The new book by John Walton and co-written by D. Brent Sandy The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority is sure to be a useful resource for an evangelical student, pastor, and serious Christian. Its primary argument is that the Bible must be treated and read as an ancient book. They affirm the American evangelical doctrine of Inerrancy (this will make some more progressively minded evangelicals especially outside North America ask “why?”), but wish to refine the statements of inerrancy to reflect the latest and best research discoveries in the areas of transmission of words orally and in writing in the ancient world. They contend that the doctrine of verbal and plenary inspiration can be safely held, but must be held in a way that does justice to the kind of book the Bible is. They say, “While previous formulations were well-intentioned and helpful, they did not have the advantage of the growing body of evidence form the ancient world . . . we have identified a number of elements that have been traditionally associated with biblical authority that can be seen as inconsistent with the emerging profile of literary production” (292).
The book’s conclusions are based on serious scholarship in both testaments. It is certain that some sectors of evangelicalism will balk at their conclusions, but it will not likely be because of their evidence.
The timing of the book’s release is significant for two reasons: (1) the annual meeting of the Evangelical Society’s program topic is “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, and the Evangelical Theological Society: Retrospect and Prospect” and (2) Zondervan’s Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy is being released in the next month (And take notice who is one of the contributors – I won’t say his name but he’s a red-headed Australian comedian!).
Evangelicals are rightly reflecting again on this important if controversial doctrine and this book will help keep the discussion firmly planted in the ancient world of the Bible. I highly recommend this book.