Crass Plagiarism? The Problem of the Relationship of the OT to Ancient Near Eastern Literature – John Currid

After listening to these three lectures, I felt like a carnivore at a steakhouse. Everything was tasty and meaty.

Ever since the discovery of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian texts, the question of the relationship between these ancient texts and that of the OT has been a matter of considerable dispute. On the one side, there are those who see Moses as little more than a borrower of ideas, a kind of plagiarist who unilaterally adopts the literature of his day. Liberals, of course, tend this direction. One such scholar stated the matter like this,

“We have seen that the biblical chronologies are not grounded on historical memory, but are rather based on a very late theological schema that presupposes a very unhistorical worldview. Those efforts to use the biblical narratives for a reconstruction of the history of the Near East, in a manner comparable to the use of the archives at Mari and similar finds, can justly be dismissed as fundamentalist.”(1)

On the other side reside conservative scholars. While there are a number of different approaches and responses, Dr. Currid argues that Moses did in fact utilize the imagery/language, of say, his Egyptian context, but for polemical purposes. Yes, Moses did borrow. But it was not syncretistic in nature. Moses wanted to mock the Egyptian gods. And he did so by picking up some of the concepts of his day and turning them on their head. One might say that he employed irony in his polemic.

Much more ought to be be said, but I leave that for you to explore.

You can find all three (fairly short) lectures here.

For further reading, check out his work cited below.


(1) Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament, (Location 253) John Currid, citing Thomas L. Thompson.

One Comment

  1. jayopsis January 7, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    I am by no means a scholar. But doing some reading of ancient cultures has keyed me in on a way that God reveals Himself to His creation. God will pattern or parallel an existing cultural practice, but then counter that practice in a very distinctive way.
    When I read the story of Abraham and Isaac- I think of the practices of Hamilcar and Hannibal – but instead of following through on the actual sacrifice, God intervenes. He shows that He is a different God..the true God. He parallels existing reality to point to the truth AND give us a shadow of the prophecy that Jesus will fulfill on the cross.
    When comparing the history of civilizations.. there is the authentic and there are the copies. Over and over again I am persuaded that the Judeo-Christian story is the authentic. Similarity upholds our faith… it does not undo it.

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