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Finding More Problems in the Old Testament

Yesterday I started detailing some of the contradictions and historical or scientific problems with the Old Testament that I started to find when I was a graduate at Princeton Seminary, starting to examine the Bible not as the inerrant revelation from God Almighty but as a more human book that could indeed have mistakes in it.  The account I gave of these problems was lifted straight from my textbook: The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  There’s a reason for that.  The problems I found early on in my more scholarly investigation of the Bible have stuck with me and continue to strike me as some of the truly most important ones, and therefore the ones most appropriate to introduce to college students themselves reading the Bible critically for the first time. This is a second and final post on the same topic: a few more comments on a few more problems that strike me as completely irreconcileable, once a person admits that there can indeed be problems in the Bible.   Again, this is excerpted [...]

2020-04-03T02:21:04-04:00May 12th, 2017|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Finding Problems in the Old Testament

I have been explaining that while at Princeton Theological Seminary, I started finding that there could be mistakes in the Bible.  My first realization of this involved my study of the Gospels, but I was studying the Hebrew Bible as well, and I finally got to the point where I had to admit there appeared to be mistakes there as well.  Lots of mistakes.  Contradictions, discrepancies, historical errors.  And these show up right off the bat, in the book of Genesis. Let me detail some of the differences I started finding, as I later summarized them, many years later, in my textbook on the Bible, where I talk about why Moses almost certainly didn’t write the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy) and about some of the tensions one finds in the text. ************************************************************* As already mentioned, the critical scrutiny of the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch deepened and became more rigorous as scholarship advanced.   In addition to the problems just mentioned, other troubling features of [...]

2020-04-03T02:21:11-04:00May 11th, 2017|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Marcion as Alive and Well Among Us

As I’ve been thinking about Marcion over the past couple of days, it has occurred to me that in some ways he is still alive and well among us.  I have known Christians over the years who in fact have views in many ways close to what Marcion taught.  These people would, of course, deny they have anything like the touch of the heretic about them.  But at the end of the day, their views are not so different.  Maybe they are not as extreme as him, but they do seem to be dwelling on the fringes of his camp. First, I have known a lot of Christians who think that the Old Testament has a God of wrath and condemnation and the New Testament has a God of love and mercy.  Students say this to me with some regularity.  The God of the Old Testament gives difficult laws that no one can possibly follow (how, exactly, are you supposed to keep from “coveting” anything??).  And then he condemns people for not keeping them.  But [...]

The Arch-Heretic Marcion’s Theology

I am discussing the relationship between Jesus and the Law of the Jews, and to get to that question I am dealing with how Christians about a century after Jesus’ life understood this relationship.  I began with Marcion and his followers, who thought that Jesus had nothing to do with the Law, since he represented a different God from the one who gave the Law.  The Law was given by the Creator of this world who called Israel to be his people and then judged them, and all people, harshly, for not obeying his law, leading to universal condemnation.  Jesus came from a different God, a previously unknown God, who was not the God of the Old Testament, but a higher spiritual being who intervened on behalf of people to save them from the wrath of the Creator. There are many, many things about Marcion’s system of belief that we would love to know that we simply do not.  The main reason is that Marcion’s own writings have not been passed down to us from [...]

The “Arch-Heretic” Marcion, Jesus, and the Jewish Law

In this thread I’ve started to talk about the relationship of Jesus to the Law of Moses.  I’m going to get to the issue by means of a circuitous route, by talking about how that relationship was understood by followers of Jesus living a hundred years after his day.  The reason for starting there is that we have a clearer idea what these followers thought than we do, say, of Jesus’ followers a decade after his death.  Those earlier followers left us no writings and they are not directly discussed (in terms of their theological views) by extensive other sources (except the book of Acts).  We do know about later Christians and their views, however, even if our sources of information for these are also partial and imperfect. There were strikingly distinct positions taken by Christians in the middle of the second century with respect to Jesus and the law.  One extreme position was taken by the teacher-philosopher Marcion, who was eventually declared the arch-heretic of the church but who in his day pronounced a [...]

Are the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Manuscripts Reliable? A Blast From the Past

A reader has perspicaciously pointed out to me that a particularly relevant post from three years ago (June 7, 2013) makes an important contribution to the topic I've been discussing about the Pentateuch.  This post is not about whether the events described in the Hebrew Bible are accurate, but whether we have accurate manuscripts of these accounts.  I talk a lot on the blog about manuscripts of the New Testament.  What about manuscripts of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible?  My post back then was in response to a question.  Here it is in full: **************************************************************************************************** QUESTION: Bart, these issues you've found in the New Testament, have you studied and found similar issues in the Old Testament?" RESPONSE: Yes indeed!   Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) was my secondary field in my PhD program, and I taught Introduction to Hebrew Bible at both Rutgers and UNC.   A few years ago when I decided to write my Introduction to the Bible I decided that to do it right I had to re-tool in Hebrew Bible.  I’m by no [...]

Jesus and the Messianic Prophecies – Did the Old Testament Point to Jesus?

In my previous post I started to explain why, based on the testimony of Paul, it appears that most Jews (the vast majority) rejected the Christian claim that Jesus was the messiah. I have to say, that among my Christian students today (most of them from the South, most of them from conservative Christian backgrounds), this continues to be a real puzzle. "But there were prophecies of Jesus being the messiah," they argue. "Hundreds of Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 53, describe him to a tee." They genuinely can’t figure it out. What About Old Testament Messianic Prophecies? In their view, the Old Testament makes a number of predictions about the messiah: he would be born in Bethlehem his mother would be a virgin he would be a miracle worker he would be killed for the sins of others he would be raised from the dead These are all things that happened to Jesus!  How much more obvious could it be?  Why in the world don’t those Jews see it?   Are they simply hard-headed [...]

2019-10-30T15:05:21-04:00November 8th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Public Forum|
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