Can we trust the Old Testament? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
The Old Testament is an important aspect of the Christian story. After all, we say Jesus is the solution to the problem, but in order to understand the solution, we need to understand the problem. After all, hearing that the answer to the question is 42 doesn’t help until you know what the question is. Many of us spend much time studying the NT since the resurrection is absolutely essential to Christianity after all, but we should not neglect the Old Testament. Yet there is much literature to read in that area as well. Is there any resource that can tremendously help us with that?
There is. It is Kenneth Kitchen’s book “On The Reliability of the Old Testament.” Kitchen is a fine scholar in the field who wrote this to be a parallel to the work on the reliability of the NT. There are some 500 pages worth of content and it is fully packed. Hundreds of pages go to notes.
The book starts off in a spot I found odd, that of the divided kingdom of the OT. It is my suspicion that Kitchen starts here because this is where most of the archaeological evidence is. He goes on throughout the book to the rest of the OT and is quite blunt in his argumentation. He does not hesitate to refer to a position as poppycock or nonsense. He definitely has a strong antagonism to the JEPD hypothesis.
It is important to note that this book mainly focuses on people and places and shows that they were realities, although Kitchen readily admits when the case is that we do not have enough evidence in somewhere yet. Kitchen’s defenses include that of David, the patriarchs, the Exodus, and even the long lifespan of the people in Genesis 5. If Kitchen is using a hypothesis instead of something far more backable, he lets it be known.
The reader of this work will be benefited highly by Kitchen’s expertise. Nevertheless, there are some ways I would like to see the work improved.
I would not mind seeing more on the transmission of the text and how we know the text has been handed down accurately. Much of this has been written on the NT, but we have very little said about the OT in comparison.
I would also like to see more moral issues dealt with. There are times Kitchen does talk some about the conquest of Canaan and what happened morally, but not many, and I don’t recall much on the concept of slavery in the Ancient Near East.
Also, much of this is not written in language readily accessible for those of us who do not study archaeology and it would be nice to see some more explanations and perhaps even a small section on how the archaeology is done and what can be expected to be found through archaeology.
Yet these downsides do not outweigh the positives. Anyone wanting to defend the OT owes it to themselves to get a copy of this book and read it. The reader who finishes will definitely walk away better equipped than when he came.