Making sense of the Old Testament – Part Two

When we talk about Old Testament history, we must first understand two inherent problems with understanding history in general, and a third problem with biblical historical criticism in particular.

The first problem is with the nature of ancient history itself. We’re not talking about pure history, but historiography. 

Pure history is what we’re actually living. As Dr. Melinda Cousins says, there wouldn’t be enough books on earth to contain pure history. What we have is selective historiography. And there’s no such thing as historiography written from an unbiased point of view. All history has an agenda whether it’s an acknowledged agenda or not. The Bible is unashamedly and deliberately biased in telling its story. It has an agenda.  The nature of Bible history is theological.

The Old Testament does not set out to prove what happened. It’s set out to call us to respond to the God who is presented to us, working in the lives of people then, and wanting to work in the lives of people now. So asking the right questions of the text is important (Cousin’s comments are from a lecture on video here).

As Old Testament scholar, Peter Enns said this in book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

“Many Christians have been taught that the Bible is Truth downloaded from heaven, God’s rulebook, a heavenly instructional manual—follow the directions and out pops a true believer; deviate from the script and God will come crashing down on you with full force.” (loc. 104 Kindle version)

“The Bible is not a Christian owner’s manual but a story—a diverse story of God and how his people have connected with him over the centuries, in changing circumstances and situations.” (Kindle loc. 2261, emphasis added)

The second problem with understanding ancient history has to do with what I mentioned in part one. A creation myth or story about a particular person in history doesn’t necessarily mean that this person didn’t actually exist. Skeptics like to use this to prove that the Bible is fiction, but that’s the wrong way to understand it. For instance, we have founding myths about our country’s founding fathers here in the U.S., like Washington “never telling a lie.” While no one honestly believes ol’ George never lied, we also never question his actual existence. The tale was meant to teach children in our culture the virtues of honesty.

I will spend a little more time on the third problem. It has to do with Bible scholarship itself and what is known as historical biblical criticism.

“Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt”

The theater, the theater, what’s happened to the theater?
Especially where dancing is concerned
Chaps who did taps aren’t tapping anymore
They’re doing choreography  (From White Christmas, Choreography)

Historical Criticism began in the 17th century as a polemic/apologetical. One of its first exponents, Richard Simon, a Roman Catholic, used historical criticism to undermine Protestant dependency on the Bible as the sole source of authority. Hermann Reimarus used it to assault the basis of Christianity itself.

“Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt” was the opening line from Walter Wink’s book, Bible in Human Transformation: Toward A New Paradigm In Bible Study. Besides being a respected Bible scholar, Wink was actively involved the Jesus Seminar, so he’s no evangelical conservative railing against liberal theology. With this opening salvo, Wink launches a devastating blow to what he called the illusion of disinterested objectivity in biblical historical criticism.

“This professed “objective standpoint” from which historical critical scholars approach New Testament texts, Wink asserts, masks the scholars’ unavoidable but unquestioned subjectivity while negating the intention of the texts to address questions of faith arising out of the realities of life as it is lived. It also allows the biblical scholar to avoid being examined by the texts he or she examines, thereby subverting the intention of those texts to examine the examiner, to question the questioner, to interrogate the interrogator….This, together with a certain “technologism” that elevates technique over text, thereby limiting the scope of questions that can be asked and answered, leads to a discipline that, in Wink’s view, has “outlived its usefulness as presently practiced.” This did not make him popular with the guild of biblical scholars. (From Augsburg Fortress Press, retrieved here. Emphasis added)

Wink also notes that “in America the problem has been exacerbated by the struggle to gain standing in religious studies in secular universities previously closed to all religious instruction.” Further on he says:

“Objectivism is a false consciousness because evidence of its error is systematically repressed. It pretends detachment when in fact the scholar is attached to an institution with a high stake in the socialization of students and the preservation of society, and when he himself has a high stake in advancement in that institution by publication of his researches.” (Kindle loc. 155, emphasis added)

While Wink asserts that historical criticism is a good thing, in an of itself, he maintains it must be fundamentally reformed because it has utterly failed to do what it set out to do. Wink makes many other devastating arguments against the way historical criticism is currently used in scholarship today. You can read the first chapter of this book here.

Reading the Old Testament in order to prove its historicity is actually reading against the nature of the text, like we saw in part one.  It’s failing to see its transforming power when the observer allows him or herself to be observed by it, for the Word of God is relational in nature. To miss this is to miss the proverbial forest for the trees.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Heb.4:12 NLT)

We will continue digging into this aspect of Old Testament Bible history next time.

Related Post: The nature of Biblical inspiration

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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69 Responses to Making sense of the Old Testament – Part Two

  1. thewayonline says:

    The Old Testament was explained to me by a professor as the journey to Jesus. It is a series of road signs pointing us to finding Jesus. And just as if we were to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, we don’t need to go back and admire the signs along the road like we do the destination itself – Jesus is the reason for the Old Testament. It is a witness for the need of Jesus, a genealogy of Jesus, and the prophetic foreshadowing of his coming and redemptive work on the cross. Jesus is in every book of the Old Testament too. http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/is-jesus-in-every-book-of-the-old-testament.html

  2. john zande says:

    So you’re saying you accept the Pentateuch to be historical fiction, a foundational myth, a dream, not a descriptive historical fact?

    • Mel Wild says:

      I didn’t say that. I said that myths and stories are not the same thing as fiction. They do not necessarily mean that the people in the stories did not exist, or even elements of the events themselves did not happen in some fashion. They are simply told in a particular way, even embellished or changed over time, to make a larger point. Ultimately, the stories are meant to connect us with God. So, while a biblical myth or story is not meant to be historically accurate the way we think of it today, it’s not total fiction either, which is what you imply when you say the Pentateuch is historical fiction. I would not agree with that. I would say it’s a redemption story as I defined it here.

      • john zande says:

        So, what is your method for determining what is historical fiction and what is historical fact?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I personally am not so concerned about the exact historicity of the Old Testament. Unlike the New Testament, it’s very hard to prove every facet with something as ancient (or with any other part of history from the same time period). And, again, it was never meant to be read that way in the first place. What I look for is what it’s saying about God and to me. In other words, I let the Bible study me. My hermeneutical method is what I’ve written about at length here, called the “Jesus Hermeneutic.” All Scripture is interpreted through the “lens” of Jesus Christ. Anything that does not pass this test, I interpret as something written for some other purpose than is relevant to me.

        • john zande says:

          I personally am not so concerned about the exact historicity of the Old Testament.

          Well, that has to be the biggest pathetic cop-out I’ve seen for a while.

          I’m afraid, though, it’s not that easy, Mel. Your entire religion rests on at least some of the Pentateuch being true. Without that, you have no Yhwh.

          That is it’s only source document.

          Without that, no Yhwh.

          So, again, what is historical fact, and what is historical fiction? And what is your method for determining this…

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m afraid, though, it’s not that easy, Mel. Your entire religion rests on at least some of the Pentateuch being true. Without that, you have no Yhwh.

          That is a patently false assertion. You need to reread what I said. You obviously don’t get the point. Neither Yahweh’s existence, nor my faith in Jesus Christ, depends on the veracity of the Old Testament stories. Even if they were 100% fictional accounts (which I’m not saying they are) it would not change the inspired nature of the Old Testament or change my understanding of God or my faith in Christ. You are totally missing the forest for the trees. I gave you my method for understanding what the text is saying to me. I don’t put my faith in ancient history. I put my faith in Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead, and I have strong evidence for that, as I have shown in the previous series. You are free to disagree.

        • john zande says:

          Neither Yahweh’s existence, nor my faith in Jesus Christ, depends on the veracity of the Old Testament stories

          Really?

          So you know of some other source document naming Yhwh that pre-dates the Pentateuch?

          Could you point me to that document, please?

          I put my faith in Jesus Christ

          Who didn’t even know basic regional history… a history he was, allegedly, intimately involved in.

          Begs the question, why would you have faith in this person?

          According to the Lectric Law Library a credible witness is someone “competent and worthy of belief… an individual capable of knowing the thing thoroughly about which he testifies.”

          Well, despite the claim to speak the “truth” made in John 18:38 ( I came into the world to testify to the truth) Jesus fails this simple test of credibility.

          In John 5:45 he says: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

          Well, Moses was not a real historical character.

          How did Jesus (who was/is Yhwh) not know this?

          How can you, Mel, believe this person (have ‘faith’ in them) when they don’t even know what they’re talking about?

        • Mel Wild says:

          John, you are taking John 5:45 out of context. Jesus was talking to JEWS who followed Moses’ teachings. He said, YOU believe…the context was faith, not in historical veracity. If they believed in Moses (Law) they should have faith in Christ who was standing right in front of Him. He was the fulfillment of the Law that they had faith in.

          Your argumentation is exactly why Walter Wink correctly said why historical criticism is bankrupt. It misses the whole point of the text.

        • john zande says:

          Oh, so you’re implying Jesus knew Moses wasn’t an historical character and was just telling a white lie?

          That’s an interesting apologetic two-step.

          Neither Yahweh’s existence, nor my faith in Jesus Christ, depends on the veracity of the Old Testament stories

          So you know of some other source document naming Yhwh that pre-dates the Pentateuch?

          Could you point me to that document, please?

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’re only showing that you don’t understand how the text was intended. You don’t understand it by looking for historical veracity. You are still missing the point.

        • john zande says:

          Neither Yahweh’s existence, nor my faith in Jesus Christ, depends on the veracity of the Old Testament stories

          So you know of some other source document naming Yhwh that pre-dates the Pentateuch?

          Could you point me to that document, please?

        • john zande says:

          Mel, do you know of some other source document naming Yhwh that pre-dates the Pentateuch?

          If so, can you point me to it?

        • john zande says:

          Mel, do you know of some other source document naming Yhwh that pre-dates the Pentateuch?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’ve heard speculation on a YHW but no, I believe YHWH is unique to Israel.

        • john zande says:

          Yes, the Shasu of the nearby Edomite desert (modern day Sinai), a band of Semitic speaking Bedouins, had a war god named YHW.

          Same god? Hard to say.

          Regardless, if the Pentateuch is the only source document for Yhwh, then I find this statement of yours then rather confounding:

          Neither Yahweh’s existence, nor my faith in Jesus Christ, depends on the veracity of the Old Testament stories

          If the Pentateuch is known historical fiction, a “foundation myth” as Orthodox Rabi Louis Jacobs confirms, then what, exactly, are you basing your belief that this god, who is mentioned only in the Pentateuch, is real?

        • Mel Wild says:

          We’re getting into archeological confirmation issues again. I don’t think Israel got their revelation of God from the Shasu because YHWH is not the same in many ways. Many Semitic names look similar, but all that’s not the point here or the basis of my faith.

        • john zande says:

          I agree. I don’t think they’re the same, although they did bump up against Judah, and Yhwh is the god of Judah, not Israel. Israel took its name from El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon, El, Mamlekhet Yisra’el.

          You didn’t, however, address my question.

          If the Pentateuch is known historical fiction, a “foundation myth” as Orthodox Rabi Louis Jacobs confirms, then what, exactly, are you basing your belief that this god, who is mentioned only in the Pentateuch, is real?

          As Conservative Rabbi Nardy Grün said:

          “The Pentateuch is the Jewish Mythology. My duty as a Rabbi is to interpret the Bible and consider it as my Mythology, as the founding story of the people of Israel, of course not to take it literally… it is not a book of facts, but a myth.”

          And as Israel’s oldest daily Newspaper, Hareetz, announced in 2014:

          “Currently there is broad agreement among archeologists and Bible scholars that there is no historical basis for the narratives of the Patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, and the conquest of Canaan, nor any archeological evidence to make them think otherwise.”

          So, what are you basing your belief on?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Again, myth does not mean total fiction like it does today. I base my belief on Jesus Christ who God raised from the dead, as I said before.

          The inspiration of the Old Testament is in the brilliant way the various genres speak to us, even today: of freedom, redemption, the nature God who is love and how He works with humankind, the internal debate between priest and prophets, counter-intuitive take on scapegoating (Girard), giving the victim a voice, and a whole host of other things too profound to be simply cultural imitation. Especially at the time it was written.

        • john zande says:

          Oh, I agree, some of the stories hold genuine value. Statehood not least amongst them.

          But these are stories, part of a wisdom tradition. They are not historical. They are myth made to look and sound plausible (hence the term, “historical fiction”) because there was a purpose behind making it sound “real” to the intended audience.

          Judah wanted to capitalise on a weakened Mamlekhet Yisra’el after its sacking in 722 BCE. They created this origin tale to place them, Judah, and their god, Yhwh, at the centre of the Jewish world. As Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University, put it:

          “There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom.”

          So, you still haven’t identified what, exactly, you base your belief in the existence of the god of the Pentateuch on.

          If it’s not the Pentateuch, as it cannot be, then what?

      • john zande says:

        And Mel, you still haven’t answered my question (asked twice) on the other thread:

        Have you ever read a paper on animal behavioural studies; studies about fair play, empathy, morality?

        That’s now three times.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, I haven’t. I stopped responding because we were getting way off-topic again. We will just have to agree to disagree on where this behavior originates.

        • john zande says:

          And there it is again.

          You bring up the subject (moral facts), discuss it in comment after comment after comment (with Tildeb), make all sorts of assertive proclamations, then when pressed to actually support those statements, you hand wave and say “That’s not we’re talking about.”

          Your dishonesty is astounding, Mel.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And there it is again.
          You bring up the subject (moral facts), discuss it in comment after comment after comment (with Tildeb), make all sorts of assertive proclamations, then when pressed to actually support those statements, you hand wave and say “That’s not we’re talking about.”
          Your dishonesty is astounding, Mel.

          You are wrong on both counts. First, I didn’t bring up evolution and morality topic. Second, it was getter further and further off-topic, which is why I finally dropped it. How it started was I was asked to show evidence to infer the existence of a designer (which was already way off-topic), which included moral conscience. I made the mistake of answering it in the first place, and then ARK said: “Evolution explains morality” , which Tildeb and you got into after that. But that’s where we got further off-topic with the question of where morality comes from. The point is, none of it had anything to do with the subject.

          I get tired of you guys with your constant accusations. Please tone the rhetoric down and stay on subject. I know better now. I will not respond to any more of your red herrings so I don’t get accused of being dishonest and deceptive.

        • john zande says:

          No, it started with you saying (as evidence of a Creator) there were moral facts.

          Tildeb asked you to name one.

          You then went on a tirade (unfounded, as it now appears) about how biology does not/cannot explain morality.

          That, Mel, went on and on and on until I jumped in with the simple question: have you ever read a paper on animal behavioural studies.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I was asked to state what evidence I had to infer a designer. That’s where it all started. My response was to include what is called moral realism.
          Are you a lawyer? You seem to legalistically quibble over a lot of things.

        • john zande says:

          I’m forced to do so with dishonest interlocutors 😉

          So, have you ever read a paper on animal behavioural studies; studies about fair play, empathy, morality?

          If you can just answer the question we can leave it at that… here, at least.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m forced to do so with dishonest interlocutors. 🙂

          That’s why I’m not going off-topic again so I don’t falsely get accused of being one.

          So, have you ever read a paper on animal behavioural studies; studies about fair play, empathy, morality?
          If you can just answer the question we can leave it at that… here, at least.

          I’ve already told you before, no, I haven’t read it. Yes, please leave it at that.

        • john zande says:

          No, you never answered.

          You even admited as much three of four comments above.

          I’ve heard the trick to be a successful liar, Mel, is to remember your lies.

          Just saying.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I answered you on this post! Here’s what I said when you asked me about the documents on this post (which has NOTHING whatsoever to do with this post or the earlier one):

          No, I haven’t. I stopped responding because we were getting way off-topic again. We will just have to agree to disagree on where this behavior originates.

          That was a verbatim quote from my earlier comment. Get it? “NO, I haven’t” means I haven’t read them.

          I am not a liar but you are still off-topic.

        • john zande says:

          Mel, I asked: And Mel, you still haven’t answered my question (asked twice) on the other thread…

          You answered: No, I haven’t.

          Then, when asked again, you said I’ve already told you before, no, I haven’t read it.

          When was the “before”, Mel?

          Anyway, forget it. This repetitive, evasive song and dance routine of yours is tiresome.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Then, when asked again, you said I’ve already told you before, no, I haven’t read it.
          When was the “before”, Mel?
          Anyway, forget it. This repetitive, evasive song and dance routine of yours is tiresome.

          Since you are so litigious and accusatory. Here’s the facts. I said “No, I haven’t” at 8:11 am (my time), answering your question for the first time. Then, I answered it again at 1:15 pm, “No, I haven’t read it.” That was the “before.”

          John, I have been very patient with you, but you are the liar here. Not only that, but you falsely accused me of lying about me bringing the moral facts and evolution topic up (which initially was my RESPONSE to Ark’s comments, as I explained before. I did not bring it up). You not only are a liar but totally disrespectful when I ask you to stay on topic here. So, good. Please forget it. Good-bye.

        • john zande says:

          Re-reading this, I think I mis-read your first comment. My apologies. Your “No I haven’t” was the answer, I took it as No I haven’t answered.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Just got your comment. Thank you.

        • john zande says:

          No, I’m sorry. I did misread your first comment.

        • john zande says:

          Feel free to delete this particular thread… while I wait for you to answer my on-topic/on-post question… 😉

  3. Arkenaten says:

    In order that I have at last a minimum base as to how to engage this post which of these tales from the Pentateuch do you personally consider leans more towards historical fact rather than historical fiction?

    Adam and Eve.
    Noah’s Ark
    The Patriarch’s
    Moses
    Captivity, Exodus and Conquest.

    Thanks.

    • Mel Wild says:

      My point is that historical veracity was not the intent of the writings nor how we should understand the text. So, no, it’s not the basis of how to engage this post. To argue for an accurate 21st century standard of historicity is to completely miss the point of the post.

      I believe there are at least elements of actual history with the stories. It’s doubtful that all the Old Testament stories were totally made up. But either way, that’s not irrelevant to how I understand the text.

      • Arkenaten says:

        I am sure there are quite a few elements of history and this is why archaeologists and biblical scholars often use the historical fiction.

        For example, do you consider there is any veracity about Moses going up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from Yahweh?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Again, not relevant to what’s important. What’s important is that we were given the Ten Commandments, one way or the other. And what’s more important is understanding why and what they are about, what they say to us, which is that we would walk in other-centered, self-giving love. From a forensic historical point of view, my understanding is that it’s not easy to identify exactly which mountain was Mt. Sinai (there’s debate over it), let alone prove (or disprove) anything else about it.

        • Arkenaten says:

          I too believe there is probably no way to identify the mountain from the biblical description, although Mt. Horeb seems to be at least one option.
          So who do you believe gave us the Ten Commandments and to whom were they given?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I believe they were inspired by God, given to someone we call Moses (or an actual Moses). I have no way to prove that historically, but the veracity is in what they are saying to us.

          The Ten Commandment were directly given to Israel, but the way Jesus interprets them (Matt.22:37-40), they are significant of all humankind. Walking in other-centered, self-giving love with God is the interpretative key to the whole story of redemption.

        • Arkenaten says:

          Do you personally consider the character Moses is the same one responsible for the Exodus?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I think I’ve answered that. I do, but even if that cannot be proven, the meaning of the text is the same.

        • Arkenaten says:

          So you deny the archaeological and scholarly consensus, then, yes?

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, I just know that archeology cannot conclusively disprove someone’s existence when we’re talking about ancient history. And this post explains some of the problems with historical criticism among scholars. As I said before, you could not even prove my wife’s great-grandfather existed with archeology, but we know he existed through generations of family tradition. Archeology is just one small piece of the puzzle. And, again, it doesn’t touch the purpose of the text.

        • Arkenaten says:

          Yes, I have noted the thrust of the post and I am fairly sure most of the archaeologists involved in this area of archaeology are fully aware of the limitations.

          So, if you do not deny the archaeological and scholarly consensus in what capacity do you see the character Moses, bearing in mind that the consensus not only denies his existence ( as per the biblical description of a real historical person) but also the evidence of the Internal Settlement Pattern refutes the fictional tale of the Biblical Exodus.
          Could you please be as explicit as possible with your answer so we can avoid any more misunderstanding?
          Thanks.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I don’t deny the archeological findings. I have no authoritative opinion on the matter, but I know they themselves nuance their findings with “doubtful” or not proven. They can rightly say they have no evidence but they also know that doesn’t necessarily disprove a historical event. Some more aggressive activists say it’s all total fiction (which they cannot prove). I doubt we’ll ever know to what extent it’s actually fiction and what is real for the reasons I’ve already given.

          For the sake of argument, even if Moses did not exist at all, the stories would have the same inspirational weight and value to us. But if they were totally false, it’s quite remarkable that it would be told in such a way as to paint Israel in such a poor light, as totally disobedient, and the hero, Moses, failing to even make it into the Promised Land. That is counter-intuitive to most pagan religious myths.

        • Arkenaten says:

          They can rightly say they have no evidence but they also know that doesn’t necessarily disprove a historical event.

          You seem to have not noted the facts of the Internal Settlement Pattern?
          The Exodus as described in the bible is a piece of fiction, but this does not deny that some minor exodus did not take place, Dever and pthers have ackniwledged this possibilty. But any movement wass not due to fleeing from slavery as the Israeliutes were never in captivity. You are aware of this I presume and are not going to hand wave this evidence either I hope?
          I also directed you to Israel Finkelstein, who has written about the evidence for this and there are also videos which are easily accessible
          His position on this is accepted by the scholarly and archaeological consensus.

          John has been at pains to also point this out to you and provide copious quotes and references across the board.

          So you either accept the position or you do not?
          I did ask for you to be as explicit as possible so we can avoid this type of back and forth.

          For the sake of argument, even if Moses did not exist at all, the stories would have the same inspirational weight and value to us. And if they were totally false, it’s quite remarkable that it would be told in such a way as to paint Israel in such a poor light, as totally disobedient, and the hero, Moses, failing to even make it into the Promised Land. That is counter-intuitive to most pagan religious myths.

          So you now believe they were simply an inspirational tale?
          Are you now agreeing that the archaeological evidence has refuted the biblical tale as written?

          Not remarkable at all. I am sure John has explained this aspect to you as well?
          If not, I am sure he will help you out here too.

          Just for clarification casn I finally get a positive answer from you.

          Do you agree with the archaeological and scholarly consensus and accept that there was no Captivity, Exodus or Conquest as described in the bible?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I already told you, I cannot give you a definitive answer on the archeological findings because I have not studied out the particulars. I understand the nature and limitations of archeology, as I have already said. And now we’re talking about archeology instead of the post, so I will leave it there.

        • Arkenaten says:

          I already told you, I cannot give you a definitive answer on the archeological findings because I have not studied out the particulars.

          Yet you have been given ample material to consider and ample evidence to follow up on. Is there a reason you have not investigated the leads you have been given?
          Do you reject the consensus of the world’s foremost archaeologist and scholars in this field?
          As a Christian, Moses is central to your own faith so how can you offer a hand wave reply to this crucial aspect of your beliefs and how they impact on your personal worldview and that of Christianity in general?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yet you have been given ample material to consider and ample evidence to follow up on. Is there a reason you have not investigated the leads you have been given?

          If I have the time I will investigate the archeological claims because I like to learn things, but it’s not pertinent to my relationship with God so it’s not a top priority.

          Moses is central to your own faith so how can you offer a hand wave reply to this crucial aspect of your beliefs and how they impact on your personal worldview and that of Christianity in general?

          This is not hand-waving, Ark. You said you understood the point of the post, yet by saying this you show that you’ve totally missed the point. The historical veracity of Moses is NOT a crucial aspect of my faith at all. My faith is not based on Moses; it’s based on Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead. And we have strong inference for that from historically reliable evidence, as I have shown in the previous series.

        • Arkenaten says:

          So if we are to understand that Moses, as described in the bible, was simply part of a plot device then we must also accept that the accounts/verses where he is mentioned in the NT are all aspects of the same fiction?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Not only is your “then we must also accept…” argument is a non sequitur fallacy, you misunderstand the point of telling the stories in the culture it was told, and to us today. As I said in the post, “Reading the Old Testament in order to prove its historicity is actually reading against the nature of the text.”

        • Arkenaten says:

          Fair enough. I accept this.
          But the archaeological evidence tells another story that refutes the actual text.

          Therefore, you would agree that the term Historical Fiction is an accurate description of the Pentateuch, yes?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Archeology tells part of the story. It cannot tell the whole story, as I’ve already said. I have no convictions either way on the findings.

        • Arkenaten says:

          So if you beleive it can only tell part of the story which part do you consider has historical veracity?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m saying that rocks, bones, and pottery doesn’t explain everything about a culture or even history (neither does historiography). I believe that the Jewish people had generations of deeply embedded faith and oral and written tradition that brought them to the time of Christ. This is probably the best evidence of all, just like it is for the existence of my wife’s great-grandfather. As I already said, I have convictions on the particulars.

        • Arkenaten says:

          I understand.
          However, if, on the one hand, you state you are not denying the archaeology or the scholarly consensus then immediately add a qualifier by stating that archaeology only tells us part of the story, I simply want to know WHICH parts of the biblical text of the Captivity, Exodus and Conquest you consider has historical veracity. You must have some views otherwise you would either simply agree or reject the archaeological consensus.

          So why don’t we start with the Captivity?

          Do you believe that the Israelites, irrespective of numbers, were held as slaves by the Egyptian king?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Ark, this is not some quick question you want answered and we can move on. You are deliberately steering the post toward historicity and archeology, which is in the opposite direction of the post. I learned my lesson by going down this path with you guys. You’re just going to have to be satisfied with the answer I gave you.

        • Arkenaten says:

          If you are going to deny the archaeology and the history then how are we supposed to interpret the archaeology of the new testament?
          How are we to consider your integrity in this regard?
          You have firm beliefs regarding the NT ans here you are writing an exposition on the Old.
          If you consider you have the spiritual or intellectual capacity to write about the Pentateuch then at least have the honesty to state which parts you consider to contain historical veracity.
          You have already stated you personally beleive there was someone called Moses so do you believe in that the Israelites were at some point slaves in Egypt?

        • Mel Wild says:

          You interpret the Old Testament the way it’s SUPPOSED to be interpreted, not by some totally foreign modern concept.

          I’m not going to go OFF-topic, Ark. Because as soon as I do, then stop after about 20 off-topic comments, you have shown over and over to then accuse me of being deceptive and dishonest or evasive.

          Since you cannot respect my request to stay on topic. I’m ending this conversation here.

  4. Lance says:

    Mel, these days I get as much from the post hijacking attempts as the post itself. Thanks for letting some strong opinions seep into the conversation.

    And that leads me to this: Paul says (as you well know) the scriptures are “God breathed.” Often that has been translated as “inspired” which many read as “dictated.” Instead, as an alternate view, we can see the scriptures (whatever that might be to include the Biblical text) are “inspiring” or “inspirational” or “life giving”, which are other ways of saying “in spirited” or the rising up of our divine nature from behind the veil of unconsciousness. OK, that was a lot to swallow, but isn’t it interesting that these extensive comments and discussions have been a result of presenting and pondering “scripture?” I feel inspired, don’t you?

    Oh by the way…isn’t it a little irritating that WordPress and/or my browser doesn’t spell check comments? Who knows, maybe I don’t have it set up right and need a little inspiration to seek the truth regarding proper browser settings. Thanks Mel. You’re awesome.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Lance. And thanks for “Getting it.” 🙂 You said:

      And that leads me to this: Paul says (as you well know) the scriptures are “God breathed.” Often that has been translated as “inspired” which many read as “dictated.” Instead, as an alternate view, we can see the scriptures (whatever that might be to include the Biblical text) are “inspiring” or “inspirational” or “life giving”, which are other ways of saying “in spirited” or the rising up of our divine nature from behind the veil of unconsciousness.

      I agree! “God breathed” doesn’t mean dictated from heaven. And it doesn’t mean understanding what is said with wooden literalism either. What’s most important about Scripture is that it lead us into an encounter with Christ (John 5:39) and transforms us from the inside-out. Yes, participating in the divine nature is “eternal life” is found in relationship in the Divine Dance between the Father, Son and Spirit (John 17:3; 2 Cor.13:14; 2 Pet.1:4; 1 John 1:2-4), not the Bible itself or a place called “heaven” when we die.

      Btw, I can’t help much with WordPress. It’s still a major mystery to me. 🙂

  5. This is interesting stuff, Mel. I’ve enjoyed reading your words. Well done.

    Myself, I like approaching the bible precept by precept, like the layers of an onion. There is a whole lot going on there, poetry, history, allegories, parables. There really is a literal application and translation, but there is also a spiritual one. There is personal revelation to be found in the tale of a long ago battle, that applies right here and now. As a whole it’s a love story, but it’s also a conversation.

  6. Pingback: Archeology and the Exodus story | In My Father's House

  7. Pingback: How I understand the Old Testament | In My Father's House

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