A book someone was reading caught my eye. “Is that fiction or nonfiction?” I asked the reader. “It’s mostly true,” he replied. “That wasn’t what I asked,” I said.
The Bible is all true, and much of it happened.
The story of Job, for example, essentially starts, “Once upon a time in a faraway land called Uz there lived a man whose name was Job…” The story it tells is true. The events may or may not have happened.
Jesus tells the story of a good Samaritan: “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” The story Jesus tells is true. The events may or may not have happened.
We understand there are genres of fiction and nonfiction. And then there are ‘historical novels’, where fiction and nonfiction are mixed (press deeper – there is always some nonfiction within fiction). We may have agility in recognising contemporary genres. And yet we may still be wrong in ascertaining which genre a contemporary text is.People at the time biblical texts were written would have had agility in the genres of their day – an agility that we now need to work at recovering. And we might be wrong in ascertaining which genre a text is.
The flood story in the Bible may or may not be historical. But the truth of the story is not dependent on its historicity. And the claim of the Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky that our hope beyond death correlates to our acceptance of the historicity of the flood (see image above) is nonsense. There are more than two options: fundamentalism or anti-theism.
I have been following discussions with texts from 1 Timothy, and many credit that letter with authority because they accept that it is written by St Paul. 1 Timothy has authority because it is in the Bible, in the New Testament canon. It is true. Whether or not it is written by St Paul is an interesting scholarly question that does not affect this. Pseudonymous writing was a common literary device and part of the genres of that time.
Press deeper, and we need to take even greater care with the word ‘true’. Truths about God are not correlated to the truths of creation, the truths of everyday life. We use words of God such as ‘person’, ‘existence’, and so forth – and state such assertion are ‘true’.
Let us take care with how we use the word ‘true’. And at the very least let us not confuse ‘true’ as if it can only be used when something is ‘historical’ or ‘actually happened’. ‘True’ is much wider. ‘True’ is much deeper.
In this series so far
image source: from the multi-million-dollar ark by Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky