Myth & Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical WorldJack Finegan (grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989) 335 pp., $24.95.
This encyclopedic reference work on the pagan religions of the biblical world describes the religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, ancient Persia, Greece and Rome, as well as Gnosticism, Mandaeanism, and Manichaeanism. The latter three religions, dualistic and sectarian movements based on secret revelations associated with a variety of teachers, enlarge the scope of this book well beyond the biblical world. Relying on a wealth of biblical references, archaeological data, ancient myths and legends, and secondary literature embracing the full spectrum of scholarship, Finegan ranges widely over the fascinating terrain of religion in the ancient world.
Finegan’s greatest asset is his compendious knowledge covering more than 20 centuries. This knowledge is woven into a rich tapestry made up of a seemingly endless collection of citations from sacred literature, archaeological details, speculative observations and scholarly footnotes. Finegan has few peers as a wide-ranging historian of religion. He is a reliable and responsible scholar whose omnivorous appetite for details results in balanced and competent descriptions of the complex world of religious movements in the time of the Bible. Finegan has distilled this book from a lifetime of teaching and scholarship, and the results, insofar as this reviewer is competent to judge, appear to be generally accurate and up to date.