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Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible

John H. Walton

| Baker Academic | 2006

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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.

Author Bio

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.