Understanding and Interpreting Old Testament Scripture


We must be careful how we assess and interpret Old Testament scripture. The Old Testament – for centuries thought to “be God’s Word” is today better described as “containing God’s Word”. If we believe the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New Testament, we must think deeply and prayerfully about how the words are expressed in the Old Testament.  Our goal is to try and understand the many acts of violence that appear in the scriptures and how these acts fit into our understanding of who God is and what role does he play in the Old Testament.

We who are elder – lay theologians struggle mightily with many difficult and confusing sections of Old Testament scriptures. Here are statements regarding the Old Testament that should help relieve our “theological uncomfortableness “.

  • We must accept and respect the writings of the Old Testament (O.T.) as a series of stories that are intended to reveal God’s messages and truths – but not historical facts.
  • The ancient writers (1500 years later) did a marvelous job of compiling numerous oral versions of biblical stories passed down through families, scholars and priests. However, many times the stories were presented as allegories or metaphors in an honest attempt to convey God’s messages in language that the people could understand. For those who tend to accept the “literal words of scripture” as being the truth, this approach may add some confusion to biblical interpretations.
  • Many Senior Methodist theologians today support the following statements:

+   It is acceptable to disagree with unreasonable O.T. scriptures.

+   There are some statements in the O.T. that were not breathed by God.

 +   It is acceptable to relieve God from having said certain statements and assign them to the ancient writers.

 +   There are no Methodist seminaries that teach “the Bible is God’s Word”. 

       Baptist and most fundamental ministers are taught in seminaries that this broad statement is true.

+    Many acts of violence exist in the O.T. but it does not mean that God approves or orders harm to come to any people.  God does not support       acts of violence.

+    Some O.T. stories may be “divinely inspired” but not literally historical fact – because God’s truths are hidden behind the “allegorical words”.

+     Violent acts in the Bible were instigated by humans that sincerely believed they were doing God’s will.   i.e. the Crusades

  • The literal words of some O.T. scriptures make us feel uncomfortable because they are in conflict with our understanding of who God is. The answer to this conflict rests in our understanding that many of God’s messages (truths) lie behind allegorical words created by humans.
  • With a clearer understanding of how to interpret O.T. scripture, we can now address another broad and general statement: “The Bible is inerrant and infallible.” This statement is in error for reasons outlined above. We can now conclude that “God’s Word” is inerrant and infallible because we now know that all statements in the Bible are not credited to God. However, whether stated direct or as messages presented in allegorical form, God’s truths are indeed – inerrant and infallible! God’s messages (truths) in any form are without error.

7 thoughts on “Understanding and Interpreting Old Testament Scripture

  1. […] Understanding and Interpreting Old Testament Scripture (billpeckblog.com) […]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir: I have read with great interest your article: “The Canaanite Genocide: Reinterpretation”. I find very little to disagree with in your writing. I did not receive the first three discussions – but I can surmise that no. 4 contains the most logical options. You are a most learned theologian – I am not. I am but a civil engineer who went astray thru the teaching of
    Adult SS classes for over thirty years. I would like to know more about you and read more of your writings.
    Why did God make the O.T. so confusing and complex? So theologians would have a job? It bothers me a lot that the O.T. writings fall so short of attracting the average person on the streets to want to read and gain additional faith from it. I have about concluded that if any O.T. scripture does not meet the test of being within the “spirit of Jesus Christ” – then just pass over it. Unfortunately, most ministers in the U. S. A. dodge the heinous scriptures and even have great difficulty in telling their congregations the truth about “Evolution”. My very smart grandchildren know more than most elderly Christians about the scientific truths and their peers are laughing at and walking away from our traditional churches that will not update and explain the real truths within the O.T.
    Many thanks for your intellect and astute writings.
    yours in Christ,
    Bill Peck

  3. Anonymous says:

    I sent a full reply? If not received, write me at the address below. bill peck

    • I am sorry for not responding earlier, but this blog does not belong to me. The above comment was an indication that I was providing a link to this blog from my own blogsite, faith seeking revelation, where you will be able to find the entirety of the Canaanite Genocide series. Out of respect for this blog, I would ask that you repost your question on my site, and I would be happy to reply.

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