OTB3 – Historical basis yet theological perspective
© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 11 May 2020
All of the OT books are set in historical contexts. This is regardless of their literary types, forms or content, or the historical Era in which they are set. They are not presented as purely allegorical, mythical or philosophical writings. Although these latter forms are used at times, they always occur within historical settings.
However, the OT historical perspective is different to modern historical approaches. It primarily records acts and communications of God and responses of people to Him. Put simply, it is theologically-based history, or “spiritual” history. Yet this is always set within the flow of otherwise common historical events. Some of these events and the names of persons mentioned (especially kings of various nations) are also known independently from historical sources outside the Bible.
This highlights a basic principle of the biblical faith. It is not just a collection of merely theoretical or speculative ideas. Instead it is founded on God’s specific involvement with actual people in particular historical situations.1
The OT begins with Genesis 1 – 11, which despite its highly formal structure in chapter 1, is all a narrative of historical events. This laid vital theological foundations for the rest of the Bible. Genesis 12 then continues the historical narrative centred on Abraham and his descendants. God chose some of them to become the Hebrew people or Israelites, and then the nation of Israel. This was the community within which God increasingly made Himself known, as recorded in the rest of the OT.2
1. Obviously this principle can be extended beyond the Bible to include all situations throughout history where God has interacted with people, including in the present and future! (Return to reading).
2. This culminated in Jesus Christ, who historically was born as a member of the Israelite people. (Return to reading).