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Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament

ISBN: 9781441251701

Digital Logos Edition

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This volume provides a thoughtful introduction to the literature of the ancient Near East and a well-considered apology for its importance to exegetical work. John Walton suggests that there are three important roles comparative studies can play in biblical interpretation: critical analysis, defense of the biblical text, and exegesis. He focuses particularly on the third aspect and its importance for preventing misinterpretation through the imposition of modern worldviews.

In the main body of the text, Walton offers a thoughtful introduction to ancient Near Eastern literature and the "common cognitive environment" that it provides for understanding the world of ancient Israel. After surveying types of literature, he considers the perspectives they offer on beliefs about gods, religion, the cosmos, people, and history. Throughout his study, helpful comparative sidebars focus on Old Testament interpretation to illumine the continuities and discontinuities between the Israelites and their neighbors.

This study provides an excellent introduction to the field of comparative studies and will be an important guide for students, scholars, and clergy who want to make use of extrabiblical resources to enrich their understanding of ancient Israel and its Scriptures.

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Key Features

  • Contains a list of abbreviations
  • Includes a list of illustrations
  • Has an index of all Scriptures used

Praise for the Print Edition

Comparisons between the culture of biblical Israel and the other cultures of the ancient Near East have long been a fundamental part of biblical scholarship, but more often than not, they have been presented in piecemeal, isolated fashion. In his new book, John Walton offers a much broader reach, giving us arguably the most extensive review of these cultural comparisons now available together with a serious meditation on what the enterprise of cultural comparison is all about in biblical study. One may not always agree with his views, but invariably one will come away challenged to rethink the purpose and value of such comparisons for understanding the Hebrew Bible and its world.

—Peter B. Machinist, Harvard University

As no other author has done, Walton penetrates beyond the simple comparisons often made to bring back intelligence about the contexts and constitution of the ancient world, stressing the ideas Israel and its contemporaries held in common—such as 'deity is on the inside, not the outside' of life—and discussing accounts of creation, views of history and of the future. Yet Walton repeatedly demonstrates how Israel's faith was distinct. It’s God revealing His will by writing his law on his people's hearts. That's one of many cases where interpretation gains from 'comparative exploration.' This book deserves the attention of all serious Bible teachers and students.

—Alan R. Millard, University of Liverpool

This book is a must read for serious students of the Old Testament. John Walton has employed his extensive background and experience to write this excellent survey of the interface between the ancient Near East and Israel. I especially appreciate his sidebars on 'Comparative Exploration,' which enable readers to 'zero in' on the comparative topic of their choice relatively easily. The book is thoroughly readable yet very scholarly. Thus, beginning students, seminarians, and the interested public will find gold mines of conceptual information in this excellent work.

—Mark W. Chavalas, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

John Walton has produced an important and useful guide to entering into some of the major worldviews and value systems found in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Israel. As a unique contribution to the study of that era, his work both introduces readers to this thought world and bridges the gaps between ancient Near Eastern texts and the perspectives of the Bible. Walton's engaging style makes this an ideal introductory text for these important areas of Bible backgrounds.

—Richard S. Hess, Denver Seminary

Product Details

  • Title: Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament
  • Author: John Walton
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 368

About John H. Walton

John H. Walton (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Survey of the Old Testament, Old Testament Today, and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition

Resource Experts

Top Highlights

“In the ancient world something came into existence when it was separated out as a distinct entity, given a function, and given a name.” (Page 88)

“If we do not bring the information from the ancient cognitive environment to bear on the text, we will automatically impose the parameters of our modern worldview, thus risking serious distortion of meaning.” (Page 40)

“Cosmic geography concerns how people envision the shape and structure of the world around them.” (Page 165)

“In most cases, time and more careful attention resulted in many, if not all, of the initial claims being rejected. Methodological maturity began to be displayed in the careful work of W. W. Hallo, who promoted a balanced approach called the ‘contextual approach,’ which seeks to identify and discuss both similarities and differences that can be observed between the Bible and the texts from the ancient Near East. ‘Hallo’s goal, ‘is not to find the key to every biblical phenomenon in some ancient Near Eastern precedent, but rather to silhouette the biblical text against its wider literary and cultural environment.’ Thus we must not succumb either to ‘parallelomania’ or to ‘parallelophobia.’ ’8 It is Hallo’s work that has provided the foundation for the following discussion of methodology.” (Page 18)

“As developed earlier, ‘rest’ does not imply relaxation, but more like achieving equilibrium and stability.” (Page 197)

  • Title: Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
  • Author: John H. Walton
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Print Publication Date: 2006
  • Logos Release Date: 2012
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible. O.T. › Criticism, interpretation, etc; Bible. O.T. › Comparative studies; Bible. O.T. › Extra-canonical parallels; Middle Eastern literature › Relation to the Old Testament
  • ISBNs: 9781441251701, 9780801027505, 9781540960214, 1441251707, 0801027500, 1540960218
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-29T21:52:48Z
John H. Walton

Dr. John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, spent 20 years teaching at Moody Bible Institute.

In his college years, he developed a passion for archaeology and Bible history. Instead of training to be an archaeologist, though, he focused his attention on studies comparing the culture and literature of the Bible and the ancient Near East. He has never lost his fascination with this subject, but comparative studies only provide one of the means by which he tries to get people excited about the Old Testament. He’s saddened by how little exposure to and understanding of the Old Testament many Christians have, but he’s passionate in doing whatever he can to remedy this spiritual and theological loss.

For 25 years, Dr. Walton was active at South Park Church in Park Ridge, Illinois—teaching at every level, from adults through preschool. He’s driven by the desire to offer people a greater familiarity with God’s Word and a greater confidence in understanding God’s revelation of himself in its pages. Since moving to Wheaton, he has gotten involved in the same areas of ministry at Glen Ellyn Bible Church.

Whether in teaching or writing, he’s constantly challenged in his own life because the material he’s presenting stretches him as much as it stretches his students and readers. Whatever he’s writing or teaching also has a way of infiltrating his family. His wife, Kim, was trained as a biochemist, which made for interesting dinner conversations—especially when he was working on his Genesis commentary. His three kids have often gotten involved in the discussions, and he’s had fun responding to them and seeing his family grow together.


18 ratings

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  1. Daniel Chan

    Daniel Chan


    There's 2nd Ed 2018
  2. Alessandro



  3. Matt Mouzakis

    Matt Mouzakis


  4. Charles Sigler
  5. Jose Flores

    Jose Flores


  6. Samual A. Smith
  7. Juan Manuel Cuevas Rebolledo
  8. Miguel Yustiz Torres
  9. Clint Lemasters
    This book was required for one of my classes in seminary. It was an eye opener! If you've ever wanted to explore the thought processes of ancient writers, specifically how they relate to the OT, then this book is for you.
  10. Larry Proffitt