I have a question about the Old Testament. Here is a quote from the article about the accuracy of the Bible:
The quote that you refer to from the article “How Accurate is the Bible” is similar to a study which is called “What is the Bible?” We would like to encourage you to read that study since it provides some of the information on why we accept the Bible.
Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, and Scriptures
First, the Bible that is read by Christians and some non-Christians is composed of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament can also be called the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or scriptures. Usually the entire Bible (containing both the Old and New Testaments) is called the scriptures. Since the terms Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or scriptures all refer to the same set of writings, they all refer to “the religion that was practiced in ancient Israel.” The ancient practices that Israel followed were directed by God. You refer to the ancient pagan practices of Isaac, Mesha, and Jephthah, but it is important to understand that none of those were “practices.” Yes, God did direct Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but God also stopped him from doing it (Genesis 22:12). God was only testing Abrahams’s love for Him. He never wanted Abraham to actually sacrifice his son as we can see in Genesis 22:1-12. This was not an ancient practice but a one time event.
Mesha was the King of Moab and he sinned before God when he sacrificed his sons (2Kings 3:1-27). It is important to understand that the Moabites were not Israelites. They worshiped their own gods. God did not ask him to do what he did. Also, God had nothing to do with the stupid and cruel deed that Jephthah performed. That was Jephthah’s decision. He was not following a custom or ancient practice but made a misguided decision. One cannot find any command or directive from God in the Bible calling anyone to do what what Jephthah did. You might be interested in a previous question and answer about Jephthah.
Fallacies in The Old Testament
Nowhere in the gospels do we find Jesus correcting anything in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). If we look closely at what Jesus actually said in the gospels, we discover that He supported the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). For example, in Luke 24:44 Jesus made this statement,
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (NASB) Luke 24:44
Jesus referred to the Old Testament on numerous occasions and quoted from every major portion of the Old Testament. In short, he referred to it as authoritative. Yes, Jesus did correct the teachings of the religious leaders, but He never corrected the words in the Old Testament. Jesus said this in the great Sermon on the Mount,
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (NASB) Matthew 5:17-18
Jesus defended the Old Testament while correcting the misunderstandings of the religious leaders. You ask, “Didn’t the appearance of Jesus bring clarity to the fallacies in the Hebrew Bible?” The answer is He did not correct the Hebrew Bible. He corrected the misunderstanding of the religious leaders! For example, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders with this statement,
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NASB) Matt. 5:27-28
Jesus also indicated His support for the entire Old Testament when He said,
“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (NASB) Matthew 23:34-35
What is important in this statement is that Jesus refers to Abel who appears in the first book of the Hebrew Bible, Genesis, and then Zechariah who appears in the last book of the Hebrew Bible, 2 Chronicles. By doing this, Jesus showed His approval of the first and last books of the Hebrew Bible and each one in between. If we put all of this evidence together, we discover that Jesus endorsed the entire Hebrew Bible.
The Orthodox Jewish Rabbis
The orthodox Jewish rabbis did not change the Hebrew scriptures in the first century. The proof that neither the rabbis or the Christians changed the Hebrew scriptures in the first century or after the first century is found in the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in the caves at Qumran. First, both the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls were complied by at least 100 B.C. The evidence indicates that the Septuagint existed by at least 285 BC and 247 BC. The date of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been verified by radiocarbon dating methods by multiple agencies and universities as being at least 200-100 B.C. Second, since both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls existed before Jesus was born and before the orthodox rabbis of the first century, it is not possible that Jesus, His followers, or the rabbis modified them. Third, these documents are almost identical to the Hebrew scriptures that we have today. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proves that neither Jesus, His followers, or the rabbis changed anything.
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
The apocryphal books have been rejected by Protestant Christians. Only the Roman Catholic Church accepts these books. None of the apostles, early church fathers, or any of the ancient church councils accepted the Apocrypha as inspired by God. There are also apocryphal books of the New Testament, but they are rejected by both Protestants and Roman Catholics. Both groups also reject the Pseudepigrapha. Except for the Roman Catholics, all of these books have never been accepted as the inspired Word of God.
Your last two questions are really asking, “How do I know the truth?” For me the answer is found in the prophecies of the Bible, the recorded history, and the changes that occur in the lives of those who follow Jesus. There are several links that will help you discover what the Bible does say about these things. Here are some links that I would encourage you to read: 1) “Could the people who wrote the Bible have made a mistake?“, 2) the test of fulfilled prophecy, and 3) verification by archeological discoveries.
Why do we accept the Bible as the Word of God? Because everything it says about history, prophecy, archeology, and life is true. Since it is true, then we should believe it when it speaks to spiritual issues. The Bible has been frequently challenged as being untrue, but eventually archaeological findings are found which prove that the statements in the Bible are correct. There is a very interesting article published by Forbes Magazine dealing with the findings of science which I would encourage you to read. It is called, “Can you prove God exists?”
Your question about how do we know what someone was trying to say can be partially answered by a study called, “How To Study The Bible.” It requires diligent, faithful study. It requires a knowledge of the ancient cultures, geography, a knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages in which the books were written. We cannot completely understand the scriptures without knowing something about the cultural setting in which the authors wrote. Frequently, people try to understand the Bible with only their own cultural perspective. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us. Only then can we understand the scriptures.
Listening To Voices
Why do we accept God speaking directly to people at face value in the Bible, when if a person in the modern world claims to hear the voice of God, they are dubbed insane? The answer is that we do not just believe. God was speaking directly to men during a period of time in which the Bible was still being written. The Bible is now complete. Jesus’ apostles approved of the New Testament books as being scripture and therefore, we have added them to the Bible. Why do we believe that God spoke directly to people? Because their prophecies came true! They consistently told the truth.
God has given us great proof that He exists and that His Word is true. The biggest proof is found in the changed lives of people who are serious about God. They are wonderfully different. We would encourage you to study along with us in the Life of Jesus. God will speak to you as we search the pages of the book that He wrote.
Suggested Links:How do the rabbis interpret prophecies about Jesus?
How can the Bible be the Word of God?
How accurate is the Bible?
When was the Bible translated into Greek?