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As has been discussed before there are differences between the old and new testament.

What I wish to know is this: How accurate is the word of God written in the old testament? How much of it is/was culture and how much of it God?

I ask this because of a few things:

  • Much of it spans generations, some of which was then rewritten by others and passed on by word of mouth.
  • Jews are only allowed to eat foods under specific dietary restrictions. Most meats not allowed are already some of the most 'dangerous' to consume. As such while this may have been a said by God for safety, was it an actual command to only consume these things (or rather, is it a command to protect our health, or our spirit)? (interesting article on dietary restrictions)
  • The old Testament follows much of the history of Israel, so at what point is it truly God's word versus man's?
  • Did God talk to people directly, or as he does now, through an understanding of what must be done? I ask as if he did no talk directly to not only people in the bible, but those who wrote it, much of what was said could have the beliefs of those who he commanded intertwined in them, due to the free will God himself bestowed upon us.
  • In cases the bible follows the life of a single person, whose history we do not know how the writer obtained, even if he had God's blessing to write it.

Now, I'll admit the New Testament also has some similar problems. Jesus did not have a personal scribe who followed him around, and many books were not included in the bible, as while they followed what Jesus commanded, they were considered to polluted by the beliefs of those who wrote them. Yet I ask about the Old testament as it is much older, written over vast periods of time, and in cases the teachings can be quite different than those expressed in the new testament.

God chooses who does his biding and knows all. But as seen in much of the bible, it was written such that even a simple man could grasp the words. Depending on the writer, the examples given could vary. Similarly I could know God wishes me to do something, but ultimately how I go about doing it is left to how I feel it should.

On a side note, does old / new Testament get capitalized? Also I tried to remain somewhat objective and not to repetitive, but sorry for any failing of mine on either account.

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Pretty sure raw chicken is far more likely to make you ill than raw pork. –  Kaz Dragon Jun 21 '12 at 18:36
    
@KazDragon Point taken. Reworded and added an article. –  Kyomu Jun 21 '12 at 19:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Christian position is this:

  • The Old Testament is just as much God's Word as the New Testament is.
  • There are differing Christian positions on how much we should consider the Old Testament to be history. The majority position would be that most of it is considered roughly historical. A substantial number would consider it all to be 100% historical, and a minority would consider it all helpful but not necessarily historically accurate.
  • There are many answered questions on this site and elsewhere about specific Jewish regulations, including dietary restrictions, and why they are not followed by present-day Christians. The distinction between 'cultural' and 'commanded by God' is a false one. God may have given the commend at a specific time and place for a specific reason. Your question about the purpose behind these commands should be asked separately.
  • Your other questions also really deserve to be asked separately.
  • Yes, Old Testament and New Testament are proper names denoting specific collections of books, and so should be capitalized.
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Thanks :) I have a hard time limiting questions without saying 'assuming this', because that never seems to end well '~' The purpose behind the commands is part of this question though, as it's the difference between saying forever versus possibly saying now. God said to eat mana, but that was for a specific time, so the reasoning does kinda matter I feel. –  Kyomu Jun 21 '12 at 22:48
    
Whenever I see "the Christian position is", it sets off a lot of alarm bells. What that means is: "my position is" (and most likely, your congregation). There is no single defining Christian position. For example, here's a perfectly valid and cogent position from a Lutherian, that says much of Genesis is simply invented: reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/vfj7n/… –  Marc Gravell Jun 22 '12 at 12:24
    
@MarcGravell You will note that my answer says "There are differing Christian positions" with regard to historicity. Your Lutheran is probably one of those differing positions. –  DJClayworth Jun 22 '12 at 12:51

"Much of it spans generations, some of which was then rewritten by others and passed on by word of mouth."

Exactly how the text was transmitted is a subject of much debate. There's no concrete evidence that anything in the Bible was passed by word of mouth. There is some evidence that Old Testament manuscripts were edited or annotated after the original writing, for example substituting later place names for old place names. But that's little different from modern history books that include footnotes to explain obsolete place names, etc.

"Jews are only allowed to eat foods under specific dietary restrictions. ..."

Not clear how that is an argument against the accuracy of the OT. Jews and Christians have debated for millenia the purpose of the ritual laws. There's a popular theory that rules against eating pork are for health reasons. Maybe so. Maybe, as others have suggested, the purpose was to set the Jews apart from non-believers. Or that it was simply on the same order as rules about how to dress and holidays to celebrate: rituals intended to give people simple ways to act out their faith and to keep it on their minds.

"The old Testament follows much of the history of Israel, so at what point is it truly God's word versus man's?"

The Bible claims that God worked in a special way with Israel. That's why we call them the "Chosen People". Whether you believe this or not, given that premise it is not surprising that the history of how God worked with Israel would be a likely subject for God's word. Like, if you started a history book by saying that Britain showed a particular aptitude for science, it would not be surprising if the rest of the book concentrated on Britain and not, say, China.

"Did God talk to people directly, or as he does now, through an understanding of what must be done? I ask as if he did no talk directly to not only people in the bible, but those who wrote it, much of what was said could have the beliefs of those who he commanded intertwined in them, due to the free will God himself bestowed upon us."

The OT doesn't give all that many cases of God speaking directly to people if you add them up. Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, maybe a dozen or so prophets, spread over the course of several thousand years. Maybe God has spoken directly to a dozen or so people since the Bible was written. Or maybe we are supposed to rely on the Bible now rather than new revelations. Even if it is true that in the last 2000 years God has not acted in the way the Bible describes him as acting in the previous 2000 years, that hardly proves that the Bible is false. God could have any number of reasons for acting one way at one time and a different way at a different time. I haven't bought baby bottles or diapers for over ten years but did frequently before that. Is that mysterious? Not really: I no longer have small children.

"In cases the bible follows the life of a single person, whose history we do not know how the writer obtained, even if he had God's blessing to write it."

You could say that about many books. How does the author know the information he reports? Sometimes it's obvious: he claims to have been there or have talked to people who were or done research. But other times the author does not spell out how he knows. This tells us little about the reliability of what he writes. If someone doesn't tell us how he knows, he could just be making it all up. But if he claims to be an eyewitness, he could be lying -- either about being there or about what happened.

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Silence: There was a period of over 400 years of prophetic silence (at least, nothing written and preserved) between Malachi and the coming of Jesus. It is not unprecedented for God to treat us differently for a (long) time. –  mojo Jun 22 '12 at 11:18
    
Transmission: The Jews had a tradition of meticulously preserving the Scriptures. This was probably not the case throughout their history, but it's doesn't seem too likely that the apostate Israelite kings would have spent much time or money copying the text of a book they cared nothing for. Those likely to actually do any copying or updating would have been very careful to preserve it. –  mojo Jun 22 '12 at 11:24
    
God Speaking to People: Be careful not to draw too much information from silence. We certainly do not have all the writings of everyone who was a prophet, because more prophets are mentioned (Iddo, Hanani, Micaiah, ...) than we have writings for. We're never told explicitly how "the word of the LORD came" to the prophets or to other people. On occasion, the patriarchs were spoken to "by angels " –  mojo Jun 22 '12 at 11:30
    
(God Speaking continued) ... were spoken to "by the angel of the LORD" (Ge 16, 21, 22, ...) who is said to have "spoke[n]". Some instances have dialogue between God and men (Ex 32). Otherwise, it's not altogether certain if people heard God speaking. –  mojo Jun 22 '12 at 11:37
    
@mojo Shouldn't this have been an answer? =p –  Kyomu Jun 22 '12 at 12:12

Some of the old testament had to be written by word of mouth. the first 5 books of the old testament were written by Moses. Adam was created around 4000 B.C.E. Moses wrote Genesis in 1513 B.C.E. The other 4 books he was present for, but everything up to then he must have learned from word of mouth. Table of the Books of the Bible

The problem with the whole bible is that so much time has gone by that anyone could have changed the words of it. That could have been done on accident or on purpose during translation. For example the tetragrammaton YHWH, the name of god, was taken out of the bible due to superstitions of the Jews. This had to do with the 3rd commandment at Exodus 20:7. The Jews take on that was, "Well we will just take his name out and nobody can say it". That is clearly not what Jehovah god intended. Today sadly many bible translations are going that way. Just because we don't know the exact pronunciation doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

The old testament is still pretty accurate, more of the scriptures has come to light. Take for instance the dead sea scrolls of Isaiah. Ancient, untouched, unmodified documents that we can compare our translations to.

You also have to take into account that this is God's written word. Jehovah would never let anyone contaminate his word. In the Greek scriptures you find this verse at 2 Timothy 3:16,

"All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work."

Everything god put in the bible, he put there for our benefit. I would have to say that the old testament would be just as accurate as the new.

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