CIU professor tackles “Urban Legends of the Old Testament”

Dr. David Croteau, author of "Urban Legends of the Old Testament
January 13, 2020

A new book by Columbia International University Professor Dr. David Croteau surveys 40 of the most commonly misinterpreted passages in the Old Testament. “Urban Legends of the Old Testament” is designed to help Christians avoid missteps in the interpretation of key biblical texts while modeling interpretive techniques that can also be applied to other Old Testament passages. The book is published by B&H Academic and co-authored with Dr. Gary Yates of Liberty University. It’s a follow-up to Croteau’s 2015 book “Urban Legends of the New Testament.” 

Croteau discusses “Urban Legends of the Old Testament in this Q&A:  

 How are you defining an “urban legend” in your book?

An urban legend is a commonly circulated myth that is not true, but repeated throughout the culture as common knowledge.

Which of these legends do you think will most likely take readers by surprise?

God Has Promised You a Bright and Prosperous Future (Jeremiah 29:11).  For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Bible Gateway reported that between 2012 and 2015, Jeremiah 29:11 was the second most searched Bible verse on its website. Some Christians believe that this verse promises personal prosperity or that it guarantees that all the circumstances in their lives will have a positive outcome. What if they go through hard circumstances that don’t turn out well? They could easily be deluded into thinking that God failed in His promise. That’s why misinterpreting this verse is a serious concern.

Which of the urban legends do you think could be detrimental to the church?

Christians Should Never Question the Authority of Church Leaders (1 Samuel 24-26) “touch not the Lord’s anointed.”

Some church leaders have misused this concept to teach that they should never be questioned. This is unhealthy. No church leader is perfect. None is perfectly wise. All have weaknesses. Church leaders who believe they are above being questioned might be revealing that they are power hungry. The church needs leaders who are servant-minded, not threatened by questions.

Would you consider belief in any of these urban legends heresy?

I think the one that comes closest to heresy is Old Testament Saints Were Saved by Keeping the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:5).

Salvation has always been by grace through faith. From Abraham in Genesis 15:6 to today, this is clear. In fact, this was the linchpin to Paul’s argument in Galatians 3, particularly 3:6-7. So believing that Old Testament saints were saved by their works undermines the gospel itself (see Galatians 1:6-8).

Is there a prevailing flaw in these legends?

The most common issue is not carefully paying attention to context. While sometimes, the literary context is the issue, many times, the historical and cultural context is the issue. Of course, other causes include a misunderstanding of Hebrew or how to interpret certain Old Testament literary genres.

What do you hope is the ultimate benefit to those who read your book?

First, I hope that the book creates a greater interest in the study of the Old Testament. Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). The phrase “all Scripture” includes, and probably primarily refers to, the Old Testament. Too many Christians neglect to study it and some are intimidated by it. Secondly, I hope that by carefully reading this book, they can learn sound principles for interpreting Scripture and begin applying them in their reading of the Old Testament.

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