The Old Testament: an update on a journey (part 2)


Last post I described how I have been on a journey working out what I think is true, or not, about the Old Testament. This post I try to draw some conclusions.

The choice that is no choice for me

It seems to me we have a clear choice. Either we assume from the start that the Bible is inerrant and not to be judged by science and history, or we resist forming a judgment until we have assessed all the evidence. Other christians may be able to start with that assumption, but I cannot.

I have written elsewhere why I don’t think inerrancy can be assumed. Here’s a brief summary of the reasons:

  • The Bible doesn’t claim to be inerrant – the belief is based on the view that inspiration implies God’s perfect authorship.
  • Jesus and the NT writers respected the authority of the Jewish scriptures that form our Old Testament, but didn’t seem to treat it as inerrant.
  • Inerrancy, as it is understood today, has not been the unanimous view of all christians through history.
  • Christian today believe some things and explain others away, so inerrancy seems to be more a catchcry than a practically believed doctrine.
  • The Old Testament doesn’t seem to be inerrant when we read it, and scholars confirm that it isn’t.

So how do we come to the ‘right’ view?

Start with the best evidence from the scholars

It is tempting for both sceptics and believers alike to draw on the sub-group of scholars they find most congenial to their wishes and views. But as always, it seems best to begin with the conclusions of the broad consensus of scholars.

Faith is a legitimate response

But we don’t have to end with the scholars. There is much that scholarship leaves as an open question. Just as it is legitimate for sceptics to reject all that isn’t established by historical scholarship, it is legitimate for christians to build on the strong historical evidence for Jesus, and follow Jesus in treating the Old Testament as inspired scripture, even if we don’t conclude that it is all historical.

CS Lewis to the rescue!

I have long been a fan of CS Lewis. He was a thoughtful christian with a broad classical education who was willing to base his christian belief on the evidence. In reference to the Old Testament, he was very well-read in ancient history, literature and myth.

He proposed the following approach to the Old Testament 70 years ago (in Is Theology Poetry?, a paper given at Oxford University in 1944), and I still find it to be the one that best fits the evidence:

The earliest stratum of the Old Testament contains many truths in a form which I take to be legendary, or even mythical – hanging in the clouds, but gradually the truth condenses, becoming more and more historical. From things like Noah’s Ark and the sun standing still upon Ajalon, you come down to the court memoirs of King David. Finally you reach the New Testament and history reigns supreme, and the Truth is incarnate. ….. what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid – no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee.”

So what does this mean?

I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive, for our assessments are all provisional. But here is a first assessment, based on the conclusions of scholars:

  • Genesis 1-11 is myth or legend.
  • Abraham, Moses, Joshua and the rest of the gang were probably real people, but many of the stories told about them are legendary or exaggerations. Some call this saga-like material “fictionalised history”.
  • From the time of King David, the historical material is much more prominent and the legendary material much less.
  • By the time of the New Testament, we are in the realm of history, with some minor inaccuracies and just a few non-historical ‘pious stories’.

What do we lose if this is true?

Christianity is the new covenant

Jesus said at the Last Supper that he was initiating a new covenant, replacing the old one. The new covenant is found in the New Testament (the word ‘testament’ is probably better translated as ‘covenant’). Very little in the classical creeds is based on the Old Testament.

The OT is scripture, showing God’s dealings with people and his preparation for the coming of Jesus, which can only be fully understood in the light of the OT. But Christian belief is not dependent on a particular view of the Old Testament.

Redemptive analogies

In his two books Peace Child and Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson discusses how many cultures and tribal groups have stories in their culture that point towards God and to some aspects of christian belief. He calls these “redemptive analogies” and believes they were placed there by a loving God to point pagan peoples to him.

We can think of the whole OT as a huge redemptive analogy – a story on a grand scale that points us to God and to the son he sent into the world. But it is important to note that, like a parable, a redemptive analogy works whether the story is factually true, or just a story, or a mixture of the two.

So I have come to believe that christians should accept what the consensus of scholars tells us about the OT, and not worry too much about which bits are historical and which bits are not. Again, CS Lewis had some wise words to someone who was worried about not knowing (from a letter written in 1952):

The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual lfe, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is myth (but of course myth especially chosen by God from among countless myths to carry a special spiritual truth) in history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer.”

So what is ‘inspiration’?

2 Timothy 3:16 describes the scriptures as being “God-breathed”, sometimes translate as “inspired”. I have suggested in What does the Bible say about itself? that the more normal meaning of these words might be to say that God gave inspiration to the authors and breathed life into their writings

I think we can quite easily believe in the inspiration of scripture without concluding that they must be mistake-free.

Why would God work this way?

This question seems to trouble some people. They think it would be more logical if God simply revealed himself in clear, error-free, unmistakable ways. I guess that’s natural, but why should we think it likely we’ll understand how God will choose to work? Surely better is to accept the way he has apparently chosen to work and try to understand as best we can?

My best guess is that God has chosen to make us “in his likeness” as it says in Genesis 1. This means we are autonomous beings, able to make rational and ethical choices and live with the responsibility of those choices. To do this, he has kept himself a little less obvious, and given this universe a great deal of autonomy:

  • creation by the operation of carefully designed laws of physics since the big bang;
  • creation of life and humanity via evolution;
  • creation of each individual human being by sexual reproduction;
  • when he enters the world, it is by becoming an insignificant baby;

These are all processes set up by God but operating by natural laws without obvious interference by him. (This isn’t to say that he doesn’t interfere, only that he does it subtly, not in a grandiose way. I believe God still works through healing miracles, visions and other forms of direct guidance, but I believe he does this quietly and discreetly.)

It seems to me that believing the Bible is a human document inspired by God and achieving his purposes is in keeping with this understanding of God’s ways.

So how does it work out in practice?

Some christians are critical of CS Lewis, but it is probably fair to say that he was the most influential English speaking christian of the 20th century, and his influence continues. He had an enormously beneficial ministry through his books. So it is hard to see that this belief about the Old Testament harmed his faith or ministry.

Peter Enns and Dennis Lamoureux are christian scholars who, while they may not believe in the approach I adopt here, hold views that are somewhat similar and compatible with it. Their writings show that believing the OLd Testament is less than inerrant doesn’t stop someone having a warm faith.

I have to say the same about myself. I have prayed, read and thought about these ideas for several years. I don’t find myself believing in Jesus less or following him less. I feel at peace in my mind.

None of this makes it true of course. But it is reassuring. We can have a more flexible view of the Old Testament and still seek to “see him more clearly, follow him more nearly and love him more dearly”.


I still have much to learn about this subject, and no doubt much to refine. But I conclude that belief and apologetics would be on a better footing if christians reconsidered their view of the nature of scripture.

I guess some christians will read this post with dismay. I am sorry about that, but I can only ask that you pray about and consider these ideas and not come to a quick judgment.

And I’d be very interested in feedback please.

None of us is an island. We need each other, and we need the discernment of the Spirit. Let’s share in this together.

Photo Credit: stevegarfield via Compfight cc


44 thoughts on “The Old Testament: an update on a journey (part 2)

  1. unkleE says:

    I would say a reputable scholar is someone (1) with relevant qualifications, (2) actively working in the field, (3) publishing in peer-reviewed journals or reputable academic publishing houses and (4) having the respect of their peers.

    Like any academic discipline, peer review and peer agreement (as indicated by citations, etc) can show what conclusion is most accepted by the experts. Sometimes an expert will summarise the range of opinion and make clear where the consensus lies. It isn’t a precise assessment, but I think it works OK.


  2. Chaz Ing says:

    Hi unkleE, some more questions. What about the limitations of scholarship? How can a present day scholar extrapolate accurately into the past using the tools of scholarship? And what happens when the scholarly consensus is shown to be incorrect?


  3. unkleE says:

    Chaz, thanks for link. I’m away on a holiday right now but will check it out when I get back.

    Everything human has limitations. We all learn and grow and change.The scholars are no different. So both they and us do the best we can. If we or they are incorrect, we change. I don’t see a problem there.


  4. Chaz Ing says:

    unkleE, hope you have a great vacation. My issue is with the rate of change and the degree of change if one cardinal doctrine say, is incorrectly interpreted. Also, thanks for tackling this particular issue.


  5. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz, I wasn’t on vacation, just a brief break to get away from our perennial busyness. I’m back now, hopefully a little rested. I’m sorry, but I’m not clear what you mean about rate and degree of change.


  6. Chaz Ing says:

    Rate: how fast can the global church keep up with said changes, degree of change: how large can the changes be considering that most theological beliefs are interconnected


  7. unkleE says:

    I don’t know. But I do think change is more difficult, yet needs to be more extensive, if it follows a time of stagnation and entrenching of opinions that are not in fact correct. I think that is the case now, though many would disagree with me on that.


  8. Ryan says:

    Hey Eric, hope you are going well

    If the OT is not considered true or accurate in parts, what makes the NT different from the OT?

    References are made to the OT in the NT, Jesus also makes references to the OT. I find the view you outlined hard to reconcile in some ways.

    How do we determine what is historical and what is allegory when its not clearly stated? There is scripture I have read in the OT that seems to not be just allegorical, but explained as historical, real time events. Exodus is one such example.

    What stops us from just picking what we want, or how do we determine what is historical and what is allegory when its not clearly stated otherwise?

    I mean the parables Jesus shares are clearly said to be parables in places. Jesus makes reference to Jonah “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). In this case the story of Jonah is used as an allegory for Jesus Himself.

    The Psalms and Ecclesiastes of the OT use poetic language to illustrate insights and reverence to God through poetry. And even in Genesis, Revelation outlines that the serpent was actually the devil, which to me suggests that the serpent was not just a snake. So in these examples I see no conflict.

    In regards to some violent things people did do to one another, it doesn’t always seem to me that all the accounts are openly condemned or praised. Its true in some cases they are openly pointed out (like in the account of Cain and Abel).

    But some seem to stand as they are. For example Moses killing the Egyptian in defence of a Jewish slave. Now my Bible knowledge is not perfect, but I’m pretty sure the account records how Moses fled after killing the Egyptian, but is there a reference to what he did as openly condemned? Of course one of the Commandments is “do not kill”, but this was done in defence of another life, So whether what he did was right or not is not clearly stated by the author as far as I’m aware, although Moses fleeing the scene my give an indication that he was conflicted about it.

    So in these cases, it seems (and I could be wrong) that some accounts are just written, and allowed to speak for themselves. some accounts just expressed what happened.

    However, the bits that really kind of make me stop is when in the OT it seems to express that God was affirming and even supportive of the killing of other tribes. Now how can this be allegory? And it seems to be clear in spots that Israel did these things with Gods approval, in the sense that they were told to kill everyone.

    However regarding Achan for example, had marched with the other men around the walls of Jericho. He had seen the walls fall down when they shouted. He had gone with the other men into the city of Jericho to destroy it.

    God had commanded them to destroy the entire city because it was so sinful. God had told Joshua, and Joshua had told the people just what they were to do. The Lord told Joshua that when the Israelites conquered Jericho they were to burn everything in the city that belonged to the people of Jericho except the silver, gold, brass, and iron.

    These they were to bring to the House of the Lord. Joshua had carefully instructed his soldiers, and every man knew that these were the orders. Achan was a soldier who disobeyed the orders and hid a beautiful garment, and some silver and gold in his tent. Achan felt sure no one else would find out about this. So Achan did not believe God’s way was best, so he disobeyed God’s commands.

    Israel was also commanded by God to completely exterminate the Canaanite inhabitants of the land including men, women, and children. Now often the question of context comes up when these kind of verses are considered. After all, certain verses in the Bible can be twisted in isolation to say something completely conflicting with the original intent. Its the spirit behind the letter which is paramount, the intention, not just the letter. B in this case I don’t think this is taking what Israel did out of context, they did kill people according to the accounts, and they were asked to do so by God, whether they had intended to or not anyway.

    sure there’s reoccurring symbolism throughout the Bible, in the sense that certain numbers like 7, 3 and 6 are repeated throughout. or that the walls of Jericho falling was also a account of faith and trust Israel had in God.

    However, those accounts in the OT that do talk about these times of war and bloodshed, I don’t think they can be taken as allegory alone.

    Instead, another position to take is that God must have His valid and just reasons for asking Israel to do what they did when He did ask them.

    But I don’t think we should ever pretend that those verses are not there, (not that I am saying anyone is doing this) But really what is there to indicate that they weren’t intended to be taken historically as actual events?

    This doesn’t take away from the message of love and the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus. They are in the Bible too, and likewise we should certainly not ignore these account either.

    Kind regards, Ryan


  9. Ryan says:

    sorry should have written , And even regarding* Genesis, Revelation outlines that the serpent was actually the devil, which to me suggests that the serpent was not just a snake.


  10. ignorantianescia says:

    Brief summary:

    1. NT writings are closer to the time period discussed than most portions of the early books of the Pentateuch.

    2. Scholars accept crucial NT documents (gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles) as historically valuable documents for the time period they treat. Not the case for most OT texts under discussion.

    3. There exist controls that verify several details in, say, the gospels. Think of other authors, historical buildings, accurate descriptions of social reality in early first-century Galilee.

    Historical plausibility and possibility are important criteria for a historical reading. This makes a historical reading of some texts impossible or at least highly unlikely. But it also demands that some elements are accepted as historical if one wants to engage with the text with intellectual seriousness (that is, if one doesn’t want to be seen as a Mythicist or an Ancient Alienist). It is not an act of will by the individual (un)believer.

    The references to the OT are unproblematic in my eyes. Often Jesus cites them as prophecy, at other occasions the meaning can still be valid if the referent is ahistorical.

    Apologies for the brevity (and possible curtness), I’d just lost a post.


  11. Ryan says:


    That’s ok, sorry to hear you lost a post, thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts 🙂 what did you mean by “It is not an act of will by the individual (un)believer.”?


  12. unkleE says:

    Hi Ryan, thanks for reading and posing some interesting thoughts and questions.

    Firstly, I more or less agree with what ignorantianescia says. But further to that:

    1. If someone can and does believe the OT happened exactly as it says, and sees no problems in that, then I would not want to talk them out of that. What I say is addressed to the increasing number (I believe) christians and others who cannot accept it as is. Some give up belief in Jesus because of some of the well-known problems, and I think that is a pity because I think that response is based on a confusion of issues.

    2. You raise a number of matters of “How do we know?” I think the major problem here occurs because people have been led to hold problematic views of what scripture and inspiration is. As I say in the post, if the OT’s inspiration means it is inerrant, then we can’t resolve many of the dilemmas. It requires a robust faith to stand against those problems.

    But if we don’t make any assumption about the nature of inspiration, and begin with interpreting the OT as we would any other book, many of the problems can be seen to be caused by the belief in inerrancy, and the consequent expectation that we will have no uncertainties. But life isn’t like that, even in the kingdom of God on earth – we have doubts and uncertainties, and we need to use our brains, listen to the experts and ultimately trust God if we believe in him.

    3. I don’t see how most of the uncertainties matter all that much. If we don’t know if Noah or Moses were historical figures, what does it change about our belief in Jesus? Ditto if some of the stories are exaggerated. CS Lewis said 70 years ago that the population numbers were clearly overstated as they could only have been achieved by continuous miracle.

    4. I don’t think much is allegory, but more likely myth, saga and exaggeration. And the experts say many of the “worst” commands or events didn’t happen and/or have been misunderstood by modern readers unacquainted with the local culture. Believing they really occurred misrepresents God.

    5. It is interesting, I was just reading yesterday a scholar comment on the fact that Jesus several times quoted or alluded to OT passages which included or were adjacent to passages on God’s vengeance, yet he omitted those sections each time. I haven’t verified this yet, but if true (as I expect) then it shows that Jesus was correcting the OT. Food for thought.

    So that’s how I see it.


  13. unkleE says:

    I guess it’s “Choose your own” word! 🙂 I think “expanding” implies keeping both the old and the new, but in this case it seems the new contradicts the old, and Jesus was rejecting the old and proposing the new. So I think “correcting” or “reinterpreting” are more apt words.


  14. Chaz Ing says:

    To me, you are engaging in a false dichotomy. Also, how does one know that a contradiction has taken place? Why would God fool us in the OT only to correct us in the NT?


  15. ignorantianescia says:

    Ryan, thanks for your comment and for bearing with me.

    I think your question about “It is not an act of will by the individual (un)believer.” is a good one, as I can see why it is unclear.

    The way I see it, our opinions require justification. So if somebody is an atheist, I wonder how that person can have a prescriptive underpinning of morality. That means, how can that person demand that other people act in certain ways like him or her.

    Now, it is impossible for us to form opinions about every subject there is. We have authorities for that purpose. So a dentist is an authority for dental care, a veterinarian is an authority for the health of our pets, a car repairman is an authority for our cars and so on. Then there are higher level authorities, such as dentists’ associations and even higher up professors of medicine specialising in dental care.

    The same is true for science and scholarship. There is more to learn than we can ever stomach. So we need to outsource some parts of knowledge and refer to the experts. Now they are prone to disagreeing when that is feasibly possible, so when there is a consensus, that is a remarkable fact. It definitely justifies a layman believing in it.

    But a consensus does not make truth. Just think of it. Is it conceivable that a consensus is wrong? Yes it is. There are safeguards against mistakes, but there have been cases of consensuses being incorrect. And an expert should be capable of giving reasons for an opinion, without referring to the consensus within his expertise. A consensus should be based on plausible argument (but not certain argument!). So it is also possible that an expert goes against the consensus with valid arguments. Laymen, however, should have better reasons for agreeing with such an expert than just that these views are better for them. Informed laymen may be justified in diverging from a consensus, too, however.

    However, when complete amateurs take a very different stance on things against the experts, we should be suspicious. Think of people who think 9/11 was an inside job, that there was no moon landing, that ancient civilisations referred to aliens or that Jesus didn’t exist. These are loopy beliefs and the consensus is squarely against them. There is little justification for these views, but they can get around with rationalisations. As it all boils down to argument and interpretation, eventually they may produce a coherent worldview explaining contrary evidence away, but it still is a less likely one.

    This is what I meant with an act of will. It is based on emotional needs, rather than careful argument based on the evidence. In this example, I took the case of an unbeliever, but it is also possible for believers


  16. ignorantianescia says:

    UnkleE, I am curious about the passage and expert in question. Could you please share it and him/her with us?


  17. unkleE says:

    “To me, you are engaging in a false dichotomy. Also, how does one know that a contradiction has taken place? Why would God fool us in the OT only to correct us in the NT?”

    Hi Chaz, I don’t think the dichotomy is false, but I’m not trying to push you to think the same as me. As I said to Ryan, I am addressing those who feel unable to accept the OT as inerrant or 100% factual.

    But Jesus several times said he was superseding the OT (e.g. in Matthew 5) and acted that way too. He omitted the vengeance passages as I’ve said. In Luke 16:15-16 he said that the old Law still stood for those who wanted to stay under it, but the good news of the kingdom superseded it for those who wanted it, and he confirmed this new covenant in the Last Supper. There are plenty of examples.

    How do we know? We never absolutely know, we are all fallible and prone to mistakes, but we conclude in this matter the same as we do on other matters – on the evidence we have before us and the guidance of the Holy Spirit sought in prayer.

    I don’t see God fooling us, but rather God working through fallible human beings, gradually correcting wrong ideas. My guess is that had God introduced the sermon on the mount to ancient semitic people, it would have been seen as weakness and totally rejected – many Muslims still today think christianity is weak in this way. We know from education as parents and teachers, and from seeking to make social change, that these things take time, as we work from where people are at to where we want them to be. Why should God have less wisdom than us?

    So I conclude that there are two views we can have of the OT – either it is inerrant, God has set it all down once and for all, and we should just believe it regardless of any external evidence, or, we examine the evidence and conclude accordingly, which leads to the sorts of things I have said in this post. If you can comfortably and in good conscience hold to the first, then I have no wish to argue, but I and many others cannot, and our commitment to truth requires us to re-evaluate.

    Can you feel comfortable with that? Do you feel OK about all aspects of the OT, or do you have some problems and doubts also?


  18. unkleE says:

    “UnkleE, I am curious about the passage and expert in question. Could you please share it and him/her with us?”

    The “expert” is Michael Hardin, who I have never heard of before, but he has had four posts on Peter Enns’ blog – the relevant one is here. I am a big fan of Peter Enns – I have read one of his books, read his blog regularly and almost always find he has worthwhile things to say and is also a warm-hearted christian. So I trust his judgment that Hardin is worth listening to, although I still intend to check it all out when I have time.


  19. Chaz Ing says:

    unkleE, I don’t see where inerrancy requires 100% factuality. Rather, progressive revelation can be part of an inerrant theology. I don’t see how Luke 16:15-16 says anything of the sort and I am not concerned with inerrancy. Rather, I am concerned with HOW one finds the truth and have misgivings about your ‘look to scholars, update accordingly, and pray’ methodology. I also hope that you are not claiming to be more committed to truth that an inerrantist.

    If a theological statement (X) in the OT is corrected (Y) in the NT, an inerrantist could hold both X AND Y valid for different contexts or they can also just update to Y ALONE. Inerrancy accommodates this. I don’t understand where this “… just believe it regardless of any external evidence” characterization comes from. Anyway, what do you think of Heiser’s claim that the OT is a mystery to ensure that NT prophesies be fulfilled?


  20. Chaz Ing says:

    Going back to a previous question: EXACTLY what is “relevant qualifications” for a bible scholar in your view? What if that scholar is an atheist like Hector Avalos? Or a gnostic?


  21. unkleE says:

    Hi Chaz, no I don’t see where inerrancy requires 100% factuality. For a start, who thinks all of Jesus’ parables actually happened? I listed those two as possible beliefs, not as the same belief. And no, I haven’t claimed anything about who is more committed to truth.

    Sorry, I gave the Luke reference from memory and I got it one verse wrong – it should be Luke 16:16-17, which says:

    “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.”

    To me this clearly says that (1) the OT was in force up until John the Baptist, (2) since then the good news of the kingdom has superseded it, and (3) but the law remains intact for anyone who chooses to stay with it.

    As for external evidence, if one is an inerrantist, then one must believe the Bible over any external evidence, there is no other way, do you agree?

    I haven’t got that far with Heiser (I have only watched some of it, I am a little overwhelmed right now) but I’m not sure I agree with the statement you made. I think OT prophecy wasn’t always concerned with fulfilment but warning, and some of the claimed NT fulfilments were not what the original writer had in mind.

    Re qualifications for a scholar, I think you are being to binary – it isn’t just scholar or no scholar. There is a range, and the reality is that some people have more credibility than others, and my criteria help determine that. If a scholar is an atheist or a christian I have to determine if their belief affects their conclusions, and adjust accordingly. Life isn’t black and white. But my criteria clearly identify some scholars as more credible than others.

    Thanks again.


  22. Ryan says:

    Hi Eric,

    Hows it going 🙂

    I just wanted to address what you wrote

    1. You wrote that

    If we don’t know if Noah or Moses were historical figures, what does it change about our belief in Jesus?

    I think it does change things in some sense, because Jesus is recorded to state in John 39-47 (KJV)

    Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

    I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

    How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

    So here Jesus makes direct reference to Moses, so does Jesus believe in Moses? In this account he was addressing these questions to the Jewish people present.

    Jesus is also recorded in John 3:14 as saying:

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up

    Now again, does Jesus believe in Moses? Or was He using Moses as allegory, even though the OT in places is not considered accurate by certain scholars? I could be taking these verses out of context, but Jesus does still refer to Moses directly.

    2. You also wrote:

    And the experts say many of the “worst” commands or events didn’t happen and/or have been misunderstood by modern readers unacquainted with the local culture. Believing they really occurred misrepresents God.

    How does this misrepresent God? Its in the Bible, how can any commands in the Bible related to God, represent God?

    Are you sure it is not more likely that certain commands are offending our modern sentimentality on who we want God to be?

    St Paul addresses some questions regarding God’s treatment of Humanity in his epistle to the Church in Rome.

    During his letter in Romans 9:14-33 Paul writes that (KJV):

    What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

    So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

    Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

    Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

    Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

    What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    Now again, the whole context is important, but this Epistle does again mention Moses, and not only that, but in it Paul addresses many questions that were possibly raised within the early church, one of them possibly regarding Gods treatment of humanity (in this case Israel and Gentiles).

    And then there’s The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31

    where Jesus teaches that in Luke 16:25-31

    “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
    “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
    “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

    At the end of the day, the teaching and Good News of Jesus is what matters. It is His, Gods Person, Spirit and Message that gives life according to the scriptures.

    In John 5:24 Jesus expresses that (KJV):

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

    And St Paul also writes in Romans 11: 33-36 that (NIV):

    Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
    “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
    “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
    For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

    Indeed, Gods ways are a mystery to me in many ways. But in what I do understand, I see in Jesus freedom and peace.

    Hope you have an excellent day 🙂

    Kind regards, Ryan


  23. Chaz Ing says:

    unkleE, I don’t see how “but the law remains intact for anyone who chooses to stay with it” is even a possible conclusion to that text.

    An inerrantist does not have to “believe the Bible over any external evidence”, an inerrantist just has to believe a certain position about the autographs. They are free to have opinions as to what the text (could) mean and also to change and expand (hold two or more interpretations which they view as equally valid but in different contexts) accordingly. Perhaps you are conflating a hyper-fundamentalist with an inerrantist. I am not being binary but simply asking you how you decide. Probing your views do not necessarily indicate mine.


  24. Ryan says:

    And then there’s the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-3, where:

    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

    If Moses was a myth, then how was he present in the Transfiguration?


  25. Chaz Ing says:

    Interesting point Ryan. As I see it, unkleE is filtering the OT through a NT lens (correct me if I am wrong unkleE), but I would argue that it should be the opposite. By learning the culture/motifs of the OT, we see how the NT correlates and more revelation about both the OT and NT results.


  26. Ryan says:

    and I’m not a Bible expert at all, I may have taken verses out of context above.

    Like I mentioned before, for the Christian, the teaching and Good News of Jesus is the main focus. It is His Spirit and Message that gives life.

    Romans 10:9-10:

    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

    So Jesus is the Cornerstone, and He asks us to follow Him, something I have not been very obedient in doing. Jesus teaches that He came to fulfil the Law, and the Grace is available through His Sacrifice. So that Grace is available to all of us through His Sacrifice, and that is Gods Love.


  27. Ryan says:


    The Bible verse Romans 10:9-10: ended at

    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

    And ignorantianescia,

    thanks for Clarifying, and I agree with you, our opinions do require justification.


  28. ignorantianescia says:

    With respect to the issues with a scholarly consensus (which are real as no consensus is perfect), it merits our attention that AiG at times feels fit to refer to consensuses as well, which are only a great deal more arbitrary and more likely wrong. As I recall, when once actual Hebrew grammar became too scary for them, they resorted to a consensus of Bible translators.


  29. Ryan says:

    Sorry, typo.

    in relation to:

    And the experts say many of the “worst” commands or events didn’t happen and/or have been misunderstood by modern readers unacquainted with the local culture. Believing they really occurred misrepresents God.

    – How does this misrepresent God? Its in the Bible, how can any commands in the Bible related to God, misrepresent* God?


  30. unkleE says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I can only share how I have come to see things – if you have no problems with the OT, then I can understand that you are unlikely to see things the same. But we certainly agree that “At the end of the day, the teaching and Good News of Jesus is what matters.”

    I think many of the problems you raise come from holding a different view of scripture than it appears Jesus and the apostles did. We think that every OT quote and allusion ‘should’ be in context and confirms the historical reliability of the incident referred to. But they took references out of context, changed their meaning and even referred to incidents that were not in the OT text but in Jewish traditions. I didn’t make this up, I didn’t even believe it because I read it in a book. It became clear to me as I did my own reading of the NT, and then researched how the authors and Jesus quoted the OT. It is all there in the Bible.

    But once we see and accept that this is how they did things, many of the arguments against my conclusions fall. So it isn’t critical to NT faith whether Moses is a historical character or not (though I think he was), nor whether all the stories written about him are historical in all their details (I think some stories are legendary). Jesus could feasibly have referred to him whether the story was literal history or Jewish tradition.

    “How does this misrepresent God? Its in the Bible, how can any commands in the Bible related to God, represent God?

    Are you sure it is not more likely that certain commands are offending our modern sentimentality on who we want God to be?”

    Jesus taught by word and example that God is love and has compassion on the weak and powerless. The OT recounts some stories that suggest God behaved somewhat differently. So we christians have a problem, with several options to resolve:

    1. We can simply ignore the problems and say we trust God.
    2. We can try to find a way to justify what God is portrayed as doing.
    3. We can say that the OT contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus, and therefore we must be getting a wrong impression of it – either we have totally misinterpreted the passages or they are not correct.

    I have chosen #3 because it seems to best fit the facts, including the limited nature of the Bible’s claims about itself. One piece of evidence for that view is that, according to the author I referenced, Jesus seems also to take that option.

    I think this view also helps me to put the OT problems aside and get on with following Jesus. I hope that explains where I’m at. Thanks.


  31. unkleE says:

    “I don’t see how “but the law remains intact for anyone who chooses to stay with it” is even a possible conclusion to that text.”

    Hi Chaz, how else do you explain that Jesus said that every detail of the law remains and that he said that it ended at John and now the good news of the kingdom is being preached instead?

    “An inerrantist does not have to “believe the Bible over any external evidence”, an inerrantist just has to believe a certain position about the autographs.”

    I recall you saying (regarding evolution and the age of the earth) that it was wrong for me to allow science to interpret the Bible. Have you changed your view since then?

    “unkleE is filtering the OT through a NT lens (correct me if I am wrong unkleE)”

    I think we use OT to better understand NT and NT to better understand OT. I’m not sure that is the same as “filtering”. So the OT helps us understand the culture and religion Jesus spoke into, and the way the NT uses the OT gives us information about how they viewed scripture.


  32. Chaz Ing says:

    unkleE, Jesus did not say that every detail of the law remains (in effect today and that anyone should choose to remain with it), the law remained until his manifestation (Gal 3). To properly interpret the text, we have to use exegetical sciences not natural sciences. In other words we don’t look to the text from our understanding but rather we look to understand the situational perspective of the text. What you are doing is accepting scholarship on evolution (and the age of the earth) and then trying to synchronize with the text. That’s eisegesis, not exegesis.


  33. unkleE says:

    Chaz, this is getting a little surreal. I made no mention of evolution in regard to Luke 16, and I can see no possible connection. He said in Matt 5 that not one punctuation point would pass from the law – that seems to be saying that every detail remains, wouldn’t you say?


  34. Chaz Ing says:

    Mt 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (AV). Isn’t the law fulfilled in Christ? Better yet, are YOU under the law? Are you Hebrew and living in Israel?
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I did not mean evolution as per Lk 16 but that like your views on evolution, you are relying too much on ‘scholars’ and reading interpretations into the text. Also, you still have not explained how inerrancy requires one to not look at external evidence.


  35. unkleE says:

    Chaz, I’m finding your comments confusing.

    1. What are you trying to argue about Matt 5? Originally I suggested that there were some discontinuities between OT and NT teaching, and that as a christian I felt I should go with what Jesus taught and revealed, even if that required me to set aside in some way the OT teaching. You questioned the validity of that, so I used Matt 5 and Luke 16 as part of my justification. Now you seem to be using Matt 5 in the same way I was, to say that OT Law no longer applies to us. If so, then you seemed to have changed your position and we are now in agreement. Is that not so?

    2. Likewise re scholars and external evidence. I have never said inerrancy requires one not to look at external evidence, only that in the end, and inerrant Bible (if one believes in this) must have greater authority than a non-inerrant external fact, and we shouldn’t use the science to re-interpret the Bible. And you said the same thing to me once, in this discussion.

    You said once earlier that you are probing my position by presenting viewpoints you don’t necessarily agree with. Can I ask you please to identify when you are doing that so I don’t become confused as to what you actually think yourself. As it is, it looks like you are just shifting ground to continue the argument. Thanks.


  36. Chaz Ing says:

    unkleE, we seem to be talking past each other yet again. Hopefully this helps.

    1. Mt 5 does not explicitly state that the law is applicable to those (Jewish or Christian) who wish to be under it. That is a possible deduction (if you use other supporting texts) but I am not fully settled that such a view is correct and that position cannot be derived SOLELY from the Lk 16 text.
    2. However, OT law was never applicable to Gentiles because it was only given to the Hebrews.
    3. I have not changed my position. I question THE WAY in which you are re-interpreting the OT in light of the NT and was pointing out that the law was fulfilled so it is no longer in effect FOR ANYONE.

    You stated that:

    [quote]So I conclude that there are two views we can have of the OT – either it is [b]inerrant, God has set it all down once and for all, and [i]we should just believe it regardless of any external evidence[/i][/b], …[/quote]

    4. This to me is saying that an inerrantist discards all external evidence. Now you say:

    [quote]I have never said inerrancy requires one not to look at external evidence, only that in the end, and inerrant Bible (if one believes in this) must have greater authority than a non-inerrant external fact, and we shouldn’t use the science to re-interpret the Bible.[/quote]

    Now you are confusing me.

    5. Have you not used external science to re-interpret the literal interpretation of the text such as you did with Mungo Man? Don’t you use non-exegetical sciences to call Genesis a myth and to assume that God used/employs evolution?
    6. Additionally, to clarify my position, exegesis CAN use science but only the exegetical sciences not the natural sciences. I can’t think of a case where the natural sciences would be applicable to proper exegesis.


  37. unkleE says:

    OK, so do we both agree that some parts of the OT are no longer applicable to christians? And that the teachings of Jesus supersede any OT teachings that are contrary to his teachings?

    If so, then we are agreed about the basis of my post.

    Re inerrancy and science. I presented that view you quote not as my own view, but as an explanation of a view I was rejecting. Note I said “if one believe this”. I say again that I don’t suggest belief in inerrancy requires one to ignore science, only that science has lesser authority and so must be put aside if it disagrees with an inerrant Bible (if one believed in inerrancy, which I don’t). Do you disagree with that logic?

    So I don’t believe in inerrancy and I believe in using all the information we have available to resolve questions. So yes, I did use modern archaeology to understand Mungo Man, but I do not use science alone to call Genesis 1-3 a myth. Long before I came to accept the science of evolution I had concluded from the text itself that Genesis 1-3 was not historical.

    So if you answer the three questions I ask here, please, perhaps we can resolve everything. Thanks.


  38. Chaz Ing says:

    No, however, your prior statement (the first quotation) would lead to the conclusion that in your view, an inerrantist discards any extra-biblical evidence. I guess it is the use of the word “regardless”, so thanks for the clarification.


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