How accurate is the Old Testament and should we take it literally?

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How accurate is the Old Testament and should we take it literally? That is, should we follow it, just like we are supposed to follow the New Testament?


Speaking of the Old Testament, Paul says ‘All Scripture is God-breathed’. The Bible teaches that the Old Testament, like the New Testament is God’s Word.  Because it is God’s Word we are to take it very seriously. 

However, we need to recognise two things about the Old Testament. Firstly, as you might know, the Old Testament is made up of lots of different kinds of books which are written in different ways. We are to read the Bible literally but not ‘woodenly’. To take an example, the OT often talks about God as if he had a body. So, it refers to God’s ‘arm’, his ‘eyes’ etc. These are to help us understand something of God’s character - his arm refers to his strength; his eyes to the fact that he sees everything. We are not to read this woodenly as if God has physical arms and eyes.

Secondly, the New Testament tells us that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. That means when we read the Old Testament we need to remember where it is heading. 

Have you ever seen the Bruce Willis film The Sixth Sense? If you have you will know what I am talking about. If not don’t worry! Once you know the ending of that film, if you were to turn round and watch it again, you would watch it in a very different way.  The same is true of the Old Testament, because we know that it is pointing to Jesus, we read it with that in mind.  So, when we read certain commands in the OT - like not eating certain foods, we know that in the NT Jesus tells us that these commands no longer apply.  So, we don’t just read those commands ‘woodenly’, we read them understanding that Jesus has brought them to an end.

Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au

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