I was wondering if we find similar thought patterns and representations of God in the Old Testament as in other representations of God in ancient cultures.   In my Ancient Middle East class, I read  that the language used to describe God in certain Psalms or Daniel–I think it is the reference of God standing on a cloud–was first used by other cultures in the Middle East when describing their gods.  Consequently,  my Professor  argued that Judaism borrowed a lot of their thought patterns and representations of God from other cultures that any Jewish or Christian would never believe was inspired by God.     Do you know of any book that compares and contrasts ancient near eastern thought and Judaism? Answer: Dan; I believe that your professor is largely correct in his statement that much of the imagery used in the Old Testament is found in other religious contexts.  Who borrowed from whom is always an issue and often it cannot be settled.  However, it is obvious that the inspired writers of the Old Testament were going to use imagery with which they were familiar.  This does not prove one way or another, by itself, whether the OT writers  were inspired.  That is a different question.   If your professor is trying to somehow prove through the use of the same imagery that the Old Testament is not inspired, that is a different issue.  If so, then his argument is very weak.  Obviously, the writers of the Old Testament were going to use the vocabulary available to them and the metaphors, idioms and symbolism with which they were familiar.  This fact does not settle the question of whether the Bible is true.  Obviously, we know that God does not have a hand and that he does not literally ride in the clouds.  Such anthropomorphisms are common in the Bible and Bible students understand them for what they are.  The Bible talks about God’s ear and his hand and his arm, but these are clearly symbolic and metaphorical in nature.  These are poetic imagery used to tell us something about God.  Obviosly, the readers or hearers of the Old Testament did not believe that David or Daniel believed that God is a physical being who stands in a cloud. I am not an expert in this area, so I am afraid I do not have a book to recommend to you, but I believe we can apply a common sense here and ask what was the most likely understanding intended by the original author when he describes God riding in the clouds?  I think this one is pretty clear.  It is a metaphor. John Oakes

Comments are closed.