The Old Testament against Its Environment

The Old Testament against Its Environment

The Old Testament against Its Environment

The Old Testament against Its Environment

Excerpt

This monograph is an expanded edition of Part I of the Haskell Lectures, presented at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in April, 1949; Part II was given by my colleague, Professor Floyd V. Filson. The theme of the Lectures is 'The Bible Against Its Environment,' and the two Parts attempt a treatment of the same three subjects in the Old and New Testaments respectively. These subjects are the nature of God, the meaning of life and history, and the worship and service of God.

The purpose of the lectures is to examine and lay emphasis upon those central elements of Biblical faith which are so unique and sui generis that they cannot have developed by any natural evolutionary process from the pagan world in which they appeared. They cannot be explained, therefore, by environmental or geographical conditioning. The argument is thus directed against the extreme positions taken by those scholars, who, absorbed in the study of ancient civilization and comparative religion, have sought to explain and expound Biblical faith primarily in developmental terms. It is the contention of this monograph that the faith of Israel even in its earliest and basic forms is so utterly different from that of the contemporary polytheisms that one simply cannot explain it fully by evolutionary or environmental categories. Such a contention runs somewhat counter to the habits of thought and the methodological assumptions of many leading scholars of the last two generations. Yet it is difficult to see how any other conclusion is justified by the facts as we now know them from the vast accumulation of knowledge about the Biblical world.

I should like to express my indebtedness to Professor W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University for numerous suggestions and indeed for the general point of view here maintained, to Professor Thorkild Jacobsen of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago for his stimulating lectures on Mesopo-

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