Can a person say he's a Christian if he doesn't believe in the Old Testiment stories?

Can you say you believe in what Christ said, especially about being pacifist and turning the other cheek, but that Lot’s wife never turned to salt? And that Noah never was able to fit all the animals into a single boat? Etc.

Of course… All you have to do is view that the OT stories are metaphorical. They can be inspired by God instead of literal events. The vast majority of Christians who manage to reconcile their religious beliefs with, say, evolutionary science, shows that it’s not only possible but is probably a majority.

Lots of Christians (including several major denominations) say just that.

The approach would not be to dismiss the tales of the Old Testament as “just stories,” but to view many of them as stories that conveyed meanings beyond the literal surface tales. Such views are opposed by people who hold that the Bible is (generally) literally true, but I would say that, at this point, far more Christians see the Old Testament as a testament of the faith of the Jewish people in their interaction with God, using mythology*, poetry, hymns, preaching, and some history to express the truths that they learned in that interaction than the somewhat smaller number (although more numerous in the U.S.) of Christians who see the Old Testament as a historical record of events.

  • In the anthropological sense of a story conveying a Truth held in common by a people.

A great example that is not overly controversial is the Book of Jonah. While there are literalists galore who would tell you that is the account of what a prophet named Jonah went through, the majority view among Biblical critics and churches, liberal and conservatives alike, is that it’s a fictional account told to stress the universality of God’s love and the presence of His providence even in the unlikeliest of places.

It would take a lot of posting to walk people through the reasons for supposing the metaphorical, “mythical” (in the Campbellian use) nature of much of the Old Testament accounts, but in general there are good reasons for supposing a lot of it was told to illustrate a point, as story, not in a literal repertorial historical style.

What if he doesn’t believe they were meant as fiction, but are meant to be taken literally but are wrong. Like the meant-to-be-believed lore of other religions. Hinuism has tales of unbelievagle floods. And we feel quite safe saying, “No, sorry, I don’t think those tales are true, nor are they God giving us little moral pointers, but are just erroneous man-made-up crocks.”

Well, then, occasionally, he may be right, and occasionally, he may be wrong. Some parts of the Old Testament are quite literally, true… there was a city named Jericho, for example. And there was a tribe of Israel. And there was a king named David, I believe, we have evidence about that.
Now, specifics change, and if David did what he said, and if Moses lived where he lived, and if Manna fell from heaven, I do not know.

But certain things are certainly true. And, though it is hard to prove a negative, I am reasonably sure certain things are certainly false. (For example, the two accounts of Genesis. If one is true, the other probably isn’t.)

And some things may well be based on other things that may be based on other things that are true, like Noah and the Flood.

I’m afraid you really need to be more specific. All I can say is that absolutes are rarely useful in discussion.

Sometimes I think that if someone can realize the “moral of the story” or the “idea behind” then maybe that is what the OT is about. Consider this:

It is commonly believed that the universe is about 15 billion years old. (surf www.space.com) you will find it.

Well according to the Bible, that isn’t the case. Now I could see that you have this person three thousand years ago that you are trying to explain things to. Instead of saying, “Well little sheep hearder dude, I, God, created the Big Bang 15 billion years ago and our star system somewhere around 5 or so billion years ago and the earth about 4 billion years ago…” “I created people by the processes of starting with one celled organisms…”

Yeah, the sheep hearder is really going to follow that. But what is really important in the story? The “how” of the world’s creation, or the “why” of the world’s creation? According to the Bible, God loves us and that is pretty much why the world was made. Or so I thought when I read it.

It would be easy for an uneducated man thousands of years ago to get lost in the details.

Well, that person might still believe that Jesus came, lived, died, rose, and established the principles on which Christianity is supposed to operate, (faith in God, love of God, love of one’s fellow humans, and demonstrating that love through actions), and attempt to live out those principles in that person’s own life. If a person did this, I would think that the person would have a right to characterize himself or herself as Christian, but there would be a lot of beliefs that that person would not share with other Christians.

(Few people who believe that the stories of the Old Testament (or even many stories of the New Testament) are not necessarily factual go so far as to label them as simply fiction. The word fiction implies an entertainment value without a corresponding educational value.)

Is there a point where ytou are taking these questions, by the way? If we understood where you were heading, we might be able to present you the desired information more clearly.

There are evidences (or more exactly there’s one evidence) that there was a lineage called “house of David”. But for all we know, David could have been a mythical ancestor. There’s no independant evidence altogether of the existence of the famous king Solomon. The existence of others, later and less well-known kings mentionned in the bible is, on the other hand, attested by independant sources.

I once confessed to my pastor that I wasn’t confident that Jesus was divine or that he was resurrected, and questioned whether I should be baptised without that confidence, and he assured me that many good Christians were in the same boat.

So according to at least one minister, you don’t even have to believe Jesus was divine to be a Christian!

I guess it all depends on what sort of a Christian one is. I believe all that is strictly necessary is to accept Jesus Christ as one’s Saviour, the only path to salvation, etc. One doesn’t have to believe anything else at all.

If you’re of the Roman Catholic persuasion then it may be a different story. You’re not free to interpret Holy Writ as you please, in that case; that’s the job of the Supreme Pontiff, the Church Councils, tradition, etc.

If you believe what the Bible says, you don’t need to believe everything the Bible says.

Romans 10:9: “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.”

I don’t see anything in there about “and believe that the Old Testament stories are all factually true.”

Even that’s kind of iffy. The Tel Dan inscription includes the letters BYTDWD, which some have claimed should be read as BYT DWD (“House of David”) but that reading is disputed largely because the inscription appears as a single word without a break. Something that would not be expected for a construction denoting a family or a dynasty, but would probably indicate a place name, particularly a place with a Temple.

Since the inscription was found broken into three fragments, it’s physical configuration has been challenged as well.

The Tel Dan inscription might be a reference to a Davidic dynasty, but it’s not a cinch by any means. There is still a lot of debate about it.

As mentioned, just about the one common denominator of “Christian” is that the person believes or claims that he follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Beyond that you have a vast universe of diverse forms of belief and schools of teaching.

However, you would be hard pressed to find any followers of anything remotely approximating the historicallly (small-o)orthodox traditions of Christianity who would derisively dismiss the OT stories as “erroneous made-up crocks”. Heck, non-christians well educated in the meanings of myth and legend would hesitate to derisively dismiss the mythology of any religion as “erroneous made-up crocks”. Myth is something MORE than just “made up crocks”: it involves explanations for basic elements of the universe or of origins, or of social processes and phenomena, as seen thru the lens of the belief/value system of the culture. Objectively not true? Often. But makes it no less important as a source of understanding of belief and thought.

Didactic stories with a moral need NOT come from "God giving us little moral pointers".  It could very well be Nehemiah or Baruch or Ben Sirach's very own ideas and/or version of events and there would still be inspirational content to the grand story-arc, from which people may derive moral lessons. 

As to the Histories, we need to remember, that in the time-frame we are discussing, the objective reporting of facts was not the point. “Histories” of the time were propaganda about the greatness of the king or of the illustrious ancestors, meant to impress both natives and foreigners with what a kick-butt bunch our tribe is; or else were adapted as didactic tales meant to make a point; and were often written down long after the fact from Oral Tradition or 3rd-hand hearsay. Were they “meant to be believed”? Yes, BUT it was in the sense that you were to end up saying “wow, God(X)[or King Y] did wonders for those who followed Him and smacked down hard everyone who didn’t ergo we’d better not fool with His followers

OTOH, six-consonant Hebrew words were pretty infrequent, and those that existed, IIRC, usually involved certain ending forms not present here. Given the Hebrew penchant for triliteral roots, BYT DWD intuitively seems far more likely than either BYTDWD or any other split of those six consonants.

Well, that’s the thing: the OT histories are not like that. Sure, God’s good and strong and all-powerful, but he’s not portrayed in those histories as a God who stands foursquare behind his worshippers in their struggles with other tribes, nations, or whatever; rather, he spends a lot of time smacking down the Hebrews/Israelites/Judeans for not doing what is right in his eyes.

“Don’t mess with the followers of YHWH” is about the last message that one gets from the OT histories.

Accordingly, whether they’re actually more factual than other histories at the time, the OT histories are intuitively more believable, since they seem to report on both the good and the bad.

The one book of history in the Bible that resembles your description is, oddly, a New Testament book: the Acts of the Apostles. Peter, James, John, Paul, Philip, etc. can seemingly do no wrong in Luke’s account. And as a result, it is quite frankly one of the most boring books of the Bible, and certainly the most uninteresting and spiritually vacuous book of the New Testament.

There is no other example of a family name not being split like that while single words with the leading “BYT” form (pronounced “Beth”) are fairly common for place names- particularly to designate towns which had (or once had) temples. For example, Bethel = Beth-El, [Place of the] “House of El.”

In addition, DWD can be vocalized as David but that’s not the only possibility. Other possibilities for the reading of BYTDWD include “Place (House) of the Beloved” or “Place of the governor” (if DWD is vocalized as “Dod” rather than David).

My knowledge of this comes only from reading some of the competing journal articles on the issue, I’m not an expert (or even an amateur) on Aramaic or Hebrew myself but it seems that there is a question of interpretation here. “maximalists” want to leap to the conclusion that it must say “House of David” while others point out that is far more likely to be a place name.

One theory that I like is that it is an Aramaized form of the Hebrew YR DWD (“City of David”) meaning that is a place name for Jerusalem which may or may not derive from a Dynastic family name. There would certainly be nothing inherently unreasonable or improbable about the inscription alluding indirectly to a dynasty descended from a historical David, but those who claim that the inscription “proves” or confirms a historical David as fact are overstating their evidence.

It is if the specific subset of “followers of YHWH” is the orthodox priests/prophets – the OT Histories are largely propaganda to the effect that the reason the Israelites/Judeans are having such a hard time is because they don’t exactly follow the teachings of the Temple priesthood.

Oh, and BTW, agreed that Acts is kinda boring. Heck, it just stops with no real end, you’d think “Luke’s” followers (like “John’s”) would have come back to put in some sort of epilog.

DOOD!