“The Bible Among Myths” by John Oswalt Shows the Bible Is Not Myth

This book review is by G. Kyle Essary of the Apologetics 315 web site.   While John Walton and others have argued that Genesis was a reaction to ANE myths, Oswalt makes clear that Genesis was much more than that.


John Oswalt, professor of OT Studies and Hebrew at Asbury Theological Seminary, has attempted to make this case recently in his book, The Bible Among the Myths. He builds on older work of G.E. Wright from Harvard University to make his case, contending that Wright’s work still stands as an efficient critique to the predominant view.[5] Since the data from the ANE hasn’t changed significantly in nearly 70 years.

What are the implications of these distinctions for Oswalt’s argument in regards to Christian apologetics? First, calling the Genesis narratives myth requires redefining the term in a way that devoids it of any value. Second, it means that the distinctions between the Bible and ANE myth are more relevant than the similarities. Oswalt shows that there are many similarities, but there is discontinuity in how these similar forms, ideas, etc. are used between the Hebrew Bible and ANE literature. He says, “it is not unique because it is not part of its world; neither is it unique because its writers were incapable of relating what they say to that world…rather, it is unique precisely because being a part of its world and using concepts and forms from its world, it can project a vision of reality diametrically opposite to the vision of that world.”

And there is this direct quote of Oswalt that is included in the review (I added the underlining):

The fact is that the Bible has a completely different understanding of existence and of the relations among the realms. As a result, it functions entirely differently. It’s telling does not actualize continuous divine reality out of the real invisible world into this visible reflection of that reality. Rather, it is a rehearsal of the non-repeatable acts of God in identifiable time and space in concert with human beings…whatever the Bible is, whether true or false, it is not myth.

Based on the review alone, I’d say that the book is unfortunately titled.  For if all one has been hearing from John Walton, Peter Enns, and others is that the Bible is a myth from a land and time of myths, the title alone would not arrest your attention as a challenge to that notion – even though reading the book would!

via Book Review: The Bible Among the Myths by John Oswalt – Apologetics 315.

(h/t The Poached Egg)

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