Doubts about the Bible, Particularly the Old Testament


#1

Lately, I have been reading up on Old Testament scholarship, and most of what I have found really disturbs me. I was never a literalist or anything, but when I learned that even moderate scholars like William Dever who believe that, for example, the Davidic Kingdom probably has some historical basis still hold that Abraham and most of the story in Exodus never really happened, and that what became Jewish monotheism was in fact an outgrowth of Canaanite polytheism that exhaulted a particular god above the others until he was recognized as the only one existing. For example, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is supposed to contain what many scholars consider an indication that Yahweh was only one god among many, and in fact simply the one who happened to have been appointed to the house of Jacob. Not all scholars agree about this, but the fact remains that if there was no Abraham or Moses, then all the rest of the Old Testament seems to fall apart, because the only one who is holding it up is David, who never interacts personally with God the way Abraham and Moses do.

I just don’t know how to take all this. I know I’m going to get a lot of answers hat say historical biblical criticism is a conspiracy by atheists to destroy the Christianity. Can we still believe if it doesn’t seem likely that there was a Moses or Abraham (I’d be less bothered by the latter, but the former seems pretty critical to the story the Bible is telling as a whole), and the Pentateuch is largely a Kerygma? Or should we say that we just have to have faith that the Pentateuch telling the truth, even if it was written a long time after the events it describes and doesn’t seem to match up with what is known historically about the area in the southern Mediterranean in the Bronze Age it is supposed to describe. I just wish I knew how to think of this in a way that would offer me some peace of mind, maybe from someone in the field of biblical scholarship who is still faithful but doesn’t resort to the idea that secular and historical critics are just, as I said, trying to destroy religion.


#2

I’m not a practicing Catholic, but as a Religious Studies scholar specializing in Catholicism I think I have a fairly good grasp of Biblical Scholarship. Just to warn you Religious Studies is rather different from standard Biblical studies/Theology, we don’t work from the position the bible is true or false, we simply don’t care either way and just compile and evaluate the usefulness and reliability of information. Sometimes the Catholic Church agrees with us, sometimes we get a full blown condemnation.

One area where Biblical Studies has been continually condemned by the Catholic Church since the late 1780’s is assessments on the Old Testament. Your information is correct, most scholars do not consider exodus to be a literal event, neither do they believe Moses wrote the first five books. The evidence from both material culture and other contemporary documents suggest Yahweh was one god amongst many not only during the Caananite rule, but for many Israelites for centuries after ceasing to identify as Caananites. Yahweh did eventually supersede the others, whether violently by persecution or as a natural development over time we don’t really know yet, but the early Jews certainly were not Monotheists so that does discourage the idea of some of the claims in the OT.

Yahweh is thought to have became more popular after the book of Deuteronomy was compiled, and the book itself was written to bolster the claims of Yawhite clergy to authority. Prior to this he thought to have been something akin to the semetic version of Mars or Ares. He did have his followers, especially during wartime but for most in Palestine the main Gods worshipped by the masses were the Gods of fertility and the weather; Baal and Ashera (hence why we suspect they were so regularly condemned in the OT. Ashera is an especially interesting case as while not yet widely supported there have been finds in Egypt that suggest she might once have been the wife of “El”, a King/Sky-God akin to Zeus and when he became assimilated/overtaken by Yahweh might have continued to be considered his Spouse. I personally don’t know, that’s for an expert on Judaism and Mesopotamian Religion not me).

You clearly have encountered much of the source information yourself so I shan’t repeat it, as far as Western European academia is concerned, especially since the formation of the textual assessments of “higher criticism” in 19th century Germany the OT is not literal history and if anything contradicts archeological evidence at several points. Not all, there are episodes that do seem to align with material evidence but much of the early stories are considered purely mythical. As far as I am aware the most popular theory that best aligns with the OT at the moment is that the “Hebrews” were discontent Egyptians who emigrated and eventually assimilated with the Caananites. Prior to that they were not thought to be a separate “group” and Monotheistic claims came later as a way of affirming a separate identity.

Now…As for what the Catholic Church thinks about this, unlike a few protestant denominations it fully condemns any suggestion that Exodus did not happen and has threatened to excommunicate several scholars who over the past two hundred years have suggested otherwise. Rather like how Catholics are to believe in Matthean priority as opposed to that of Mark with full faith so too are they to believe in the literal exodus.

By all means, someone correct me if I am mistaken. I wouldn’t let it worry you too much though Kevin12, it’s one of those things we’re never going to know entirely for certain and in some ways might be best not to know for certain.

I can’t actually think of many Biblical Studies scholars who are Catholics, but most remain Christians. I’ve seen several things which have challenged my faith in Catholicism but my faith in the divinity of Christ remains unperturbed. I think it’s less they wish to destroy religion, and more they want to find how to do it “right”. Atheists tend not to become Biblical Studies experts, while there are one or two they generally tend to be Protestants these days, becoming increasingly liberal leaning the longer they spend in the field (prior to that many of them were agnostics, but it is an area increasingly the dominion of Liberal Protestantism). So while they might personally disapprove of “Orthodox” religion they’re not out to destroy Christianity.


#3

I don’t know much about what you discussed above, but I am aware that there are many biblical scholars who are interpreting Sacred Scripture in a way that does not truly reflect what the Lord is telling us.

In the 50’s there became famous the “Historical Critical Method” in the search for the historical Jesus.
What a mess! In a series of teachings I listened to by Father William Halbing, it was explained that Catholics (I don’t remember how many priests) asked the Pope Pius XII if they can attend it. According to Father Halbing the Pope said (paraphrase) “yes you can go if you glean the truth but do not make it the norm.”

Then Father Halbing said “guess what…they made it the norm.”

As a result, in many cases we hear things like “this didn’t really happen”, etc.

I will have to research it again, but one of the members of the Jesus Seminar said that “Jesus’ bones were probably eaten by dogs.”

The above is a sample of what came out of the Jesus Seminar Historical Critical Method.

I am so thankful the Lord gave legitimate authority to the Church (Magisterium) with regard to faith and morals!

Peace,

Dorothy Alleluia…He is Risen!


#4

I went to a Baptist university in undergrad and my secondary major was archaeology. They had a very strong Biblical Archaeology program there-- which, at the time, I felt was kind of mehhh, because I was more interested in Egypt and Mesoamerica, but, whatever.

One of the things I did bring away from it was the fact there’s been a whole lot ink spilled on the subject of Biblical Archaeology, since, say, the late 19th c, but not a whole lot of consensus. The Historicity of the Exodus has always been a hot-button topic (since the 19th c) and has attracted a large proportion of ink. A lot of people seem to be attracted to Ramses II, but I thought the Amenhotep II had an interesting argument. The comments are interesting, in an eavesdropping-on-scholars kind of way. :slight_smile:


#5

But if Moses wasn’t a real person, who was the ‘‘Moses’’ of the Transfiguration? And why did Jesus give us the body and blood–as symbolized by the Passover as recorded in Exodus? If none of this was real…

Surely it’s a time to cling to our faith…

‘‘By Faith we are saved’’ and ‘‘The preaching of the cross is nonsense to those who don’t believe’’ (I Corinthians 1:18)

IMHO


#6

That’s why I have very limited interest in that so-called kind of scholarship. What’s the purpose in following Christianity if you dont believe the basic stuff? If we dont believe in the Old Testament then how could we believe the New Testament? If we dont believe in either then why call ourselves Christians if we dont believe what Christ taught? In my opinion this kind of school of thought is a sneaky subtle way of making people think that smart people cant believe in traditional scholarship, which is arrogant and false.


#7

I don’t mean to be critical, but I’m talking about the Old Testiment, which is completely separate from what this is about.

These and other responses I’m seeing in this thread are also basically doing the very things I said I expected many would do, which is to accuse scholars of being absurd or anti-religious and all we need is faith to know it, and also the things I tried to indicate would be unhelpful responses. If “Just believe in these things blindly” were a response that was going to help me, I wouldn’t have asked the question.


#8

I’m almost positive Mark is said quite explicity to have been written before Matthew in the NAB I read as a teenager. And it would be shocking to me to find that the Church is in fact more insistent on the innerency of the Bible than Protestants are. As far as I know, not even Fr. Thomas L. Brodie, who has denied the historicity of Jesus, has been excommunicated, just relieved of his teaching position.


#9

If it has its done another u-turn I wasn’t aware of. Abu actually wrote something about this, best I reference him since he appears to be highly trusted here and as I’ve already seen any sources I share are automatically deemed untrustworthy.

As for why the Vatican doesn’t excommunicate scholars these days? I suspect it doesn’t want to create any more martyrs and end up with a Galileo or Descartes Episode II. Fr. Raymond Brown wrote a book about Markan priority that was condemned by the vatican but he remained in good standing as a priest until his death. I think the most well known modern condemnation was that of John Paul II of Fr. Hans Kung when he wrote “Infallible?” (1979), held by many Theologians to be the definitive compilation of evidence that proves Papal Infallibility false. He lost his Papal License to teach Theology but he taught it at exactly the same university until 1995 (I think?). Not that that’s shut him up, he’s become even more avid writer and critic of the Vatican since then.


#10

Q is referenced in the same NAB as I mentioned. And the fact that Mark is probably first is right there in the NAB, reproduced on the USCCB site::

*This shortest of all New Testament gospels is likely the first to have been written, yet it often tells of Jesus’ ministry in more detail than either Matthew or Luke (for example, the miracle stories at Mk 5:1–20 or Mk 9:14–29). *

The NAB also has the Imprimatur on it. I really really really hope that you’re wrong that there is some binding encyclical that that says something like, Anyone who says Matthew wasn’t written first, let him be anathema. Just the fact that they would take something like the order of composition of books about whose order of composition they knew nothing about beyond traditions (and ones were not even about doctrine but just historical traditions) and turn it into an absolute deal breaker…

I just hope it isn’t something as strong as that.


#11

Hi Kevin, may I suggest a good book that addresses many of the issues that you are talking about?

The book is “Reading the Old Testament” by Lawrence Boadt, he does an excellent job in addressing the understanding of individual books, authorship and textural problems in the Old Testament.


#12

Thank you, this is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I will try to look into it.


#13

Great you can find it here.

amazon.com/Reading-Old-Testament-An-Introduction/dp/0809126311


#14

Faith and reason Kevin.

If someone says the Exodus didn’t happen, ask for their proof and consider it carefully.
If someone says Yahweh became the ‘chief god among the Palestinians’ through persecution, ask them for their proof and consider it carefully.
If someone says the Davidic Kingdom wasn’t real … etc etc.

Is there anything that bothers you after you have considered the proof of what they say?

I am one of those who is very critical of biblical criticism, not of its value and needed process but of the history of the political nature of its application and the nature of the content of what is taught to students without the needed proofs to justify the theories.

I’ve seen it confuse and demoralise other students who then start to doubt what they believe. There’s nothing wrong with applying critical thinking to the theories of the critics.


#15

I think that I have probably got all I can hope to get from this post, so if anyone wants to linger and rail at Biblical Criticism, I’m probably not going to be reading.


#16

I’ll take that as a very rude “not interested” then?


#17

I’m sorry if I was being rude. I’ve just realized that, though I thought it was a good idea when I made the thread, these sorts of conversations are just too stressful for me, so I’m unsubscribing. What I should have said was "If anyone wants to linger and rail against Biblical Criticism or defend Biblical Criticism, I’m probably not going to be reading. " I think DCNBILL’s book is something I want to look at before I do either.


#18

I wish you all the best Kevin. Good reading.


#19

=Kevin12;12973901]Lately, I have been reading up on Old Testament scholarship, and most of what I have found really disturbs me

SHORTENED for SPACE

Pt 1 of 2

My dear friend in Christ;

What I see here is a crisis in faith. Here’s why.

The Bible is one book, not two. Either the entire bible is worthy of the acceptance it has gotten over a 2,000 YEAR [AD: after-Death] period of time; or none it is. 2nd. Tim. 3:16-17 “All scripture, [IS] inspired of God, [and] is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work” … **Mt. 4:4 **“ [Jesus] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God”

The God of the OT and the God of the NT are the same One True God. In both snapshots we see that One True God choosing One Chosen people Exo. 6:7, and Mt. 16:18-19; with just one set of Faith beliefs; Eph. 4:1-7.

Tombs “A & B” are not merely interrelated; but the OT points to the NT; and the NT contains, completes and even perfects the OT. Further the bible is a Catholic Book, another critical point not to be slighted or overlooked. It was the Early Catholics who choose the 46 OT books from the library of Hebrew text, to be included in the bible; and it was the First “fathers” of the new and budding Church that actually Authored the entire NT; both being guided by the same Holy Spirit. So who better than the one who “birthed the bible” to be further-guided, commanded Mt. 28:19-20, and enabled to rightly and exclusively translate it? Which is why; Christ precisely articulates this very point.

Before proceeding to the evidence of this fact, it seems prudent to note here that the bible is neither a “history book” nor a “SCIENCE BOOK.” No, it is an accounting of the trials and tribulations of a headstrong; hard-hearted chosen- people who lived at a time a places of numerous pagan gods, and abundant-religions [not so different from the USA today]; and God’s 2,000 YEAR struggle to convert, educate, and conform them to His Divine Will.

2nd. Peter 1: 16-21 “You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Because of the prudent limits on space here on CAF, I will limit the evidence of the above facts.

Mt. 10:1-2 & 5-6 “And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities. And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter & These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go ye rather [ONLY] to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”

Mt. 16:18-19 “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, [SINGULAR] and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven”

continued on pt 2


#20

CONTNIUED Pt 2 of 2

**John 17: 17-20 **“Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. [18] As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. [19] And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. [20] And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me;
Of NOTE:

**V 17 **commits God to protect their teach truth on all matters pf FAITH beliefs and Moral Teachings. God cannot deny His own request.

**V18 **Christ sends His Apostles and by absolute necessity their successors [Mt. 10:5-6 compared to Mt. 28: 18-20] with some of His own Godly Powers and Authority. If you doubt this consider that Christ chosen priest are empowered by the HS to make Jesus Really, Truly and Substanually present to us and empowers them to forgive our sins in the name of Jesus.

V19 has Christ giving Himself as the warranty of His Church being literally unable [the HS] to teach on Faith or Morals in error.

V20 explains why Christ did the above

**Mt. 28: 16-20 **“And the eleven disciples [Apostles] went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. … Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

From the Code of Canon Law

THE ROMAN PONTIFF

Can. 331 The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.

333 §3. No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.

Can. 747 §1. The Church, to which Christ the Lord has entrusted the deposit of faith so that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit it might protect the revealed truth reverently, examine it more closely, and proclaim and expound it faithfully, has the duty and innate right, independent of any human power whatsoever, to preach the gospel to all peoples, also using the means of social communication proper to it.

§2. It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgment concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it.

Can. 748 §1. All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.

Can. 756 §1. With respect to the universal Church, the function of proclaiming the gospel has been entrusted principally to the Roman Pontiff and the college of bishops.

Can. 759 By virtue of baptism and confirmation, lay members of the Christian faithful are witnesses of the gospel message by word and the example of a Christian life; they can also be called upon to cooperate with the bishop and presbyters in the exercise of the ministry of the word.

Can. 760 The mystery of Christ is to be set forth completely and faithfully in the ministry of the word, which must be based upon sacred scripture, tradition, liturgy, the magisterium, and the life of the Church.

In closing; IMO, you are far to quick to give a pass to the Secular anything; Look at what just happened in San Francisco; and what “our” President is doing to Faith and Morals.

God Bless you,

Patrick


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