John N. Oswalt, the author of the book “The Bible among the Myths” and he introduces his book by a comparison of the Old Testament, beliefs, and acculturation. John as well explains a great theoretical division while judging the Old Testament against its equals.
Some of the differences that Oswalt notes include “essence” and “adversity”. When an individual speaks concerning the essence of a given entity, the individual is citing the things that compose its practical details.1
Adversities, on the other hand, refer to things that are purely accidental and do not essentially describe the entity. John Oswalt brings the reader into the perception of myth.
With the admission that intellectuals vary intensely on a particular description, John affirms that this aspect is not supposed to deter the person from searching for an excellent description of the word.
With the aim describing the word, John Oswalt lists four fundamental features of a myth. To start with, one of the features is that people possess slight or no intrinsic worth. Another feature is virtual lack of concern in historical researches.
Thirdly, is the carrying out of magical and association with occultism and lastly is the denial of accountability for individual activities. In the last section of the introduction, John maintains that theological assertions are indivisible from historical assertions.
Reliability of the theological concerns depends on the reliability of the historical assertions. Should the historical assertions be actually bogus, then no acceptance should be accorded to the theological assertions.
Nevertheless, if the historical assertions are in line with the known, then the person who reads the bible must take the theological assertions critically.
The initial chapter of this book handles the bible with respect to its setting and the role it plays in the community at large. John affirms that there exists numerous of its roles with regard to the manner in which the Western world perceives certainty, with the Bible acting as the greatest contributor.
The Greek people initiated a form of thinking that bore weighty influence on the community. Some of their most noteworthy roles include the conviction in the “universe” rather than a “polyverse”, plain cause and effect, and non-inconsistency.2
The Hebrew individuals were as well distinctive in their worldview and the impact was almost the same. Their belief was in the existence of just one God, the creator of the universe.
God is separately existent from the creation. He found it necessary for Him and His testament to be identified by human beings. Moreover, God awards and reprimands individuals after going against His will.
Both Hebrews and Greeks shared common thinking patterns concerning certainty in numerous approaches. The intellectual thinking of the Greeks coalesced with the monotheism, which was embraced by the Hebrews.
The conviction of the Greek people concerning the law of non-inconsistency merged with the conviction of the Hebrew people concerning the existence of God as detached and different from creation.
John raises the controversy that sense was not fully established until after individuals came to the realization that God was not just the creator, but as well totally different from the creation.
In spite of the presently supported convictions of the dominance of sense and science with the exception of religion, John affirms that sense and science brings about self-annihilation.3
Devoid of the inspiring creator of the universe to guide the ways of humanity, individuals just appear to serve themselves. John applies Hiroshima and Buchenwald campsite as instances of the accomplishments of people without the influence of God.
In chapter two, John tries to come up with an applicable description for myth. Prior to the description of myth, John re-examines the idea that intellectuals have wandered from the perception that the Bible is distinctive from other publications, religions, and cultures of Ancient Near East.
From the 1960s, intellectuals have been affirming that the features of the Bible and its current conviction systems have universal resistance grounds although the information employed in backing these grounds has stayed unchanged. The author desires using the suitable categorization to the Bible.
Particularly, he deals with the concern of whether the Bible could be perceived as myth or not. In a bid to respond suitably to such issue, an individual must reflect on the numerous descriptions created currently by intellectuals. John names these descriptions and discusses his reasons for deeming them insufficient.4
A particular group of descriptions lies in the historical-philosophical class. The initial description of myth in this class is the etymological description. The weight here is placed on the fallacy of the deity or incident.
The second description is the sociological-theological description. As per this description, the reality is deemed virtual and something is regarded as truth when other people have first deemed it as truth.
The last description is the literary description. Under this description, the incidents are not viewed as correct or incorrect.5 Rather, the narrative utilizes intense application of symbolism to convey its implication.
The numerous descriptions of myth bear a common item at their central point, viz. they all support the idea of continuity. According to continuity, not all items are associated with each other, although they are each other in one way or another.
John employs the case of an individual as “with a tree”. In accordance with continuity, the person is not only symbolically the one having the tree, but the person is a section of the quintessence of the tree and the tree is similarly a section of the quintessence of the person.
The third chapter mainly focuses on continuity. The main thing that myths bear in common at their central point is the existence of continuity. The manner of thinking with respect to continuity perceives all items as a section of each other in a number of ways.
Some three vital strengths (humankind, the natural world, and divinity) are present on a spherical scale where they all bear substantial and indefinite overlie. John affirms that the effects of a worldview like that are extensive.6 A major consequence is the highlight of searching for indications in nature.
Endeavors are carried out at presenting truth from climatic samples such as epidemics, fire, droughts, and heavenly bodies. A different consequence is the application of magic to sway and have an impact on the universe.
The final instance from the list of consequences of continuity encompasses the appeal of people on fertility. John applies the instance of the way sexuality is vital to the people’s lives presently based on the consequence of continuity.
In conclusion, John tackles his perception of the common characteristics of myth bluntly. Except for a few exclusions, all myths have in common that there exists several gods.7 Additionally, myths share the conviction of the application of representations and signs to interrelate with the godly and nature.
The gods are regarded lowly and are perceived to be imperfect things. The explanations on creation entail some kind of major argument with the intention of resulting into the cosmos. Lastly, myths share low natural worth set on humankind, which originates from the conviction that there exists no measure of ethics.
In the fourth chapter, John opts to discuss features of the Bible. In this regard, he tackles the subject of transcendence where deity (existing separate from the universe) decisively interrelates with cosmos in an intense and supernatural manner. John offers the reader an all-inclusive list of a number of common features.
Among the most apparent features of the Bible is monotheism, which delineates Christianity from other religions.8 Aside from the religions that owe their origin to the Bible, roughly every other religion revered more than one god. A major different feature was the conviction of the pre-existence of God.
There is not a thing in the universe that was present before God. All things that exist are thus compliant to God who created them all.
Most of the creation explanations of myth entail divine being(s) controlling matter in a number of ways with the intention of shaping the universe, as it currently exists. According to the Bible, God created all things from nothing.9
The Bible ranks humankind highly, which is another feature that outlines biblical notion unlike in other religious convictions. This declaration adds up when a human being takes the words of the Bible from Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27, which affirms that God made humans in His likeness.
Human beings bear natural worth, they were the climax of the creation of God and were charged with authority over it.10
Different features that outline the biblical worldview unlike other world perceptions is the conviction of God as supra sexual, the forbiddance against magical performances, and the ethical regulations that God commands people to obey.
Transcendence could be regarded as the basic standard amid the major features of biblical conception.
In this chapter, John carries on the suggestion that the Bible should not fall in the class of myths. John goes into details with the subject of ethics. Two outlines of ethics were supported by the non-biblical world perceptions in the Ancient Near East.
One of the outlines tackled the manner in which individuals interrelated with one another.11 The second outline of ethics tackled the way individuals acted upon the divine beings. According to the Bible, ethical conduct was set by God, and thus not subject to the urges of change by the society.
Other unique characteristics of the biblical ethics encompass a single lay down of ethics, universal relevance of the ethical systems, and criticism against others, which were deemed an evil doing towards God. John discusses a number of resemblances involving both Israelites and non-Israelites.
Even being alike, John reiterates his conviction that these sections are accidental and not necessary to the fundamental uniqueness of those individuals.
Similar to the description of myth, history denotes another expression that has been described in a different way by numerous intellectuals. Even as the description of myth is somewhat controversial, the descriptions of history are not as diverse.
John employs Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language in a bid to acquire descriptions that he sees as a depiction of the accord. During the early times, there were numerous and different kinds of writings that provided intellectuals with the awareness into the existence of humanity.
While frequently helpful in the comprehension of cultures of ancient times, John affirms that the majority of their writings are not as per the description of the history. The numerous kinds of non-biblical writings entail omens, king lists, and date formulae just to mention a few.12 Omens try to apply representations from nature to establish the line of action that a leader must follow.
King lists encompass descendants of considerable individuals, but frequently highly overstate the information. The date formulae comprises of a list of major occasions in the progression of a community, but fails to connect the occasions in a manner that provides individuals a profound understanding of the culture.
Other kinds of non-biblical writings fail to satisfy accurately the state of history due to overstatements and highlights on a person over groups of individuals among other reasons.
The people who existed in the ancient times did not employ historic writings. John outlines a number of causes for this trend. The individuals of ancient times failed to see the significance of writing information for the gain of others because they were only caring of the present situation.
A different cause for their failure to make use of historic writing was due to their self-seeking perspective. They were not concerned with removing themselves from current conditions while writing concerning occasions due to the creation of intensely biased descriptions.
Additionally, they believed in numerous foundations when simple foundations were adequate, backed by the conviction that they would not have power over their destinies and cared more regarding sustaining order. Nevertheless, the Bible is distinctive in its dealing with historical occasions.
It tackles human beings as actual mortal persons.13 The authors incorporated imperfections in their descriptions while non-biblical authors could not reveal the same. For instance, the account of David and the way he sexually sinned prior to a killing to conceal the crime/sin.
The highlights of people affiliations and selections are as well instances of things that result into the distinctiveness of the Bible and its portrayal of history.
Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight
The author tackles a number of alarms that are raised in opposition to the Bible regarding its historical authenticity. A number of these issues regard its disclosure, supernatural occurrences, and if Israel was distinctive in these sections.14
The author exposes the manner in which the supernaturally exposure of God to the humankind by Himself resulted into the Israelites ascertaining that they were cautious in guaranteeing that they were perfect in their scripts.
Oswalt gives an explanation in the eighth chapter that is significant in the comprehension that the Bible is a historically perfect text. John arrived at the notion of the perfectness of the Bible to some extent earlier in the script, but develops it in the eighth chapter.
It is significant to understand the entire Bible is historical. Pertaining to the poetry books, the prophetic books and other books in the Old Testament, they disclose the historical standpoint of the Bible.
These sections depict individuals and stretch out their connections with each other, cautious not to marginalize flaws, imperfections, and indecencies. John brings the reader to a greatly shaded perspective of history and divides the description.
The wrapping up of this part verifies history in the Bible to be undividable from theology therein. It is from theological convictions that historical occurrences sprout. John employs a perfect instance in the resurrection of Jesus to back this ending.
In the book of Corinthians, Paul declares that the conviction of a person cannot survive devoid of historical conviction in Christ’s resurrection.15
Chapters Nine and Ten
Chapter 9 tackles a number of alternative perspectives regarding the biblical description as it currently exists. The primary condemnation is by John Seters and the manner in which he stated that Jewish priests changed the biblical writings probably to suit their needs following the expatriation of Babylon.16
A different condemnation is by Frank Cross in insisting that the Bible is utilized as heroic poetry, but was modified at a particular point to the condition of the Old Testament.
The third condemnation by William Dever involves his conviction that the faith structures of Israelites were equivalent to the faith structures of the Canaanites.
Additionally, he declares that Christian intellectuals have paid no attention to distinct realities all through history and have instead opted to smear an incorrect description of the traditional Israel.
Lastly, John Oswalt discusses Mark Smith and the way he portrays that the beliefs of Israelites originated from the polytheistic convictions of the Canaanites.17
In conclusion, John Oswalt sums up his book in the tenth chapter and essentially reaffirms his major points from the earlier chapters.
The main theme that Oswalt highlights is the one of the dissimilarity between biblical and non-biblical perspectives of truth. The biblical perspective is based on the transcendence whereas the non-biblical perspective is based on continuity.
Oswalt John. The Bible among the Myths. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
1 John Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 11-12.
2 Ibid, 21-23.
3 Ibid, 24-27.
4 Ibid, 29-34.
5 Ibid, 35-43.
6 Ibid, 48-53.
7 Ibid, 54-61.
8 Ibid, 64-70.
9 Ibid, 71-78.
10 Ibid, 79-82.
11 Ibid, 85-107.
12 Ibid, 112-120.
13 Ibid, 121-127.
14 Ibid, 138-157.
15 Ibid, 158-170.
16 Ibid, 172-176.
17 Ibid, 177-185.