Posted by: Jay | June 15, 2007

Do we really need the Old Testament?

For all the criticism LDS members endure for saying the Bible is an inspired but corrupt document, you’d think they were the only ones that believed it. In fact I have found that many non-LDS Christians believe this too. They just don’t express it in the same way the LDS Church does. For some reason they are afraid to say directly that the Bible contains errors in doctrine. As if saying this is akin to denying the existence of God.

An illustration of this is polygamy. Universally, non-LDS critics condemn early LDS leaders for teaching and practicing the principle. When confronted with the fact that it was practiced by many revered prophets of the Old Testament and not condemned by God they baulk and say something to the affect that the Old Testament also says God told people to kill women and children so we can’t possibly trust everything in the OT. Yet they do use the OT as a credible source if it appears to support their theology. This inconsistent application of the OT makes me wonder, why do we need it? If non-LDS Christians threw it out could they still make the case for Christianity?
If so why is it still so widely used? Who gets to decide what doctrine is from God and what doctrine is of man? There has to be an ultimate authority on these issues otherwise everyone is left to decide what church they will believe. Who is this ultimate authority? Should they get rid of the OT?



  1. I definitely don’t think that we should “get rid of the Old Testament.” Jesus, Himself, references most Old Testament Scriptures (referring to them as the Law and the Prophets). I think it would be unwise to dismiss all of the Old Testament merely because of the many wives and concubines of the Old Testament era.

    It is important to note that the New Testament does say that a leader in the church should be the husband of one wife. So…does that mean that Abraham (with Sarah, Hagar, and his later wife) would not have qualified for this kind of leadership? Upon those standards. Yeah.

    But I also think that there are cultural differences to account for prior to the Law of Moses being laid out there. For example, I know that it says that Noah and Job were “righteous” and “upright” and they both had only one wife. To say that Abraham was a sinless vessel would be crazy (see his interactions with Abimelech) and the consequences of his relationship with Ishmael’s mother and Midian’s mother don’t seem to be great.

    After the law of Moses, it seems that most instances of multiple wives or concubines doesn’t go well (Gideon, David, Solomon…)

    So…I definitely don’t view polygamy as ever being a “good” thing. I don’t think it even says that in the Old Testament.

  2. I don’t think we need to throw out the OT. That said, I do think we should use it for what it is…a non-literal history of judaism that leads up to the birth of Jesus.

  3. Jay I think you just made the case for why a master’s degree from an accredited seminary is important for those who want to authoritatively teach the Bible. The Old Testament should definitely not be thrown out. Without it we would not have the appropriate context for what Jesus was talking about. And that’s the key word in this discussion, CONTEXT.

    The old testament has to be read and quoted in not only it’s historical context but also it’s literary context. There are some passages that are just descriptive, they are not meant to be instructive. (I’d count polygamy as one of those instances) The Proverbs are meant to be seen as generally true not as direct promises. Genesis was never intended to be a science text book. Psalms and Song of Solomon are artistic poems taking them as anything more than that is an error.

    I agree that people are often fast and loose with what they support and what they dump in the Old Testament. It’s important to understand how and what Jesus said had been fulfilled in the old covenant. Just because the consequences, provisions or law has been fulfilled doesn’t mean the principle or virtue behind it has been discarded.

    I don’t think there are any errors in doctrine in the Old Testament. Not a one bit. But there are some bits of law that the doctrine of the New Covenant dictates are not to be practiced any longer. They aren’t errors, they are just no longer relevant.

  4. So God’s standards change with time? I thought He was the same yesterday, today, and in the future. I don’t see how polygamy was ok for Abraham and other prophets of the OT and then after Christ some how it is not.

    I don’t view Abraham or others as sinless vessels (only Christ was), but I do have a hard time understanding the rich blessings they received while at the same time practicing polygamy if it truly is such a horrible sin in God’s eyes. How could someone be a prophet while committing such a grievous act? Why have the OT if it only creates confusion? Why not put a disclaimer on the front?

  5. Dando has a point. LDS are taught by someone that has no experience, and in many cases studied the lesson that morning and merely regurgitate from the lesson manual with nothing inspiring to add.

    Let’s face it, the OT has ALOT of things in it that cannot be justified, and that have simply been proven wrong.

    That said, there are also alot of good solid principles as well, that should be adhered to. The OT really should only be taught by someone with an in-depth knowledge of what is fact, what is non-literal, and what is good solid principle. Anything less produces inaccurate information.

  6. God hasn’t changed. But He definitely has changed His approach to redeeming mankind over the years. If you could please point out to me where it says that polygamy is good in one place and bad in another, we might have a discussion about that. But, as it stands, I don’t think it does.

    As far as why did Abraham receive the blessings while living a (let’s just assume that polygamy has NEVER been God’s cup of tea) sinful lifestyle… Well, I think that it has more to do with God’s grace then Abraham’s righteousness. Abraham is credited for his faith, as is David (a man with a couple of wives). So…can one have faith and still engage in a sinful lifestyle? That’s really the question you’re asking. What truly pleases God? And, did God allow polygamy for awhile to promote the growth of His people? Don’t know. All I know is that I am a sinful man and God blesses and uses me all the time. I work as a youth pastor and yet I sin. I receive blessings from God and yet I sin. I think Paul answers the gist of this debate by saying that even though we are forgiven, we shouldn’t just sin because we know “the tab is covered.”

  7. So God’s standards change with time? I thought He was the same yesterday, today, and in the future.

    These two don’t logically follow one another. God gave Israel a covenant. That covenant was fulfilled by Christ. He now offers a new covenant. If you sign a lease for $1000 and then a year later sign a new lease for $1100 is your landlord some how now a liar and inconsistent because he charges you $100 more a month? No, of course not. God is consistent and faithful to his covenants all the way until they are fulfilled. God is a different being than his covenants just as you are different than your contracts.

    It may be hard to consider, but in both the Old and New Testament God blesses sinners (for which I am grateful). David was a much greater sinner than Abraham, but also had greater blessings. Although Abraham and David were blessed, they were not free of the consequences of their own sin. There is as much recorded about the results of sin in their lives as there is about the sin itself.

    If this is about polygamy specifically I think the Old Testament as a whole teaches that it was permitted but not blessed. Those who practiced it never got blessings out of it, they got blessings in spite of it. The New Testament within it’s own cultural context, permitted it, but called for something better out of those in leadership. We have rightly surmised that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and ended polygamy all around. The same idea can be said of slavery. There are countless issues the Bible doesn’t specifically address as thoroughly as we might like.

    Why have the OT if it only creates confusion? Why not put a disclaimer on the front?
    Why stop with the Old Testament? The New Testament causes plenty of confusion itself. Don’t even get me started on the Book of Revelation. The U.S. Constitution causes lots of confusion, occasionally I’m even confused by the TV Guide. Should we toss those out or put a disclaimer on them too? As long as there is sin in the world there will be confusion.

    I think at the root of this is the problem with legalism. It’s much easier to tell people what to think and what to do. It’s much more fruitful to teach them HOW to think. Instead of telling people what the Bible has to say, it’s better to teach them HOW to read the Bible for themselves. That’s a scary thing to do. The Bible is an ancient and at times a complicated book. People might get confused and might distort something in it if we let them do that. But I believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

  8. Yeah…I think it’s important to note the consequences to Abraham’s blessed descendants because he had kids with other women.

    Ishmael became a rival to Isaac and his descendents were enemies of the Israelites.

    Midian settled in the land of Canaan; but, when the Israelites tried to resettle the land, they were there to oppress them and war against them (like in the story of Gideon in Judges).

  9. Dando – If one abomination is like unto another,, and if you say that a man can be a Prophet and be blessed while committing gross unrepentant sin like polygamy,, then Ted Haggard shouldn’t have been forced to resign from the Evangecal Church or kicked out or whatever happened to him just because of his homosexual lifestyle. If God still blesses people who are sinners today,, then why not let Ted Hagard stay as a minister??

    If Abraham,, Isac,, and Jacob and most of the old Prophets could lead God’s people while in deep,, serious unrepentent sin,, then why can’t the current ones lead while living a homosexual or polygamous lifestyle?

    And why couldn’t the prophets from the old testimnat rule if they were rapists or homosexuals?

  10. If one abomination is like unto another

    Hi Anon, where did you get this idea (quote?) I did a search on it and could find it any where. I don’t think one abomination is like unto another. Some sins are worse than others, as a result they carry greater consequences.

    I don’t think Abraham or Jacob or David were necessarily sinning by being polygamous. I DO think that they were not living within God’s best for their lives. As a result they and their families suffered. I do think, for other reasons, that they were sinners, and after repenting of their sin God chose to bless them anyways despite their sin.

    God MAY choose to continue to bless Ted Haggard. But God did not specifically appoint him as pastor of his church or head of the NEA. When he violated God’s direct revelation as expressed in scripture he no longer qualified for those positions according to the men who appointed him. How God continues to personally deal with Mr. Haggard is up to God. I said that God blesses sinners, I didn’t say that he blesses ALL sinners.

    I do not believe that Old Testament prophets lived in unrepented sin. I could be wrong about that, but you’ll need to show me a reference.

    And why couldn’t the prophets from the old testimnat rule if they were rapists or homosexuals?

    I don’t know. What do you think the answer is?

  11. Bishop Rick, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that contain many of the writings of the Old Testament is more support for historical and doctrinal establishment for the Old Testament than is given credit by Doubting Thomas’s.

    Nothing personal- but with every posting you shed light upon your absolute distrust for both the Old (“a non-literal history of judaism”) and New Testaments, the divinity of Christ as the Savior of the world, and your disdain for the culture that is Mormon. I’m just trying to figure out what you do believe. I see very little common ground with Mormonism, Christianity, or religion in general.

    I haven’t been on these blogs for very long, so you may have already shared these things.

    In saying this, I’m not trying to bad mouth you, ’cause I think you make us think and do a bit more research- giving us a different perspective.

    What are your thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls and what “scriptures” do you believe in if any?

  12. No I’m a completist, I wants all my books of scriptures, just like I want all the seasons of my favorite shows on the DVD. Granted, season 1 of Babylon 5 isn’t up to the others in quality, but they make better sense in concert with it.

  13. Austin,

    I think the Dead Sea Scrolls add tremendous support for what Judaism revered as Holy Scripture…in other words, the Old Testament. Many scriptures found in the OT are verbatim with the DSS, and in other areas, they differ in meaning/translation. Kind of similar to what the Gnostic Gospels do for the NT, but not exactly.

    I think there is a lot of valid history in the OT, but I also know that it has many great teaching stories that we take to be literal, when in fact they couldn’t be.

    I am still engrossed in my NT research so I wish to reserve judgment until complete. One thing I have determined though, is that none of the Gospels in the Christian cannon were written by eyewitnesses, so we need to take that into account when reading and interpreting the NT.

    If I had to state my religious belief RIGHT NOW, I would have to say I’m a Diest. That could change as I continue in my research.

    I will say, that of all organized religion that I have knowledge of, I lean the most towards Christianity and Judaism. As far as Mormonism, I don’t think the LDS church is what it claims to be.

  14. supermannino,
    I agree the OT should not be thrown out. That wasn’t really the point of my post. The point is that the OT has doctrinal errors. As Christians we have to pick and choose what we believe. Everyone claims to be the one that can interpret what is “good” and what is “bad” in the OT. Seem to me only God can do that.

    The reference of one wife in the NT is totally acceptable to LDS members. LDS theology allows for polygamy only when God sanctions it.

    You’re right, there is no place that says polygamy is good or bad. That’s the point isn’t it? And yet people condemn polygamy over and over again. I just don’t see the justification for it. You may be a sinful man, but if you commit adultery God is not going to use you. If you are against polygamy then you’re saying that Abraham and Jacob committed adultery. Culture is no excuse for taking many wives. I could take many wives and say it is the American culture to sleep with many women so it’s just a little sin, not adultery. That just makes no sense.
    You say we “shouldn’t just sin because we know ‘the tab is covered’. That implies that we could sin just because “the tab is covered”. That also makes no sense. Why on earth would God have Christ suffer so horribly just to so we can commit horrible sins over and over again without trying to repent? I understand that we are not perfect, but we can improve and shouldn’t just say that Jesus has us covered. And although we are not perfect as a whole, I believe we can be perfect in some things. Even though our effort is minuscule compared to Christ’s atonement we are still commanded to do good works not bad ones.

    I don’t think a Master or Doctorial Degree really makes a difference. I was taught by religious professors that had PhD’s in Greek and Hebrew that are LDS. They seemed to hold the LDS view of the OT. Advanced degrees apparently don’t mean you have a greater understanding of what is and what isn’t doctrine.

    I agree that Sunday school teachers should do a better job in preparing. I disagree that you have to be a professional clergy to teach.

  15. Jay,

    We agree with you and with Paul

    Romans 6:1-4
    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    As far as the Bible’s silence on polygamy; the Bible is also silent on slavery. Do you think that slavery is okay? We use the general principles of the Bible to condemn slavery, just as we use the general principles of the Bible to condemn polygamy. That’s our justification. I am against polygamy, but I do not think it’s the same thing as adultery. I think adultery is worse than polygamy.

    You may be a sinful man, but if you commit adultery God is not going to use you.

    I disagree and I don’t think this statement squares with LDS theology. God continued to use David despite his adultery. The Book of Mormon says that his polygamy was wrong, but God continued to use him.

  16. Actually I’m pretty sure that the Bible says that slaves should be in subjection to their masters (Correct me if I’m wrong). Well if the Bible doesn’t say polygamy is wrong then it I guess it is up to the individual decide.

    I really don’t have a problem with it. I think as long as the husband is commited to the marriage and its sactioned by God there is no problem. It’s much better than the many men that sleep around having babies with several women and leaving them.

    I’ll have to read about David in the BOM. In my mind that doesn’t make sense, but I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong. Do you know where I can find that in the BOM?

  17. I have often thought of this as well. I have heard many say that the Mosaic law was fulfilled through Christ and therefore is no longer needed. It made me wonder why we have the OT at all if we don’t even need to follow any of its teachings. The 10 commandments are even summarized into 2 commandments in the NT. I wouldn’t destroy it altogether, because as others put it, there is historical significance, but as a whole, it is heavily flawed.

  18. Me too!

  19. The OT is difinately full of contradictions, and references old practices. However the Book of Mormon is the same, most of the book is about tribes turning to and away from God and killing each other in the process.

    I only really liked the New Testament as that book really describes the Love that Jesus had for us.

    What needs to be remembered is that the book of Mormon cant be that important or when Jesus resurrected himself surely he would have given these stories to the Jews aswell as the people of the Americas.

    All the books of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, DC, Pearl of Great Price should be looked on as scriptures written by man sometimes with inspiration by God, sometimes not.

    All these books are flawed, what annoys me is when people state these books as containing truths and facts, then if you point out a contradiction they tell you to pray and theyre right.

  20. Old testament – something else I don’t understand. How does God’s personality change so much in a couple thousand years? On the one hand, he appears jealous, mean, cruel, spiteful. Then he’s born a man, and is peaceful, loving, forgiving.

    I’m not sure how to reconcile that.

  21. What do you mean ?

  22. While I took a look at everyone’s opinion while for me I did agree with some. I don’t have nothing against the word of God In Jesus Name the old testament was for that time and Jesus came to over come for our sins and if we were still in the old testament God didn’t play because he love us so much he sent his son Jesus Christ. So what I am saying Jesus work was not in vain. I am still learning and open to take in the true. Just like tithe some say we are under the curse anymore other say pay your tithe and offering other say give free willing. not you don’t stop giving you shpould give the the kingdom of God in Jesus name.

  23. It’s better to give then to receive to be a giver God is going to best you always He rain on the just and unjust he love us all. God used who every. Our life is a testimony thank to Jesus. We all full short of the glory thank God for confessing and repenting that Jesus made the road right for us all you have to do is see your weakeness and pray to God for help and to be setfree in the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Paid a great prize for us no one ie perfect here. Only Jesus didn’t sin. He already know everyone of us and the things we will face in life. There is nothing New under the sun. I was on drugs etc. for 10 yrs didn’t go to know program at all tried them but didn’t work then I heared this small voice say to me I am going to save you in 1997 and there I was save in 3/1997 Now God call me to be Evangelist the work ids not over in my life only God can and will continue to bless me and delivery me. I fall short thank God again for his Son Jesus and he still used me for his will. Hod on and stand fast in the lord know matter what.

  24. My own view on the Old Testament is that its flawed and man made despite claiming revelation.

    Jesus came and totally overturned alot of what God supposedly commanded and even criticised the followers of The Law .
    One example which illustrates this is The parable of the Good Samaritan .

    In the good Samaritan story , the Levite and the priest both passed onto the other side ? I’m not very professional at this but I think According to Jewish Law, even coming within six feet of a corpse, or someone that might possibly be a corpse by the time you get near them, defiled them.

    Humiliation followed any such person that became defiled, the Law demanding an expensive purification process that put him out of work for a week. The sacrifice to help a man that might possibly be beyond help was too great for the two religious administrators to accept.

    Its no suprise in that respect that the Levite and the Priest walked on the other side , the risk was high !The Samaritan ( being half cast and despised) on the other hand was not of this silly Mosaic order and so could touch the man on the roadside without any religious repercussions ….. That says alot about The Law and why I think it was man made and Hence why Jesus rebuked them for getting it wrong and even following it…

    I think the real story is about just that , following a man made law and not taking the Law to the extreme as others would suggest.

    They followed ‘The Law’ as required according their scriptures and they should know, they were the priesthood. Yet they were made to look bad with Jesus’s teachings.

  25. Hi, just wanted to say, I liked this post. It was helpful.

    Keep on posting!

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