Old Testament is shaky historically. Does it makes sense to accept it unreservedly?

The Old Testament seems pretty shaky historically. Does it makes sense to accept it unreservedly?

Anyone who accepts the OT “unreservedly” almost certainly does so as a matter of faith and will not be convinced otherwise by historical or archaelogical evidence.

It’s not an either/or situation. Some of the information has been shown to be correct and some has been shown to be false. If you accept it “unreservedly” you do so as a matter of faith. Does that make sense? Not to me, but then I don’t have “faith”. The OT as history is easily debunked by objective historians, so I don’t see how there can be a debate about this. It’s like debating the existence of God.

It’s not true that anyone thought the Assyrians or Babylonians never existed and I’ve never seen that claim before. It’s bullshit, but that’s Wikipedia for you.

There IS a popular meme among defenders of OT historicity (such as Josh McDowell, for instance) that critics used to claim the HITTITES never existed (you see this claim pop up on a lot of literalist websites) but that claim also has no basis in fact. You’ll notice that the people who make this claim never actually name any of the alleged scholars who said the Hittites never existed (just as the quoted Wiki page doesn’t name anybody who thought the Babylonans and Assyrians never existed). It’s a crock. A year or two ago Peter Kirby did an intensive search of 19th and early 20th century scholarly works to try to find a single scholar who had ever claimed the Hittites never existed. The best he could find was one lone scholar who claimed that the Hittites were not as significant as how they are described in the Bible, but he doesn’t say they didn’t exist at all. Unfortunately, the blog where Kirby originally posted his results is down but he summarized it here on the Ebla board.
As to the rest of OT history, it’s pretty clear that much or all of the Deuteronomic history is fiction. This includes (obviously) the creation and flood myths of Genesis, the patriarchal histories, the story of Joseph in Egypt, the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt, the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. The evidence for David and Solomon is inconclusive (the Tel dan Stele arguably refers to a "House of David) but if they did exist they were probably only minor local chieftains rather than the powerful kings described by the Bible. There also does not seem to have ever been a unified kingdom of Israel.

As you move further ahead in the OT, it does get more historical, some of the kings are real, the Babylonian exile was real and a few other things but no historian or archaeologist worth his salt would ever accept anything in the OT unreservedly. Current ANE archaeologists don’t even like the term “Biblical archaeology” as it implies that they are trying to recover Biblical sites and artifacts instead of of just trying to objectively recover the history for what it is without regard to the Bible.

It doesn’t make sense to accept ***anything ***unreservedly.


Topic is fascintating, especially considering its possible political implications. Havent read anything substantial on the subject since The Bible Unearthed and hunger for more reliable input. Leads?

Finkelstein and Silberman have a new book out on David and Solomon (entitled David and Solomon) which is a good read and offers some very plausible analysis of the legends of Saul, David and Solomon and their possible historical roots.

I think some parts can be accepted as “fact”, while others can be accepted as “truth” in the religious sense. Obviously the books of Moses can not be attributed to him as the author and at the same time include the details of his death. However, religious truth is not as black & white.

You lost me somewhere along the line. Could you explain this a little more?

I will try - “Fact” is something that is demonstrable by scientific means. A “religious truth” is acceptable on faith.

Do you accept your own existence unreservedly, or instead suspect you’re a hallucination I am having? :dubious:

It’s Monday morning! Is our Orthodox Jewish community gonna let the Goyim dis your Scriptures!?! I wanna jump in but Zev & cm can out-do me on this issue any day.

(So can DtC, but I won’t admit it.)


What makes it acceptable? And on what basis can one accept one faith’s “religious truths” while rejecting another’s?

“Acceptable on faith” isn’t a very clear way to state it. It’s better to say that some people believe that parts of the Bible are not intended to tell a literal, historical truth but that its “truth” can instead be allegorical, metaphorical, symbolic. parabollic. etc.

Yes, folks, that’s the level of the humor in Great Debates. If you want “funny” instead of “wry” you need to go someplace else. :wink:

Whoa… :eek:

You mean it’s not all factually true? Well then, I hereby renounce Christianity! It’s atheism for me by golly!


Seriously, are there even any fundamentalists on this board who will be shocked and dismayed by this “news”?

Has anybody in this thread said that all Christians (or Jews) should have to be Biblical literalists? Has anyone said that if all the historical claims of the Bible are not literally true then that’s any kind of proof that God does not exist? I don’t think you’ll find many atheists on this board who would try to make such a weak argument against theistic belief.

Not many on this board anymore (though there used to be some) but you don’t have to look very hard to find people who would argue quite vociferously indeed against any suggestion that the Bible is not literally, inerrantly true in every historical claim.

Is it really possible to imagine any scientific, archaelogical, historical, or scholarly discovery which would discredit a given religion – “discredit” it to the point of causing most of its believers to fall away? I don’t think so.

I think it would be difficult but not necessarily impossible if the literal truth of a historical claim was central to the religion. The obvious example would be if some kind of irrefutable evidence were found that the resurrection of Jesus never occurred (I have no idea what kind of evidence could prove that irrefutably but I’m speaking theoretically).

Of course, that still assumes that all believers would accept unequivocal empirical evidence for what it is. We already know that’s not the case (witness creationism).