Is the Old Testament Reliable History?

Is the Bible true historically? Specifically the Old Testament? This is a big question people who love the Bible face from time to time. Some people argue that the Old Testament is reliable in what it teaches theologically about God and man, but not historically. That is, these people argue that the Old Testament is not a true account of what happened. Maybe Adam and Eve were legend. The flood is exaggerated. Those plagues in Egypt? Folklore.

So now we are left with a book of myths. It’s unreliable. A part of the argument goes like this: Jesus and other first century Jews were not concerned with actual history when talking about and citing the OT. But this seems rather odd, doesn’t it? Have not people in general, whether Hebrew or American, always been concerned with what is true, real, and historic? I think so. History mattered greatly in the ancient world, just as it does today! Otherwise, why record anything?

How do we know for sure? From the New Testament. It seems to me that the Bible tells us that Jesus and the apostles did believe that the OT was a reliable account of history.

  • Jesus seems very concerned that the OT is a reliable source of reporting actual history when he said that God created men and women unique and for each other (Matt. 19:4-6); that Abraham really lived (John 8:58); that Moses wrote about him in the Torah (John 5:39); that David ate the bread of the presence in the tabernacle (Mark 2:25-27); that Jonah was really inside a fish for three days (Matt. 12:40).
  • Matthew and Luke seem very concerned that the OT is a reliable source of actual history when they record their genealogies of Jesus (Matt. 1; Luke 3; cf. Luke 1:1-4).
  • Paul seems very concerned that the OT is a reliable source of actual history when he said that Adam is a real person and through him came sin and death (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15).
  • Peter seems very concerned that OT is a reliable source of actual history when he said that Noah and his family were saved by God from the flood (1 Pet. 3:18-20).
  • The author of Hebrews seems very concerned that the OT is a reliable source of actual history when he catalogs the faith of OT saints (Hebrews 11).
  • James seems very concerned that the OT is a reliable source of actual history when he encourages believers to remain steadfast by reminding them of Job’s steadfastness (James 5:11).

It is clear from reading the New Testament that neither Jesus, Paul, nor any of the apostles are raging lunatics or even simple fabricators of history. They are well-respected men, even called “good teachers,” who “turned the world upside down.”

You may not believe them. However, that’s beside the point. The point is that they thought what happened in Israel throughout history was real. And for that, it seems to me, the Old Testament deserves a fair hearing.


The Trailer for Lincoln

This November, a new film about Abraham Lincoln, aptly titled Lincoln, will be released. The film is by Steven Spielberg. (Knowing Spielberg’s recent history, I just hope that aliens don’t show up at the end to ruin it.) In all seriousness, the film has an all-star cast and looks to be a winner. Thankfully, Spielberg’s version looks a tad bit more historically-based than this other recent “Lincoln” film.

And if you are wondering about the pitch of Lincoln’s voice in the trailer, read what a Civil War scholar said Lincoln’s voice was like.

Life Theology

New Blog for Historic Documents of the Faith

I want to learn more about the classic creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian faith. I searched the internet for a daily email (or RSS feed) so I could work my way through a catechism. I didn’t find anything! So I started a blog called Christo Confessions to provide that. I will update it once daily with a question and answer from a catechism, and will occasionally post creeds and segments from confessions.

I know the word “catechism” carries a lot of baggage, but try to think of it as a FAQs sheet for the Christian faith. There is nothing inherently wrong with a catechism just because it shoved down your little Lutheran or Presbyterian throat as a child. Lord willing, catechisms (and confessions and creeds) are designed to help us “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

I encourage you to visit the blog, pass it along to a friend, and subscribe so you can work with me through these historic, Bible-saturated confessions of our great faith in Jesus Christ.

Side note: My apologies for the way the blog may look if you use IE or Firefox. I’m still ironing out the kinks and the presentation of the blog, however Chrome users shouldn’t notice anything odd.


You won’t really learn about Christianity if you don’t read the Bible.

Anyone who seeks to discover the secret of Christianity is inevitably driven to the Bible, because Christianity is based on something which happened in the past, the incarnation of God in Christ at a definite point in history. The Bible records this event.

– Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther


Union Building (Pretoria)

Series Index

  1. Union Building (Pretoria)
  2. Staff Conference in Durban
  3. Jesus Film
  4. Table Mountain
  5. Robben Island Prison
  6. Stellenbosch Vineyards
  7. BEAM Africa
  8. Joburg Summer Project
  9. Campus Crusade Leadership at UJ
  10. South African Hodge-Podge

Part 1 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.