Priest says OT is all "just stories"


[quote="edwest2, post:10, topic:272606"]
Contact your Bishop and just relay the conversation, politely.



Her shock at the suggestion that any part of the Old Testament would be allegorical indicates that the OP does not have a full understanding of the difference between literal and literalist intepretations of scripture and the different styles of writing such as poetic, history, narrative, etc., and what the Church teaches about these writings. This the OP has herself requested.

The proper thing to do in this case, as many on this thread have done, is to advise the OP on how the Church views these wrirings. I don't think it prudent to go to the bishop immediately. I think it premature to advise going to the bishop.

After informing herself on how the Church views these writings, the prudent course of action is to ask for clarification first, to assume that we misunderstood or that a priest trained in seminary knows something we don't. It is best to go to the priest, make an appointment, tell him that his statements bother you, and ask for clarification and to help you understand.

We don't have to run off to the bishop unless there is then an impass. There is much work to be done on both the OP's and the priest's side before the bishop has to be involved.



Greetings in Christ, Sister Beth!

The “Christian faith has its specificity, primarily in that it refers to historical events, or better to a coherent history, which actually took place as history. In this sense, the question about the fact, the reality of the event, is essential to” our faith; consequently, what might be styled as the deeper meaning of salvation history “must not be separated from the facts” ( (2002)Current Doctrinal Relevance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). The Church teaches that the historical narrative of Sacred Scripture “is not mythology, but a true history” (Final Propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Bible (2008), Proposition 25). Pope Benedict included this proposition in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation:

“Before all else, we need to acknowledge the benefits that historical-critical exegesis and other recently-developed methods of textual analysis have brought to the life of the Church. For the Catholic understanding of sacred Scripture, attention to such methods is indispensable, linked as it is to the realism of the Incarnation: “This necessity is a consequence of the Christian principle formulated in the Gospel of John 1:14: Verbum caro factum est. The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of the Christian faith. The history of salvation is not mythology, but a true history, and it should thus be studied with the methods of serious historical research” (Verbum Domini).

The Catechism hails Job as one of “several great figures among the Gentiles” (, 58CCC).

The Early Church Fathers took the Book of Jonah as an historical account. If you’d like, you can read Augustine’s Letter 102, To Deogratias from No. 30 forward, to see him answering the same types of objections we try to answer today. Jesus said that “[t]he men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah” (Matthew 12:41). Fictional characters just can’t do this! :slight_smile: And it would be a poor preacher indeed who would in-weave a fairy tale of humorous tone when pronouncing such a solemn condemnation. Jesus was not a poor preacher.

My advice: pray for this priest. Thank God that you are in communion with him in the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. Talk with him, if you can. Don’t be disturbed in your faith. But if you are, cry out to God for him and for you, “Increase our faith!” And be comforted to know that there are other Catholics who share your faith. :slight_smile:

With love in Christ,

“Holy Scripture is invested with supreme authority by reason of its sure and momentous teachings regarding the faith. Whatever, then, it tells us of Enoch, Elias and Moses—that we believe. We do not, for instance, believe that God’s Son was born of the Virgin Mary simply because He could not otherwise have appeared in the flesh and ‘walked amongst men’—as Faustus would have it—but we believe it simply because it is written in Scripture; and unless we believe in Scripture we can neither be Christians nor be saved” (Augustine, Against Faustus as quoted in Spiritus Paraclitus).


The senses of Scripture

115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. the profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83

117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

  1. the allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.84
  2. the moral sense. the events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.85
  3. the anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86

118 A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:

The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87

119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88

But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.89


“Genesis does not contain purified myths.” (Pontifical Biblical Commission 1909)




If a priest told me all the Old Testament were just stories, I’d advise the OP to contact the Bishop. Yes, the OP may be unaware of some Church teaching but for a priest to consign the Old Testament to being a book of just stories - that’s the problem. Most Catholics have never gone to a seminary and the OP should go to the Bishop. A phone call, letter or email.



I’m sure you’re aware of the teaching of the Catechism-and it certainly means to say that allegory was employed in parts of the account. The pair of humans involved and the Fall itself were literal, the tree and the fruit, for example, not necessarily so.

**390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265 **


And, before you throw your new pastor under the bus, please keep in mind that the state of Scriptural theology, 30 or so years ago, was that the OT was considered largely non-historical (along with the Gospel of John, for those keeping score at home). Much of this perspective has changed over the past 30-40 years, though.

So, although more recent scholarship may have passed them by, please ask yourself (before you decide that dear Father is a heretic and rat him out to the bishop): how well have you kept yourself abreast of the latest scholarship in your field, since you graduated? :wink:


Well, I never suggested ratting anyone out to the Bishop-although there certainly are times where that’s appropriate. But I find priests on both sides of these issues regardless of educational background. Sometimes I think they just need to spend more personal time in Scripture, as well as the Catechism. Anyway I know the pendulum’s swinging back, however, and seminaries are improving, and I’m glad to hear the perspective on Scripture is changing for the better.


Regarding the first three chapters of Genesis, my humble suggestion is to first learn the actual, real Catholic doctrines involved. It is obvious that many people, including some, not all, priests, cannot connect the Divine Revelation there with the Divine Revelation in the New Testament.

In the Catholic Church “scholarship” is second to Divine Revelation.
Divine Revelation trumps.


Regarding the first three chapters of Genesis, my humble suggestion is to first learn the actual, real Catholic doctrines involved. It is obvious that many people, including a few, not all, priests, have trouble connecting the Divine Revelation there with the Divine Revelation in the New Testament. This goes back to the 1940’s and 50’s.

In the Catholic Church “scholarship” is second to Divine Revelation.
Divine Revelation trumps.


Sorry – didn’t mean to imply that you had done so. I was adding on to your comment, not trying to reply to you, per se…!


CCC paragraphs 101-141 don’t make a definitive statement which I think pretty well answers the question. And the answer is that you can’t make a global statement about Scripture, each part of each book may be a different genre and have a different divine purpose, some may be historical fact, some inspired stories to teach a truth. Paragraph 105 in particular uses some words I find insightful stating that Scripture contains “divinely revealed realities.” That phrase reminds me so much of the way we speak of the Real Presence of the Eucharist. In the Real Presence we readily differentiate between the accidents of the matter and the Real Matter that is the Real Presence, a reality that is revealed not observed.

Nowhere in 101-141 does it state, or do I suggest it states, that all of OT Scripture is stories overlaying real truth. But I think the pointers are all there that tell us we need to try and fully understand and be aware that sometimes the accidents, the story (fact or fiction), may be just a vehicle for bringing revealed reality to our minds…

Obviously the NT is more obvious in history vs. story. But the NT seems to clearly reveal a lot about how God does teach us. Note, 100% of the New Testament is not history. Certainly, it is history that Jesus taught the parables He taught, but those parables were stories, not history. So, the parables themselves are not historical fact but they are in the context of a factual history.

Jesus taught us by the means of His life (history) and parables (story). I look to that fact and see it as pointing us towards a better understanding of the OT. There is some historical fact that teaches us, there are some parables to teach us as well. To me that is how God has always tried to teach us…


Jesus also was a true man, a fully human person as well as fully God, having a truly human experience. This means that He did not, during the Incarnation, have access to Universal Fact. He wasn’t, for instance, born knowing Who He is, infants don’t know these things. He had what knowledge He needed, and having the same Jewish understanding of Scripture, would be part of being a Jewish man.

However, if in fact He did know that these Scriptures are not literal accounts, He could still have spoken just as He did. My former and now-retired Pastor often referred to Adam and Eve in homilies as if there were literal persons named that. He didn’t believe that, but He used them in the way intended: to help us understand Eternal Truth.

Jesus used a lot of ways of speaking and acting, in order to convey the Truths He wished people to understand. His OT references, which aren’t exact quotes for the most part, anyway, don’t prove anything about the literalness of the stories.


This is exactly what I was stating.

There are other things concerning the days but employing science, reason, and an allegorical interpretation of certain verses, there are no contradictions.


Regarding the first three chapters of Genesis,
my humble suggestion is to first learn the actual, real Catholic doctrines involved. It is obvious that some people cannot connect the Divine Revelation in the first three chapters of Genesis with the Divine Revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

In the Catholic Church “scholarship” is second to Divine Revelation.
Divine Revelation trumps.


“The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?”
From the poem “Christmas” by George Herbert


Jesus Christ is True God. This means He has the knowledge of God concerning all things, before, during, and following the Incarnation. Obviously, as True God, Jesus Christ knew He is True God even though He took on the nature of a human infant.


That is incorrect. Yes, Jesus was a Jewish man but he was also God.

See Luke 2:42

Luke 2:43

Luke 2:44

Luke 2:45

Luke 2:46

Luke 2:47

Luke 2:48

And Luke 2:49

Jesus mentions that Moses wrote about him:



From the Catholic Answers Library:

"Adam and Eve: Real People

"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

"In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

“The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).”



Read post 16, you seem to be forgetting what I said. . .


Such would be certainly not the case…perhaps something was misspeak or mishear there…as can happen in conversations…

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