BOOKSUMMARY OF THE WALTON TEXT, ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN THOUGHT AND THE OLDTESTAMENT
BookSummary of the Walton Text, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the OldTestament
Thebook offers a good preamble concerning the ancient Near Eastern(ANET) and its significance to exegetical work. It mainly focuses oncomparative studies and John Walton put forth three essential rolesplayed by comparative studies in biblical interpretation. Theyinclude exegesis, critical analysis, as well as defense of the Bible.The author provides a comprehensive overview of exegesis and itssignificance in preventing misconception by imposing contemporaryworldviews.
Themain body provides an inclusive preamble of the ancient Near Easternas well as a general cognitive environment which it offers forcomprehending the ancient Israel world. Walton examines various kindsof literature regarding ANET and this is followed by the perceptionsthey provide on beliefs concerning religion, deities, cosmos,history, as well as people. In the entire study, Walton offers usefulsidebars which center on the explanation of the Old Testament toilluminate the discontinuities and continuities between Israel andANET.
PART1 – COMPARATIVE STUDIES
CHAPTERONE – HISTORY AND METHODS
Inthis chapter, Walton focuses on history and methods where he talksmore about comparative studies. He puts forth that a comparativestudy of a historical nature is made up of various factors.Comparative studies comprise a subdivision of cultural studies as itaims at obtaining information from an array of divisions of a widerculture both in space and time. They are in union with each other asthey aim to evaluate how one may influence the understanding of theother. According to confessional scholars, comparative studiesrepresented a probable jeopardy to the Bible1.The reason behind this is that it could result in questions besidesposing a threat to skepticism. On the other hand, critical scholarsbelieved that comparative studies were paramount as they could attestthe trueness of the biblical text.
CHAPTERTWO – COMPARATIVE STUDIES, SCHOLARSHIP, AND THEOLOGY
Inthis chapter, Walton starts off by explaining the different realms inwhich comparative study is employed as well as the challenges theypose. These include the scientific study and confessional study.Scientific study examines the literary and historical context, whileconfessional study examines the literary text. Critical scholars havedisputed the findings and explanations of other scholars, and thishas left room for discussions. As opposed to some other form ofcomparative study, polemical comparative study is believed to be aleading subdivision of comparative study. Polemic opinions are aimedat finding the reality. Confessional scholars defend againstcomparative and critical interpretations and they face variouschallenges considering that comparative studies differ in terms ofsuggestions. Individuals who study comparisons are harmonized by theclasses in the biblical text. For instance, a general factor is thatthe Old Testament was indistinctive and underwent an array of stagesfollowing the belief that it was not exceptional. It was perceived tobe unoriginal, not heavenly, and undependable2.According to confessional scholars, the resemblances lessen theuniqueness of the biblical text. Nevertheless, the polemicalinterpretations help confessionals in presenting the truth in spiteof the differences that exist. Walton has provided three elements toexplain the functions of comparative study. They include the exegesisof the Bible, critical analysis, as well as justification of theBible.
PART2 – LITERATURE OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
CHAPTERTHREE – SUMMARY OF THE LITERATURE OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
Thechapter starts by ascertaining that while interpreting, analyzing,comprehending and appreciating the Ancient Near East literature andthe aspect myth, together with its numerous interpretations must notbe considered a factor. This is founded on the reason that readersare not investigating their own certainty but other people’srealism in the prehistoric space and time.
Onetype of literature analyzed in this chapter is Sumerian literature.It encompassed various titles including Eridu Genesis and Enki andthe Ordering of the World3.Eridu Genesis contains an assortment of cosmology texts featuringcreation stories of animals and human beings as well as informationon civilized cities. The other, Enki, talks about the gods togetherwith their different responsibilities intended for the functions ofthe land. The Sumerian Creation features a creation story that datesto 100 BC during the Middle Assyrain time. The literature alsopresents a number of similarities as well as distinctive differences.Another kind of literature is Akkadian literature. It also containsthe contemporary certainty of myths. For instance, it contains theEnumaElish, “a hymn commemorating the elevation of Marduk to thehead of the pantheon.” 4The hymn suggests behaviors which disobey, threaten and negotiatewith gods. A number of Ancient Near East Thoughts (ANET) may beattributed to Hurrian, Egyptian as well as Ugarit cultures containingvarious titles as Kumarbi Cycle, Memphis Creation Account, the BaalCycle, and the Heliopolis Creation Account.
PART3 – RELIGION
CHAPTERFOUR – THE GODS
Asexplained by Walton, the ancient Near East lacked a religion, asupernatural or a secular. As explained in English terminology, itcontained a physical and spiritual in addition to an earthly andheavenly sphere. “Life was religion and religion could not becompartmentalized within life” 5
Themyths founded in the Egyptian and Mesoptamia literature reveals theorigins of gods. The perception obtained from the Egyptian literatureis that the gods started to exist via bodily fluids such as sneezingand spiting. On the other hand, Mesoptamia literature shows that thegods originated from a preceding generation of holy being. Walton haspointed out some factors vital in order to understand ANET, whichinclude ontology, theogony, and cosmogony6.The dissimilarities evidenced between theogony and ontology in theANET and in the Old Testament shows that the Bible does not provideany suggestion that Israel believed their god to have an origin.Jewish and Christian religious studies believe that God exists and Heis everlasting. The Bible depicts the existence of Yahweh (amonotheistic culture) and shows that all cultures that surroundedIsrael were polytheistic. While the biblical text portrays God as theSupreme Being with no one on an equal level, the ANET shows theexistence of various gods on a similar level.
Anumber of features are linked with the gods such as theanthropomorphic characteristics: the character, nature andpersonality. The geopolitical and geographical features should alsobe looked at in conjunction with the procreativity, cosmology,emotional and frailty characteristics of the gods. It assists inrecognizing the entire association and probable relationships withother gods. Some attributes connected with gods include: they arejudges, have wisdom, goodness, mercy, holiness, faithfulness, andcompassionate. To sum it up, ANET portrays all gods as genuineimplying that there exists no fake god or false beliefs. On the otherhand, biblical context portrays Yahweh as the only true god, thusother beliefs and gods are false.
CHAPTERFIVE – TEMPLES AND RITUALS
Thechapter focuses on temples and rituals and commences by explainingthe significant of the temples. As ascertained by Walton, the primarydesign of the temple was not meant for worship but rather, for thedwelling of the deities. The temples acted as a connection to theheavens as they symbolized a shadow of a sacred dwelling7.Various rituals were carried out in order to guarantee that the deityaccepted the image put on the walls of the temple. Through this,individuals were able to link the spiritual and the physical worlds.Out of the many rituals performed, the most important was mouthwashing. The aim was to enable the image to smell incense, drink,eat, and receive worship. Mouth-washing helped in cleansing the imagefrom individual contamination. In Egypt, the image was generatedusing the deity’s soul, and it manifested itself in order to revealthe deity. This implies that it was the portrait of the deity,however a depiction of the deity’s heavenly nature. This processwas referred to as habitation.
Oneof the requirements of placing the temple was choosing a sacredplace. The site was picked by god through a revelation. In Israel,the temple had different functions that were initiated by God. Theyencompassed delivering, judging, bringing triumph and freedom duringwarfare, and ending harmful environmental issues. Other functionswhich were provided by Zachariah included protection, liberation fromenemies, and foundation of sacred operation in the entire globe8.
CHAPTERSIX – STATE AND FAMILY RELIGION
Waltondevotes this chapter to explaining about state and family religion.He starts off by asserting that a large amount of informationacknowledged in the current time initiated from temples and palacesand is referred to as state religion. According to archeologicalfindings, the religion was a family practice rather than a personalpractice therefore termed as family religion.
Familieslacked access to the deities and this made them feel as if they didnot have anything to do with state religion. They believed that thegods did neither listen to their desires nor did they have anyconcern with them. Nevertheless, they considered the ancestral godsas more caring and had a high probability of listening to and helpingthem. The gods, who were termed as individual gods had variousresponsibilities including provision of good health and abundanceamong others. Nevertheless, during bad times, individuals tried toplease and apologized to the gods for forgiveness. The gods did notreveal to people and this was a major problem. The lack ofcommunication between the gods and humans meant that the latter didnot get any instructions on how to please gods9.
Instate religion, priests and kings ensured that the desires of thegods were met. Just as a king, the gods received the same degree ofcare. They did this as it was permitted by traditions and besides,they thought it was the most excellent thing to do. Just as familyreligion, the gods appeared to be offended regularly.
Inconclusion, the biblical God and ANET gods played different roles. InANET, gods were tasked with assistance and protection, while in theBible (John 3:16, King James) people had a good relationship withGod, whereby God sent his son and angles to protect the people.
PART4 – COSMOS
CHAPTERSEVEN – COSMIC GEOGRAPHY
Thechapter talks about cosmic geography and refers to it as howindividuals envisage the structure and shape of the world surroundingthem. Through individual knowledge of the cosmos, they are able tocomprehend time and weather.
Thegods dwelled in the heavens. The subsisted various levels of heavensand they were founded on the hierarchical point in the pantheon10.The heavens and the earth were separated by the sky. The sky was heldup by the mountains, and it protected the water from falling. Thestars, sun, planet, and moon were a component of the air and theywere fixed in the sky. They had different functions. While the sunprovided heat, the moon assisted the Near Eats in developing lunarcalendar by observing the cycles.
Theearth was regarded as a flat disk by both the Egyptian andMesopotamia. It was evidenced by the Egyptian sarcophagus and theBabylonian world map. Nevertheless, the two states believed theirregions were the middle of the earth. The sun rested at Netherworldduring the day when it did not provide heat11.The Duat was the Egyptian place of the deceased and it wasunfathomable. It was dwelled by various gods and the western horizonacted as the entrance. A complete Duat is a place that which is voidof both land and sky. On the other hand, Mesopotamian believed thatindividuals entered the netherworld via a grave. This made burial tobe extremely significant.
Inconclusion, the chapter has focused on cosmic geography and howdifferent regions viewed themselves. More about the sky, the earth,and the elements of the air have been discussed.
CHAPTEREIGHT – COSMOLOGY AND COSMOGONY
Inthe early days, purpose seemed to be more significant than element.This is because the people were not so much concerned with thesubstantial structure of the globe rather they were more interestedin the philosophical. In the book of Genesis 1:3-5, the day’s lightis recorded. This is based on purpose rather than element. God namedthat light. He gave it the name day or yom and he called the darknessnight. Nevertheless, God did not call the light day due to thesubstance of it being light but rather due to the time the light tookbefore darkness. We can say that this is a miracle that has been usedthe context of the bible since double phrases are inter-exchangedbecause of connection. This phenomenon can further be seen when Godsaid, “Let there be light”. This phrase gives us something evenmore important and purposeful. This means that on the first day, Godcreated duration or time.
Weneed not to forget that some English terms have a specific tone thatmay cause a little mayhem. For instance, the English phrase ‘chaos’is used to mean turmoil, but this phrase is derived from a Greekdialect which stands for the opposite of universe. Nothing isabstract in the pre creation usage within ANET, apart from theancient sea that is the key component of the pre creation form. Wateras well as darkness was inclusive form of pre-interplanetary whichwas agreed upon by all ANET.
Inontology, Israel is seen to perceive existence in terms of duty andfunction as reflected in Genesis. When it comes to centrality ofcontrol attributes and destiny, Israel reflects God’s creation interms of creating vital control characteristics and pronouncing fatesfor the universe’s occupants. Genesis 1 shows that Yahweh doesn’thave an origin so cosmogony is not dependent on theology.
CHAPTER9: UNDERSTANDING THE PAST: HUMAN ORIGINS AND ROLE LOOK
Youcannot comprehend the present unless you know the past. This can onlybe possible if you understand the way of thinking of people and knowthe environs these people dwelt in. The bible is the only place wherehuman ancestor is recorded12.In other contexts such as Sumerian, it is believed that peopleemerged from the ground. There is the use of clay in Egyptian textand flesh and blood are used in Atrahasis. When it comes to EnumaElish and the KAR 4, blood alone is cited. There is a mixture of agodly making like the mother deity siring and or by the godly breathjust in the Atrahasis. Both substance and godly collaboration arerecorded in the biblical text to show creation, i.e. dust and godlybreath. Within the ANET, there are four characteristics humans todivine, man to woman, humans to past and imminent generations andhumans to formed cosmos. Each account of human roots emphasizes onthe functionality, while the flesh and blood indicate a connection tothe divinity and the clay or dust illustrates the connection to theland.
Ithas to be known that the soul leaves when someone dies, it doesn’tlive on. This is the term Nephesh. Wolf states that a human being isnephesh, he doesn’t have it. Nephesh senses and feels but ruahacts. Mindfulness as well as vivacity is correlated to ruah. Ruahbelongs to God so it returns to Him. According to Sumerian andAkkadian, humans were created to be of service to God willingly.
CHAPTER10: COMPREHENDING THE PAST, HISTORIOGRAPHY.
Anumber of categories are used in the history of Mesopotamia. The twobiggest genres are memorial records and sequential texts. The firstone focuses on archives, structure accounts and regal writings.Sequential texts comprise of kings cure and is more of fictional typedesign of inscription13.Many Modern historians deny that there is no supernatural cause totoday’s history. This means there has to be an adjustment of theprehistoric text that was used to build history which confirms totoday’s values. This will do away with the text’s biasness. Whenthe historiography of a pre Clarification philosophy is reviewed, itis imperative to identify the intellectual atmosphere that initiatesthat historiography and to honorits reliability. Ancient archives inthe ANET do not allege to be disclosure from divinity rather they doreveal much attention in discerning the actions of the deities14.
Westerncultures see the perception of time inversely as compared to the waythe Near East does. The Near East regarded time as past and future,while the West regards time as linear. This is a significantperception in comprehending ANET, as time was repetition plussurvival, even though certain linear facets were at hand. Allsocieties do not think of history in the same manner. For instance,for ANET, antiquity was part of their present. This means thathistory did not occur as it does with the culture that perceives timeas linear. The standards of historiographical prose can be recognizedin terms of the benefactor, what or whom the prose endorses as wellas the anticipated spectators. Certain types of historiographicalprose comprise: heroic history, moral history, legitimating history,dogmatic history, polemical history, editorial history as well ashypothetical history. These types epitomize how the writers got whatthey considered the highly vital standards and facts.
CHAPTER11: ENCOUNTERING THE PRESENT- PREMONITION AND OMENS.
Religiousconviction and spiritual notions control the ancient Near East livesand there wasn’t division concerning non spiritual and spiritual.Premonition and omens played a significant part in the existing livesof the primordial. Premonition is divided into two classes, enthusedand empirical15.Enthused premonition is started in the heavenly monarchy and uses ahuman mediator to convey the message. In the ancient lives, therewere many prophets and people who had dreams. These wereintermediaries. If anyone dreamt and they did not understand, anexpert in that field was conducted to reveal what the dream means.Whatever the interpreters of the dreams told them, they paid muchattention to it and helped them in making important decisions inresponse to the dreams16.
Inthe bible, various people had divine powers. For example, Jesus wasprophesied to be born from a virgin woman, of which the divine cametrue when Virgin Mary, through the Holy Spirit, gave birth to Jesus.Another instance, is when Jesus knew told his followers that it isone of them who will betray him for money. This came to pass whenJudas Iscariot, one of Jesus followers betrayed him.
Empiricalpremonition is something physical. It can be envisioned andinterpreted. There was the act of reading symbols as well as signs inempirical divination. Something or a series of things could beinterpreted as bad or good omen. In the ancient, omens were morehypothetical than experiential nonetheless, measures were put inplace to classify the spectacles as well as puzzles. The form thatwas most reliable over others to verify omens was Ext spicy. Theprocedure was to inspect various animal tissues and especially theliver. There are four elements that proscribed empirical premonitionin Israel semiotics, hermeneutics, theology and epistemology.
CHAPTER12: ENCOUNTERING THE PRESENT – CITIES AND KINGSHIP
InEgypt and Mesopotamia, it was believed that cities were there beforethe existence of humans. They as well believed that cities werecreated by gods and meant only for gods. To some extent, cities wereconsidered holy places. The society was ruled by the rule ofkingship. In the older days, the king was the mediator of powerbetween the deity and the humans. This was so usual in the whole ofANE. There was power sharing or kingship sharing17.
Thefirst obligation of a king was to preserve order in his kingdom. Thechief god in Mesopotamia ruled other gods and ether that were led bythose gods. He was a king of all the people but Yahweh was the onlyGod. Watchful and deleterious valuation of contemporaneous monarchyis much more usual in the biblical texts as compared to the ANET18.
Insummary, there is no heavenly derivation for human kingship in thelegendary realm that is conveyed and the king has less understandableaccountability for the external people from the city.
CHAPTER13: ENCOUNTERING THE PRESENT: GUIDELINES FOR LIFE-LAW AND WISDOM.
Timecame when the people of Yahweh (the Israelites) needed to getreformed. God, through Moses, spoke to them the Ten Commandments.Moses emphasized on what god told him that the Israelites should makethemselves graven images. Moses ascended up the mountain to meet God.God started talking the people but they asked Moses to talk to theminstead, for if God speaks to them they would die. Moses took timewith God and the Israelites became impatient. Their impatience madethem go against the emphasized commandment of not worshiping any godapart from their Yahweh. When Moses descended, he met the Israelitesdancing along images they have created using their jewelries and thisangered him. He threw down the stone tablets containing thecommandments and ordered those who had not sinned to take swords andkill those who had sinned. The people did as their leader told them,and Moses went back and he was given the commandments to guide thepeople of Israel as exhibited in the book of Exodus from chapter 20.This is how Israelites adopted these new laws. Yahweh used hispeople, like for instance King Solomon, to demonstrate the act ofwisdom. This is witnessed in the story of two women claiming the samechild as theirs, but King Solomon used wisdom to determine the realmother of the baby.
Insummary, just as Yahweh’s leaders portrayed acts of wisdom, Godalso urged Israelites to be wise and know that the greatestcommandment is love, for if one loved the other, he would not killhim or steal from him
CHAPTER14: PONDING THE FUTURE OF EARTH AND AFTERLIFE
TheANET was contented with the way life as compared to Israel and theWest. They were not so much concerned about a better future. Israelknew something better was on the way and this notion was incorporatedinto the contract and consequential19. The concept of life after death for Egyptians and Mesopotamians werereverse. For Egyptians, there were the pyramid texts, coffin texts,the book of the dead and the book for the Netherworld. In Mesopotamiathe dead descendants were given some status of deity this was tokeep the person within the family community. Communication with thedead included a monthly ritual meal that all the dead relatives wereinvited. Scraps of nourishment were offered to the departed to helpease their existence in the netherworld
Insummary, the Egyptians believed ka and ba which separated when onedied. There was very little or nothing afterlife. Life after deathdid not exist within the ANET unlike what the bible records.
Mostof the experts who studies ANET have persistently avoided the kind ofcombination presented in the book under summary. As an alternative,they prefer the consistent and secure harbors of depiction. It isworth applauding their caution as well as their reliability in thefield as this has contributed to the greatness of their work. Thebook also contains a considerable quantity of homogeneity. Besides,the author has pointed out a number of key points all through thebook which encompass epistemology, theology, ontology, andhistoriography.
InIsrael, theology entails a number of key characteristics which weredifferent from the ancient world. They include the following. Thereis only one God, He made covenant with chosen persons, He did notwork from inside the cosmos, and God spoke in ways that weredifferent from other cultures. In Israel, historiography was made bya covenant rather than by a king. On the other hand, in ANET, it hadthe responsibility of legitimating and supporting the king. The Kingsgodly protection was made known by the doings of the deities in theworld. Through historiography, this realism was given a voice. Whileminor dissimilarities in ontology were evidenced both in Israel andANET, epistemology was greatly influenced by the assurance that Godin Israel had communicated.
JohnH. Walton. AncientNear Eastern Thought and the Old Testament.Baker Academic. 2006.
Prickett,Stephen, and Robert Barnes. TheBible.Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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