Dealing with Inaccuracy of the Old Testament

Hello and welcome!

It seems to me if God had wanted to provide humanity a perfectly clear instruction manual, all He needed to do was preserve the tablets of Moses until the age of the Internet could broadcast them to everyone. Or even photocopiers, for that matter.

But the invention of copying technology is not so new as all that: it was one of the unique advantages of tablet-based writing technology that you could make a new imprint of it any time you wanted.

So what does it say about the Bible that it is so obviously the work of human hands? Is it possible that it is more about people, and people’s relationship with God, than it is about God’s self?

He did one better! At the earliest part of the multimedia age, He sent two Spirits of Truth (John 14:17 15:26 16:13) at a time when their words could be recorded and persevered for the internet age. Since 1948 in audio and mid 70’s in video. All the original 2000+ lectures are in German and has been slowly translating into English. Have a look and see what you think.
Best Wishes, Shawn

To me, it says that the Bible should not be considered an inerrant work, since it comes from errant sources. Christians put it on too high of a pedestal. It is still valuable, but falls short of the “straight from the mind of God” valuation that so many Christians give it. So when we are making various decisions about our lives, believes, choices, and stances, we should pull guiding principles from it but not necessarily hold strictly too it.

When I say that to Christians, the typical response I get is, “Where do we get our information about God if not from the Bible? What parts are true and what parts are not?” I respond with, “The fact that those are difficult, inconvenient and unnerving questions does not change the truth of the matter. We can look for God in worship, nature, service, acts of love, etc.” But I don’t know if anyone is actually swayed by my thoughts.

That paper draws on my 40 years of research. You might want to join The Bible and Anthropology Facebook Group where we discuss these matters in greater detail. Also, I’ve written extensively on the Genesis King Lists and what they tell us about the ancient Horite Hebrew, Abraham’s people. You may access some of that information at my blogs JUST GENESIS and Biblical Anthropology.

I’m not sure how it draws on your 40 years of research when it was written in 1981 unless your research on this topic began in 1941 unless you meant something else.

Do you mostly share things on facebook and your blogs or do you publish in Anthropology journals as well? I don’t really have any expertise on the topic to evaluate anything for myself but trust that other experts in your field (including non-Christian anthropologists who wouldn’t have the same prior beliefs about what the text should/could say) would be able to evaluate your claims but only when they are subject to their peer review.

Sorry, Matthew. That is not the same paper. There is another paper floating around with a similar title that is my research, though the author does not cite me. The Terry Prewitt paper is from 1981, I believe, and it only explores the king lists from Terah, Abraham’s father (Gen. 11) to the Horite Hebrew of Edom (Gen. 36). It is an excellent paper, but it fails to identify the earlier pattern which is found with Cain, Seth, Ham, Shem, Lamech, and continues with Abraham, Amram, Moses and Samuel’s father Elkanah. Prewitt also makes the inaccurate statements that Abraham was Terah’s first born son, and the Horite Hebrew (who he calls “Terahities”) had a patriarchaI social structure. I share with an international group on Facebook because it is a better venue for exchanging ideas than blogs. Please don’t pursue this if you feel uncomfortable.

Nice tag on this thread.


Why don’t you start writing up your papers in anthropology journals? It is entirely possible that if you haven’t done this, the author may have never heard of you or your work before; nor did the reviewers of the paper who generally tell authors to include relevant sources and work.

I should clarify what I meant. The topic in itself has no bearing on my comfort or discomfort. What I meant is that given my educational background in physics, I would have no expertise to evaluate the claims that you have made in light of the work done in the field as a whole. The only thing I learned from the one paper is that a lot of sense can be made of various kinship lists in a narrative sense completely independent of whether they are historical in the modern sense.

Yes! Kinship analysis is a science with repeatable results. I publish something related to biblical anthropology (the science) almost daily, but rarely in journals.

Joy, you are in the right place here at the Biologos Forum! Since Biologos doesn’t believe in the accuracy of the Genesis account of history in the early chapters of Genesis, there is no way for them to credibly argue for the historical accuracy of the Bible in general.

Of course ,Mark that is a misstatement, as while many here do not feel the early chapters of Genesis is history as we define it today, they affirm it as accurate in the message it presents.


BioLogos does not take a position on whether early Genesis is historical or not. There is a whole spectrum.


Would you be willing to correct your statement if it is demonstrated it is very incorrect and a bit of a strawman?

However, I don’t believe I need to look any further than Biologos’ own article 'Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?’ for support. Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly wrote in affirmation of the historicity of Adam and Eve (e.g. in Matthew 19:4-6, Luke 3:38, Romans 5:14, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, Jude 1:14), and so may God open your eyes to see the truth of His word in this regard, and to rejoice in His power, wisdom, and salvation!

Blessings in Jesus,
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

Phil, Christy -
By not taking a position you are taking a position. You are saying that either the Bible is not clear on the historicity of Adam or that it is not necessary to believe God’s word in this regard. Either way, you have lost credibility at that point to speak on the historical accuracy of anything in the Bible. You’ve given up that ground.
While it is wonderful that we can study the works of God (Psalm 111:2), must we not do so on the basis of the truth He has revealed and on the One who is the Truth?
For example, take the geneology of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38. At what point in the geneology do the characters transition from being symbolic to actual? Was Jesus Christ a historical figure? It seems to me by compromising on Adam you have no credibility in defending the historicity of any of them.
This is sad and grievous to me. While we may not understand precisely HOW it is true based on our finite understanding, as Christians we must trust the infinite understanding of the One who was there and spoke so clearly to us from eternity into time. God spoke to Job in Job 40-41 from the perspective of Creator (one who was there) to creature (one who wasn’t). May our response be like Job’s as we bow in worship to the Infinite One:
'"“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:2-6)

Sincerely in Christ,
Mark D. Twombly

Mark, I appreciate your concern and am sure you are sincere. However, I worry that in your zeal to read modern history into ancient scripture, you miss the message of the passage. Perhaps not. In any case, have a blessed week.

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Because the Bible is some kind of unified single genre and if you analyze one part as not historical, you are required to analyze the rest as not historical. That makes no sense. Even within documents created by a single individual at a single point in time you can easily have a part that is clearly a story and a part that is clearly a factual history. It’s called embedded discourse. Your logic here is faulty. There is no “either it’s all 100% true fact or you can’t claim any of it is true fact” litmus test you can rationally apply here.

Do you think that it makes any difference who physically first recorded the history in the Bible, or when? For example, is the knowledge that the Gospels were written by Jesus’ disciples or people who knew those disciples well important? Is the knowledge that the the first five or six books were written in or attributed to the era of Moses important? It seems to me that we should reasonably expect the very beginning of the Bible to be the least historical part of it, because it was orally transmitted the longest. This would give it much theological weight, because it was so important for people to communicate, but also make it the part of the Bible that the accuracy of details is least important to.

Not every detail of Genesis must be historically accurate, just like not every detail of the Bible as a whole must be without error in order for it still to be the Good Book.

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…son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.” Mark, I’m curious whether you see Adam as having the same biological relationship to God as Seth has to Adam. Or, do you see a place where the genealogy transitions from showing biological kinship to something else?

If so, welcome to the club! That would mean we agree that even though the format of the genealogy stays the same throughout, at some link it shifts in meaning. I might place the shift one or two links down from where you do, but we’d still be in agreement that a shift takes place.


BTW, I will soon be able to answer many of these questions, as I study the Ancient Near East in University