Oswalt first learned about the issues in “The Bible Among the Myths” while taking a class taught by Dennis Kinlaw at Asbury Theological Seminary. His interest in the subject has grown since with graduate study and his own classes which he taught.William F. Albright, his students, and G. Ernest Wright led the rethinking of the evolutionary paradigm within the philosophy of Idealism.
Although they believed the differences between the ways the Israelites thought and their neighbor’s thoughts of reality caused no evolutionary explanation to show, today it is found that Israelite faith can be explained by evolutionary change.Scholars today say that it is no longer about the differences between the two, but more about the similarities. Oswalt believed this was due to previous theological and philosophical convictions and not a change in data. From the 1950’s on, this change became hard for people to accept because it meant that we did not have control of our lives, and could not fend for ourselves.Wright believed that the similarities between Israel and her neighbors are “accidentals”.
He and others believed that while there were similarities, they were not important. Oswalt gives the example of both groups worshiping in temples, but the Israelites not having idols in their temple.The major difference between the two is how the God or gods is identified. The surrounding areas of Israel know gods through nature, while Israel knows God through man and their experience with Him. The truthfulness of scripture is challenged today but skeptical people who present the question, “Did the things presented in the Old Testament really occur?” If scripture is written by man, can we trust it to be true?This also raises the issue of how this theology came to be within the Israelites if it is false. When asked this question, they say they did not make up this theology, but that it was given to them by God himself.
He gave them the understanding of it. Oswalt wants to bring an understanding that just because there are things in scripture that does not make sense and cannot be explained, it does not need to automatically be denied without truly looking into the evidence surrounding it.The Bible in its WorldGreek philosophers in the BC felt as if we lived in a universe that contained only one unifying principle in the heavens. Most of the world believed that there had to be more than one force at play in the universe for anything to happen. In a battle between philosophers and the world, the world won.
Philosophers tried to integrate their way of thinking into the Greek culture, but it never would take hold. The Bacchae, a Greek play, is believed to be an example of the two thoughts battling against each other and one side winning.At the same time the battle for the Greeks was taking place, the Hebrews had their own problems. With the Assyrians and later the Babylonian empires coming to be, they dominated over the Israelites areas and questioned their faith. Prophets were there to remind the Israelites the ideas about their faith.These ideas clashed with the ideas of the surrounding people groups.
Even through the capture of the Israelites by both the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and the fall of Jerusalem, the Jewish faith remained. This proved the predictions the prophets made about these events. In these times, some people found it to be acceptable to live a pagan life while speaking about the biblical life. The people decided that if they wanted to avoid another punishment from God, they had to get real with their worship.At the beginning of the Christian age, there were two world views, the biblical and Greek philosophy.
When the Gospel was presented to the Greeks and Romans, these two world views combined to a Christian way. The Greeks began to show the Hebrews things in their way of thinking they otherwise overlooked.They saw that the world and God were not the same, but that God did care and deal with the needs of His world He created. Oswalt continues, saying that Logic and Science cannot stand on their own, and the attempt to let the two do so, has caused them to begin destroying themselves. With this, we no longer can answer the important questions that ask “what” of our lives. We begin to care only about chasing after what we find pleasure or survival in.
The Bible and Myth: A Problem of Definition The thought of the Bible being considered a myth has changes over theyears. The though went from God and Bible not being able to be considered a myth, to mythical literature being at the center of the Israelites faith.The data has not changed, instead it is the perspective of scholars. This raises a question asked by younger scholars about accepting the Bible as truth if the history surrounding it is false. The definition of myth has been broadened over recent years to include the Bible.
Oswalt discusses how a myth cannot be whatever a person decides it can be. It also cannot not be too broad that it could really be very many different things.There are different types of definitions for the word myth. Etymological definitions concentrate on the subject at head being untrue.
One of these definitions states the word myth is defined as a story about the gods that is false.Another type of definition is sociological-theological definitions. In this definitions, the person telling the myth is only telling what is true to them. The story is not false in their mind. The truth is whatever the person thinks is true. Another type of Definition is the literary definitions.
Symbolism is being used to tell the story is a major part of this definition. Oswalt uses Moby Dick as an example.The man, Ahab, and the whale are both seen as symbols of the story in this definition. The final type of definition is the phenomenological definition.
In this definition, a common characteristic in the stories must be called a myth. Another example of this definitions states that the story tries to connect the real thing or issue with the symbol.To sum up all these definitions together, they all have the idea that all things are connected. They are not merely physically or spiritually connected to something like a tree, but they are the tree. Continuity does not concentrate on the particulars.
If it did, then we would not all be connected. I would not be connected to a male if my being a female were to be concentrated on. The gods are described has being everything a human is. The Bible is all but a myth. God is not everything a human is.
He does things we cannot repeat.