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In day school my teachers often said that the torah isn't a history book. Today academicians, historians, and the like diligently present historical inaccuracies in the bible. For example the story of creation; it is not factually accurate to say that the world was created in 6 distinct 24 hour days. To my knowledge nearly every Jewish commentary does not read this story literally.

The general response to historical inaccuracies I have heard is that the torah is not interested in presenting history, it is a book which teaches us how to lead a moral life by serving God. So if, for example, the flood didn't literally cover the whole world, that is less important then the lessons conveyed.

My question is, given that God is omnipotent, why wasn't the torah written in a way that served both purposes? Is there a purpose in intentionally writing the bible in a non-historically accurate way? In other words since it is conceivably possible to write both a historically accurate book which also teaches us how to lead a moral life by serving God why wasn't the torah written that way?

closed as unclear what you're asking by DanF, Shmuel Brin, Shokhet, Danny Schoemann, Gershon Gold Nov 2 '14 at 14:35

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    This question could be more valuable if you edited in what kind of historical inaccuracies you're referring to. – Scimonster Oct 31 '14 at 13:30
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    @Scimonster done. I have to say I'm surprised at the close/downvotes. I don't think there are very many commentaries who would disagree with the premise that the torah has historical inaccuracies. – user6641 Oct 31 '14 at 13:57
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  • @user6641. You ask a great question. Let's put it into context. How many countries, cities, towns and villages exist today? How many forms of media and communication exist? No. Much more than that. No, even more than that. Okay, you're not taking this seriously, Much, much, much more than that. Now answer this simple question. When was the last time you read a newspaper from (just for illustrative purposes)Des Moines or Lyon, France or Koln, Deutchland, or..... Even though the serious of recent murders ultimately lead to legislative changes in law, you didn't hear about it. Neither did...... – JJLL Nov 1 '14 at 12:43
  • ......you hear about the series of building collapses occurring in Taipei and reported on TV on a daily basis which leading to arrests of corrupt politicians and to a nation-wide change in building code. These all are significant events that have long-range impact. Yet, we really don't know abou these events do we. I bet most people here know about the Holocaust. How many know that 5M non-Jews were also in concentration camps and killed. How about the 2M Armenians killed by the Ottomans? Or the 10-30M Ukranians murdered during the Holmodor (sp?). So yes, there were most likely many significant – JJLL Nov 1 '14 at 12:51
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I would challenge the premise of your question. When we talk about any "history", how can we confirm its truth, especially, if we weren't witnesses to these events. (You can also argue that even for those who were present, the eyes see or don't see, and the brain interprets things based on what it "wants" to "see".) Thus, when we pass a sign that says "George Washington slept, here", how do we really know that's true? Did the person who posted the sign witness G.W. sleeping? Of course not. He trusts someone else's story, and, maybe, he actually found a Colonial "hankie" from him :-)

Certainly, no one reading the Torah was alive when any of the vents in the Torah were mentioned. Therefore, we are all going on faith, and that's the main point of the Torah's "historical" lessons.

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    How does this answer the question? – Shmuel Brin Oct 31 '14 at 19:33
  • @ShmuelBrin - That's my point / strategy. I'm challenging the premise of the question, itself, making it irrelevant. My answer explains why. – DanF Nov 2 '14 at 1:43
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Regarding the creation of the world in six days, notice the sun was not created until the fourth day. There was light and there was darkness before that and "days" but time was not measured in the way we think of it today.

Regarding the flood, research other ancient cultures and you will see they also have flood stories.

G-d gave the Torah in the way it is written for us to study, not to memorize and parrot without questioning it.

  • Modern science has light in the universe appearing well before our sun – Henry Oct 31 '14 at 17:40
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    How does this answer the question? – Shmuel Brin Oct 31 '14 at 19:32