Hidden Riches: A New Inquiry into the Comparative Study of the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East

Team Members/Contributors

Christopher B. Hays Fuller Theological Seminary Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

The literature and cultures of the ancient Near East shed brilliant light on the Old Testament, clarifying its meaning and enriching theological appropriations of it by bringing it more alive for the reader. However, the interactions between the biblical texts and their contexts have sometimes been poorly analyzed by scholars, and are so little understood by many pastors that they scarcely dare to mention them in their ministries. In fact, the authors of the Old Testament were practical theologians in their own right—exhorting, guiding, and advising people who lived with cultural tensions and human weaknesses not unlike our own—and they ought to serve as models. But they can’t, unless we understand how they worked.

The primary question I intend to ask through my research is, “How did biblical authors employ the materials of their cultural contexts?” With that as a foundation, I want to continue on to ask, “How can their methods inform and inspire Christian leaders’ interaction with their own cultural contexts, particularly for the purposes of preaching and proclamation?”

To disseminate my work on the pastoral side, I would like to write at least one article of significant length for a journal like Interpretation or the Journal for Preachers, entitled something like, “How to Preach Like the Prophets--In Your Own Context.” There, I would distill my research findings for working clergy, addressing questions such as, “How can I strike a balance between employing my culture and challenging it?” and “How much license is warranted in comparing our own situation to that of the biblical authors?”

On the academic side, I am proposing a textbook on the interpretation of the Old Testament in light of its Ancient Near Eastern context – one that would give both student and teacher the historical, cultural, and literary context to study the ANE texts more knowledgeably—introducing them to the great diversity of ways in which biblical authors interacted with their context.