Contarini, killer post. I wanted to add a few thoughts to my earlier post.
First, complete Old Testament literalism is more of a fundamentalist protestant view. My Mother, for example, will not believe anything except that the world is 6,000 years old. Well, that’s ok to believe, but I would say that only a very small minority of Catholics believe that.
Second, 99% of historians approach the Old Testament with a view to disprove it. Well, when you are pulling 4,000 year old evidence from the ground, you can probably come to just about any conclusion. History is linear. It happens and then it is over. We don’t know for sure everything that happened in American history at anytime. Are there secrets out there about White House meetings that no historian knows about? Of course! When I worked on Capitol Hill, I would laugh at journalist trying to tell the real story of what happened when I knew the true story. If history isn’t recorded, it is lost and all we can do is try to reconstruct it. Think what would happen if the world was destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. If aliens 4,000 years later tried to figure out what Americans were like, would they be able to tell for 100% sure? No.
Many scholars did not believe in King David until the “Tel Dan Stele” was discovered which mentions him by name and was written only about 100 years after King David’s death. This brings us to the importance of written records. We give written texts outside of the Bible great historical weight in ancient times. Many historians take all kinds of written works from ancient Rome as fact with no archeological evidence. Historians, on the other hand, start with the premise that the Old Testament is wrong. As someone who believes, I fundamentally reject this premise.
Third, the Old Testament is not a “history textbook” under modern standards. The Jews most likely embellished their stories in the different editions. So what. They weren’t writing a textbook and they knew it. They were writing a book explaining the nature of God.
Finally, I would note that I consider myself to be a an Old Testament “maximalist.” I believe in the fundamental historicity of the Old Testament but recognize the style of writing and the limitations of the work. For example, while I believe in the Exodus, I believe the the dates given in the bible are most likely wrong and that the number of Jews was far smaller than 40,000. I also don’t believe that the Exodus was probably a literal 40 year period. These are perfect numbers probably added later to symbolize God.
All that to say, when I read the Old Testament, I recognize it is inspired by God and everything written down contains what He wants us to know about Him to better understand Jesus. I read it to better understand why the Sacrifice on the Cross was necessary and why nothing less would work. I read it to understand fundamental human nature, a chosen people rejecting the Almighty.
If you were raised a fundamentalist, these attacks on the Old Testament might be troubling, but, as a Catholic, don’t let them bother you. If you want more, I hear the book, On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen is very good but I haven’t personally read it.