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Cody wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is there a limit to how many questions I can ask?

I feel that I ask too many questions. Also:

  • What's the historicity of the Old Testament?

I'm pretty comfortable with labeling the beginning of Genesis as mostly symbolic, but others think differently as is the case from Abraham on. I'm fairly comfortable saying Tobit and Judith are symbolic but for the most part, these segments seem as if they are meant to be historical.

The ones that come to mind are the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan.

  • Does the Church view these events as historical?
  • What about the other books that deal with people and events like:
    • Judges
    • 1 and 2 Samuel
    • Kings
    • Chronicles
    • etc.?

Also, I don't know what to do with Noah.

  • The story of the flood could have happened as it's told, yet, at the same time, the Catechism speaks of the covenant with Noah as if it was a real thing, so what am I to make of this?

I have heard that it could have been a small regional flood, which isn't implausible, but I'm still unsure.

Cody

  { Is there a question limitation for the site and what's the historicity of the Old Testament? }

Mike replied:

Hi Cody,

Thanks for the questions.

You said:

  • Is there a limit to how many questions I can ask?

No there isn't, but there is a limit of 3-5 questions per e-mail and the only reason for that is so we can thoroughly address each question. The only questions that ever get ignored are by those we sense are insincere or anti-Catholic, along with those on our:

Most of the time there is no question that has come to this site that has not received some reply, so don't worry. This is our calling. If the volunteers didn't enjoy doing this work, they wouldn't be doing it.

If it's your question and it's sincere, always ask us. That's what we are here for.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Bob replied:

Cody,

You really should get a good resource on the historicity of Scripture to answer your queries. There is no absolute consensus by scholars on everything, but generally you can find solid orthodox resources through Ignatius Press.

Also, try Scott Hahn's Advanced Institute for Biblical Studies for good recommendations. His book Scripture Matters is a favorite of mine and will give you a much broader but in depth perspective than can be afforded here.

Also, there is a new Catholic Study bible coming out, (already I think) from Ignatius that covers the Old Testament; I have the New Testament (RSV) Revised Standard Version — Catholic edition that I can recommend.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

John replied:

Hi, Cody —

If we get bogged down in proving or disproving the historicity of Genesis and other books in the Old Testament we wind up asking the wrong the questions and often times miss the point of the text.

For example, let's just look at the Genesis 1 creation account. The first thing we must consider is:

  • What is God trying to convey through the human author?

Well, we have six days of creation and on the seventh day God rests.

  • OK, why did he choose to record this as a seven-day period?

Note that God marks the Sabbath as the Covenant Sign so then we look at the original Hebrew and we see that the Hebrew word for seven is also the same Hebrew word for swearing an oath. Later in Genesis, we read that Abraham entered in to a covenant with Abimalech . . . It literally says:

Abraham sevened himself with Abimalech . . . (Genesis 21:26-28)

So God first creates the universe and man and then enters in to a covenant relationship with His own creation, marked by the Sabbath.

  • Why is this important?

Well, for two parties to enter in to a covenant implies that there must be a certain parity. This is not to say man is equal to God but rather that God wants to elevate man. To do so, He would need to become man Himself so right there in Genesis 1 we see a hint at the Incarnation.

We don't see it as readily in the English but it was clear to those who read and understood the Hebrew. The importance of Covenant, not only speaks to the coming Incarnation but it speaks to character and nature of God. To enter in to a covenant, one must give Himself fully to the other party. It's not just a contract with promise. It is a total giving of self. That's why Matrimony is not just contract but a covenant and when the terms of covenant get broken, the covenant remains, the people involved are broken as the covenant is enforced. This is why Jesus died for us: to fulfill Our part of the Covenant. You see when you enter in to a covenant, you take on the debts of the party as well.

All of this is buried in Genesis 1 . . . If we spend our time trying to prove it did, or did not, happen just our way we miss what God is saying. The way to deal with a proper understanding of Sacred Scripture is ask:

  • What is the point of this text?
  • Why is it there?
  • Why did the human author chose these words to convey his message?

The Old Testament does indeed record history . . . Salvation History . . . and that is not the way we record history today. It's not meant to be an exact chronology, yet there is a reason for all the genealogies, and all the events recorded there.

The Catholic approach is looking for what God is trying to communicate to us. Whether or not God created the universe in seven days or seven billion years is not the point. The point is God created the Universe and then swore an oath to give Himself to His creation by becoming part of it.

Hope this helps,

John

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