Doubts about the Bible, Particularly the Old Testament

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:

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)


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Great you can find it here.

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.

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.

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

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.

I wish you all the best Kevin. Good reading.

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


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


**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;

**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


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,


Sorry that it was of no help to you. I just felt the need to point out that such critique and unbelief is in the NT as well.



Not a believable claim. At least, if it were really true, that would disqualify you from being worth listening to. How can you not care?

I understand that the discipline itself doesn’t depend on the question, and the goal is to talk about religion in ways that are neutral and accessible to anyone. (I think there are problems with this understanding of religious studies, well laid out by Paul Griffiths.) But if you as a person don’t care, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

One area where Biblical Studies has been continually condemned by the Catholic Church since the late 1780’s is assessments on the Old Testament.


Cite a condemnation since Vatican II, please, or retract that claim.

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.

Maybe, insofar as the OT claims that there were originally faithful Israelites who worshiped only YHWH. (I do not think that most of the OT is at all interested in what many modern people mean by “monotheism.”) Many scholars, perhaps most, would question this and see YHWH-only worship as a late development. However, it’s important to note that the OT and modern scholarship agree entirely in saying that most Israelites for most of their history worshiped many gods. The archeological evidence showing worship of other gods alongside YHWH confirms, rather than denying, the claims of 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.

Maybe, depending on how you define clergy. Isn’t Deuteronomy generally thought to be linked to the prophets? Calling them “clergy” is, I think, a bit questionable.

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

I’ve certainly seen these claims, but not much solid evidence for them. Yes, YHWH is often referred to as a warrior. But so, for instance, is Ishtar in Mesopotamia, although she was a fertility goddess. These categories aren’t necessarily watertight.

We don’t have a lot of evidence for what specific role YHWH played for people who worshiped him alongside other gods, because they aren’t the people who wrote the Bible, obviously!

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).

I thought there was some actual evidence for some people worshiping Asherah as the spouse of YHWH (that would certainly, again, fit the OT evidence fairly well, particularly for the Southern Kingdom where abandoning YHWH altogether does not seem to have been as much of an option). But you may be right that this is an extrapolation from the evidence about El.

What are these finds in Egypt, and why would Egyptians be worshiping Canaanite gods?

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.

But the “early stories” are just part of the picture. The books of Kings clearly look like history–in fact they are some of the oldest examples of extended history-writing we have from any culture. I understand that many scholars today think that even these books are fundamentally unreliable, though I question this.

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.

I think that the term “monotheism” is a bit of a red herring. And I thought that the dominant theory these days is that the Hebrews originated from Canaan itself and that the whole Egyptian Exodus story probably has little basis in history.

I have never actually heard the theory that they were Egyptians originally. What scholars hold this theory?

In fact, what scholars are you basing this on in general? You use a lot of passive voice, which gives an impression of authority. But things aren’t just “thought.” People think them. I know that professors and textbooks often speak this way–I’ve been guilty of doing so myself–partly for the legitimate reason of not overwhelming students with too many names, and partly for the less legitimate reason of overawing students with the sense that it’s all been already decided and can’t be questioned. (Also, when the professor is a generalist teaching out of his specialization, as I was when I taught this material, there’s the further not-creditable-but-hopefully-understandable reason that the professor may himself be repeating what he’s been told “is thought” without a very good understanding of who specifically thinks these things.)

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

The Catholic Church certainly speaks as though the Exodus were a real event. But then, so do mainline Protestant institutions, even if scholars in those traditions are free to question.

What condemnations, post-Vatican-II, do you have in mind, specifically?

. and has threatened to excommunicate several scholars who over the past two hundred years have suggested otherwise.

The Magisterium’s attitude to Biblical scholarship changed quite dramatically in the middle decades of the 20th century, so invoking “the past couple centuries” won’t cut it. You need to cite recent condemnations.

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.

If it’s rather like that, then no such obligation exists. The pre-Vatican II statements about Matthaean priority were not infallible and have clearly, de facto, been abandoned. Popes and other authoritative figures regularly assume Markan priority. You are clearly wrong about this.

I can’t actually think of many Biblical Studies scholars who are Catholics

Roland Murphy (no longer living) is the only name that leaps to my mind in OT scholarship (I’m sure there are more that I don’t know off the top of my head), but there are a lot of eminent NT scholars living or relatively recently deceased: Raymond Brown, John Meier, Joseph Fitzmyer, Luke Timothy Johnson . . . .

If you get your idea of Catholicism from Abu, no wonder you find it hard to believe.


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