I love the cute stories in the Bible (Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Noah, and his Ark, David, and Goliath, etc…) and I enjoy reading about them, but did those things actually happen or did the biblical writers just write them as analogies or symbols to demonstrate God’s power and love? What does the Catholic Church teach about this? Thank You!!!
The Church teaches that everything in the Bible is true . . .
. . .and that some of it actually happened .
But seriously, you will find biblical scholars are not in total agreement on the historicity of some of the Old Testament stories
Why can’t the Church infallibly clear this up?
Because we do not infallibly hear what the Church tries to teach us.
I would suggest that you use a good Bible commentary and also read some articles on “Historicity of…” whatever story or person you are reading about.
Also, to describe the stuff you just described as “cute stories” is missing the point that they are God speaking to his people (including us) and the subject matter is generally anything but “cute”. It’s pretty profound actually.
- Because it’s not important enough.
- because it would take such a massive effort of historical, theological etc. study that it would consume all of the church’s resources.
- Because even if that was done there may be new discoveries in future (e.g. in archaeology, theology, Biblical exegesis, new documents discovered etc. etc. so it would be impossible to say “this is the last word on whether this story is an actual historical event”.
- Even then there would likely be some stories which it would be impossible to ever say (in this life) with certainty whether they actually happened
No it wouldn’t. It would only take revelation by God. After all, how much “massive effort” was expended to declare the Assumption of Mary?
You can research Bible archaeology. There are some interesting finds. For example, most secular scholars used to dismiss the story of Samson as a fable, until excavations of ancient Philistine temples showed that their design had two central pillars along a center axis, separated by 2 meters. This design makes it possible for a tall man to dislodge them and bring the entire structure down, supporting the story of Samson. Of course, nothing would convince skeptics.
The Bible surely includes real places, some real people, and some real historical events. The question is did ALL things in the Bible happen? For example evidence of the Exodus is scant to non-existent.
I was about to point this out. I incline more to the idea that Exodus is the mythologized national origins story of the Jewish people. Doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bible is fraudulent, merely that it’s not a history textbook. Genetic and historical evidence firmly places the ancient Israelites as a subset of the wider Canaanitic populations.
Agree. So not all “things” in the Bible happened,
Maybe, maybe not. Some did. Maybe all did. Either way, it simply doesn’t matter, and I don’t care. Let me suggest that maybe you shouldn’t care either.
I definitely care if the Old Testament is literal history or not. That’s inherently interesting. Why doesn’t God reveal which is which? We might then be tempted to place a measuring stick on everything that distracts us from the message, and could get convoluted, as this part is literal, that one is figurative or exaggerated, this event happened but subtle differences or shifts for dramatic emphasis; this one actually was a dream, that one was a poetic story, and this was a record.
It also may present obstacles that are unnecessary: it may be revealed that something most believers are sure is figurative, allegorical, symbolic etc. actually is literal history. “No way,” they would say, and the church would infallibly declare something that would cause many people to leave the church, for an event that is not even essential to the faith.
The Bible is a library of human work and God inspired it, as is. The final revelation is Christ. Truth transcends fact. The exploration of salvation history is also an adventure that would be truncated by some revelation pointing out the facts as if they were more important than the transcendent truth.
Indeed! What we do know is that the lessons regarding faith and morals are true. Our Lord taught using parables, and there is zero evidence that “there was a man…” was an actual person or situation. However, he used them to teach a moral good. And we can fairly safely infer that at least some of the incidents in the OT are allegorical. Not all, however.
Many today may desire to read a purely factual account - but from the parables, we see that is not how the Lord desires to teach us. I can think of no better teaching example than His.
Interesting. You say you definitely care, and then go on to give a most excellent articulation of why maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t.
I tend to believe the stories are true, but a literal reading of the Old Testament does not preclude from reading the broader ethical, moral, or allegorical implications.
IMO, the Jewish nation cannot be explained historically or theologically without an Exodus. They appear in history as a nation rather suddenly and are too different from the nations around them to have any other source.
You could say that about nearly all of the (putative?) history of antiquity though, no? So… are you denying that ancient history happened? Or do you just have a chip on your shoulder regarding the Bible?
Many of the bible stories have details that point forward to Christ. There is more going on in these stories than what we initially see on the surface.