I always hear many people state that there a lot od evidence which proves the New Testament books of the Bible can be considered historical documents. What about some or most of the Old Testament books? How can we prove that they are also historical documents. Also, are many of the events described in these books accepted by some secular historians?
This is not a scholarly answer. I think that even most secular historians accept that Genesis and the Flood are ancient narratives and that Abraham and Moses were historical personages. This does not mean that secularists are going to accept the Old Testament God.
Some parts of the text are poetic, some historical, some parts use figurative language, etc… The collection of books that constitute the Old Testament is not a singular literary form. It is intended to convey theological truth using various forms of literature.
If you are interested in historicity of any specific event, like the Flood or something, you can do a web search on Biblical proof for ___. For instance, there are many articles at biblearchaeology.org . You might want to check out something like that. I just looked at it quickly, so if anyone knows any problems with that resource, please share.
there is absolutely no way to prove that either the old or the new testament are historical documents because there is nothing to prove there. they are simply not historical books. they are spiritual books meant to convey God’s salvific mission for man. the history they contain are not regular secular history but are rather records showing the Hand of God in the lives of His people and the direction of the universe from the beginning of time.
I’m not sure what you mean.
We do have the Dead Sea Scrolls. That shows the text was transmitted through time very well for the past 1900+ years. From that perspective, they are historical.
Are you arguing that the Old Testament is similar to a newspaper? Like a report of events that took place? (Even newspaper reports have plenty of bias and spin - so even this can be argued as not being “historical.”
We know that the Old Testament cannot be a report of events the way we would expect to read a report of some event today. For example, Ch 1 of Genesis gives a certain account for Creation. Then, in Ch 2 (starting with verse 4b), there is a second and different account of Creation. The author knew that these two accounts were not identical (and the order of Creation varies widely between the two accounts), and the subsequent readers also knew that the two accounts were different. Clearly, the point of the first two chapters of Genesis is something other than giving a factual report of events.
there is absolutely no way to prove that either the old or the new testament are historical documents because there is nothing to prove there. they are simply not historical books.
Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History, gives evidence that it was known in his day that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Eusebius himself had quoted other writers, Papias (Book III, Chapter 39, page 127), Irenæus (Book V, Chapter 8, page 187), Origen (Book VI, Chapter 25, page 245), and Eusebius himself (Book III, Chapter 24, page 108).
The facts are that the 1964 Magisterial *Instruction on the Historical Truth of the Gospels *from the Pontifical Biblical Commission teaches concerning the Apostles:
“However there is no reason to deny the fact that the apostles, in telling their listeners about our Lord’s deeds and words, utilized the fuller understanding which they had acquired from the glorious events of Christ’s life14 and the guidance of, the Spirit of truth.15 After His resurrection Jesus Himself "interpreted to them"16 His own words and those of the Old Testament.17 In a similar manner they explained His deeds and words according to the needs of their audience.
“Devoting themselves, ‘to the ministry of the word,’18 they set about preaching, and utilized the type of presentation appropriate to their purpose and the mentality of their listeners. They were debtors19 to Greeks and to foreigners, to learned and unlearned."20 Indeed we can single out the following categories in the preaching of Christ’s heralds: catechetical formulas, narrative reports, eyewitness accounts, hymns, doxologies, prayers, and similar literary genres commonly found in Sacred Scripture and the speech of that period.”
In fact, the PBC in the 1964 Instruction warned that “There are others who have as their starting-point a wrong notion of faith, taking it that faith is indifferent to historical truth, and is indeed incompatible with it. Others practically deny a priori the historical value and character of the documents of revelation. Others finally there are who on the one hand underestimate the authority which the Apostles had as witnesses of Christ, and the office and influence which they wielded in the primitive community, whilst on the other hand they overestimate the creative capacity of the community itself. All these aberrations are not only opposed to Catholic doctrine, but are also devoid of any scientific foundation, and are foreign to the genuine principles of the historical method.”
There is no black and white regarding the past. The universe is designed to operate in the present. There is no clear proof of anything that happened in the past. Evidence from the past can be manipulated rather trivially. We accept the Gospels as a report of what happened because we have faith in the people who report it. There is no greater source than honesty. Even though it contains certain funny customs from their time and perhaps some human errors too.
Those that look for God in the past only, deny the living presence of God. The scriptures contain the experience of those who experienced God in their time. We can experience him in ours. The Gospel is alive.
The old testament is the oral tradition of the ancient Jewish people. The old testament described historical events filtered through the ancient Jewish understanding of their role in salvation history. I have never seen where things in the old testament were refuted by historians. The evidence is pretty weak though. Perhaps the book itself is the best history we could have. That was their purpose perhaps in writing it.
Thanks a lot. I really appreciate the answers. But you seem to misunderstand me. I did not claim that there are no historical truths in the bible. Rather I said the bib should not be used as a historical book. Even the historical aspects of the bible stand to serve as a reference point for the ever-loving-presence of God from all ages and for all ages. The bible etymologically means Book of Books. It is no ordinary book or novel.