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Reading the Bible in its Galaxy

Reading the Bible in its Galaxy December 9, 2013

John Walton, this time with Brent Sandy, has done it again. We have a new book that examines how to read the Bible within the categories of thought and practice of the Bible, a procedure that puts back on the shelf approaches that pretend the Bible is using our categories. The book is called The Lost World of Scripture, with John writing the OT parts and Brent the NT parts.

The Bible, they confess, is a “literary masterpiece, a magnum opus, a stellar performance. But there’s more to the story” (12, italics added). Yes, it is “the inspired revelation of Almighty God” and God’s “self-disclosure.” Yet, the Old Testament emerges from the Ancient Near East and the NT from the Greek and Roman world as they intersect with Judaism. The Bible reflects and speaks into and with those worlds.

They affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, knowing they are pressing specific themes that some inerrantists do not acknowledge sufficiently and they will be opposed by some who think they know what inerrancy means.

Big one: What do these various four statements mean for reading the Old Testament? 

Like John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One, so this book is a series of (21) propositions. Here are the first four:

1. ANE societies were hearing dominant and had nothing comparable to authors and books as we know them. Our world is text-dominant. Text-dominant societies think in textual terms; oral societies think in oral terms.  Texts emerged in the ANE for archives, libraries, as texts, to be read aloud, and as expressions of power. It was a world of authorities (kings, etc), tradents (passers on of traditions), and scribes (those who could write).

2. Expansions and revisions were possible as documents were copied generation after generation and eventually compiled into literary works. For instance, glosses (Gen 12:6; Num 12:3), added sections (Deut 34), updated legislation (Exod 21:28-32), or integrated revisions (Chronicler’s approach to what we read in Samuel-Kings).

3. Effective communication must accommodate to the culture and nature of the audience. They believe God accommodates at the locution level but not at the illocution level, that is, in form but not intention. God may accommodate in cosmology but the intention of God is not part of that cosmology. Inerrancy, they argue, is about illocution.

4. The Bible contains no new revelation about the workings and understanding of the material world. Here John Walton develops what he wrote in The Lost World of Genesis One.

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