Historicity of the Bible


(Emily) #1

What is the historicity of the Bible? I am doubting because science has disproved a literal interpretation of Genesis and proved Noah’s flood never happened. What evidence is there that the BIble is true? Have any of you ever struggled with this? How did God help you?

Any books you can recommend?

Thanks!


(George Brooks) #2

Yikes, Emily…

Have you ever heard the anecdote that nothing ruins the faith of a Christian more thoroughly than going to Seminary and studying the Greek and Hebrew texts that Evangelicals take for granted? There’s no ONE BOOK involved in this scenario. It’s dozens and dozens of books.

But let’s say you wanted to give the Old Testament and New Testament it’s own dignity as you research this.

OLD TESTAMENT

  1. Studying Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian history will tell you that the first notice of the State of Judah was in the mid 700’s BCE or so. There is no indication that Judah and Israel were ever united at all. Solomon (or in Hebrew, Shlomo), appears to be a “back story” about a legendary hero, from whom the “City of SHLM” gets its name: i.e. Ur-Shlm. Historically speaking, the Amarna texts mention this Ur-Shlm; but it is only a city-state, like so many of the other inhabitations under Egyptian hegemony in the 1400’s BCE.

  2. Egyptian hegemony ebbs and flows in Palestine, until the time of the Sea People, including the Philistines… which is around 1130 BCE. The Bible places Abraham negotiating with the Philistines some 800 years earlier than they actually arrive. And Exodus any time before 1130 is virtually impossible, because the Egyptians controlled Palestine (granted, with varying degrees of thoroughness) - - until the Philistines.

  3. The purity rules of Leviticus and Exodus have an awful lot in common with the extreme purity rules of the Zoroastrians… which the Jews don’t meet until AFTER the Babylonian Exile in 580’s BCE … and AFTER the Persians conquer the Babylonians (middle of the 500’s BCE). Persian influence (on priestly garb and ceremonies) has a solid 200 years to go, before Alexander the Great takes over the Persian Empire, and Palestine as well.

  4. If the Hebrew were really strongly influenced by the Egyptians, the one thing we would find filling all the pages of the Old Testament is a belief in the Afterlife. After all, this is what Christianity believes, right? And yet in the whole of the Old Testament, there are some 2 or 3 shaky scriptural texts that imply a general afterlife and/or general resurrection.

NEW TESTAMENT
For 100 or 200 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish mystics had become increasingly impressed with the world of angels and the afterlife described by the Zoroastrians; the Magi, having lost their Persian sponsors after the defeat by Alexander the Great, are circulating through the world making a case for their metaphysical ideas … some Greeks like them. Some Egyptians like them. And some Jews definitely like these ideas of the Magi.

Jesus is virtually certainly a real person, described by Josephus as the “Samaritan Messiah”, and described by Josephus as the messiah executed by Pontius Pilate. All the other messiah’s mentioned by Josephus are ALSO mentioned in the New Testament … with the exception of the Samaritan Messiah. But we do have biblical text where people who know him call Jesus “a Samaritan” (in fact, the Good Samaritan may be Jesus’s story about HIMSELF).

What most New Testament scholars don’t investigate is that the theology of “self-sacrifice” is a Phoenician one. Centuries earlier, Hamilcar of Carthage pledged his life to save his country and his army by throwing himself onto a fire in Sicily. The Romans called this practice ‘Devotio’. Unfortunately, the Carthaginian forces were defeated. But every year the Carthaginian people celebrated Hamilcar’s self-divinization … just as we celebrate the Death (and Rising) of Jesus every year. It was not the act of a crazy person. It was the act of a very earnest and devoted believer in God and the afterlife.

The Transfiguration is the New Testament story prefiguring Jesus becoming DIVINIZED … just like the Messianic Jews had already come to believe happened to Moses and Elijah. This story comes from an early form of the gospel where Jesus is a Samaritan Jew (there were those) … who BECAME divine.

Then came Paul. And the story got modified into Jesus being BORN divine. Once that was established, the story of the Transfiguration becomes less clear … and certainly more wonderfully mysterious!!! (After all, Elijah and Moses weren’t BORN divine, right? )

Emily, this is where you take over !!! …

You need to read the New Testament and let God tell you how much speaks to your heart and conscience. It’s a wonderful book… But it’s not all perfect. I don’t think Jesus would want you spitting into dirt and rubbing it into the eyes of people with vision problems. And despite the repeated references to faith being able to move mountains … no mountains have ever been moved.

But it’s still a pretty impressive book. Let God speak…

Have a very wonderful weekend!

George Brooks


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #3

@Celticroots

Emily,

The Bible is not a magic bullet to cure our woes. The Bible Describes how God, YHWH, led God’s people through history by faith.

This has little to do with Gen 1 and the flood. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are based on the history and science the writers had available at the time, so they are not perfect.

Even so Genesis got the Beginning right which is the most important scientific/spiritual fact ever, so the Bible is not discredited. In fact those who want to reject the Bible because it has some problems and those who accept the Bible blindly because it contains some basic facts are equally wrong. The Bible is not God’s Word, Jesus Christ is God’s Word. See John 1.

Christians believe in Jesus, not the Bible. Please look at the creeds.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

You might like The Lost World of Scripture by John Walton and G. Brent Sandy. Here is a review that tells what it deals with: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/01/review-of-the-lost-world-of-scripture-walton-and-sandy-by-carlos-bovell/

Another book that might speak to some of the things you are wondering about is Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien. Here is a review of that one that summarizes what its about: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/11/01/misreading-the-bible-because-we-are-western/

I think in those books you might find that if you frame your question from the get-go as being about the “historicity” of the Bible, you are setting yourself up to make the Bible into something it wasn’t always intended to be and that is the heart of the problem. Understanding why and how different parts of the Bible were composed and knowing a little more about the cultural context in which the original audience heard the messages can help you ask fairer questions and get more satisfying answers.


(Jim Lock) #5

@Celticroots You’ve got a lot of good advice here. I would caution you against drawing to hard of a line between what we definitively know to be true and false. For example, I think you can accept the scientific consensus about the implausibility of a global flood without rejecting the story as completely false. There are plausible scenarios for regional floods discussed elsewhere on this forum. Or perhaps there is another explanation. The point is to work towards accepting ambiguity without abandoning the truth found in the texts. To use another example, Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey paint a fantastical story full of miracles and magical objects. Yet, it is safe to say that Troy existed and was burned. If there is a particular portion of the text that you are struggling with and cannot find peace, I think it is safe to say “I don’t know” and walk away. Personally, I don’t know if Job was a real person or just an old parable meant to teach about the nature and character of God and I’m okay with that. I believe it is in Collossians that we find that through Jesus all contradictions will be reconciled.

As to proof, you could look to Google to find archaeological or textual evidence supporting the truth of the Bible. I read a piece within the last couple of years that they have found a large site near the banks of the Jordan that COULD be the site where Israel crossed the river. However, holding to strongly to these discoveries can set you up for disappointment if dating doesn’t fit the timeline or alternative explanations prove more likely. Instead, I would urge you to find evidence that the Bible is True in your experience with God. Remember the old story about looking for God in the great wind? Then the earthquake? Then the fire? God was in none of those, and was instead in the softest of whispers, the unexpected.

Jim


(system) #6

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