Truth or Legends?

There are a lot of things in the text of the Old Testament that were common aspects of legends in the ancient Near East.

For example, Moses being found in the reeds at the beginning of Exodus was a common motif in ancient Near-Eastern literature.

There are also a lot of similarities that the stories in Genesis and Exodus share with the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Babylonian/ Mesopotamian legends about their own gods.

How do we know that the stories we’re told in the Old Testament are true events and not just legends that are following in the tradition of these other cultures? I was raised believing that the events in the Old Testament are true, but the evidence and comparisons to these other stories and other cultures cast doubt into my mind.

So what makes us say that the events talked about in the Bible- the Exodus/ the plagues of Egypt, the Creation, Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors, etc.- are all true, historical events? I REALLY don’t want to have this doubt in my mind, but I need some sort of faith-based rebuttal against this academic/ scientific information.

Maybe you should be questioning “the evidence and comparisons” and “this academic/ scientific information” as no doubt it is based on someone’s opinions, interpretations, and biases.

Why rebut? The specific historicity of these events is not required for the understanding of the love story that God wants to tell beween Himself and the human race.

The knowledge that some of the more ancient stories may have been unoriginal does not call into question the Inpiration that led the authors/transcribers unless you let it.

Thanks for your reply, John.

You’re right; my concerns over this subject shouldn’t get in the way of the ultimate truth, which is God’s love for me and Jesus’s sacrifice for my sins.

But a larger part of my concern as well is my ability to refute this argument should I get into a theological discussion with an atheist, who could try to use this information to discredit the text of the Bible. I hope to go into the ministry at some point in the relatively near future and make evangelism more of a primary focus of my life, so I want to be able to thoroughly understand the academic/ scientific arguments concerning the Bible and be able to respond to them from a perspective of faith.

But thank you very much for your words. I found your reply to be very comforting, to my soul and heart at least, if not to my academic mind. Sometimes you just need someone else to point things out to you, even if that truth is a simple one. So thank you so much! :slight_smile:

I recently listened to this CD and it addresses your concerns somewhat (I knew there must be some reason to listen to it even though I’m already comfortable with the subject - it was a great refresher for your question). If you will be going to a seminary or theological studies college, hopefully they will have classes that will discuss this issue in balanced detail.

I don’t see any discrepency. Once you get into the land of Egypt, many, many things are possible especially concepts that “Eastern”. Basically the Egyptians were into everything and searched near and far.

There is a question that gets asked often about how Christianity seems to have drawn many of its beliefs from other religions. This can be troubling for those who find out that the Christian Faith has many similarities that seem to parallel tales, ancient myths, and religious beliefs. The greatest explanation I have ever read comes from John Henry Cardinal Newman…

“Now, the phenomenon, admitted on all hands, is this:—that great portion of what is generally received as Christian truth, is in its rudiments or in its separate parts to be found in heathen philosophies and religions. For instance, the doctrine of a Trinity is found both in the East and in the West; so is the ceremony of washing; so is the rite of sacrifice. The doctrine of the Divine Word is Platonic; the doctrine of the Incarnation is Indian; of a divine kingdom is Judaic; of Angels and demons is Magian; the connection of sin with the body is Gnostic; celibacy is known to Bonze and Talapoin; a sacerdotal order is Egyptian; the idea of a new birth is Chinese and Eleusinian; belief in sacramental virtue is Pythagorean; and honors to the dead are a polytheism. Such is the general nature of the fact before us; Mr. Milman argues from it,—“These things are in heathenism, therefore they are not Christian:” we, on the contrary, prefer to say, “these things are in Christianity, therefore they are not heathen.” That is, we prefer to say, and we think that Scripture bears us out in saying, that from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide over its extent; that these have variously taken root, and grown up as in the wilderness, wild plants indeed but living; and hence that, as the inferior animals have tokens of an immaterial principle in them, yet have not souls, so the philosophies and religions of men have their life in certain true ideas, though they are not directly divine.” [Milman’s View on Christianity 9]

The introduction to the Jewish Publication Society’s Commentary on the Torah Numbers has and excelent discussion of the literary structure of the Torah, one that I have not seen anywhere else.

As is stated in the JPS related Commentary on Genesis by the author, I too accept the inspiration and authenticity of the text that has come down to us, by faith.

If you want to argue with an atheist, that’s up to you, especially if you want to argue about scripture. Scripture was written in faith and it must be read with faith. You cannot see the truth of scripture unless you have faith. It’s pretty cut and dry to me, that atheists do not have faith, to their own detriment. The OT is filled with references to people who did not have faith (see Psalm 1:1, for example).

I learned Catholic doctrines without opening a Bible, so I do not understand these problems about a Bible.:o

See the Catholic Answers tract, “Is Catholicism Pagan?” found here.

I commend you for asking these kinds of questions. We are commanded to search the answer to such questions:
1 Thessalonians 5.21, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

Bear in mind that Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Besides, he commanded the Levites to safeguard those sacred writings:
Deuteronomy 31.24-26, "So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: ‘Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you . . .’ "

Jesus, the Son of God bears witness to the legitimacy of those writings and the preservation of them:
Luke 24:44, “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the LAW of Moses and the PROPHETS and the PSALMS concerning Me.’”

Then there was Paul’s witness to the veracity and usefulness of the OT. Remember, he would have been very familiar with the integrity of those texts having been a Pharisee once himself.
2 Timothy 3.16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

No need to worry, friend. Moses, Jesus, and Paul have your back!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You have been so helpful! I genuinely appreciate it!

I’m going to listen to this CD as soon as I can.

God bless, and thank you again!

I should caution you that he doesn’t even attempt to refute any “problems” regarding the source of the text. What he does is to separate the study of biblical origins from the study of the inspired message.

@Copland 3: That’s a very good point, and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot myself! Actually that frame of thought is also why I think more modern religions (i.e. Islam, the Sheik religion, etc.) have such close similarities with the Christian faith. I’m glad to have a good quote like that to back me up! Thank you so much!

@sirach2v4: That’s a great source, and I will definitely be looking it up in my spare time. I agree with you that Scripture must be read with faith in order to be understood properly- that is something my father continually reminds me about, actually, when we discuss these matters. But as I mentioned earlier in my first reply to SonCatcher, it’s not so much that I want to go out and argue with atheists, as it is that I want to better understand and engage with these other arguments in contrast to the faith-based interpretations, so that I can be a better evangelist.

In today’s modern day and age, telling people that you need the Bible through the lens of faith (while true) is no longer a sufficient method of evangelism, in my opinion. We live in a very science-based society now where even the most uneducated person is likely to question what they are told is true, and if they can’t get answers to what they perceive as contradictions, etc., then they simply aren’t going to believe. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. We are living in an age where faith has largely lost value in contrast to the need for absolute certainty.

So I want to be able to engage with these atheist-based analyses of the text of the Bible and be capable of delivering a strong rebuttal that is based in faith. My aim isn’t necessarily to provide absolute proof that God exists and that the Bible is true through a textual analyses, because that’s 1) extremely difficult and 2) defeats the purpose of true faith. Rather, I want to be able to provide strong arguments that get people thinking, “Hey, this faith stuff actually makes sense when it’s explained like that. Maybe I should be looking into this more.”

Hopefully that makes sense. I get the feeling I haven’t explained myself as clearly as I would like to, but that’s about the best I can do at this point in time.

@Fidelis: Thank you for the link! I will be reading that as soon as I get the time (college life is such a drain on my free time! lol).

@Cap76: Thank you! Both for your commendation and for the extra scriptures that support my concerns. I’m going to write those down right now so that I don’t forget where to find them!

Unfortunately, even those who post about “science” here admit there can be no absolute certainty. Not in science. It’s all provisional. Prior to the Wright Brothers’ flying their first airplane, one of the greatest scientists of the time said that powered human flight would not be possible. Prior to the Germans launching the first V-2 rocket in 1944, the top science advisor in England insisted that such a rocket was a hoax and impossible, even after seeing photos of it laid on a railway car. It was too small.

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

Peace,
Ed

Thanks, Ed! God bless!

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

Sorry, that’s not a quote from the document. Neither is it a proper paraphrase. The full document with a translation can be found here.

It seems to be a very rough paraphrase of Question 2. However, by omitting the bulk of the question, some important detail is lost.

Question II: Whether, when the nature and historical form of the Book of Genesis does not oppose, because of the peculiar connections of the three first chapters with each other and with the following chapters, because of the manifold testimony of the Old and New Testaments; because of the almost unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers, and because of the traditional sense which, transmitted from the Israelite people, the Church always held, it can be taught that the three aforesaid chapters of Genesis do not contain the stories of events which really happened, that is, which correspond with objective reality and historical truth; but are either accounts celebrated in fable drawn from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and adapted by a holy writer to monotheistic doctrine, after expurgating any error of polytheism; or allegories and symbols, devoid of a basis of objective reality, set forth under the guise of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or, finally, legends, historical in part and fictitious in part, composed freely for the instruction and edification of souls? – Reply: In the negative to both parts.

Unfortunately, the entire question will take too long for me to parse fully. However, it does seem to indicate a long-standing teaching that Genesis need not be literally interpreted.

Also, note that it only pertains to the first three chapters of Genesis. The OP’s question pertained to other passages.

Mankind was monotheist from the first. That’s the…problem?!? :slight_smile: The resistance to mankind being monotheist from the first is substantial because when someone spends a fortune on a sheepskin, it’s painful to admit education is skewed or false. But that’s a fact, Jack. We’re monotheists from the first. Kenneth Kitchen, the noted Christian Egyptologist, has observed that ancient cultures and extant indigenous cultures all have elements of laws and customs and narratives as if they were reading right out of Genesis. Warning: I’m going to use caps and exclamation points…For example,

MARRIAGE IS A CULTURAL UNIVERSAL!!! That’s impossible! There is no cultural universal! Or rather no allowed recognition of cultural universals…That’s chapter 2 of Genesis. That’s why I’ve been upbraiding those who want to erase the fact-based nature of Genesis and slip into mythdom condemned by Paul. One could recreate Genesis simply from other corrupted monotheist cultures! But that doesn’t mean Moses snitched it from them, it means everybody had the same original story! And Moses certainly had a better, primal version of it.

Moses, a prince of Egypt, had access to the monotheist archives and I believe that he retrieved Genesis there. Akhenaton wasn’t instituting monotheism, I suggest he was re-instituting monotheism after the two influences negating monotheism muddied the waters: decadence; and rebellion.

Decadent paganism is monotheism with corrupted transmission. I call that orthodox paganism. That’s the Christmas tree of today that came from the stem and stern post of Noah’s Ark and decayed into forest paganism. It also became the twin columns of pagan temples to Dagon–Noah–but also the twin pillars of the Temple of Solomon. There’s corrupted error-filled paganism side-by-side with uncorrupted monotheism.

However rebellion against monotheism was and is the outright refusal to hear and obey God’s revelation about His nature and His will. That’s satanism, ‘satan’ meaning ‘adversary.’ Rebel. I’m glad you mentioned Moses in the bulrushes. Sargon the Great, the pagan monotheist of old, was also put in the bulrushes and for the same physical reason and spiritual reason. While a baby might be abandoned on a doorstep in our culture, a baby left on dry land would have been eaten by wild dogs. Sargon’s mom was an EN, a woman of grace, EN meaning ‘grace.’ HINT: The Blessed Virgin’s title, Full of Grace, continues this monotheist office of queen-mother instituted in Genesis 3:15, God’s cursing Satan and his minions with the Woman & Seed. If you were Satan, you would be fighting the Woman & Seed, enslaving women, breaking marriage, killing babies.

The monotheist EN system of inheritance through the mother continued by Jews today was overthrown, landmarks with her figure on them were thrown down, and lands seized by satanistas. The “goddess” figurines were self-portrait land titles–misnamed because they were EN, queen-mothers, women of grace as distributing land and food. Sargon’s mom was an EN and the EN were enslaved and turned into temple prostitutes, daddy was enslaved or killed. Mom was forced to have sex with strangers and babies were slated for death. This is the total satanic perversion of God’s will same as today, isn’t it?

Sargon escaped the axe because his EN-mom put him in the bulrushes and floated him to safety. Sargon grew up and overthrew the bad guys headquartered in Ur of the Chaldees/City of the Chaldees, the exact spiritual sinkhole Abraham was ordered to leave by God lest his EN-wife be captured. Moses himself was slated for death by the new bad guy regime in Egypt that turned against the monotheist Hebrew remnant of famine-fighter Joseph. This genocide by baby killing is strictly satanic and continues today. So once again God preserved the monotheist baby and voila! The cogent creation account from which all others were derived, preserved by originally monotheist Egypt, was saved by God’s man, Moses, divinely authorized and empowered to lead the Chosen People to freedom. So central is this to all people that, one day, all nations will go up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkoth, the Feast of Camping Out in Tabernacles.

So there’s the real answer. The Creation account was universal but the prophecies, hundreds relating to Messiah fulfilled by Jesus, are unprecedented. Mohammed fulfilled one prophecy, that he would return to Medina. So he went to Medina. OK. Try fulfilling a prophecy before birth, like that of Christ’s being born in Bethlehem. Kinda hard to self-fulfill a prophecy before you’re born…Hehe!:slight_smile: The decadent versions of Noah’s Flood from other cultures pale in comparison to the real deal with its clear narrative and technical specs on how to tar a boat and volumetric details and so forth. There is no shame in the Bible game so cling to it with thanks to God.

The so-called academics, like Sir Julian Huxley, embraced evolutionary atheism because, as Huxley said, they wanted to erase God so they could indulge their sexual appetites. Kinda the same culture in academia today if rampant STD rates are any indication. God preserve us from our proud foolishness and make us humble and wise! Thanks for asking and I hope you share this with others. GBU

In any case, for Catholic Church, the argument of literal, fable, comics, etc., is [FONT=Arial]not the main point of reading the first three chapters of Genesis. In fact, the main point of reading the first three chapters of Genesis is painfully omitted in most discussions, [/FONT]

Obviously, there should be some good stuff in this document. However, before using it to defend anything in regard to the multiple opinions of the first three chapters of Genesis, one needs to consider its status on the totem pole. Obviously, the status of a document from a commission should be compared with the status of the Catholic Deposit of Faith. That is common sense.

i see things a bit differently:

  • we do not live in a science-based society; materialistic, superficial, anti-religious better describes it. Scientism, which is a reductionistic way of seeing the world tends to be prominent in the media.
  • ppl seem to question only what they don’t want to hear
  • science is full of contradictions: photon are particles yet vibrations, one can measure the velocity of a subatomic particle but not its position (and vice versa) there is no edge to the actual universe because everywhere is the centre, etc
  • absolute certainty has to do with faith. In God we find Truth, which is beyond the limitations of human thought.
  • it is very easy to discuss matters with ppl who have open hearts and open minds; both parties grow closer to Truth on these occasions. If you have “to provide strong arguments”, I fear at that point you will only be speaking to yourself. You do not have to provide a strong argument to someone who is interested in what you think, how you see things.
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