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The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context (The Lost World Series) John Walton is a scholar So, the reading is not with out concentration on your part But you will see the Old Testament in a new light Not as your preacher presents it as a Sunday morning morality play written to appease the sensibilities of the modern church, but as it was meant to be read by the original authors A different time and place As Walton says, the Old Testament was written for us, not to us Our modern filters change the meaning and context Takes the reader back to the beginning before the churches and theologians added their layers Challenging us to rethink what we think we know. Our Handling Of What We Call Biblical Law Veers Between Controversy And Neglect On The One Hand, Controversy Arises When Old Testament Laws Seem Either Odd Beyond Comprehension Not Eating Lobster Or Positively Reprehensible Executing Children On The Other, Neglect Results When We Consider The Law Obsolete, No Longer Carrying Any Normative Power Tassels On Clothing, Making Sacrifices Even Readers Who Do Attempt To Make Use Of The Old Testament Law Often Find It Either Irrelevant, Hopelessly Laden With Thou Shalt Nots, Or Simply So Confusing That They Throw Up Their Hands In Despair Despite These Extremes, People Continue To Propose Moral Principles From These Laws As The Biblical View And To Garner Proof Texts To Resolve Issues That Arise In Society The Result Is That Both Christians And Skeptics Regularly Abuse The Torah, And Its True Message Often Lies Unheard Walton And Walton Offer In The Lost World Of The Torah A Restorative Vision Of The Ancient Genre Of Instruction For Wisdom That Makes Up A Significant Portion Of The Old Testament In The Ancient Near East, Order Was Achieved Through The Wisdom Of Those Who Governed Society The Objective Of Torah Was To Teach The Israelites To Be Wise About The Kind Of Order Needed To Receive The Blessings Of God S Favor And Presence Within The Context Of The Covenant Here Readers Will Find Fresh Insight On This Fundamental Genre Of The Old Testament Canon First let me say, I m a big fan of Dr John Walton his work has transformed my own scholarship I love being challenged and forced to think outside the theological box Clearly, some reviewers prefer the comfort of their own sacred boxes I have to say, of all the Lost World books, this was my favorite, in fact, I think it is one of the most important books written in the last decade on the topic Thanks to the Walton father and son team.Raised in a Jewish home and weaned on the Torah, I have personally wrestled to better understand its purpose and function Much of what was written in the Lost World of the Torah has been swirling around in mind for years, that is, the relationship between the Torah and Wisdom and Covenant How wonderful these two prodigious scholars have connected the dots for me I think I may have underlined virtually every sentence.Understanding the culture and context of the ancient world is a never found art for most of the Christian world, and I can t think of a better authority than Dr Walton Having personally researched the concept of Wisdom for many years, from an ancient perspective, this book was sweet confirmation And we could certainly use a hefty dose of this kind of Biblical wisdom in our discourse today.Learning to appreciate the Torah, not as a legislative system, but as a covenant a treaty between Israel as vassal and YHWH as suzerain, helped me make sense of the rest of the Bible Terms such as kindness, love, and faithfulness, when viewed through Israel s covenantal lens, are not reduced to abstract, emotional concepts as in today s modern church Overall, I found the book to be very well thought out, easy to understand, engaging, and guaranteed to upend your paradigm if you will let it. This book is a thought provoking look at the Torah The major premise behind all the Lost World books is that the world view, the issues, the frame of reference the authors use the term cultural river of the ancient world is so different from the modern world, that the ancient world is lost to us Bible students recognize the need to understand the cultural background of a passage, but this goes far beyond cultural and historical tidbits that give a little color to our understanding The premise behind the Lost World books is that the thought categories of the ancient world are so different that we have to do some real digging and cultural translation to understand the text Recent research and discoveries are shedding new light and giving us a better understanding of that ancient context which will, in turn, give us a better understanding of what the Torah meant to its original audience.The fact that the authors conclude that the Torah meant something different to the original audience than what many Christians have thought that it means for today us will no doubt be to unsettling some It may lead some readers or reviewers to conclude in knee jerk fashion that the authors are departing from orthodoxy which they do not However, if we are committed to the principle that author s intent should guide our interpretation of Scripture, then we must determine what the text meant to the original audience before we can determine what it means for us We must be willing to consider new evidence as it comes to light, and that is what the authors have done.For those who may be apprehensive about the book, I would recommend reading the Summary of Conclusions p 223 230 first Then, continue reading the appendix on the Decalogue to get a taste of the fruit of the authors methodology and see what the 10 Commandments may have meant to the original audience Then, start at the beginning and just thoughtfully digest each short chapter Each chapter is a proposition that helps support the conclusions I will not review each proposition but note some of what I consider the high points There is a lot here that is important, but for that, I would encourage you to read the book.The most important issue in my opinion is that the Torah is not Divine Law given to all the people of God for all time, but a treaty between YHWH and Ancient Israel which took a form very similar to other ancient treaties between vassals and suzerains The Torah applied only to Ancient Israel The Torah was never intended to be applied to the church or to the modern world, or even to any ancient nation except Israel Further, its purpose is not to lay down universal moral principles which may be imported to other contexts Many of the commands in the Torah were not morally based at all and the modern concept of morality didn t even exist at the time.The authors contend that the primary purpose of the Torah was to guide Israel to become a well ordered society that would reflect well upon YHWH Some of the guidelines may have some modern application and many others do not Some of them are so obscure that we may not know why they were given, but they would have been understood by and made sense to the ancient Israelites and the surrounding nations The primary purpose of all of them was to maintain what would have been considered a well ordered society in the Ancient Near East The purpose was not to build an ideal society or to give moral instruction for all time, and not even necessarily for that time The Declaration of Independence states We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness These may be self evident to modern readers, but they were not so to the ancients In fact, these rights never crossed their minds The fact that some of the stipulations are considered immoral, inappropriate, or unjust by modern audiences simply reflects our modern biases which have been projected onto the ancient world.While some modern readers reject the Torah because of things they consider to be unjust, others accept the Torah as God s Law for today and seek to apply it However, the applications are never consistent Some things are adopted while others are jettisoned without any objective standard The applications become arbitrary What usually happens is that the interpreter comes to the Torah with a preconceived notion of morality or justice and picks and chooses those things that agree with their preconceived notion, while ignoring those things that do not For the Christian, the New Testament is usually the guide for what should be applied If that is the case, then it would be best to simply state that the New Testament is our guide, not the Torah.One method that has been developed to at least give the appearance of objectivity is the division of the Torah into three categories Moral, Ceremonial and Civil Law The Ceremonial Law of ritual and sacrifice was fulfilled in Christ so that can be safely done away with The Civil Law involves laws that were applicable to the local context but many may have parallels in modern society, so principles can be extracted and applied The Moral Law gives timeless moral principles that must be applied today The problem is that these distinctions are completely foreign to the Torah At one time, our Judeo Christian culture may have had common agreement on which laws were moral However, when we are confronted with a post Christian society that challenges us to justify why we picked certain laws as timeless moral principles, we have nothing to base it on It is best to understand that all the Torah was for Ancient Israel and none of it is binding on us Christian or otherwise today.Another important point that the authors note is that when the New Testament responds to the Law, it is not responding to the ancient concept of Torah but to the concept of Torah that was current in Second Temple Judaism This concept had strayed far from the ancient understanding.This book gave me a better understanding of the Torah, its original purpose and function in Ancient Israel, and how it can function in my life It also provoked a lot of thought regarding morality and ethics, the role of the church in politics and social action, the nature of sin, and even the futility of attempting to establish a western style democracy in Muslim nations none of which are addressed in the book The book is thought provoking Whether they agree or disagree with the conclusions, serious Bible students will benefit from reading and thoughtfully interacting with the information that is presented Those who strongly disagree should do than just criticize the book or the authors They should carefully identify points of disagreement and analyze the evidence presented.Often, it is not the evidence or the propositions, but the implications that are feared However, if we are committed to truth, we cannot let the fear of possible implications scare us away If the final result is a better understanding of God s Word, then we will be better off for the effort I believe that this book does contribute to a better understanding of God s Word and therefore wholeheartedly recommend it. I don t say it lightly, but this is one of those books that every serious student of the Bible needs to read Part of this broad reach is because of how foundational understanding of the Torah is If we misunderstand the Torah, we are likely to misunderstand the rest of the biblical text One of the major arguments is how Torah is misunderstood because it is wrongfully read as law in the sense of legislative law or even a moral code The ANE didn t have a legislative understanding of law like we do And the Torah is not comprehensive enough to provide a moral system However, it appears to be better understood as wisdom that will instruct Israel how to be in covenant with Yahweh and bring order Basically, our categories of legislative law and morality are the wrong categories and are absent in the OT world However, categories such as wisdom and order are much imperative for understanding.While I may not have agreed with every sentence in the book, I whole heartedly agreed with the major message of the book I only wish that the book had another chapter or two But that speaks to it being such a great book Read this book if you want to better understand the composition, function, and purpose of the Torah in its original context


About the Author: John H. Walton

Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context (The Lost World Series) book, this is one of the most wanted John H. Walton author readers around the world.


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