I have been considering the implications of Peter Enns’ suggestion that, in the light of the evidence, we should understand the Old Testament differently than we have done in the past. In a comment on the post Interpreting the Old Testament, Brisancian has asked a number of questions about how we can know what’s true.
I thought the questions were important enough to answer in a new post. Quotes from Brisancian’s questions are shown as blockquotes.
Understanding the Old Testament isn’t always easy. As well as Genesis-evolution, there are many apparent inconsistencies, within the Old Testament, and between the Old and New Testaments.
And those who have read a little about ancient Middle East archaeology, history and literature may have noted similarities between Biblical accounts of creation, the flood and the law, and earlier writings covering similar themes.
This 2005 book by a respected Old Testament scholar aims at addressing a few of these issues based on good scholarship, in a way that is helpful to christians.
I recently wrote about how academics in christian universities and colleges in the USA are finding their professional conclusions coming into conflict with the faith statements of their colleges. But this is an issue that to some degree affects all christians.
How should we respond when secular learning seems to contradict traditional christian belief?
It seems inevitable that there will be a tension for christians between academic knowledge and faith. But sometimes the tension becomes very personal in its impacts, and feelings are high on both sides. These issues have come to a head a number of times in recent years at universities and colleges in the USA.
Many years ago, in a mis-spent youth, I completed some formal theological study. For one subject, I studied the prophet Isaiah. Just this week I prepared and led a study on Isaiah, and renewed my awe of this amazing man.
I really think he had the deepest understanding of God of any person who lived before Jesus, and more than most people since.
When it’s all said and done about the Bible, sometimes more is said than done. But the purpose of the Bible is not to simply read, but to lead us to action. What does the Bible call us to do if we choose to follow Jesus?
So far, the matters we have been discussing seem, to me at least, to be fairly clear and straightforward. They have been based on clear statements in the Bible (or lack of them) and the clear views of competent scholars.
But today’s topic is very challenging, and I can’t claim to have many answers. I’ll be interested in any reactions please.
Christians generally believe the Bible, and believe in the Bible, but what should we believe about the Bible?
Probably the strongest claim christians make about the Bible is that it is inerrant – it contains no errors. There are various limits put on this – e.g. it only applies to the original writings, it only applies to the meaning and intention of the writers – but within those limits it is perfectly accurate without the slightest inaccuracy.
We have looked at what Jesus, the Bible and the Bible authors say about the Bible and how they used their scriptures. Now it is time to see what we can conclude about the Bible, and whether some claims about the Bible can be sustained.
First, is it correct to describe the Bible as ‘the Word of God’?