The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment: Preface

Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative

To me, the Old Testament has always been a fascinating part of the Bible. Even as a youth, I found its stories enthralling. Through years of academic studies, of pastoral ministry, of teaching Old Testament courses, the appeal of this part of the Scriptures has not dimmed. I have loved the New Testament, too, but it has been the Old Testament that has helped me to understand the New Testament better, and to appreciate its redemptive message.

This volume is the product of twenty years of introducing ministerial students at Asbury Theological Seminary to the Old Testament. Four years ago a change was made in the biblical studies curriculum so that the basic Old Testament course was centered in the Pentateuch. One aspect of the study was focused on the world of the Pentateuch and the problems that have arisen in academic circles in regard to relating the Pentateuch to ancient Near Eastern cultures. The other phase of the study was concerned with a method of analyzing the content of the Pentateuch in its English translations, and relating that content to proclamation. Behind this volume lies the experimental text that was written in 1970 for the study of the Pentateuch's environment.

Apart from the classroom, I have been stimulated by five visits to the Middle East. While assisting Dr. G. Douglas Young, in 1959, in establishing the American Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, I traveled widely throughout Palestine and was awakened to the significance of archaeololgy for Old Testament studies by listening to lectures by Mrs.Ruth Amiran and assisting Dr. Johanan Aharoni at the excavation of Ramat Rahel.

During the summers of 1966 and 1968, I was further challenged by the contributions of archaeology to our knowledge of the ancient Near East. It was my privilege both summers to serve as a site supervisor under the direction of Dr. Joseph Callaway at Et Tell (Ai). The interest thus sparked has led to careful study of the significant ancient Near Eastern literature now available in English translation.

The overall purpose of this volume is to acquaint ministerial candidates, pastors, and laymen having a basic knowledge of the Bible with the cultural world in which the Patriarchs and the newly-formed Hebrew nation lived. A century and a half ago, little was known of the ancient cultrual context of the Israelites, bu in the last fifty or so years a knowledge explosion concerning that context has burst upon us. As usual, a lag between the Bible student's grasp of this new knowledge and the transference of it to relatively nonacademic circles has characterized the past several decades. I have sought to describe and to interpret the relationship of this knowledge explosion to the Pentateuch, a protion of the Old Testament of fundamental importance.

Part I of this volume is designed to give a general background to the entire Old Testament. Part II is focused on the thought patterns of the Pentateuch, both in their similarity and their contrast to concepts and practices depicted in ancient nonbiblical literature of religious nature. Part III is structured to speak to problems of basic import related to manuscripts of the Pentateuch now availalbe. Viewpoints of various approaches to these problems are evaluated.

I wish to express gratitude to associates who have provided valued suggestions as this material was gathered and arranged in its present form. Special appreciation is owed to my esteemd colleague Dr. John N. Oswalt, who not only has teamed with me in presenting the content of this volume to successive classes of ministerial students, but has contributed many helpful insights and pointed out changes that needed to be made in the text.

My thanks are due to Miss Juanita Spencer for critically examining grammar and punctuation, to Mrs. Rececca Sawyer and Mrs. Marilyn James who contributed their typing skills to the project, and to my wife, Maria, for her encouragement and help in proofreading and preparing the indexes.

G. Herbert Livingston
Asbury Theological Seminary
Wilmore, Kentucky

Taken from "The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment, 2 ed." by G. Herbert Livingston. Used by permission of Baker Book House Company, copyright ©1974. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. (

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