Skip to main content

Ten Debates Concerning Old Testament Biblical History

The Reluctant Revivalist has been trying to help lead people to Jesus Christ for quite a while, but only a few have received Jesus.

Debates over the Bible have been going on ever since the first Christian manuscripts came into existence. The Christian church and skeptics would debate over the manuscripts until their faces turned blue. As time went by, the Christian church finally agreed to put a selected group of manuscripts together to form what we know as the Bible. The unexcepted manuscripts ended up being hidden from the public to avoid further controversy over the Bible.

In current times, the Bible has come under fire again thanks to modern Science. Modern science gave way to a few scientific approaches to combat the creditability of the Bible. The scientific study Archaeology, which studies the unearthed remains of ancient history, quickly has become among the leading contributor of controversy concerning the Bible.

Even with the advancement of modern science, there are still advocates for keeping the Bible intact historically. For every scientific claim against the Bible, there is a counter defense to keep the Bible intact. The debates over the Bible will always continue, but those who defend the Bible will always continue to find answers to the accusations against the Bible.

The Bible is split into two parts - The Old Testament and The New Testament. This article will focus solely on just the Old Testament Debates are being heatedly contested over. Here are 10 of the current Old Testament debates:

The Great Flood

Debates 1 & 2

  1. Local Flood vs. Global Flood

The major debate concerning the existence of The Flood from the Bible, besides it being just a myth, is the area it covered. Pro Local Flood scholars believe that the Flood was only in the Mesopotamian region of the world. Pro Global Flood scholars believe the world was flooded at least three quarters of the way.

Lorence G. Collins, a geologist and petrologist, thinks The Flood from the Bible was just a local one centered in the Mesopotamian region of the world during 2900 BCE. Collins bases his reasoning on flood deposits found on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the Mesopotamian region. He notes that the deposits match a big enough flood to cover an area as far as the eye can see.

Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis, thinks The Flood happened on a global scale. Ham bases his reasoning on questioning pro local flood logic. Ham thinks that among the logical errors of the local flood is: Why did Noah have to build the Ark to fit two of each kind of animal, his family, and him if there was just a local flood? He reasons that people and animals outside the area of the local flood would not have been affected by it. (LINK 1)

2. The Existence of Abraham

There are two major camps concerning the existence of Abraham from the Bible. Some scholars think that Abraham was just a mythical character. Other scholars believe that Abraham was a real historical biblical figure.

Peter J. Leithart, a theologian and president of Theopolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies, thinks Abraham from the Bible is just a mythical character. Leithart also thinks that there is not a shred of evidence outside of the Bible that points to Abraham as being a real person.

P. Kyle McCarter, the Professor in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University, thinks that Abraham was connected to the city of Harron in the Mesopotamian region. McCarter found out that Abraham’s great grandfather helped start the city of Harron along with his family. (LINK 2)

Moses on the Mount

Debates 3 & 4

3. The Existence of Moses

Many scholars believe that Moses from the Bible can’t be traced directly historically. There is another group of scholars who believe that Moses can be traced indirectly outside the context of the Bible through Egyptian adoption.

Rand Flem-Ath, an author known for his books about the lost continent of Atlantis and the theory of Earth crust displacement, thinks that the death of Moses from the Bible is very sketchy. FLem-Ath also thinks that no one can find Moses’ buried body because of the vagueness of the burial place depicted in the Bible. He is skeptical as to whether or not Moses even existed.

Richard Elliott Friedman, a biblical scholar and the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia, thinks that the only Egyptian names, out of all the Israelites during the Exodus, were Moses and three other Israelites from the Levite tribe. (LINK 3) The Bible states that Moses, as a baby, was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter from being carried away in the Nile river by basket. Moses was given his name by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Later in Moses life, he gathered all the Israelite slaves in Egypt and guided them into the wilderness. The Israelites were split into twelve different tribes. He was part of the Levite tribe.

4. The Date of The Exodus

Scroll to Continue

There are two major camps of scholars who believe that their works prove the date of the Exodus from the bible. The two camps are split on the date it happened though. One camp believes that the Exodus from Egypt took place around 1270 BCE. The other camp believes the Exodus took place at least two centuries earlier.

James K. Hoffmeier, Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, explains that an artifact from Egypt called The Stela of Merneptah records the only mention of Israel being in ancient Egypt. The Egyptian artifact was carved 1208 BCE, which gives Hoffmeier reason to believe the Exodus took place at least a half decade before around 1270 BCE up to 1250 BCE.

Bryant G. Wood, a biblical archaeologist and young earth creationist, thinks that oaths and covenants were an important part of the Israelites lifestyle. Wood uses the Hittite treaties, which has Israelite Oaths in it, to show evidence of Israel’s Egyptian Exodus. The Hittite treaties are dated 1600-1400 BCE. (LINK 4)

Joshua and the Battle of Jericho

Debates 5 & 6

5. The Date of Joshua

Scholars have been debating over the date of Joshua from the Bible for many years. The majority of scholars claim that the region of Canaan was not built enough to suit the biblical narrative during the time of Joshua. Some Scholars believe that there is enough archeological evidence to support the Bible’s timeline in the book of Joshua.

Bart Ehrman, the Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thinks that that only a few of the walled towns in the Bible were built during the time of Joshua. Ehrman also thinks that many of the cities during the time of Joshua did not even exist during Joshua’s tim6.e – including Jericho. He believes that the city of Jericho was not built until late 1300’s BCE.

John Garstang, a British archaeologist of the ancient Near East, thinks that Joshua and his army conquered the city of Jericho just as described in the Bible. Garstang also thinks that what he unearthed was limited, but there was enough material evidence to support his belief. (LINK 5}

6. The Settlement of Canaan

There are two major theories about how the Israelites took over the region of Canaan. The first major theory is The Peaceful Entry Theory. The second major theory is The Conquest Theory.

Coyt David Hargus, a Masters graduate from The University of Texas at Austin, explains that The Peaceful Entry Theory consists of Israelites migrating peacefully on a fairly routing basis.

Coyt David Hargus also explains that The Conquest Theory involves the twelve tribes of Israel attacking the land of Canaan and eventually conquering the Canaanite region. Hargus singles out Joshua a being the leader of the Israelite attackers. (LINK 6)

Ai is Taken by Joshua

Debates 7 & 8

7. The Location of Ai

There is a debate over where the city of Ai from the Bible was located. Some scholars think the city of Ai was located at the fortress Khirbet el-Magatir in Israel. Other Scholars think the city of Ai was located at the city of et-Tell in the west bank of Israel.

Scott Stripling is the Director of Excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research at Khirbet el-Maqatir and Shiloh, Israel. Mark Hassler is the associate professor of Old Testament at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary. They think that that the city of Ai is located at Khirbet el-Magatir. Stripling and Hassler think that there is lacking evidence to indicate that the city of Ai was in et-Tell.

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, an author at Breaking Israel News, explains that the surface survey that took place in 1924 by W.F. Albright shows that the city of Ai was located at et-Tell. Berkowitz also mentioned that Albright pin-pointed the city of Ai to be 10 miles north of Jerusalem. (LINK 7)

8. The Destruction of Jericho

The debate over the destruction of Jericho has been going on for quite some time now. Some scholars think, besides Joshua’s conquest of the city of Jericho being a myth, that the city of Jericho was destroyed around 1550 B.C.E. Other scholars believe that the destruction of Jericho took place in 1400 B.C.E.

Kathleen Kenyon, who was a leading British archaeologist of Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent, believed that the city of Jericho was destroyed around 1550 B.C.E. Kenyon also stated that Jericho remained uninhabited 150 years after the destruction. She concluded that, based on her findings, Joshua and his army could not have conquered the city of Jericho in 1400 B.C.E.

Jason Jackson, an author at Christian, explains that Archaeologist excavated the site known as Tell Es-Sultan from 1930-1936, and identified it to be the city of Jericho. Jackson also stated that Garstang believed that the city was conquered by Joshua and his army in 1400 B.C.E. (LINK 8)

King David

Debates 9 & 10

9. King David and Solomon’s territory

There is a debate over the size of territory that the Kingdom of Israel had during the time King David and Solomon. Some scholars think that king David and Solomon ruled over just a small, remote highlands village. Other scholars believe that the Israelite kings ruled over a large territory in Israel built with great walls.

Israel Finkelstein, the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University, thinks that during a century of archeological work in Jerusalem, it could not reveal evidence of meaningful building activity in the 10th century B.B.E. Finkelstein also stated that Jerusalem was just a small, remote highlands village during that time.

Eilat Mazar, a research fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, found a wall that he believes dates back the 10th century B.C.E. Mazar thinks the wall was built during the reign of King Solomon. She is also investigating the fragments of a large structure in Jerusalem that she thinks may be King David’s palace. (LINK 9)

10. Israel’s United monarchy

The debate between scholars on Israel’s united monarchy during the biblical era is split between, besides it being fiction, the location of the united monarchy in Israel and the time it took place. Some scholars think the place of the united monarchy was in the northern part of Israel. Other scholars think the monarchy was in the southern part. Some scholars think the date of the united monarchy was in the 9th century B.C.E. Others believe the monarchy was in the 10th century B.C.E.

William G. Dever, an American archaeologist, specializing in the history of Israel and the Near East in Biblical times, explains that David and Solomon are just fiction. Dever also states that he agrees with Israel Finkelstein in that the real Israel state is in the northern part of Israel, which was built the 9th century B.C.E.

Amihai Mazar, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains that, although not written during the time of David and Joshua, the authors of the Bible “worked with ancient sources, including oral and written narratives, transmitted poetry, archival documents, public inscriptions, etc.” (LINK 10) Mazar also believes that the roots of memory came from 10th century B.C.E.

The Old Testament, Fact or Fiction?

Old Testament History

Related Articles