Recent years have seen the increase of interest in understanding the background of the Bible, specifically the issue of the origins of the universe. While many of these studies are helpful and biblically sound, liberal critics have been fierce in their denial of the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. To them the Bible is just a book of myths and fairytales meant to force men into servitude to an angry deity. In other words, these theological liberals want us to base our lives on our own thoughts rather than on the reliability and authority of the Word of God. Entering into this discussion and debate is an excellent book by Old Testament scholar Dr. John Currid called Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament.
Discussion on the creation account in Genesis and the authority of the Bible are nothing new. Man has always wondered where he came from. The answers to those questions have led many to pursue a life of philosophy, science and man-made religion apart from the God of the Bible. The answer to the question of “Where do we come from?” touches on every facet of life and affects how we view the world and reality. Dr. Currid understands that the answer to the question, “Where did we come from?” is an important one; however, that is not the focus of his effort in this particular book. Instead, he introduces the reader to the question of whether the Old Testament is still authoritative for us today or whether it should be abandoned because it is full of myths and fairytales.
Since the question of the authority of the Bible is under attack, Christians desperately need solid evangelical thinkers who believe in the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Bible to help us think through these issues so we can provide a reasonable and biblical apologetic. Dr. Currid provides in this book a background to ancient near eastern studies, then moves to explain Genesis 1 in comparison to other near ancient accounts, the flood accounts, Genesis 6-9, Joseph, the tale of two brothers and the spurned seductress motif, the birth of the Deliverer, the flights of Sinuhe and Moses, Exodus 3 and the Egyptian book of the heavenly cow, the Rod of Moses, the Parting of the Waters of the Red Sea, and the Canaanite Motifs.
The average lay person may not be aware of these issues. Most discussions in this area are in academic books and therefore out of the purview of the lay person. Yet understanding this issue is vital which is why Dr. Currid wrote this book. He rightly introduces the reader to the fight for the Old Testament. In doing so, Currid outlines the precise relationship between the biblical worldview and that of Israel’s neighbors.
Many Christians throughout the history of the church have sought to provide arguments for the existence of God. While that is not the scope of this book, nor the purpose of this review, it should be noted that the God of the Bible does not do this at the beginning of the Word of God. The Bible begins with God speaking and creation coming into being. As Dr. Currid aptly notes, the biblical writers use language similar to the surrounding culture to demonstrate the superiority of God over the false gods surrounding Israel. Understanding that point is vital given the background of the Old Testament is God working in and through Israel His covenant people. Without that understanding, we cannot begin to understand the New Testament where God is working for the same purpose to fulfill the covenant He promised in Jeremiah 31, a new or renewed covenant through the person and finished work of Jesus. That point is no small thing for it strikes at the heart of the mission of Jesus and answers the question, “What is the Gospel?”
While understanding creation is important, understanding the backdrop of what God was doing and how He wrote the Bible is also important. Many critics of the Bible have the wrong assumptions of the background and choose to believe the myth stories surrounding the Bible rather than believing the superiority of the Bible. These people are liberal scholars who believe in higher and lower criticism, essentially analyzing the Bible with a view to critique it instead of the Word evaluating their hearts and lives. That is fundamentally the wrong approach to the Bible. I am all for studying the Bible in an academic way, but coming to it to only question it is neither academically responsible nor intelligently prudent even by the most lenient standards of academic excellence. Academics who come to question the Bible with a view to critique it need to learn about who they are studying about, namely the God of the universe, before they begin to critique the author of the Bible, that same God who gives them breath and sustains their lives.
Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament by Dr. John Currid is a very good introduction to this perennial issue of biblical authority. Readers will be able to answer the question, “Did the Old Testament writers borrow ideas form their pagan neighbors? And if they did was it done uncritically?” through careful scholarship that is not boring but rather engages the biblical text, other scholars and ancient Near Eastern documents. In an age where the Bible is under attack, Against the Gods by Dr. Currid is just the kind of book we need today, one that is faithful to old paths and doctrines of the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Bible that the Church has always held to. This introduction to this issue does not cover everything on this topic, but what it does cover is excellent.
This book would be good primer for the lay person to understand this issue. Additionally, Currid’s effort is also good for Bible College and seminary students learning about the background of the Old and New Testaments. This book should be read by Pastors to gain insight into how to give a reasonable and accurate biblical answer so they may speak the truth in love seasoned with grace to those who oppose the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Wherever you are in your understanding of the Bible, Against the Gods will help you to learn more about the background of the Bible, and I can think of no better thing to read about than to learn more about the Bible.
Author: Dr. John Currid
Publisher: Crossway (2013)