The old testament and history

In class, we talked a great deal about the Old Testament and history.  I’m interested to see where you all are coming from.  As I said, there is a spectrum of beliefs about the Old Testament and history.  And, I fall somewhere in the middle.

What about you?  How historically accurate do you think the Old Testament is?  All of it? Some of it? None of it?  In addition, have you grown up in a faith tradition that has made a significant issue of the historicity of the Bible?  Or, has this issue played little to no role in your religious upbringing whether in a completely different faith tradition or if you were raised a-religiously?

There is no right or wrong answer here.  As I mentioned on the first day of class, I work in a Catholic Church for a day job.  So, I come to the Biblical text with a certain number of assumptions.  But, I try my very best to synthesize what I believe theologically with what I learn about the Bible from any source whether from a secular or faith-based perspective.  The point is getting to know you a bit with regard to your background and what beliefs about the Bible you bring to class.

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About Jeremy

I work at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, LA. I teach part-time classes from time to time, through Loyola University in New Orleans, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and St. Joseph's Abbey and Seminary College. I also just finished a doctoral degree in Biblical languages through the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
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22 Responses to The old testament and history

  1. Jeffrey Ramon says:

    I have been raised in a moderately Catholic family. The bible has not been a large part of my religious journey up to this point in my life. I do not take the word of the bible as it states word for word, and nor do I take passages as works of pure symbolism. That goes by saying that I agree with an sub part to our class structure that events which happen in the Bible could have or did happen in real time. However, the validity to the sequence of events or details of the event itself can and will always be called to question. Much of these items we call into question are simply result of mistranslation of manuscripts, and further the mistranslations of those translations. Therefore, I do not hold the Bible to the center of my religious beliefs, but I do respect it as The Word of God.

  2. Jade Tang says:

    I have not been raised with any religious affiliations, but when I was younger I did go to a private school that was Catholic. So, I had a mandatory religion class, which I enjoyed. Honestly, I do not really have a firm belief in anything. I know that there is some sort of higher power, but I have not really taken the time to really define my faith. I live on a day to day basis and hope that with time, I will find something. With all the knowledge that I have of the Old Testament, it seems more practical to me to say that the Old Testament might be a recollection of truth that has been altered, or maybe, it is a collection of stories intended to teach the world morals and values.

  3. Whittney Smith says:

    I was raised in a strictly baptist/southern baptist family where religion was a big deal especially as you got older. I know, from that experience, that the old testament is taken literally and used as history but I believe differently now that I am an adult and not really bombarded with religion at home anymore. I believe I fall somewhere in the middle also with how accurate I believe the old testament is. Being that in my upbringing I was sort of forced to not question the old testament/bible, I know that it is not completely accurate historically. There are some actual events that happened but there are some things that are just meant to be read with faith. I mean there are things in the old testament that are completely ridiculous and just doesn’t make any sense but people believe every word thats written in it. I think that it shouldn’t be taken so literally but read with a depth of more spirituality than historical knowledge.

  4. Heejoong "PK" Kim says:

    I grew up with a Presbyterian background. For me, understanding Old Testament as direct literature would be impossible as there are many stories that are quite uncomprehendable. Although I do believe that some of the scriptures can be interpreted literally, I feel that in order to fully understand Old Testament, it requires faith also. I know that there are many parts in the bible where people may feel skeptical about the truth behind the scenes. However, I feel there are deeper meanings behind the scenes that recharges my spirituality.
    I certainly believe that growing up in a Christian family really helped me comprehend some of the stories in the bible. Without it, I would’ve had a hard time being skeptical about all the impossible stories that occurs in the bible.

  5. Alex Hall says:

    I think that what is said in the bible is true to some extent. There is to much for it to be all made up as fiction. I would say that there probably was a historical group of people like the Hebrews of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Scripture who left Egypt and journeyed through the Sinai Peninsula. I think that stories which appear in the first part of Genesis, such as the creation story, even though they are clearly extravagant are meant to express some sort of truth. I think that the purpose of the creation story is to say that God created the Earth and all that inhabits it. To get caught up on the idea of whether it really took just 6 days for God to create the Earth is a triviality. Whether it took God 6 days or 6 million years to create the world is not the point. The point is that either way God created the world.

  6. Cameron Cates says:

    I believe the Old Testament is farely accurate. I have been raised to believe so and through the readings I have conducted and the facts we have discussed in class I believe it to be mostly true. I have grown up as a Baptist and until now I have never discussed the historicity of the bible. Nevetheless I have found the topic to be very intriguing thus far.

  7. Dylan Kremer says:

    I grew up under a Lutheran background and I do not believe that the old testament is accurate at all. Most of the stories have no scientific proof of being true. The main point I do not agree with is creationism. God does not describe dinosaurs in particular in Genesis, but if he had made them all at one time, I think he would have included the 30 foot land dinosaurs. However, I am sure there are many truths in the old testament. I agree with Alex Hall that the fact that the point of Genesis was to show that God created the world.

  8. Taifa Goff says:

    I was raised in a Baptist family. Prior to enrolling in this course, I thought the Old Testament was pretty accurate. In Sunday School and during church, we are just taught the meanings of passages and how to apply them to our daily lives, as well as a better way to interpret the passages. I do not recall hearing anything about the history of the Old Testament, or how accurate it is. Though I do not recall this, it doesn’t mean that it has never been brought up. Since Monday, I believe that the Old Testament is fairly accurate, though some stories may have been repeated and told with a few different spins on it-it is still basically the same. I was raised to believe that what is in the bible, not just the Old Testament, is true. I do however, think it is very interesting to study the history and translations of the Old Testament since I have never had to do so before.

  9. Caitlin Ordoyne says:

    I was raised a Roman Catholic. However, the historicity of the Bible played a very small role in my family’s faith. I do still have a firm belief in the Catholic religion. Although I went to a private elementary school, I attended a Catholic high school. I believe that the Bible has a lot of historical accuracy; however, many people take the Bible too literally. The Bible needs to be understood by first understanding the people and the times for which it was written. I believe that many of the stories in the Bible have historical accuracy and great applications to life. However, I also believe that a great deal of the Bible is pure folklore.

  10. Darrinton Moncrieffe says:

    Coming from a Baptist background I have been raised to believe that the Old Testament was historically accurate. Now that I have come to college and had the chance to see other people’s view on the the subject some of my views have changed. An example of this would be the first chapter of Genesis. I was taught that got created the world in 7 days but I now bhelieve that those days stand for peroids of time.

  11. Alexis English says:

    When it comes to the Old testament and history I also fall somewhere in the middle. I was raised Catholic and have always gone to Catholic school, but the Bible was never a significant influence on my faith. I do believe that there is truth in its teachings but I have never viewed it as being completely accurate. The Bible we read has been through centuries of translations in order for us to understand it, so many of the stories are likely to have been altered and lost in translation. Many aspects of its stories are extremely exaggerated, and we have pointed out quite a few examples in class where there are multiple variations of the same story, making it hard to believe that the Old Testament is historically accurate. So I don’t view the Old Testament as being quite so historically accurate and factual but more so truthful in the morals and messages that it conveys in its passages.

  12. Victor Harewood says:

    I believe that parts of the Old Testament have some level of historical truth in them. But I would argue that much of the stories in the Old Testament may have been altered over time in the favor of the religion to explain pivotal events that occurred. Stories were likely told in a bias fashion to seem more miraculous and convince more people to convert. I was raised Roman Catholic, however i have been heavily exposed to other religions of Christian root. I attended a Jesuit High School and took several courses on Scripture. This allowed me to examine concepts that never really occurred to me within the Bible. I do find value in many of the stories within the books, however I would never use the Bible as a book of actual history.I find it somewhat interesting, but the Bible has a small impact on my religious beliefs.

  13. Philip O. Ramirez says:

    While growing up, i was raised as a devoted Roman Catholic child as many kids in Central America do. Though the history (timeline) of the the bible played little to no importance in my family. When i was a kid, i went to a private elementary school and when middle school and high school came around it was time to go to a public school, so my knowledge of the bible extends only to those stories that the priest would recite in mass and those that my parents would tell me in order to teach me some morals. The bible is a pretty condensed book to be made of pure fiction stories, but it is to condensed to be composed of 100% true stories. I like to say that the bible was written by humans and not by God, so there has to be alterations throughout the entire book thus making me doubt the accuracy of the history in it.

  14. Sarah Saladino says:

    I was raised in a Catholic surrounding, however, my family are not religious in any way. The only form of religious education I received as a child were from being forced to go to mass for holidays such as Christmas and the religion classes I had to take at the private Catholic elementary and middle schools I attended. When I was a junior in high school, shortly after hurricane Katrina, I became a lot more curious and involved in my faith and became part of a movement and a youth group in New Orleans called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans. My experience with this youth group has helped me form my current stance on the tradition and accuracy of the Old Testament.
    I think that the Catholic Church uses the Old Testament just as much as the New Testament in their teachings. I, however, do not believe in the truth or accuracy of the Old Testament. My stance on the Old Testament is that it is primarily made of fables and myths. I think that it is majorly parables used to teach lessons and tell stories, which are not necessarily based off of historical fact.

  15. Jessica Williams says:

    I think the Old Testament is loosely accurate – I’m sure some of the stories actually happened, but I’m not sure that they happened in the exactly way that they are written down. I do believe, however, that all of the Bible was inspired by God. This is the stance we take in my religion.

  16. Andrew McDaniel says:

    I wasn’t raised in much of a religious household. My parents took me to church until I was about 10 then I told them I didn’t want to go so I started to hang back as they went. They didn’t force anything onto me, for which I am grateful. For a while I neglected religion all together, but when I started to have interest of my own I looked at the Bible with a relatively clear slate. I know that aspects of the Old Testament have been proven to be historical, but I perceive all the stories in the Old Testament as metaphorical stories to explain G-d’s word. I take whatever truth I see in them and go on from there. I try not to get too literal with what I’m reading but try to find some truth from deep within the text.

  17. Sean Hart says:

    I attended a catholic school for 8 years. When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real I began to think about all the other strange catholic traditions that my family practiced. For some strange reason, catholic schools and the hardcore-catholics that run them stress the historicity of the bible.

  18. Marielly Abzun says:

    I was raised as a Roman Catholic and my family places importance in the bible. The way I have been raised is to read the bible and learn from it. The stories which are found in the bible are not necessarily true or false. Most stories are just exaggerated with some truth in them. In our family the accuracy of the old testament is not a major issue. Even in my church, my priest does not focus on whether the story of each mass is true, he focuses on the lesson one learns through that certain reading and how one can apply that lesson into practice in today’s world.

  19. Robin Takami Tanner says:

    In regards to religion, my father influenced my brother and I the most and shaped how I relate with God. If I remember correctly, my dad was baptized Episcopal, although during his lifetime he took an eclectic approach, sourcing various scriptures from different religions, philosophies, psychologies to put together his own, unique way of thinking about the world and understanding God. So growing up, I was free to make my own choice in regards to religion, and have spent the years experimenting with practicing various religions, atheism and agnosticism. My father would take my brother and I to church on rare occasion, and during these encounters with sermons and the Bible as a child, I would literally interpret that which I heard since I had no reason to do otherwise. Today, I approach scripture and spiritual discourse with a grain of salt, measuring what I read or hear against my own experience; or in the case of the Bible, reading it as literature without being concerned with its historical accuracy, but more to enjoy the stories and extract teachings in the same way I would reading Kerouac’s “On the Road,” (i.e. relating from human experience). I don’t subscribe to any one religion, but I am most interested in Tibetan Buddhism and the teachings of love as discussed by Jesus in the Gospels.

  20. Melissa Raymond says:

    I was not raised in a religious household however I did attend a Catholic high school. I remember some pretty interesting and pretty tense moments over the years in religion class in high school. One teacher I had was great. When she was teaching the bible her main point was to not focus on if the actual events that happened (ex, Noah’s Ark) were true, but instead to gather the truths about God that you could find in the stories. The Old Testament probably is not best place to look for truths about God, however. I do not believe that the Old Testament, for the most part, is historically accurate. I think that it is basically a compilation of myths that were passed down for years and then eventually recorded. However, I do know that there are probably some pieces of history you can find in the Old Testament, like when certain Kingdoms rose and fell.

  21. Ruth Carter says:

    I think that the Bible, just like most historical books, is not always 100 percent accurate. Like a historical fiction book that keeps all of the major details the same, but may make up a person or dialogue. I think that because the bible was, at the end of the day, written by humans with their own ideas and agendas, we cannot be sure what exactly is fact and what is exaggeration. In my life, I have always learned that you just have to have faith and believe in the overall message, and not linger on specific details that make you falter in this belief.

  22. Naomi Stewart-Rubik says:

    I grew up in a home where religion was never a big player. My father was raised Catholic, and felt that the Catholic Church was evil. My mother was raised Congregationalist, but never found a church she liked in my hometown. I grew up believing the stories in the bible had some historical significance but were not necessarily accurate. I never read the bible growing up, and only spent a couple years in church. Religion does not have a place in my life, and I look at the old testament, as historical fiction.

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