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 long 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 with the context of the covenant. Here readers will find fresh insight on this fundamental genre of the Old Testament canon.

"Walton and Walton rightly view Torah in the broader context of wisdom and as an expression of wisdom. This is exactly what passages such as Deuteronomy 4:6 and Psalm 19:7 imply."

Kevin Chen, associate professor of biblical studies, Union University
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CONTENTS

Introduction
Proposition 1: The Old Testament is an Ancient Document
Proposition 2: The Way We Interpret the Torah Today Is Influenced by the Way We Think Law and Legislation Work
Proposition 3: Legal Collections in the Ancient World Are Not Legislation
Proposition 4: Ancient Near Eastern Legal Collections Teach Wisdom
Proposition 5: The Torah Is Similar to Ancient Near Eastern Legal Collections and Therefore also Teaches Wisdom, not Legislation
Proposition 6: The Israelite Covenant Effectively Functions as an Ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty Treaty
Proposition 7: Holiness Is a Status, not an Objective
Proposition 8: Ancient Near Eastern Ritual Served to Meet the Needs of the Gods
Proposition 9: Ancient Israelite Ritual Serves to Maintain Covenant Order Because Yahweh Has No Needs
Proposition 10: The Torah Is Similar to Ancient Near Eastern Legal Collections Because it Is Embedded in the Same Cultural Context, Not Because it Is Dependent on Them
Proposition 11: The Differences Between the Torah and the Ancient Near Eastern Legal Collections Are Found Not in Legislation but in the Order Founded in the Covenant
Proposition 12: Torah Is Situated in Context of the Ancient World
Proposition 13: Torah Is Situated in the Context of the Covenant
Proposition 14: Torah Is Situated in the Context of Israelite Theology Regarding Yahweh's Presence Residing Among Them
Proposition 15: Discussions of Law in the New Testament Do Not Tell Us Anything About Old Testament Torah in Context
Proposition 16: The Torah Should Not Be Divided into Categories to Separate Out What Is Relevant
Proposition 17: Torah Was Never Intended to Provide Salvation
Proposition 18: Divine Instruction Can Be Understood as a Metaphor of Health Rather than a Metaphor of Law
Proposition 19: We Cannot Gain Moral Knowledge or Build a System of Ethics Based on Reading the Torah in Context and Deriving Principles from It
Proposition 20: Torah Cannot Provide Proof-Texts for Solving Issues Today
Proposition 21: The Ancient Israelites Would Not Have Understood the Torah as Providing Divine Moral Instruction
Proposition 22: A Divine Command Theory of Ethics Does Not Require that the Torah Is Moral Instruction
Proposition 23: Taking the Torah Seriously Means Understanding What It Was Written to Say, Not Converting It into Moral Law
Appendix 1: The Decalogue
Sayings 1-4
Sayings 5-10
Further Reading
Subject Index
Scripture Index

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John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Previously he was professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for twenty years.

Some of Walton's books include The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Scripture, The Lost World of Genesis One, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, The Essential Bible Companion, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (with Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas).

Walton's ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies, and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for "The Bible in 90 Days." John and his wife, Kim, live in Wheaton, Illinois, and have three adult children.

Watch a four-part video series from Walton.

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