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Hello Father Angelo,

First and above all, I thank you for the work you do with this column which has helped me a lot with my insights and doubts on the faith since my conversion which took place many years ago. May the Lord bless you! I’m a 23 years old guy and I encountered God around 7 years ago.I have had intense experiences of faith in these years that have strengthened me a lot. Lately I decided to enroll in the institute of religious sciences in my  area to deepen the subject and further strengthen the faith and in particular to teach religion, which I see as a vocation for me.  Unfortunately, however, it seems to me that I  have been bumping into a vision of faith and theology with rationalistic and perhaps modernist nuances. Perhaps I am too fondamentalist but in several situations I have felt uncomfortable. Therefore, I would like to ask you if you could clarify some points which have left me confused in order to understand whether they are just one of the many schools of theologies or the real and prevalent opinion of the Church. First of all I would like to know what you think about the historicity of the Old testament. According to some professors, the story of the exodus would be an epic retro-projection  of an earlier period of the experience of the Babylonian exile and the subsequential return. Since the archaeological data do not confirm the biblical story it remains the theological meaning but the entire  historical veracity collapses as at least until shortly after the division of the two kingdoms in the period of the monarchy (among other things, the ancient unified kingdom would also be a retroprojection of the post exile unity). Important people such as Moses and Abraham would therefore only be exemplary figures but never existed.

God bless you and may He always keep you in His Grace.

Priest’s answer


  1. First of all I am pleased for what the Lord has done for you by leading you back to faith and to following Christ. The happiness for the rediscovered truth has pushed you to deepen your knowledge of Christ and divine revelation. But here is that the study of theology as it is imparted in the theological  course that you frequent instead of consolidating the enthusiasm sows doubts and disenchantment to the point that you ask yourself what is true.
  2. Unfortunately I can not deny that here and there it seems that the latest biblical and theological updates do not  aim to deepen the faith  but rather  to report the most up-to-date discoveries without sufficiently examining what has been taught in a sure and consolidated way up to now.
  3. Therefore I desire to answer your questions with what a text, whose authority is undisputed and probably is superior to any other biblical school ,states. It is the text of the so-called Bible of Jerusalem, whose introductions and notes are from Dominicans ( the French) of the Ècole biblique of Jerusalem. Perhaps you too will have the so-called Jerusalem Bible with you, but as it happens to many, the reading of the introductions is omitted because ,rightly ,you are more interested in the word of God than that of men. Nonetheless, the problems arise and we get lost.
  4. I am going to  answer  the questions that you have asked me by reporting for you and for our visitors what we can read from it. I immediately say that this school is striking for the seriousness of its motivations, for the balance in not despising any doubts and for the serenity it leaves in those who access these texts. 
  5. I come to the story of Abraham and the other Patriarchs who would have never existed. Those who make such claims should first bring documentation. The mere fact that there is no extra-biblical correspondence on the subject is not yet sufficient to refute the assertions made by Sacred Scripture because then all the historical assertions of the ancients that have no comparison in other narratives should also be refuted.
  6. Here what it says the introduction of the Bible of Jerusalem on Pentateuc, who contains five books including Genesis and Exodus : “These traditions were the living heritage of people with a distant past; they gave them the feeling of their unity because they all referred to common ancestors; but, above all, they were the support of their faith; they were like a mirror where the people would contemplate themselves in the most diverse situations. We can already think that the same situations  in which the recollection of past events took place might as well have partly conditioned the way things are told”
  7. In parallel to this, it should be added that God made use of these traditions, kept them and nourished them to reveal Himself and His plan of love, to communicate Himself to men and fill their hearts.If this is not kept in mind, we can look at Genesis simply as a historical narrative made by men. And after you somehow know how the text was formed, you think you have understood everything. With the light of faith, we must take it for granted that while those traditions were being formed, God was at work to transmit all and only what was necessary for His Revelation and saving plan. If St. Peter,in the announcement of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, says that he did not go after artificially invented fables, but that he was an eyewitness to His greatness (cf. 2 Pt 1:16), we can say the same thing about traditions that were formed and preserved by divine inspiration. It is unthinkable that God built the history of salvation on artificially invented fables.The faith of the apostles was completely alien to thinking these things
  8. The introduction of the Jerusalem Bible continues: “These texts cannot be asked for the rigor that the modern historian would use (…) because the stories and laws of the Pentateuch do not essentially constitute a history book (…). They testify the faith of people in the succession of numerous generations, especially in the eventful period that goes from the Assyrian conquest to the loss of national independence under the intervention of the Persian Empire. For us, as believers, this religious testimony is important regardless of the value the texts may have in  recollecting the true history of the people of the Bible in terms of modern history . (…). On the other hand, it is clear that we are talking about the past as we know it centuries later in order to draw a lesson from it for the present. Attributing to biblical authors the perspectives of biographers or modern historians is not the correct position to better grasp what they have to tell us ”.
  9. 9. If this is true for all the five books of the Pentateuch, however “the first eleven chapters of Genesis must be considered separately. Today we often speak of “myth”. We must take the word as an indication of the literary genre and not in the sense of “fabulous or legendary history”. A “myth” is simply an ancient popular tradition that tells the origins of the world and man or events, for example the universal flood, which would have happened at the origin of humanity. A “myth” is a tale made in an imaginative and symbolic way; the author of the biblical story took up one or the other tradition from his own environment, because it was functional to his didactic design. On the other hand, the “myths” or stories of the origins normally have an etiological character (that is, they intend to explain the cause, ed): these stories give an answer to the great questions of human existence in the world, through these stories an answer is given to problems such as those of the origin of sin or human suffering. What is said about that distant past explains our current situation. In a certain sense we proceed by elimination: everything that in our situation is perceived as a limit is explained by an event of the origins. In summary, the “myth” explains how the world and all its creatures came into existence and why we, men, are as we are “.
  10. However, the word myth, precisely because in common language it refers to an imaginative tale that has no confirmation in reality and is a fable that wants to explain something (such as the myth of Prometheus), the stories of the first eleven chapters of genesis have their basis in reality, in events that have actually and historically occurred. So although the introduction to the Pentateuch of the Jerusalem Bible distinguishes between myth as commonly understood and the biblical myth, it is better not to use the word myth, to eliminate any misunderstanding from the outset. It would be enough to speak of a biblical story made with images and allegories.
  11.  Regarding what you report to me, namely that “the story of the exodus would be an  epic retro-projection  of an antecedental period to  that of the experience of the Babylonian exile and the subsequential return”, it seems to me that something does not even appear chronological. The Babylonian exile and especially  the homeland return dates back to the sixth century BC, while the texts of the Pentateuch would have been written down at least from the eighth century. The Jerusalem Bible writes: “If oral traditions could have existed since the origins of the people of Israel (but today there is even a tendency to minimize the role of oral tradition), they probably begin to set them in writing only towards the eighth century BC . Hosea’s preaching shows that at least in the middle of this century there were fairly well established traditions about Jacob, about leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses, about making a covenant between God and Israel, and about the gift of the Law, of some episodes of walking in the desert ”. It cannot be denied that some additions have been made to the text in later redactions to emphasize some aspects of biblical revelation. But the statement you heard at school is too  hazardous because it denies the historical and real history of the story. I thank you for the question, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you. 

  Father Angelo