Reliable history?


How should we look at the Old Testament?


For more use the DOOR.




   Yes, this is controversial…as is taking seriously anything that smacks of the supernatural. This said, we value the contribution of K. A. Kitchen that was reported by Richard Ostling for the Associated Press on Feb. 14, 2004 (a “dozen” years ago, of course…). We quote the brief article in its entirety. (Boldface and color added.)


   Is the Old Testament historically reliable, or mostly fiction and legend concocted to buttress Jewish nationalism–or something in between.

   In this long-running debate, skepticism has recently gained ground in academic circles. Now a British authority has launched a vigorous defense of the Old Testaent’s historical credibility.

   On the Reliability of the Old Testament provides the most sweeping scholarly case in a generation for the traditional beliefs held by Orthodox Jews and Christian conservatives.

   Author K. A. Kitchen is professor emeritus of Egyptology at England’s University of Liverpool. Because his views are unfashionable, he feels a need to immodestly mention his expertise in a dozen ancient languages and the half century he has spent studying the relevant texts.

   Kitchen assails radical “minimalists” who dismiss the Old Testament as mostly fictional¹. “Some manuscripts, please!” He repeatedly claims that liberal theories ignore or distort the actual evidence from ancient texts. Another theme is that the doubters rely heavily upon “negative evidence,” the lack of ancient remains and nonbiblical texts that would absolutely prove biblical accounts. Kitchen says this lack “proves absolutely nothing” except that artifacts from thousands of years ago often didn’t survive.

   Archaeologists haven’t found hard evidence left behind from the 40 years of wilderness wanderings after the Exodus, for instance, but Kitchen says that doesn’t prove the Israelites weren’t there.

   Given the many gaps in records outside Scripture, Kitchen necessarily supports the Bible with circumstantial evidence from his knowledge of Egyptian and other ancient materials.

   In terms of “general reliability,” he concludes, the Old Testament “comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all.”


   ¹ People sometimes wonder if conservatives push the text to make it say what they want it to say. One can’t help but wonder, however, if the opposite might be true. If a liberal interpretation must automatically deny any possibility of the supernatural, then forcing interpretation along purely natural lines, no matter how thin evidence may be, distorts meaning. That reduces the Bible to being an artifact itself alongside myth and primitive history.