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Did the Old Testament writers borrow ideas from their pagan neighbors? And if they did, was it done uncritically? A respected Old Testament scholar and archaeologist engages with this controversial question by carefully comparing the biblical text to other ancient Near Eastern documents. Well-researched and thoughtfully nuanced, Currid aims to outline the precise relations Did the Old Testament writers borrow ideas from their pagan neighbors? And if they did, was it done uncritically? A respected Old Testament scholar and archaeologist engages with this controversial question by carefully comparing the biblical text to other ancient Near Eastern documents. Well-researched and thoughtfully nuanced, Currid aims to outline the precise relationship between the biblical worldview and that of Israel’s neighbors. “A clearly written account of a centrally important issue—the influence (or not) of ancient Near Eastern thought upon Old Testament writers. John Currid’s books and commentaries have proven invaluable, and in this additional volume, his thorough research, theological acumen, and nuanced argumentation makes it an essential requirement for ministers, theological students, and serious students of Scripture. This is an invaluable aid in furthering our understanding of the Old Testament and a loud affirmation of the Bible’s utter trustworthiness and inerrancy. A marvelous book.” —Derek W. H. Thomas, Minister of Preaching and Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta “This is a splendid introduction to the use that the Old Testament makes of the religious ideas of Israel’s ancient neighbors. Currid compares the biblical accounts of creation and the flood with the versions from neighboring cultures and shows how the Bible puts down and rejects the theological ideas of Babylon, Egypt, the Hittites, and the Canaanites. This process, which Currid terms ‘polemical theology’, serves to demonstrate the unique sovereignty of the God of Israel. This is a very positive approach to the issues raised by the extrabiblical parallels and is greatly preferable to seeing the parallels as showing the Bible as simply borrowed pagan ideas and myths.” —Gordon Wenham, Adjunct Professor, Old Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, England “In this vital work John Currid presents an enormously useful approach to understanding the relationship of the Old Testament to the literature and thought of Israel’s ancient Near Eastern neighbors. This book is certainly a must read for any Old Testament scholar, yet it also provides a relevant and readable introduction for every student of Scripture.” —David W. Chapman, Professor of New Testament and Archaeology, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion “A rising influential voice in Old Testament studies is asserting that the biblical worldview, while monotheistic, often parallels and at times pirates with minimal discrimination the pre-enlightened religious ideas and rituals of ancient Israel’s neighbors. In contrast, John Currid persuasively demonstrates in Against the Gods that the Bible’s tendency is not to appropriate but to dispute and repudiate pagan myths, ideas, identities, and customs. This important introduction to Old Testament polemical theology provides a balanced corrective to many current comparative studies.” —Jason S. DeRouchie, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Bethlehem College and Seminary “If you're like me, you need to know a lot more about biblical backgrounds and how to think about them. John Currid's Against the Gods is a great place to start.” —James M. Hamilton Jr., Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment


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Did the Old Testament writers borrow ideas from their pagan neighbors? And if they did, was it done uncritically? A respected Old Testament scholar and archaeologist engages with this controversial question by carefully comparing the biblical text to other ancient Near Eastern documents. Well-researched and thoughtfully nuanced, Currid aims to outline the precise relations Did the Old Testament writers borrow ideas from their pagan neighbors? And if they did, was it done uncritically? A respected Old Testament scholar and archaeologist engages with this controversial question by carefully comparing the biblical text to other ancient Near Eastern documents. Well-researched and thoughtfully nuanced, Currid aims to outline the precise relationship between the biblical worldview and that of Israel’s neighbors. “A clearly written account of a centrally important issue—the influence (or not) of ancient Near Eastern thought upon Old Testament writers. John Currid’s books and commentaries have proven invaluable, and in this additional volume, his thorough research, theological acumen, and nuanced argumentation makes it an essential requirement for ministers, theological students, and serious students of Scripture. This is an invaluable aid in furthering our understanding of the Old Testament and a loud affirmation of the Bible’s utter trustworthiness and inerrancy. A marvelous book.” —Derek W. H. Thomas, Minister of Preaching and Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta “This is a splendid introduction to the use that the Old Testament makes of the religious ideas of Israel’s ancient neighbors. Currid compares the biblical accounts of creation and the flood with the versions from neighboring cultures and shows how the Bible puts down and rejects the theological ideas of Babylon, Egypt, the Hittites, and the Canaanites. This process, which Currid terms ‘polemical theology’, serves to demonstrate the unique sovereignty of the God of Israel. This is a very positive approach to the issues raised by the extrabiblical parallels and is greatly preferable to seeing the parallels as showing the Bible as simply borrowed pagan ideas and myths.” —Gordon Wenham, Adjunct Professor, Old Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, England “In this vital work John Currid presents an enormously useful approach to understanding the relationship of the Old Testament to the literature and thought of Israel’s ancient Near Eastern neighbors. This book is certainly a must read for any Old Testament scholar, yet it also provides a relevant and readable introduction for every student of Scripture.” —David W. Chapman, Professor of New Testament and Archaeology, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion “A rising influential voice in Old Testament studies is asserting that the biblical worldview, while monotheistic, often parallels and at times pirates with minimal discrimination the pre-enlightened religious ideas and rituals of ancient Israel’s neighbors. In contrast, John Currid persuasively demonstrates in Against the Gods that the Bible’s tendency is not to appropriate but to dispute and repudiate pagan myths, ideas, identities, and customs. This important introduction to Old Testament polemical theology provides a balanced corrective to many current comparative studies.” —Jason S. DeRouchie, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Bethlehem College and Seminary “If you're like me, you need to know a lot more about biblical backgrounds and how to think about them. John Currid's Against the Gods is a great place to start.” —James M. Hamilton Jr., Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment

30 review for Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament

  1. 4 out of 5

    Spencer R

    Currid’s objective is to show that the idea of polemics (here and here) 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 Currid’s objective is to show that the idea of polemics (here and here) 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. So even the stories of a “spurned seductress” in ANE myths doesn’t mean there can’t be a true account in Genesis [38, with Joseph and Potiphar's wife]. + The real highlight of the book was the Polemical Angle at the end of almost every chapter. + Currid goes through a number of different small-scale God’s strong arm (Ex 3:19-20) vs. Pharaoh’s strong arm “Thus says the Lord” (Ex 5:1) vs. “Thus says Pharaoh” Yahweh the heavenly rider (Isa 19:1-15; Ps 104:3) vs. Baal The serpent confrontation (Ex 7:8-13), etc. and large-scale examples Creation (Gen 1-2) The Flood (Gen 7-9) Joseph (Gen 37:12-36, 39:7-18) The Birth of the Deliver Moses (Ex 2:1-10) The Flight of Moses (Ex 2:11-25) I Am who I Am (Ex 3) The Rod of Moses (Ex 4:1-5; 7:8-13; 14:19-31) The Parting of the Red Sea (Ex 14:19-21) Canaanite parallels to show his point. The Spoiled Milk - This book is short. Not bad, but I felt like Currid spent more time talking about ANE parallels than polemics. And that was the main reason why I bought the book: the polemics. - I’d rather know the biblical details than the ANE geographical details of where ANE literature was found, how much of it was found, the different kinds of lists found, etc (ex: Atrahasis at Ugarit, p. 53; Hittite Tales, p. 83; information about what the “Walls of the Ruler” is p.91). This is fine, but considering the size of the book, the polemical paragraphs were too short and too few. - In almost every chapter (meaning over and over) Currid would state the same 3 differences between the ANE account and the biblical account. At least, these were usually worded differently in each chapter, and there was still the P/A section in the end. - One big one for me was in Chapter 10 (The Parting of the Waters of the Red Sea). Instead of spelling out the arguments on how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Currid doesn’t want to repeat himself and instead points us to the “relevant literature” (an article he wrote in Bible Review [1993]). I understand there may be page # restrictions, but I don’t want to have to search out a magazine from 20 years ago when I could read it in the book, especially when I can’t seem to find the copy on the internet (for free, at least). Considering Pharaoh’s hardened heart is a well-known, difficult Bible passage, and seeing how it relates to Egypt literature is very important to understand the meaning, I don’t think anyone would mind if Currid repeated himself here. (And swapped it with a few ANE readings…) - Unfortunately, the Polemical Angle/Analysis section isn’t as long as I expected it to be. For something to be so central to the book, the P/A section just didn’t have enough depth. Every time I was left wanting. I read more ANE stories of people who’s names I’ll never remember than I did reasons why Moses wrote the polemic in the first place. - This book was promising, but left me disappointed. Recommended? No. Not to most people. If you’re a teacher who wants to know more about ANE parallels with the Bible, or a student who has a Bible-bashing college history teacher, then sure, this book would be of help. But most people just won’t want to read this book, especially when there’s more ANE information than polemical detail available. For most people, just listen to Currid's lectures "Crass Plagiarism" on iTunesU. These three 30-40 min. lectures are very interesting, short, and were the reason I wanted to get this book. You’ll learn a lot from them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Burling

    Helpful and insightful Currid makes the argument that the similarity between biblical passages and ANE literature can in part be explained by the use of polemic theology. That is the biblical writers frequently draw on the culture of the surrounding nations to make the case for the superiority of the Hebrew worldview. This is a worthwhile read for teachers and pastors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Porter

    This was a very enjoyable read. Dr. Currid made a topic that can be very dry an interesting topic. I have grown in more appreciation of Old Testament literature after reading this book. I wish I had read this book in seminary.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    In our Infowars generation, it is not uncommon to hear that, in regards to the Old Testament, the Hebrews were simply borrowing from contemporary pagan literature of the day - the only difference being that they "judaized" it in various ways. In fact, this is not an uncommon position in biblical studies, especially since the 19th century. I can remember being a younger man when I first heard this accusation, and thinking that, while that sounded a bit strange, I didn't have any rebuttal. Did the In our Infowars generation, it is not uncommon to hear that, in regards to the Old Testament, the Hebrews were simply borrowing from contemporary pagan literature of the day - the only difference being that they "judaized" it in various ways. In fact, this is not an uncommon position in biblical studies, especially since the 19th century. I can remember being a younger man when I first heard this accusation, and thinking that, while that sounded a bit strange, I didn't have any rebuttal. Did the Hebrews in fact just borrow from the pagan pantheon of gods by judaizing them with some Yahwist pazazz? In his book "Against the Gods: the Polemical Theology of the Old Testament," John Currid argues convincingly that, while there was in fact a borrowing of elements in the ancient Near East (ANE), most of it on the Hebrew end of things was operating as a polemic against the pagan neighbors of the Hebrews. Currid shows this by comparing and contrasting things like the various creation accounts, flood accounts, forms of "exoduses," and more in the various ANE literature and notes how these stories, while similar, still differ substantively in worldview (i.e. contrasting the pagan polytheism with the Hebrew monotheism). I am very grateful that Currid published this book as I found myself marveling at the biblical authors' use of cultural awareness to demolish the pretense of the pagan neighbors. One of the strengths of this book is that it is written for lay people. This is by no means an easy read, but the chapters are short for a quick shot of biblical studies to the brain. And with the book clocking in right at 140 pages, the reader who otherwise might be overwhelmed by such a task is able to absorb without choking. However, because this book was written for lay people and not scholars, I wish that Currid would have had some sort of conclusion to tie up the relevance and apologetic concerns that Christian people may face in regards to objections thrown their way. It would've been nice to have some sort of short exhortation from a scholar to remind lay persons the might of the God of the Bible. Minor quibble aside, this book was excellent and I would recommend for any Christian who has concerns about the usage of the ANE literature in Scripture. *NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing a review.*

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Collins

    Currid's book is set against the backdrop of an increasing willingness, even among professed evangelicals, to see the Old Testament as dependent on ancient Near Eastern mythology and folklore. This is often done in such a way that the historicity of the biblical accounts are questioned. Currid's book highlights, by way of contrast, that one way the biblical accounts are related to ANE writings is through polemic. I found some of his proposed polemics convincing. For instance, the use of the rod Currid's book is set against the backdrop of an increasing willingness, even among professed evangelicals, to see the Old Testament as dependent on ancient Near Eastern mythology and folklore. This is often done in such a way that the historicity of the biblical accounts are questioned. Currid's book highlights, by way of contrast, that one way the biblical accounts are related to ANE writings is through polemic. I found some of his proposed polemics convincing. For instance, the use of the rod turned serpent by Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, and the drought in Baal-worshipping Israel during Elijah's time, and Yahweh as the true thundering deity all seem to have true polemic elements to them. I wondered if some of the accounts, for instance those alleged to parallel Joseph and Moses, were truly parallel. With the creation and flood stories my inclination is to see shared memory as a more likely cause for parallelism. I think before links between Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts to the biblical text can be firmly established there needs to be a control group study on creation and flood stories from around the world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Phillips

    A very good book. It doesn't quite merit a 5-star, but it is an intriguing and well-written discussion of the parallels between the scriptures and the parallel stories and motifs found in other ANE literature and how the scriptures provided a polemic against those and in some cases a reconstitution of true history. A very good book. It doesn't quite merit a 5-star, but it is an intriguing and well-written discussion of the parallels between the scriptures and the parallel stories and motifs found in other ANE literature and how the scriptures provided a polemic against those and in some cases a reconstitution of true history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gage

    I’ve been using this book as a supplementary commentary as I’ve had opportunity to preach in Exodus. Currid never disappoints. Grab anything he writes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Parker

    Currid's main thesis in this book is that interpreters of the Old Testament ought to be more open to the possibility that, when there are parallels between the Hebrew texts and the writings of other near eastern nations, the Israelite authors may have been intending polemic irony to elevate YHWH above the pagan deities. He makes that point well, with several examples which shed fascinating light on how the original readers of, say, Exodus, would have understood certain passages. However, I think Currid's main thesis in this book is that interpreters of the Old Testament ought to be more open to the possibility that, when there are parallels between the Hebrew texts and the writings of other near eastern nations, the Israelite authors may have been intending polemic irony to elevate YHWH above the pagan deities. He makes that point well, with several examples which shed fascinating light on how the original readers of, say, Exodus, would have understood certain passages. However, I think he overstates his case in some instances, at times highlighting weak parallels, or stretching to find polemics. Perhaps if he'd allowed himself to write in more detail, he would have made more convincing arguments concerning those examples. He set out to write a book which was non-scholarly. While it is true that the monograph isn't as technical as it could have been, I still wouldn't describe it as accessible to the average reader. There's still plenty of jargon to be found which would go over some people's heads. The primary result of the effort to reach laymen, I think, was an unfortunate brevity that may have prevented him from making really strong arguments. All in all, the book is worth reading. It's a short read, at fewer than 150 pages. There's some valuable information about Egyptian and Canaanite religion and practice, which does shed light on some of the language found in the Old Testament. A few very clear examples of polemics do show that such an interpretive angle should be more seriously considered by Hebrew scholars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    John Currid's book, Against the Gods, is about how other ancient near eastern works of literature relate to the Bible. This is a very fascinating introductory study to this topic. That is to say, it is a great book to begin with if you are new to the topic like I am. His central thesis is that the Old Testament writers used certain motifs and styles that were similar to other ancient near eastern texts in order to present their radical Monotheism. So their use of these motifs or similarities was John Currid's book, Against the Gods, is about how other ancient near eastern works of literature relate to the Bible. This is a very fascinating introductory study to this topic. That is to say, it is a great book to begin with if you are new to the topic like I am. His central thesis is that the Old Testament writers used certain motifs and styles that were similar to other ancient near eastern texts in order to present their radical Monotheism. So their use of these motifs or similarities was not "crass plagiarism" but a creative polemic against pagan religions. It is the LORD who rides on the heaven, not Baal for example. It is the LORD who has the ultimate power over nature, not Egyptian gods like Isis or Osiris. I had a hard time putting this book down!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelle Craft

    Really great book! One cannot rightfully understand the context of the OT if one is not familiar with the use of polemical theology. It's has greatly changed my perspective in which I read OT passages. My only critique is that because this is a smaller book and an introduction to the topic, it is much shorter than perhaps the reader would like and causes some of the chapters and explanations to be limited in detail, although Currid does a great job at leaving sources and differing opinions throu Really great book! One cannot rightfully understand the context of the OT if one is not familiar with the use of polemical theology. It's has greatly changed my perspective in which I read OT passages. My only critique is that because this is a smaller book and an introduction to the topic, it is much shorter than perhaps the reader would like and causes some of the chapters and explanations to be limited in detail, although Currid does a great job at leaving sources and differing opinions throughout the work.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joel Wentz

    I have complicated feelings about this short little book. I agree with the core thesis of Currid's argument (that the Old Testament writers were intentionally incorporating polemics into the ways they recounted their history, so as to distinguish Yahweh from other gods of the ancient world), but I was deeply frustrated with some of the ways Currid argued. I'll touch on the good and the bad: The Good: -The book is super readable and accessible. He condenses quite a bit of scholarship into short cha I have complicated feelings about this short little book. I agree with the core thesis of Currid's argument (that the Old Testament writers were intentionally incorporating polemics into the ways they recounted their history, so as to distinguish Yahweh from other gods of the ancient world), but I was deeply frustrated with some of the ways Currid argued. I'll touch on the good and the bad: The Good: -The book is super readable and accessible. He condenses quite a bit of scholarship into short chapters that are easy to understand. -The summaries of ANE texts are quite informative, well-researched, and, again, enjoyable to read. As a quick reference to these ancient stories, it's excellent. -The "polemical angle" on each chapter is very insightful. It breathes new life into these familiar stories, and makes a compelling case. The Frustrating: -The book is short, but somehow repetitive. I appreciate the low page count, but found the repeated arguments that much more frustrating, when those pages could have been devoted to fleshing out other points. -He very frequently quotes and footnotes himself, which I always find frustrating in academic monographs. -Currid makes some bold assertions without argument (such as "The Egyptians were not writing history, but the Israelites were recording historical fact."), claims that aren't well substantiated, but also repeated throughout the book. -Possibly the most frustrating for me is when Currid aims his ire at other evangelical scholars (mostly Enns and Walton). I've read a decent amount of both these guys, and in my mind, Currid is not reading them well. I don't understand why he turned his crosshairs this way (especially towards Walton) when neither of them would take much issue with his core thesis. When Currid is responding to broadly secular/skeptical claims that invalidate the historicity of the OT, I am sympathetic to him, but also confronting people like Walton was simply unnecessary in a book of such short length. It muddied the case, and frankly, made me skeptical of Currid's research since he misrepresented those scholars (in my view). A very frustrating issue that simply should have been edited out of the book entirely. As a quick summary of ANE scholarship and archeology, this book has some great elements. In fact, I will be keeping it on my shelf for those reasons. But perhaps ironically in a book about polemical theology, Currid's own polemics really tarnish the book for me. It's too bad, because Currid's core argument is great, and important to consider in our skeptical environment. If Crossway had done a better job of editing, and Currid had targeted his own polemics more professionally, this would have been excellent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    "Against the gods" is a study of the polemical theology of the Old Testament. In the modern age, people often claim that the Old Testament is a copy of other Near Eastern writings and mythology; this book is a response to that approach. Currid begins by defining what he means by "Polemical". In his own words, "Polemical theology is the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near East culture, while filling them with radically new meaning. The biblical "Against the gods" is a study of the polemical theology of the Old Testament. In the modern age, people often claim that the Old Testament is a copy of other Near Eastern writings and mythology; this book is a response to that approach. Currid begins by defining what he means by "Polemical". In his own words, "Polemical theology is the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near East culture, while filling them with radically new meaning. The biblical authors take well-known expressions from the Near Eastern milieu and apply them to the person and work of Yahweh, and not to the other gods of the ancient world." In other words, the authors of the Old Testament did copy from the mythology and tradition of the nations around them, but they did it to mock those mythologies and traditions. "Polemics is one way of belittling and disparaging pagan myths." So, the biblical authors didn't just decide to make a religion and borrow everything from pagan culture; rather, they knew the truth and used polemics to make direct attacks on the nations around them. Yahweh alone is God, they said; so they used common motifs and pictures to proclaim him to a world that denied his existence and lordship. Currid ends his excellent book by saying, "The biblical writers often employed polemical theology as an instrument to underscore the uniqueness of the Hebrew worldview in contrast to other ancient Near Eastern conceptions of the universe and how it operates." As an amateur "scholar" of archaeology and ancient history studies, I found "Against the gods" to be a fascinating and insightful book. I have never doubted the validity and certainty of the Old Testament account, but it is helpful to learn ways to respond to people who attack the historicity of the Scriptures. "Against the gods" is a thorough study and gives a well-rounded perspective on the Hebrews and their God. It is a gracious, but decisive, response to the skeptical historians of our day.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Hawkins

    What a fascinating book. I was a Biblical Studies major in college and then got an MDiv at seminary, but I can’t recall ever studying “polemical theology” (perhaps that’s my faulty memory, but I doubt we ever dug deep into it). But it’s a fascinating area of study! The theological term describes how to approach the fact that many Old Testament stories (the creation account, the flood, the story of Joseph, the birth of a deliverer, the parting of the sea, etc.) have similar mythical counterparts i What a fascinating book. I was a Biblical Studies major in college and then got an MDiv at seminary, but I can’t recall ever studying “polemical theology” (perhaps that’s my faulty memory, but I doubt we ever dug deep into it). But it’s a fascinating area of study! The theological term describes how to approach the fact that many Old Testament stories (the creation account, the flood, the story of Joseph, the birth of a deliverer, the parting of the sea, etc.) have similar mythical counterparts in ancient Near Eastern texts (Egyptian, Canaanite, etc.). The question is: How and why did the Old Testament authors share some details with these ancient myths? Who influenced who? And why? It is *polemical* theology because the idea is that the Old Testament authors did so often as a polemic—to mock the so-called gods of the other nations, to show that Yahweh alone is the true God, and to show how the Hebrew worldview is better and different in key ways. If that interests you at all, then read this book. It very well done. It’s interesting historically, as he explains many of the ancient myths from other religions, but it’s also well done in how he makes a case for the uniqueness and historicity of the Hebrew accounts in comparison to their Near Eastern counterparts. He does this as a respectable scholar *and* with a upholding of the inerrancy of the word—an admirable feat. Finally, I think this book should be more read because it’s almost an important apologetic to cover, because so many people, when they find that there are similar stories in other religions, such as the flood story, all of the sudden doubt the reality and historicity of the biblical account. Studying polemical theology will help them see that yes, it’s not a mere coincidence at all, but instead, it was a purposeful retelling of a historical event, but in a way to prove that Yahweh alone is actually God. Recommended fully. I’ll definitely keep it as a reference for each of the Old Testament stories he covers.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    This is a very short, easily digestible book. His argument is the same for each chapter: The author of Genesis and Exodus did not plagiarize other similar ancient stories; rather he appropriated certain themes, motifs, and words to mock and reject the pagan gods, declaring Yahweh to be the One True God. I knew there were similar stories of creation and the Flood in Ancient Near Eastern mythology. I did not know there are also many stories similar to that of Moses or Joseph. This book got me thin This is a very short, easily digestible book. His argument is the same for each chapter: The author of Genesis and Exodus did not plagiarize other similar ancient stories; rather he appropriated certain themes, motifs, and words to mock and reject the pagan gods, declaring Yahweh to be the One True God. I knew there were similar stories of creation and the Flood in Ancient Near Eastern mythology. I did not know there are also many stories similar to that of Moses or Joseph. This book got me thinking about how stories spread and why humans repeatedly tell the same stories with slight variations. Think of comic book stories or the story of Cinderella - we tell and retell what is essentially the same story a few set pieces swapped out. Where do these stories originate? Are the authors of Black Panther guilty of plagiarizing The Lion King which is guilty of plagiarizing Hamlet which was derived from an old Danish legend which also has similarities to various Roman, Egyptian, and Persian legends? Or does each story have something unique to add to a plot line that resonates deep in our core? I've always wanted to read Joseph Campbell's book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because he makes an argument that there is only one story that we tell ourselves over and over again. I had a professor in college say that, while Campbell will tell you that the story of the Bible is just one among many examples of this one story, the story of the Bible - creation, fall, and redemption - is actually what all of these legends are reaching for. If we were meant to glorify God, then it would make sense that HIS story is what most deeply moves us as humans, even if most of us don't recognize it. But I digress. I wish this book was a little more comprehensive and looked at other arguments in favor of the authenticity of these early Biblical accounts, but that wasn't its purpose. It simply showed that there is more at work in these stories than meets the eye.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Boling

    An understanding of Ancient Near East (ANE) culture, writings, and how that relates to our approach to certain elements of Scripture is a rather fascinating and important field of study. Throughout the years, there have been some scholars who have attempted to use certain similarities between that which is noted in the Old Testament and the writings of the surrounding ancient cultures as proof the biblical authors plagiarized or at least borrowed from those writings. Such a perspective is usuall An understanding of Ancient Near East (ANE) culture, writings, and how that relates to our approach to certain elements of Scripture is a rather fascinating and important field of study. Throughout the years, there have been some scholars who have attempted to use certain similarities between that which is noted in the Old Testament and the writings of the surrounding ancient cultures as proof the biblical authors plagiarized or at least borrowed from those writings. Such a perspective is usually presented by more liberal scholars in their attempt to disprove or at least minimize the importance of Scripture. Others have recognized elements of similarity, noting the reasons for that similar approach, rightly identifying the purpose for using those common cultural and concepts as a means for God to present His polemic against the false beliefs of the cultures that Israel interacted. Dr. John Currid, noted OT and ANE expert, has written a new book called Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament which demonstrates the fallacies of the scholarly liberal agenda while noting the manner in which God presents Himself as superior to the gods of the ANE cultures. Many are arguably not familiar with the reality that many ancient cultures across the globe have creation and deluge accounts that bear a striking resemblance to similar accounts noted in Genesis. For example, the Gilgamesh Epic has many similarities to the account of Noah’s flood found in Genesis 6-9. With that said, there are noticeable and important differences. Additionally, the creation accounts of ANE cultures depict their gods doing some type of creation activity. So in all of these accounts, there is a supernatural element to the story. Currid aptly notes in regards to the Genesis account of creation in juxtaposition to other ANE creation myths, “The creation account of Genesis, in contrast, presents God as all-powerful, incomparable, and sovereign. He owes nothing to the agency of another. In addition, creation did not occur as the result of a contest or a struggle between gods, as it did in the Mesopotamian myths.” This is an important statement. While ANE creation myths use concepts related to water in their accounts, in Genesis, God presents Himself as the creator of water. This polemical approach used by God purposefully and intentionally relegates the gods of the surrounding cultures as inferior to the one true Creator God. Another element used by liberal scholars and bloggers alike to diminish the validity of Scripture has been the popularity of the video called Zeitgeist. In this video, the producers attempt to prove that Jesus is just another offshoot of previously established ancient myths such as the birth of the pagan god Horus. Moses as the deliverer has also been suggested as coming from that same ancient pagan myth. In response to these liberal attempts to suggest Scripture is copying from those ancient myths with its own mythical storyline, Currid states “The story of the birth and life of Moses accentuates the reality of a providential God who is separate from the universe but determines the operation of the universe. Yahweh, therefore, is both transcendent and immanent. To the contrary, the other ancient Near Eastern cosmologies sought to explain the structure and operation of the universe in terms of gods who personified nature. While ancient pagan writers speculatively searched for elements that ordered the universe internally and called them gods, the Hebrew authors presented an external force who created and continually sustained the cosmos.” This is a brilliantly outlined distinction that once again notes the polemical nature of the Old Testament. While the mythical gods of ANE cultures were forms of nature, essentially depictions of cultures who worshiped the creation rather than the Creator, the Old Testament presents God as the supreme deity, the God of the universe who created and sustains everything through His divine sovereignty. Currid makes it clear and rightly so that liberal scholars have clearly overlooked the vast differences between the God of the Bible and the gods of the ANE, differences that are readily apparent and if actually investigated, demonstrate the difference between myth of pagan cultures and the reality provided in Scripture. These are just two of many subjects that Currid covers in this very excellent introduction to ANE thought and how the believer should approach this issue. As noted at the outset of this review, having a solid understanding of ANE culture, language, and beliefs should be an important aspect of a strong bible study regimen. Currid’s book is a valuable tool for the reader to begin to analyze some of these issues, preparing them quite well for engaging the liberal scholars’ attempts to discredit Scripture or to make it appear as nothing more than a copycat of already established ancient pagan religious beliefs and practices. I also appreciated the fact that Currid mentioned the work of George Mendenhall concerning the ANE covenantal structure, another important field of study especially given the various covenants made between God and His people outlined in Scripture. Against the Gods is a book that all serious students of Scripture should read. The insights provided by Currid throughout this book are timely, especially in an age seemingly devoted to a continuous assault against the validity of Scripture. Currid makes a concerted effort through the examples provided in this book, to clearly demonstrate in a scholarly yet accessible manner, that God is the one true God and that His Word is truth. I received this book for free from Crossway Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bret James Stewart

    Theologian and archaeologist John D. Currid knows his business, and his aptitude shines in this book. He explores the primary tropes of Ancient Near Eastern religions and compares and contrasts them to the primary themes of the Old Testament. He focuses upon contrast and argues that the Bible represents a different God than the deities of the surrounding pagan religions. Certain ideas and motifs such as strong monotheism. lack of theomachy, and the presence of a God who is utterly unique and not Theologian and archaeologist John D. Currid knows his business, and his aptitude shines in this book. He explores the primary tropes of Ancient Near Eastern religions and compares and contrasts them to the primary themes of the Old Testament. He focuses upon contrast and argues that the Bible represents a different God than the deities of the surrounding pagan religions. Certain ideas and motifs such as strong monotheism. lack of theomachy, and the presence of a God who is utterly unique and not an amalgam of other pagan figures (i.e., He is not synchretic) support this thesis. Currid is a careful scholar, and I appreciate his devotion. The book is well-done and stands as a wonderful introductory text to the subject. I rate it five stars. I also recommend Currid's book, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... for which I have written a detailed review, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Great overview of an interesting and useful topic. You may have heard that the 10 plagues in Exodus weren't just random, but displays of authority/supremacy over the Egyptian gods. (For example: The goddess Heqet, a frog, was the wife of the great god Khnum--thus God sends frogs) These instances of the one true God displaying his power over the pagan deities doesn't end there, but is a theme throughout the Old Testament. Some instances are more blatant than others. Elijah taunting a foreign god o Great overview of an interesting and useful topic. You may have heard that the 10 plagues in Exodus weren't just random, but displays of authority/supremacy over the Egyptian gods. (For example: The goddess Heqet, a frog, was the wife of the great god Khnum--thus God sends frogs) These instances of the one true God displaying his power over the pagan deities doesn't end there, but is a theme throughout the Old Testament. Some instances are more blatant than others. Elijah taunting a foreign god on Mt Carmel was for the same purpose. It was to show the people and us that there is only one God who can save. The idols we invent are powerless to save us. They are false gods in the truest sense. God has no rivals and he alone deserves our worship.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Helpful ideas about the "why" of the Bible's similarities to other ancient texts There is more than one way to interpret the parallels between Old Testament texts and other ancient texts! Currid does a great job of offering a starting point for other possible ways of thinking about these similarities - polemical theology. An enjoyable and helpful read! Helpful ideas about the "why" of the Bible's similarities to other ancient texts There is more than one way to interpret the parallels between Old Testament texts and other ancient texts! Currid does a great job of offering a starting point for other possible ways of thinking about these similarities - polemical theology. An enjoyable and helpful read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Evan Staffieri

    A good, short, easy read! I think Currid could have touched on some things a little more, and some parts seem to repeat the same meaning, but overall, I enjoyed this book as a brief introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Polemics.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordon Staudenheimer

    Loved this work; an awesome introduction to how the Old Testament is unique in its presentation of God and the stories that are in it from the ancient eastern myths, while also demonstrating the critique of those myths found in the Old Testament stories themselves.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ken Brown

    The rest of the story If you want to see the-whole picture, then this is for you. Great book, It helped me to put some of the pieces together in the scriptures.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Justin Dillehay

    Neat book. Felt like a collection of essays. But definitely worth having and consulting as a resource.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Grant Geddie

    This book provides an excellent introduction to Polemical Theology in the Old Testament (particularly focused on Genesis and Exodus). For those who wonder how the Old Testament can be reconciled with other Ancient Near Eastern texts, this is the book that will help you begin to think about such things with an eye toward upholding the One God of scripture over all the false gods of this world.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    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 start 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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mathew

    I thoroughly enjoyed Against the Gods. It really hit the sweet spot for me with just the right mixture of easy to read, practical theology and scholarly background on the culture in the ancient Near East (ANE). Reading Against the Gods will aid your Scripture reading in the Old Testament immediately. John will introduce you to ANE culture and shed light on how we should interpret the Old Testament in light of the growing history, literature, and background in the field of ANE studies. John argues I thoroughly enjoyed Against the Gods. It really hit the sweet spot for me with just the right mixture of easy to read, practical theology and scholarly background on the culture in the ancient Near East (ANE). Reading Against the Gods will aid your Scripture reading in the Old Testament immediately. John will introduce you to ANE culture and shed light on how we should interpret the Old Testament in light of the growing history, literature, and background in the field of ANE studies. John argues many of the parallels scholars find in the ANE literature and the Old Testament point not towards strict borrowing but demonstrate the polemic nature of the Old Testament. He says, “Polemic theology is the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near Eastern culture, while filling them with radically new meaning . . . . Polemic theology is monotheistic to the very core” (25). It’s a way of undermining the polytheistic pagans surrounding Israel making “essential distinctions” between the two (26). John then walks through major Old Testament stories which have counterparts (indirectly or directly) in the ancient Near Eastern literature. That ranges from the creation, the flood, Joseph and Judah’s tale at the end of Genesis, Moses’s birth and childhood, and different aspects of the Exodus. I was riveted while reading through these accounts and amazed at the creative way God undermines the nations surrounding His people. I’ve been studying on the topic of the New Exodus in New Testament thought and its significance for the church. You cannot understand the New Exodus in the gospel without understand the original Exodus in the Old Testament and the story of Israel. After reading Against the Gods, I’ve been reading through the Gospels trying to discern what (if any) polemic elements can be found in the life and ministry of Jesus. It’s a book that’s given me a lot to think about. I hope to see more on this topic from John Currid in the future. Do you find reading through the Old Testament boring? Are the customs and culture in the Old Testament confusing and foreign? What has been helpful in making the Old Testament come alive?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacob O'connor

    Anyone who has seen the Internet movie Zeitgeist will be familiar with the subject matter of this book.  In Zeitgeist, the charge is made that the Bible cannot be trusted because it stole one of its central stories - the global flood.  When I first saw Zeitgeist, I had been down this road before.  I did a college paper on the Christian catacombs, and during my research I discovered that the appellation, “the Good Shepherd” used for Jesus was also "borrowed". On one hand, what is really the big dea Anyone who has seen the Internet movie Zeitgeist will be familiar with the subject matter of this book.  In Zeitgeist, the charge is made that the Bible cannot be trusted because it stole one of its central stories - the global flood.  When I first saw Zeitgeist, I had been down this road before.  I did a college paper on the Christian catacombs, and during my research I discovered that the appellation, “the Good Shepherd” used for Jesus was also "borrowed". On one hand, what is really the big deal?  For me, it is ludicrous to suggest that if multiple ancient sources cite a universal deluge that must mean it never happened.  That would be like four people telling you that your wife is cheating on you, and you conclude that your wife is faithful because there must be some kind of conspiracy.  On the other hand, it can be rattling for a young Christian to grow up with a naïve view of the Bible and then be bombarded with all of this information.  Your third grade Sunday school teacher didn't tell you about the Epic of Gilgamesh (as if she knew), so you make certain assumptions about your favorite Bible stories.  It can be jarring to have those assumptions squelched.  Not a lot of apologetic training at your local church. John Currid solves the problem by suggesting that the Hebrews were deliberately pilfering elements of the surrounding region’s mythology.  This was to show them up.  This can really be seen in Moses’s story.   From the standoff between Pharaoh’s magicians and Moses’s signs and wonders to the plagues God sends on the Egyptians being mockeries of their gods.  I think Currid has the right answer. 

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    The Relationship Between the Bible and Near Eastern Myths As archaeologist have uncovered more and more of the Near Easter Civilization: Egypt, Babylon and Canaan; Bible stories have been found to resemble the myths and stories of the region. The question becomes important for the understanding of the Old Testament. Currid makes the case that the myths apparently stem from the same root, but where the pagan myths recount the adventures of a plethora of Gods, the Old Testament focuses the stories The Relationship Between the Bible and Near Eastern Myths As archaeologist have uncovered more and more of the Near Easter Civilization: Egypt, Babylon and Canaan; Bible stories have been found to resemble the myths and stories of the region. The question becomes important for the understanding of the Old Testament. Currid makes the case that the myths apparently stem from the same root, but where the pagan myths recount the adventures of a plethora of Gods, the Old Testament focuses the stories on the one God. In fact, he goes so far as to say that the way the stories are written is turns the pagan's beliefs against them. He also makes a good case that while the pagans wrote the stories as myths, the Old Testament writers present them as history. This is an excellent book for providing a basic understanding of the similarities of literature in the ancient Near East. It's a short book, easy to read, and filled with engaging examples. I enjoyed the book very much. However, I found that making the same argument in relation to each of the stories, while interesting, didn't always provide a lot of new information. It rather made the same point in a number of different contexts. The similarities between the Old Testament and other Near Eastern myths can't be denied and it has led some people to question whether the Old Testament was inspired by God, or whether it is a borrowed collection of old stories. I believe Currid has made a good case for the Old Testament being different from the other myths of the Near East. I reviewed this book for Crossway.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    FULL REVIEW FOUND AT WWW.THEBRAVEREVIEWS.COM http://www.thebravereviews.com/2014/0... In closing, Currid admits that polemical theology is not the home run answer to all of the “borrowing” issues that we find in the Old Testament. Polemical theology is merely a lens of many that we mustn’t forget when considering the “true meaning” of a passage (particularly alongside great stories of old, like the Gilgamesh Epic). After spending a great deal of time in the Biblical Exegesis program alongside Dr. J FULL REVIEW FOUND AT WWW.THEBRAVEREVIEWS.COM http://www.thebravereviews.com/2014/0... In closing, Currid admits that polemical theology is not the home run answer to all of the “borrowing” issues that we find in the Old Testament. Polemical theology is merely a lens of many that we mustn’t forget when considering the “true meaning” of a passage (particularly alongside great stories of old, like the Gilgamesh Epic). After spending a great deal of time in the Biblical Exegesis program alongside Dr. John Walton (Wheaton College Graduate School), I cannot commend this book enough to anybody who wants to better understand the Old Testament. Though I do not fully agree with every stance that Currid takes, I would say that this book is of incredible assistance to the Bible reading community as whole (if you are an “academic” but most importantly if you are a “layperson”). Bottom line is, the Old Testament was not written in a vacuum. God’s people did not scribe our Bible without the worldviews of its neighbors, in some form or fashion (or both), influencing their (our) literature. I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael Philliber

    John Currid was a seminary professor of mine. I was delighted to pick up this book and read much of what he had tried to get into our heads during classes nearly 15 years ago. The simple premise of the book is in the subtitle: The polemical theology of the Old Testament. Currid begins by reviewing, briefly, the relatively short history of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) studies. The rest of the book is chock full of examples of parallels between ANE literature and the Bible. He examines the connectio John Currid was a seminary professor of mine. I was delighted to pick up this book and read much of what he had tried to get into our heads during classes nearly 15 years ago. The simple premise of the book is in the subtitle: The polemical theology of the Old Testament. Currid begins by reviewing, briefly, the relatively short history of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) studies. The rest of the book is chock full of examples of parallels between ANE literature and the Bible. He examines the connections, moving through the Bible's rehearsal of Creation, Noah, Joseph, Moses, the Psalms, etc., and then exposes the discontinuity between the Bible's stories and ANE literature. He then challenges the reigning view that the Bible is simply plagiarizing and cleaning of ANE texts. "Against the Gods" is a great introduction into the world of ANE/Biblical studies. It is also a good apologetic work. It's perfect for seminarians and pastors, but useful for the studious layman who is looking for help. I recommend the book. {Full review is here: http://mphilliber.blogspot.com/2013/0...}

  30. 5 out of 5

    E

    File this under "gravely disappointing." There is rich, rich material in the OT to mine on this topic. Crack open a major prophet and you won't have to read very far to find a subtle polemic against one or another ANE false god. But Currid barely skims the surface. He reviews a few parallels between Pentateuchal narratives and those of surrounding cultures (mostly Egypt). He spends most of the time summarizing these pagan narratives, highlighting their similarities with the Biblical text, before File this under "gravely disappointing." There is rich, rich material in the OT to mine on this topic. Crack open a major prophet and you won't have to read very far to find a subtle polemic against one or another ANE false god. But Currid barely skims the surface. He reviews a few parallels between Pentateuchal narratives and those of surrounding cultures (mostly Egypt). He spends most of the time summarizing these pagan narratives, highlighting their similarities with the Biblical text, before concluding each paragraph with a tepid, "Should we believe the Bible is borrowing from surrounding culture. Ahh, let's not. Instead let's assume the Bible is challenging these false narratives because . . . that's what the Bible does." Talk about begging the question. And I use the verb "assume" intentionally. By being so flippant, we merely call into question the truths that we believe. Do I believe the Bible is not borrowing but, rather, polemicizing? Of course I do! But not merely because Currid says so. To properly discuss and defend this idea would require . . . the book he should have written in the first place.

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