Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Book Review: "Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament" by John D. Currid
John D. Currid
1300 Crescent Street
Wheaton, IL 60187
ISBN: 978-1-4335-3183-5; $17.99
Reviewed for Deus Misereatur by: Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber
Reading Polemically – 4 stars out of 5
There are several parallels between the Old Testament stories and the mythical tales from the cultures and societies that surrounded ancient Israel. Many biblical scholars, skeptics and supporters alike, have accepted the view that the Hebrew writers were simply bootlegging those tales, cleaning them up, and inserting them into Israel’s history. Dr. John D. Currid’s new 192 page paperback, “Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament”, addresses this trend, and seeks to offer a different set of plausibilities for seeing these parallels. This book is mildly technical, but not burdensomely so. Dr. Currid was a seminary professor of mine in the 1990s, and I was delighted to pick up this book and read much of what he had tried to get into our mushy heads during classes nearly 15 years ago. The simple premise of the book is in the subtitle: The polemical theology of the Old Testament.
Currid begins by reviewing, briefly, the relatively short history of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) studies. The rest of the book is chock full of examples of parallels between ANE literature and the Bible. He examines the connections, moving through the Bible's rehearsal of Creation, Noah, Joseph, Moses, the Psalms, etc., comparing them to the related ANE tales of Gilgamesh, Horus, Sargon I, Amon-Ra, and others. He then exposes the consistent discontinuity between the Bible's stories and ANE literature, both in worldview and in particulars. And lastly, he challenges the reigning view that the Bible is simply plagiarizing and cleaning up ANE texts. This is the basic structure of each chapter.
Currid’s main premise is that though the stories are similar, the biblical writers were artfully crafting the rehearsal of their historical accounts with polemical taunts and challenges to the surrounding cultures. That it was not plagiarizing that was going on, but ridiculing the gods of the surrounding societies, and proclamation that Yahweh alone was the true God of which their deities were only parodies. And that Yahweh was orchestrating actual events in such a way that the hope and longing of the pagan’s myths come to fulfillment in the real facts of the true story of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the polemical theology running in the background of many of the historical events being recorded in Scripture.
"Against the Gods" is a great introduction into the world of ANE/Biblical studies. It is also a good apologetic work. It's perfect for seminarians and pastors, but useful for the studious layman who is looking for help. I recommend the book.
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