How Do We Interpret the Old Testament Narratives?
by Bill Pratt
Some Christians and many skeptics of Christianity take a simple approach to reading the Bible. They treat the entire Bible and all of its contents as a moral command textbook. In other words, every single sentence is to be read with an eye toward what moral behavior the author is sanctioning or condemning, regardless of the literary genre. Certainly some parts of the Bible are directly teaching us moral standards, but not all.
As an example, I recently discussed the issue of polygamy with a skeptic. The skeptic’s viewpoint was basically this: the Old Testament narratives describe polygamous relationships frequently and they never seem to expressly condemn it, so, therefore, the Bible teaches that polygamy is acceptable.
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The skeptic seemed to be saying that if a certain behavior is found in the Old Testament narratives, and that behavior is not specifically condemned in those same narratives, then the narratives are teaching that this behavior is morally acceptable.
Is that how we should understand the narratives in the OT? No, not according to Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart in their popular book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Following are ten principles for interpreting OT narratives that Fee and Stuart recommend…
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