5 Misconceptions about the Old Testament

Because the Bible ultimately claims God as its author, some assume it should reflect God’s own understanding of reality.

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).

 

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.

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