Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?
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Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?

5 Misconceptions About the Old Testament

Posted July 10, 2017
Bible StudyChristian Living
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1. Old Testament history is full of inaccuracies and missing information.

The ancient world did history differently than the modern world does. Modern history is focused on reporting all the information and data, like taking a picture of an event in sharp focus. However, the ancient writers of the Bible reported events and details for the specific purpose of telling God’s redemptive plan. This does not make their history false, but it does mean that they do not report with scientific accuracy or precision. Their history is much more like a painting than a photograph, with events and details given to drive home a theological point.

2. Science hasn’t traced human DNA back to a single couple, so Adam and Eve are myths.

When interacting with scientific conclusions, it is important to keep in mind that scientific data is always subject to interpretation and to further discovery. Human DNA may not yet have been traced back to two humans, but that does not definitively mean Genesis is a myth. Additionally, the rest of the Bible treats Adam as a truly historical person (Genesis 5:1-5 comes back to Adam. 1 Chron. 1:1; 6:7; Rom 5; 1 Cor. 15).

3. The Old Testament is inaccurate about the natural world, therefore it is unreliable.

The descriptions of the natural world in the Old Testament represent the views and understanding of the people of the time. Because the Bible ultimately claims God as its author, some assume it should reflect God’s own understanding of reality. This assumption misunderstands how God chose to communicate. God inspires human authors to write and condescends to their understanding of the world so that his message is clear. Like an adult who speaks to a child in simplified terms according to what the child can understand, the Bible speaks in the language of the time it was written. The Bible is not meant to be a scientific textbook, so it should not be read as one.

4. The Old Testament presents a different way of salvation from the New Testament.

In contrast to faith in Jesus, the Son of God who died for his people, God required his people to obey his law. However, what we read in the Old Testament was God teaching Israel, and now us, about his holiness, the nature of sin, and our inability to be perfect as God is perfect. The Old Testament, in effect, is all about Jesus. From the very beginning, God promised to send Jesus to save the world, and the rest of the Bible is about God’s working out of that plan (Gen. 3:15). In the Old Testament recordings, people were called to follow God’s holiness and goodness but failed miserably, showing them (as it shows us) that the total corruption wreaked upon humanity by sin points to their (and our) desperate need for a Savior. Old Testament believers were still saved by their faith in God’s promises (Gen. 15:6).

5. The God of the Old Testament is cruel and unjust.

To our modern western ears, the Old Testament accounts of God punishing his people and other nations for their wickedness can seem like cruel and unusual punishments. However, we often fail to understand the heinous nature of human sin in the light of the absolute perfection of God’s holiness. God is just to punish evil and wicked acts of any nature because God is so holy that even an evil thought deserves punishment. God as Creator is the one who sets the standards, not humans.

Additionally, the Old Testament records many terrible events God did not condone but which are part of Israel’s history. If God were truly cruel, he would have wiped out Israel the moment the nation complained, but much of what is recorded shows God’s mercy and patience as much as it shows God’s justice and holiness. God did not leave Israel but sent his own Son to redeem her (and the rest of the world) because of his mercy and love so that he could be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

Leah B.

Leah B. received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry before turning to theology and receiving a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. She writes and lives in California.