Searching for Muses: Is the Hebrew Bible True?

It’s that time again… I looked over the list of people who found my blog via searching Google and this question popped up.  For those who might also be curious, I thought I might help offer some clarification for you so you can better answer the question yourselves.

First, clarify your question.  For what exactly are you looking?  What “truth” do you seek?  Theological, archaeological, historical, or textually?  Are you curious about certain figures, events, locations?    There are (depending on how you count them) twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible and they represent a wide spectrum of genre, not many of which deal with what might be considered ‘historiography’.

Second, such a broad question can’t possibly yield a useful answer.  Since the question is so broad, it can only warrant a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  And what then?  Where do you go?  Formulating a strong first question will yield you stronger search results and maybe even a reliable paper or two from an academic journal or series.   The implications of these questions are really what will matter, and you cannot consider those implications unless you first acknowledge that there will be a more complex answer.  So if you were wondering if the theological message of Exodus was based upon historical events, for example, you should ask what archaeological evidence supports the Exodus narrative.  You’ll probably come across lots of articles and blog posts and apologetic materials.  A careful browse of the arguments will lead the reader to find that there is zero archaeological evidence for the Exodus.  Upon this discovery, the implications of that find should be obvious (but we’ll look over one of them anyway): The Exodus might not have happened historically.  This should lead you to do more research.

Third, starting off with a question like this reminds us–those who are learned enough to recognize the error in the question–of dilettantism.   Perhaps a better question to start your search would be “What is the Hebrew Bible?”  At least that way you can have some ground to start from.  If you don’t even recognize what it is you’re asking about, how can you expect to find an answer adequate enough?

One Response

  1. Oh, I love that question. To anyone but a fundamentalist it’s like asking if Ohio is true.

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