Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Did the Events Described in the Old Testament Actually Happen?

For several years now, I have understood the Scriptures (what we know as the Old Testament) as being about Jesus Christ. I have done so because Lord Jesus himself taught us they are about him, and because that is how the New Testament authors understood them, and how the early Church Fathers understood them. 

Of course, when the Old Testament Scriptures are taken literally, they do not often show us Lord Jesus. Yet, they are nonetheless about Christ and about the things he would suffer before he entered into his glory (Luke 24:25-27). In other words, they are about the gospel. Inasmuch as Christ is not seen in literal readings of the Old Testament, the New Testament authors and the early Church Fathers read them in non-literal ways; as symbol, as allegory, as type, as figurative (these all mean pretty much the same thing).

Because I have been teaching and writing about this for several years now, someone recently asked me whether I though the events described in the Old Testament actually happened. Here is my answer:

Yes, the events described in the Old Testament did actually happen — but not necessarily as literally interpreted. There is a spiritual depth to them that is symbolically compressed in the language. Even the words themselves are, by the nature of words, symbolic.

Lord Jesus taught that the Scriptures are about him (see John 5 and Luke 24), and Paul teaches that it is only in Christ that the “veil is removed,” so that we can understand the Scriptures properly.

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective. But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds, but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (2 Corinthians 3:12-16)

The Scriptures being all about Christ, if we read them as being about anything other than Christ, then we are not reading them as Scripture, and they are veiled to us. It is only in Christ that the veil is taken away, and only then can we see Christ and encounter Christ in them. It is only then that we are reading them as Scripture.

Below is a helpful little video clip from an interview with Jonathan Pageau on this question.

“Jonathan Pageau Answers the “Literal Question About the Bible”
(9 minutes)

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