Essay on The Bible Among the Myths Summary

3696 Words Jun 9th, 2013 15 Pages
SUMMARY OF JOHN N. OSWALT’S BOOK THE BIBLE AMONG THE MYTHS

David Strickland Old Testament Introduction - OBST 590 June 1, 2013

Introduction The author, John N. Oswalt, was first introduced to the subject of this book in his seminary studies in the 1960s. Oswalt introduces his book with a narrative of the similarities and differences that exist between the Old Testament and the literature of the Ancient Near East. Prior to the 1960s scholars believed that the Old Testament was unique and did not resemble the literature of the surrounding cultures, but now there has been a shift in thought. Many scholars believe today that the Old Testament is virtually identical to Ancient Near East writings. This issue of differences and
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Oswalt starts his definition process by discussing the debate of whether the Bible has a distinctive view of reality. Until fifty years ago most scholars believed that biblical literature did not share the characteristics of myth. Today there has been a radical shift in opinions, such as the possibility that mythical thought and mythical literature are at the very heart of Israel’s religion.1 Oswalt believes that this change is based on assumptions and not on new discoveries. The problem of definition encompasses the first obstacle when defining a myth. The validity of a definition must be evaluated. The first problem is that a definition must be broad enough to include all the items that share common characteristics but narrow enough to exclude items that only have a few common characteristics. The second problem has to do with the nature of the definition and whether it provides a description or an evaluation. Oswalt groups definitions of myth according to their type as either historical-philosophical or phenomenological. He then subdivides historical-philosophical into etymological, sociological and literary. Etymological definitions of myth emphasize the falsity of what is being described and are frequently too broad. In sociological definitions of myth, truth is seen as relative. Perception of something being true makes it true. Oswalt labels his final subdivision of historical-philosophical
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