ibid, 16.

6. Ibid, 17. 7.

Ibid, 21. Greek Thought: The Greek philosophers of the early centuries brought in this way of thinking that was to have a profound effect on the western world. The belief, in a “universe” instead of a “polyverse,” adding, simple cause and effect, as well as non-contradiction were three of their most significant contributions. [8] Hebrew Thought:While the Greek philosophers were struggling to express their point of view, the Hebrews were also articulating their beliefs by way of the prophets. Their beliefs were as follows: There is only one God, God is the sole Creator of all that is, God exist apart from creation, God has made himself known to his people, God has made his will known to his people, and God rewards and punishes people for following or disobeying his will. [9] Combing Greek and Hebrew Thought: ————————————————-Oswalt states; when the Gospel of Jesus presupposed the Israelite worldview, penetrated into the Greco-Roman world, this set the stage for the combination of the Greek and the Hebrew worldviews in the distinctively Christian way. The Greeks’ rational thought combined with Hebrew people’s belief in monotheism. [10] 8.

Ibid, 22. 9. Ibid, 23. 10.

Ibid, 25 Oswalt argues that logic was not completely developed until after people realized that God not only was the sole creator of the universe, but was also completely separate from the creation.What is most important is that science and logic cannot stand on their own and if they attempt to then this will lead to self-destruction. Oswalt gives an example; Hiroshima and the Buchenwald concentration camp and humanity’s achievements when it is devoid of God’s influence. [11] CHAPTER TWO In this second chapter, Oswalt discusses his definition of myth. However before Oswalt begins this definition he begins to argue the very question with regard to the myth and why it is questioned at this time.

Oswalt mentions that fifty years ago there would not be such a question.However by the 1960’s and as more scholars begin to research the Bible, more questions aroused. [12] ————————————————- Oswalt wishes to apply the appropriate classification to the Bible. Unequivocally, he describes whether or not the Bible should be considered a myth or not. In order to properly answer the question, Oswalt list several definitions posed by scholars today. As Oswalt listed these definitions, he also explains why he feels that they are inadequate. 11.

Ibid, 27. 12. Ibid, 29-30. The category of definitions falls under one group known ashistorical-Philosophical and they are as follows; 1.Etymological – based on a false and fictitious deity or event.

2. Sociological-Theological – the truth is seen as relative and something is seen as true if it is seen by others. 3. Literary – the events are not seen as right or wrong. Instead, the narrative employs heavy use of symbolism to express its meaning. [13] ————————————————- These definitions all have one thing in common which is at their core; they all believe in the philosophy of continuity.

Oswalt states that continuity is a philosophical principle that asserts that all things are continuous with each other.Oswalt uses an example of a person being “one with the tree. ” Not merely symbolically or spiritually, but actually. The tree is me; I am the tree. [14] 13. Ibid, 33, 36, 38. 14.

Ibid, 43. CHAPTER THREE Chapter three discusses Continuity as the center of topic. Carrying over from chapter two the one thing that myths have in common at their core is the presence of continuity. This way of thinking is viewed as all things are viewed as related in some form or fashion. There are three major forces (humanity, nature, and the divine) this is where everything exists within the circle. 15] The effects of continuity are numerous and varied in accordance. One of these effects is looking at signs in nature.

The effects are attempted to be explained by weather patterns, floods, fire, plagues and the celestial beings. Other examples are the effects of fertility and potency and the preoccupation of the people thereof. Oswalt uses the example of how sexuality is so central to people’s lives today is a reason for this effect of continuity. [16] ————————————————- Finally, Oswalt deals straightforwardly with what he feels are the common features of myth.Excluding a few exceptions, myths all share the belief that their existence is based on Polytheism. Which is the belief of more than one god or and many gods.

The second is these gods in the form of images. The use of symbols and icons are believed strongly in order to interact with nature and the divine. The gods themselves are not view highly in fact view lowly, they are not seen as actual beings. Confliction is what is needed in order for the universe to evolve and myths have a low view of mankind. [17] 15.

Ibid, 48. 16. Ibid, 50-56. 17. Ibid, 57-59.CHAPTER FOUR In chapter four Oswalt reverts back to characteristics of the Bible.

Here he argues with the topic of transcendence, where God (who has been in existence before the universe) interacts with all things thereof. In this Biblical thought process there is uniqueness with regard to the modern-day belief systems in many ways. However one must bear in mind that the Old Testament is remarkably self-consistent regarding the things it maintains about the nature of reality. [18] Oswalt provides the reader with a broaden list of some common characteristics.Monotheism, of course one of the most obvious characteristics of the Bible that stands out among other religions. With the exception of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which are all directly correlated from the Bible. Most other religions are polytheistic.

The existence of Yahweh being the only God was a defining characteristic for the Old Testament and the Bible as a whole. [19] ————————————————- Another characteristic of the Old Testament theory is that God was in existence prior to the all creation. All that exist is after God and God created it.

Oswalt states that if the world is full of chaos that it is not due to God but the spirits of this world. Oswalt mentions that the Bible is a position to insist that the problem of humanity is not a tragic fatedness to evil, but a spirit that prefers evil to good. [20] 18. Ibid, 63. 19. Ibid, 64-65.

20. Ibid, 66. CHAPTER FIVE In chapter five Oswalt argues that the Bible is totally different from other religious writings and is unique in its self. Oswalt further discusses the issues of ethics, In the Ancient Near East; the non-biblical worldviews held two sets of ethics.

One set is related to how people interacted with each other. The other set of ethics is related to how people acted upon the deities. In Bible ethics behavior was defined by God and God alone and not subject to the social changes in society, they obey God. [21] Oswalt discusses some of the similarities between Israelites and non-Israelites. Some of the practices were quite similar. The sacrificial ceremonial, the manner of their offerings, the layout of the tabernacle and temple and also the decoration of the temple all seem similar to those of the Israelite and non-Israelite people.Their practices of expression and thought pattern were similar to where Oswalt indorses his belief that these areas are incidental and not essential to the basic identities of the people.

[22] CHAPTER SIX ————————————————- Chapter six introduces the Bible and History, Oswalt points out the there is a distinction, between myths and the Bible, whereas the myths are based on many gods, the Bible is based on one God. History and the Bible run parallel to each other. Oswalt argues the idea that to state the Bible is not “historical “is something of an oxymoron. 23] 21.

Ibid, 85-87. 22. Ibid, 91-97.

23. Ibid, 112. Oswalt uses Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language to describe the definition that he feels would best fit history. History functions on different levels. Its connections could be to someone or something or both.

Yet the Bible is its own form of history correlated with mankind and their surroundings. [24] CHAPTER SEVEN AND EIGHT Oswalt attempts to address some of the issues that were used against the Bible concerning its historical stance.Oswalt does mentions some gaps, progress and lack of progress, whether the Bible is “history-like” or “historical fiction” as well as how it relates to revelation and supernatural events and whether Israel is unique in these areas. [25] Oswalt makes the case in the eight chapter that the Bible is historical and completely accurate.

Oswalt states this matter is of the utmost importance. While one would state that there are sections of the Bible that are not historical for example; poetic and wisdom, these too are historical because they describe people, relationships weaknesses and failures.The entire Bible is historical especially when it pertains to the history of the Jesus Christ. ————————————————- The author states that one could argue German distinction between Historie (defining what happen) and Geschichte (telling what is going on) as being valid. [26] 24. Ibid, 112-115. 25.

Ibid, 138-141. 26. Ibid, 157-168.

The conclusion of this section determines that history is inseparable from theology in the Bible. Theology is in relation to the historical events. The author uses an exceptional example with regard to the resurrection to support this conclusion.

He directs the reader to one of the epistles written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Corinth. The Apostle Paul states that one’s faith cannot exist without a historical belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. [27] If Christ was not raised then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:17) CHAPTER NINE AND TEN ————————————————- In chapter nine the author discusses alternative views pertaining to the biblical narrative as it is known today. He began with the arguments of John Van Seters.Professor Van Seters emphasizes that the Bible had to have been altered by Jewish priest after Babylonian exile.

[28] Oswalt mentions that the second is Frank Cross who assumes that the Bible used to be an epic poem, however was changed into the Old Testament’s current state at some point. [29] The third is William Dever who believes that Israel’s belief systems were identical to Canaanite beliefs and the Christian scholars have overlooked certain facts throughout history to portray an inaccurate account of ancient Israel. 30] Then, finally, Oswalt discusses Mark Smith and his opinion of Israel’s belief system. Mark Smith argues that Israel’s beliefs are directly originated from the Canaanite’s polytheistic beliefs. [31] 27. Ibid, 170.

28. Ibid, 173. 29. Ibid, 175. 30. Ibid, 177-180.

31. Ibid, 181-184. The author concludes this book in chapter ten where he reiterates his main points taken from previous chapters. He stresses the major theme is that contrast between biblical and non-biblical views of reality. The biblical view is deep-seated in transcendence and the non-biblical view is deep-seated in continuity.

31] In the end, we may differ on the biblical worldview and theology, given to them, but what matters in the end is how we answer the following questions: Is there a God? Does he have a will for our lives? Has he made known that will to us in intelligible actions and speech in time and space? If we answer “no” then the entire enterprise is bootless. However, if our answer is “yes” the question of what God’s will is and how he has chosen to reveal it becomes one of absolutely ultimate significance. [32] ————————————————- 31. Ibid, 185. 32.

Ibid, 194.REFERENCES 1. Oswalt, John, N. , The Bible Among the Myths Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, 11-12 2. Ibid, 13. 3. Ibid. 4.

Ibid, 14. 5. Ibid, 16. 6. Ibid, 17.

7. Ibid, 21. 8. Ibid, 22. 9. Ibid, 23.

10. Ibid, 25. 11.

Ibid, 27. 12. Ibid, 29-30. 13. Ibid, 33, 36, 38. 14.

Ibid, 43. 15. Ibid, 48. 16. Ibid, 50-56. 17. Ibid, 57-59. 18.

Ibid, 63. 19. Ibid, 64-65. 20. Ibid, 66. 21. Ibid, 85-87.

22. Ibid, 91-97. 23. Ibid, 112.

24. Ibid, 112-115. 25. Ibid, 138-141. 26. Ibid, 157-168. 27. Ibid, 170.

28. Ibid, 172. 29. Ibid, 175. 30. Ibid, 177-180. 31.

Ibid, 181-184. 32. Ibid, 185 33. Ibid, 194