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Archive for October 27th, 2013

Against the Gods John Currid

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is a great book that contributes to the discussion of the relationship of the Ancient Near East (ANE) to the Old Testament.  Have you ever heard people assert that the Old Testament is merely plagiarism of ancient pagan religion or that the authors of Scripture indiscriminately borrowed from the heathens?  Is the Old Testament compromised syncretism or simply a literary copy cat of another religion’s myth?  This book helps the Christian navigate through such questions and challenges.  For starters who might need to be caught up to speed, chapter one gives a nice survey of the history of the study of the Ancient Near East painting a portrait of how these studies originated and its trajectory since.  While the author acknowledges in the introduction and conclusion that the discussion of how ANE relate to the OT can be quite complex, he advances what he calls “polemical theology,” as a paradigm that help make sense of OT and ANE religious parallels.  “Polemical theology” basically describes a conscious ploy by Biblical writers to use the thought forms and stories from cultures of the Ancient Near East in order to apply it to Yahweh exclusively while often using the same motifs in an ironic fashion against the polytheistic gods and goddesses it originated from.  After delineating what polemical theology means in chapter two, the bulk of this book is an examination of the data from ANE sources and the application of Polemical theology.  Here the author John Currid brings his scholarship and knowledge of the ANE record to bear.  For instance, chapter three concentrate on Genesis 1.  In light of how some have attacked the Genesis’ creation account for “borrowing” from other mythologies, Currid demonstrates how the Creation account essentially is antithetical to the creation account of the Egyptians and other Ancient Near East religion, especially with the Bible’s account of not deifying the stars, sea creatures, etc.  Currid is fair:  He acknowledges parallels, documents it well but he always argue that the differences are significant, since it is at the level of worldview and theology.  The differences are not incidental—the polemical and at times poetical jabs that the Old Testament makes shows these differences are intentional on the part of the writers of the Bible.  Much of the book focuses it’s case on Genesis and Exodus, a familiar territory to the author’s area of expertise. I wished we could have seen more of Currid’s analysis of polemical theology with other parts of the Old Testament.  One chapter stands out:  Currid has an excellent study on the rod of Moses that is a good demonstration of what lexical word studies and the proper use of Ancient Near East data looks like:  After noting that Moses’ rod was more of a typical rod versus the significance of the rod of the Egyptian Magicians, Currid shows how there is a polemical “smack” against the Egyptian’s religious worldview at play.  Currid note how the Bible says it’s Moses “rod” that swallows the Egyptian rod rather than saying it is a “snake,” thus retaining the polemical force.  I think this book is helpful in light of what Peter Enns, Walton, Longman III and Waltke has to say.  I highly recommend this book.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Net Galley and Crossway without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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