Does It Matter If They Are Fictions?

In my reading of late I have come across a few biblical scholars who profess that OT characters such as Jonah, Ruth, Job, Esther and lately even Adam and Eve are not literal characters.  They are, in their opinion, works of fiction.  However, these same sages suggest that these imaginary characters have something to teach us.

I just finished reading John N. Oswalt’s, The Bible Among the Myths.  While answering the question is the Bible unique among ANE writings, he makes a statement that needs to be answered by those who present the people of the OT as no more than imaginations.

“…the researcher must believe that falsification of data is inimical to understanding. If he or she concludes that we can learn such and such from what certain persons chose to do in the past, and if it turns out that those persons did not exist and did not do those things, the conclusions are worthless”  (114).

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2 comments on “Does It Matter If They Are Fictions?

  1. daniellyle says:

    So is he saying that we have nothing to learn from characters like Icaris? If that is what he’s saying then how can we learn from the parables? I think maybe I’m misunderstanding his point…

  2. mmcginniss says:

    Hi Dan,

    There are certain characters in the Bible that must be true if they are to teach us theological truth. For example Adam cannot be a fictional character; if he is Paul’s argument in Romans is lost. That is the point of Oswalt’s quote. He would allow for parables ability to teach because it is the way the genre functions–we do not necessarily expect real people in parables.

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