By Roy Gane (Old Testament Department SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University)
Even as Assyriology and Egyptology (and also Hittitology) emerged as serious, autonomous, academic disciplines, the attention of many remained focused on the Bible. As discoveries of major archives followed one after another from the 1920s to the 1970s, each was greeted with initial excitement as scholars made great claims for the impact of the archive on the Bible. In most cases, time and more careful attention resulted in many, if not all, of the initial claims being rejected. Methodological maturity began to be displayed in the careful work of W. W. Hallo, who promoted a balanced approach called the “contextual approach,” which seeks to identify and discuss both similarities and differences that can be observed between the Bible and the texts from the ancient Near East. “Hallo’s goal, ‘is not to find the key to every biblical phenomenon in some ancient Near Eastern precedent, but rather to silhouette the biblical text against its wider literary and cultural environment.’ Thus we must not succumb either to ‘parallelomania’ or to ‘parallelophobia.’” It is Hallo’s work that has provided the foundation for the following discussion of methodology.
(John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006], 17-18).