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As an orthodox Jew I have seen quite a stir lately regarding the topic of biblical criticism, specifically towards the Old Testament (Torah).

I have perused several questions in this stack which seem to address this topic in general, and learned a lot about apologetics, but I have not seen answers that address some of the major claims of biblical criticism, especially as it pertains to the Old Testament.

For example:

  1. The story of Noah and the flood seems to be contradicted by archaeological evidence as well as having been 'borrowed' from earlier flood narratives such as the Gilgamesh story
  2. Many of the portions of the Old Testament seem to be borrowed from earlier near eastern texts such as the Hammurabi code
  3. The notion that there are multiple authors (documentary hypothesis) of the Old Testament.

In short, how does Christianity deal with some of the major contentions of biblical criticism towards the Old Testament?


I apologize if any parts of my question offend any sensibilities to which I am unaware.

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Welcome to Christianity SE! This will probably need to be broken up into three distinct questions. Having three questions in one will lead to very long answers. You would also have to deal with the dilemma of an answer being good for one of your questions but not another. There are good answers for each of your questions, to be sure, but these really should be dealt with separately. –  Narnian Sep 17 '13 at 13:54
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I would suggest, though, that just because there exists multiple accounts of a flood does not mean that they necessarily borrowed from each other. If the OT were the only account of the flood, the allegation would be made that it is not supported by any other accounts. So, skeptics are going to find fault either way. If there were a global flood, we would expect that to be common to the history of people all over the world, and that is certainly what we find. –  Narnian Sep 17 '13 at 13:57
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Perhaps a start from a Catholic angle... catholic.com/magazine/articles/is-everything-in-the-bible-true –  Charles Alsobrook Sep 17 '13 at 14:11
    
@Narnian if you feel it would be better served as three I'm happy to do so but I didn't really want to get bogged down in the answers. I was hoping for a more holistic approach to what I see as biblical criticism's major tenets: 1. refutation of events via archaeology 2. the notion that portions of the text are borrowed from earlier sources and 3. literary analysis which seems to indicate multiple authors –  user5796 Sep 17 '13 at 14:20
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You might also find good answers at Biblical Hermeneutics –  crownjewel82 Sep 17 '13 at 14:38
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2 Answers 2

Christians are very diverse on how they handle this type of criticism. Probably the most visible school of thought in today's media are the literalists. These Christians accept that the Bible was fully authored by God and is complete and infallible. For them, Gilgamesh is either fiction or a pagan account of the Genesis story. Hammurabi's code is a set of inferior pagan laws.

The most liberal Christians treat the Bible as one of many worthwhile ancient writings and as a product of the sharing of knowledge across cultures. The Genesis account was inspired by Gilgamesh. Mosaic Law and Hammurabi's Code may have been derived from the same source.

Most Christians fall somewhere in between the two. The Bible wasn't written in a vacuum and it's just a matter of course that there are similarities to other writings from other cultures. It doesn't change the Bible's supremacy and it doesn't impact their faith. An explanation I heard from a conservative reform Jew fits nicely. God spoke to lots of people. The Jews were just the ones who heard and obeyed.

That there were multiple authors of the Bible is just a given. Even the most conservative literalists believe that God used many people to write His word. Different groups might disagree on how many authors there were, but there was definitely more than one.

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  1. Archaeology does not contradict a worldwide flood. There are different opinions on the matter. For more in-depth information watch these presentations as they present an alternate view. Especially presentations 2 (A Universal Flood) and 3 (Bones in Stones). The complete presentation can be seen here, they are by a Researcher and Professor in Zoology.

  2. This is also a matter of opinion. Many different people could write about a different event and that does not necessarily mean they borrowed from one another. They merely wrote about the event. The Epic of Gilgamesh could just easily be a story "based on true events." Just like today's movies, much of it could've been made up just for entertainment value, or to fit into a certain belief system. One more thing about this. Just because they were written first, does not necessarily mean they are more truthful. The reason we believe that the Genesis account is truthful is because we believe that the whole Bible is inspired. Jesus spoke about Noah, Lot, Adam, and other Old Testament characters as historical figures, not simply characters from a fable.

  3. Also along with what Narnian said about literary analysis that suggests that there were multiple authors, in the New Testament some of the writings are attributed to the people that we believe today. For example, Luke attributes the quotation from Isaiah to Isaiah; Luke 4:16-18.

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