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Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament by [Currid, John D.]
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Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament Kindle Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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About the Author

JOHN D. CURRID is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the author of several books and Old Testament commentaries. A PhD graduate in Syro-Palestinian archaeology (University of Chicago), he has extensive archaeological field experience from projects throughout Israel and Tunisia.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 444 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (31 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #578,026 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
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This book is about the relationship between the writings of the Old Testament and other ANE (ancient Near Eastern) literature. If you've never heard of this field of study, you may be surprised to hear that it (as with anything that has to do with the Bible) is a heavily debated topic: how does the Bible relate with ANE literature? Some believe ANE studies are actually a danger to Scripture. Others say the Old Testament is not unique, but merely another book of ANE myths simply retold to another audience.

The context of much of the Old Testament is set in the ANE culture, yet the Old Testament (and the Bible as a whole) is grounded in monotheism. So what is the Old Testament's relationship to ANE literature?

Currid's objective is to show that the idea of polemics in literature is not foreign to the Old Testament, it was very common in ANE culture, and the Old Testament writers used it well. It's purpose is to emphatically demonstrate the distinctions between the worldviews of the Hebrews and the rest of the ANE.

The Chocolate Milk
+ Currid looks at the parallels in the ANE/Bible stories before giving the contrasts. It actually builds suspense because, even though I know he's going to prove his point, it leads me to try to figure out how he'll dig himself out of the hole he's in. [Spoiler: he does].

+ Currid sets out to prove the authenticity of the Bible's polemics. Just because there are parallels between an ANE myth and the Bible doesn't mean that both are myths. There's no reason one cannot be myth and the other true history. Just because TV has "Desperate Housewives" doesn't mean that newspaper stories of adultery are fake.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Currid wrote a neat little book on an original theme: polemical theology. The book is easy to read and does not suppose a lot of theological background. After outlining the history of archeological findings and its impact on the way theologians view the Bible the rest of the book provides examples of polemical theology.
The book ends very abruptly. I would have liked a chapter in which Currid thought about the way his view impacts different theological areas like the view on inspiration, infallability of the Bible etc. Especially because these are themes Currid strongly believes in. I mean, to believe that the writer/redactor of Exodus purposefully arranged all his materials to succesfully attack or mock the Egyptian myths might easily persuade somebody that the arrangement is more important than the facts.
All in all an interesting book on an interesting theme that should be fleshed quite a bit.
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I absolutely loved this book. Very easy to read and very simple to follow. It is ideal for laymen ( like myself ) who want to have an introduction to the world of mythology and polemical theology. It also encouraged me to want to know more about the topic. The author approaches the controversy of Bible v Ancient Near East Literature in a way that I never heard before, therefore I recommend this book to every Christian and to anyone who has an interest on the subject.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x983d1378) out of 5 stars 35 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98128ef4) out of 5 stars Bible a Polemic Against the idolatry of the Ancient Near East 7 Sept. 2013
By Dr Conrade Yap - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Who shapes who? Is the Old Testament context shaped by the surrounding cultures of the Ancient Near East (ANE)? Or is the culture in the ANE influencing the early writers of the Bible? John Currid, Professor of Old Testament studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte argues that the historical, geographical, and the cultural contexts of the ANE can add valuable insights into our understanding of the Old Testament. This book looks into the relationship of the ANE to the Hebrew Scriptures, in the hope that not only will it spur greater interest in the area of "polemical theology," it will add more excitement and enthusiasm into the studies of ancient texts. What Currid tries to do is to maintain a healthy respect for the genre of studies, through appreciation and understanding of why the ancients think, write, and behave as they are. According to Currid, the reason we ought to study the ANE context is simply because not only is the ANE studies quite recent, it is also one of the most neglected. Polemical theology is about using the images, symbols, and stories of the ancient times, and to bring into them new meanings, especially from a theological standpoint.

Currid's survey of the historical study of the Old Testament genre is enlightening. He observes that modern scholars are shifting away from the Hebrew position of an "original, single, and unique" worldview. Early studies were based on explaining the hostilities between the Greeks and the Persians (5BC), the Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mesopotamia archaelogy, many of which are simply discovering the artifacts for what they are with "innocent discovery." By the 19th Century, the mood turns toward "suspicion" where scholars see the biblical writers borrowing much material from the ANE instead of being unique in themselves. For instance, Friedrich Driver thinks that the biblical writers simply take the myths and stories of the ANE, strip them of the polytheism influences and the present a "sanitized" version for biblical purposes. By 1906, researchers start to focus on using the ANE as a way to shed light on the history of the biblical texts. From 1945 to the present, with advanced linguistic studies, more scholars consider the biblical history more as "invention and propaganda."

Calling polemical theology as a way in which the biblical writers counter the cultures and practices of their age, Currid aims to highlight the superiority of the biblical authors in three ways. First, while the Hebrew writers have borrowed a lot of ideas from the ANE, they maintain a focus on a superior God, that guides their borrowing. Second, the biblical texts are authoritative enough that while there are parallels between the ancient biblical texts and the ANE, the Bible not only confronts but has the ultimate Word. Third, the picture of the Creator LORD God is the overwhelming God over all other gods, superior over all other ancient deities, and sharpens the focus on Monotheism. In other words, the biblical texts are unique, superior, and overwhelmingly single-minded on the Creator God, in contrast to ANE's broad descriptions of many gods.

Currid demonstrates an impressive array of knowledge on the ANE culture and religious beliefs. (Hey, he is Professor of Old Testament after all!) He is able to bring together the fragments of the myths and stories popular in the ancient times, to compare and to contrast with the biblical texts. That is no easy feat, given that every fragment chosen requires careful scholarship, archaeological considerations, as well as interpretive angles. Understanding the ANE is always a challenge. What makes modern man able to understand the mindset and the logic of the ancient races? What qualifies us to even attempt to make a polemical statement either from the Bible or from the ANE perspectives?

There is one chief requirement to anyone embarking on such studies. Openness and humility. By acknowledging the works of the different experts and scholars in ANE literature and culture, we enter into the discussion as a participant, not a sage by the stage, but as a guide by the side. We cannot be dogmatic about the beliefs. Neither can we make the ancient works say things that they do not actually say. Currid chooses the angle of polemical theology in understanding the ANE. Thus the label, "Against the gods." It is important to remember that it is not the author who is specifically against the ANE gods. It is the Bible that is pitted against all other gods. It is in understanding the key thrust of the Old Testament not to worship idols. It is the consistent argument that Israel is not to have any other gods before the LORD God. With this theological framework, Currid is able to anchor the entire book on one chief premise: It is not the Bible that copies from the ANE. It is the Bible that understands the ancient contexts, captures the underlying mood of the times, and speaks out against the errors and the idols of the age.

This book is a book on how the biblical writers, against all odds, are able to speak into the culture, not as blind and helpless participants, but as clear-headed writers, fully focused on one God who is over all, and above all powers. I warmly recommend this book to anyone keen to learn more about the contexts of the Old Testament stories.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.

This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98128f48) out of 5 stars Plagiarism? Or theological "court case" against non-Israelite cultures? 6 July 2014
By Dale Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's not uncommon to hear the charge that Biblical writers borrowed and adapted material - myths, legends, religious practices - from the non-Israelite cultures around them. It isn't hard to find evidence that some of this "similar" material certainly pre-dated Biblical writings.

If you jump to this conclusion, take a good look at John Currid's book. He develops a concept that a lot of "similar" material doesn't mean or prove that Biblical writers plagiarized previously-existing ideas from other cultures. As he develops the concept of "polemical theology" - which isn't a new idea - he demonstrates how Moses, for example, took non-Biblical concepts and let them up to be compared and contrasted with true, Biblical concepts.

Yes, it is well known that Pharaoh's magicians pulled off some of the same "tricks" that Moses did as he confronted Pharaoh to release Israelite slaves. But the point is clearly made that, although Pharaoh's magicians could turn a wooden staff into a snake, it was Moses's staff (as a representative of God's Truth) that ate up the others to show who was superior - Yahweh, or the god-king pharaoh.

Numerous other similar confrontations are explored in this book. The book is relatively short and certainly easy to read. So technical aspects are minimized; the book is written to be a popular approach to polemical theology. Having read this, I am eager to read several of Currid's other books that help set the stage for this one.

I recommend this book to Christians for its apologetic significance and personal edification. I recommend it to non-Christians to see that there are other answers to evolutionary religious development that is suggested in out multiple-truth society that emphasized that there are many paths up to the mountain top.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9812b240) out of 5 stars Excellent! 27 Oct. 2013
By SLIMJIM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a great book that contributes to the discussion of the relationship of the Ancient Near East (ANE) to the Old Testament. Have you ever heard people assert that the Old Testament is merely plagiarism of ancient pagan religion or that the authors of Scripture indiscriminately borrowed from the heathens? Is the Old Testament compromised syncretism or simply a literary copy cat of another religion’s myth? This book helps the Christian navigate through such questions and challenges. For starters who might need to be caught up to speed, chapter one gives a nice survey of the history of the study of the Ancient Near East painting a portrait of how these studies originated and its trajectory since. While the author acknowledges in the introduction and conclusion that the discussion of how ANE relate to the OT can be quite complex, he advances what he calls “polemical theology,” as a paradigm that help make sense of OT and ANE religious parallels. “Polemical theology” basically describes a conscious ploy by Biblical writers to use the thought forms and stories from cultures of the Ancient Near East in order to apply it to Yahweh exclusively while often using the same motifs in an ironic fashion against the polytheistic gods and goddesses it originated from. After delineating what polemical theology means in chapter two, the bulk of this book is an examination of the data from ANE sources and the application of Polemical theology. Here the author John Currid brings his scholarship and knowledge of the ANE record to bear. For instance, chapter three concentrate on Genesis 1. In light of how some have attacked the Genesis’ creation account for “borrowing” from other mythologies, Currid demonstrates how the Creation account essentially is antithetical to the creation account of the Egyptians and other Ancient Near East religion, especially with the Bible’s account of not deifying the stars, sea creatures, etc. Currid is fair: He acknowledges parallels, documents it well but he always argue that the differences are significant, since it is at the level of worldview and theology. The differences are not incidental—the polemical and at times poetical jabs that the Old Testament makes shows these differences are intentional on the part of the writers of the Bible. Much of the book focuses it’s case on Genesis and Exodus, a familiar territory to the author’s area of expertise. I wished we could have seen more of Currid’s analysis of polemical theology with other parts of the Old Testament. One chapter stands out: Currid has an excellent study on the rod of Moses that is a good demonstration of what lexical word studies and the proper use of Ancient Near East data looks like: After noting that Moses’ rod was more of a typical rod versus the significance of the rod of the Egyptian Magicians, Currid shows how there is a polemical “smack” against the Egyptian’s religious worldview at play. Currid note how the Bible says it’s Moses “rod” that swallows the Egyptian rod rather than saying it is a “snake,” thus retaining the polemical force. I think this book is helpful in light of what Peter Enns, Walton, Longman III and Waltke has to say. I highly recommend this book.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Net Galley and Crossway without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9812b768) out of 5 stars Plausible but not persuasive alternatives 20 July 2014
By mtlimber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Currid presents a lot of interesting Ancient Near East (ANE) texts but not a lot of compelling analysis of them. He presents polemicism as a primary key to solving the difficulties raised by ANE texts and even faults fellow conservatives (like John C. Collins of Covenant Seminary) for downplaying polemicism. But in the end Currid himself, through the unpersuasiveness of his arguments, convinced me that Collins was probably closer to the mark -- mild polemic is occasionally in play and a useful angle to consider but not a major influence on biblical texts.

At best, he presents a plausible alternate interpretation to the ones he critiques, but he almost universally fails to make a strong case for his interpretation as the best or right one. This book is perhaps useful for wise Christians looking for other possibilities, but it will never convince or even disturb a scholar/student in the field who doesn't already share Currid's basic outlook.

One minor pet peeve: Currid regularly and liberally quotes directly from his own articles and books. The quotes are all footnoted, but he gives no indication that it's him in the text. The reader has to flip to the back only to discover that it's not a supporting scholar but Currid himself. I kept saying to myself, "Just reword your other work (or tell us it's you up front) and keep the footnote for more info!" The frequency of this problem made him seem lazy.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9812b024) out of 5 stars Against the Gods Review 1 Sept. 2013
By Brendan Knox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The question of the relationship between the Old Testament and its ancient Near Eastern parallels in Canaanite, Babylonian, and Egyptian literature is a very important question. How that question is answered will affect one's view of the nature of the Old Testament text. Most often two responses have been running away from Near Eastern parallels out of concern for what light it might shed on the OT or using Near Eastern parallels to deny the uniqueness of the OT text. Out of concern for these two responses, OT scholar and archaeologist John Currid has written this short and simple introduction to ancient Near Eastern parallels with a particularly focus on how the OT uses these parallels to make a polemical point.

There are many positives to this book: (1) It is short and simple. Currid gives enough examples to demonstrate his basic thesis fairly well and introduces the reader to some of the most interesting and salient parallels. (2) Currid defends the integrity of the OT text by showing how unique it really is in light of the ancient Near East. (3) Currid's knowledge of ancient Egypt is particularly strong and he puts that knowledge to good use in his exposition.

Some of the negatives to this book in my opinion are: (1) Currid refrains from naming Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. There seems to be no reason for an evangelical scholar to refrain from naming Moses as the author even if that view is interpreted to mean "basic Mosaic authorship". (2) Currid repeatedly asks the question, "What is the relationship between these parallels?" But he does not always answer the question. He shows the polemical edge but what other relationships might possible exist? He doesn't tell us and these are the questions that are raised in the mind of the reader. (3) While this book does not claim to go beyond the study of polemics, it would seem to be more useful to provide a wider introduction studying the various angles of relationship between these documents. Currid warns against seeing everything as polemical, but the reader unfamiliar with such studies will only know of this approach after reading this book.

Currid's work though is helpful and simple for the layperson. It demonstrates the uniqueness of the OT text in light of its cultural background.

Thank you to Crossway for providing me a review copy.
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