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DominicX's avatar

Does the veracity of the Bible hinge on its historical accuracy?

Asked by DominicX (28696 points ) April 22nd, 2014

If the Bible is wrong about some kind of historical event, does that mean that the whole book should be tossed out? I mean that metaphorically. And I am exaggerating on purpose.

I single out historical events because these are the only things the Bible says that can be verified as true or false using other sources.

Here’s the thing: I am agnostic. I was raised Christian. There are times when I lean more toward believing in God and times where I lean more toward not believing in God. When I come across things like Christians claiming the earth is 6000 years old, I tend to think “that’s one of those things that pushes me in the atheistic direction”. Why? Because if the Bible says the earth is 6000 years old, and it ISN’T 6000 years old (which as far as I’m concerned, it’s not), then I guess I could doubt any other claim the Bible makes.

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32 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I think that the human race is 6000 years old ( when we began to write on cave walls) ... and the universe is still 14 billion years old. So both can be correct.

DominicX's avatar

@talljasperman Cave paintings are estimated to date back to about 40,000 years, though I’m not sure where those particular paintings are.

It’s definitely true that I see the Bible more as a philosophical book than as a historically accurate one. But those are just my particular beliefs. It would be difficult for me to discount the philosophical aspects of the Bible just because some of the historical aspects are a bit iffy.

talljasperman's avatar

@DominicX When humans started settling down and forming cultures.

Cruiser's avatar

The Bible is a very poor example of an accurate Historical Document. I read somewhere that the New Testament Bible has been edited over 450 times since it purportedly was first written and each time I am sure it was done so to present the tenets of the Bible to reflect the times and mindset of the person(s) re-writing the tomes of the Bible. Mind you that there are hundreds to factions of Christianity that have embraced the Bible to reflect their wants and ways and again have taken editorial license to present the basic tenets of Jesus’s words and actions to reflect what they interpret them to be. In reality these are age old tenets of a moral and just man….often employing violence in the name of their God to ward off oppression in order to find or hope to find salvation from this God who they hope will look favorably on their suffering. As bastardized as they may have been…I think much of the 10 Commandments still rings true 6,000 years later.

Judi's avatar

I don’t think ancient people looked at history and stories the same way we do. Some of the stories are parables, some are allegories and there is surely some history in there as well. (as a theist) I believe the purpose of the Bible is to point you to God, not to be an accurate historical document, although there are some historical stories there.
I’m not sure when the scientific process to prove a theory was established but I’m pretty sure it was after the Bible was written.
When seriously studying the Bible, I think it’s important to look at it from the perspective and lives of the people at the time the words were written. When you do that, some of the very restrictive language about women in the new testament for example is really radical and progressive for its time. It may say, “women be submissive to your husbands,” but in a time when women were basically chattel the admonishment for husbands to love their wives as he loves his own body was downright revolutionary. In this day and age, I believe Christian Prophets are people like Shane Claibourne, Father Richard Roar and Rob Bell who challenge us to love the previously unlovable just like Jesus did. They embrace the LGBT community and say, “Christ’s love is for you too, even as it was for the woman at the well, the tax collector, the leper, and the beggar at the gate. Anyone who has been disenfranchised is welcome at the table. ”

Cruiser's avatar

@Judi Great answer…great perspective

jaytkay's avatar

The bible has been taught as metaphor and allegory for centuries.

For starters, you could read here: Allegorical interpretations of Genesis

The widespread insistence that the Bible is literally true is more a modern American problem than a traditional one.

Cruiser's avatar

@jaytkay Great analysis, but I would just leave it at a modern problem and not single out Americans

jaytkay's avatar

@Cruiser I should not have used the word problem. That is my opinion, but it isn’t necessary for this question and kind of derails the thread. Sorry, everybody.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
ragingloli's avatar

Not just historical inaccuracy is the bible’s downfall, its scientific inaccuracy is its death knell.
We know that the world is not 6000 years old, we know that the sky is not a solid dome, we know the earth is not flat, or the centre of the universe. We know that humans and animals were not created ex nihilo. We know there was no global flood. Those are not just side remarks in the book, those are central claims. All known to be wrong.
And when its core claims are so blatantly wrong, it severely casts doubt on the authors’ grasp on reality, and thus all the other claims they made.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The bible is like any book of historical fiction – it is based on some actual events to offer context and background, but the specific plotlines and conversations were invented by the author(s) for literary or plot-flow purposes.

Compare the bible to any work by the late Tom Clancy. Detailed and ornate plots, based on actual events and locations, but entirely made-up.

ucme's avatar

I’m agnostic too, although essentially that’s just a “get out of jail free” card I play just in case.
This means I view the Bible from my lofty position sitting on the fence, a happy if slightly precarious position to be in…those splinters don’t half smart.

ragingloli's avatar

@elbanditoroso
I prefer the Spiderman comparison myself.

thorninmud's avatar

Some aspects of its historical accuracy matter more than others. Much of the Exodus account of slavery and liberation of the tribes of Israel from Egypt has been called into question, for instance. If that were not historically accurate, much of the Bible’s narrative, including the “atonement sacrifice” paradigm for Jesus’ death, deflates. And what if the resurrection narrative turned out to be nonfactual? That would be seriously disruptive.

It’s not possible to say with certainty whether these particular events happened or didn’t. But their significance goes beyond the metaphorical; much of Jewish and Christian thought is predicated on the historical accuracy of these accounts.

You can see why so many believers fight tooth and nail to assert the absolute accuracy of all the accounts, because some of it has to be accurate, and if you allow uncertainty about some accounts, then how do you build a firewall to shield these essential elements from doubt?

KNOWITALL's avatar

NO. When I read the Bible I’m seeking to feed my soul, not read history or study science. Context.

ninjacolin's avatar

Hey mods can I have my comment back please?
Starting to think it was removed by someone vengeful.

Judi's avatar

@ninjacolin , I’ve never mown you to have poor writing standards. I bet it was a mistake.

ninjacolin's avatar

ha, yea right! I flagged it myself to make some corrections but i never got the “please edit your comment” offer that I’m used to. Instead it simply disappeared.

Judi's avatar

Maybe I should flag my answer for the spelling error above. These iPhone letters are just to close for my farmer fingers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@talljasperman I agree. We started farming around 6,000 years ago and became less nomadic. We also started writing stuff down then.
The human RACE, though, started millions of years ago.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol, Judi I thought you did that on purpose to tease me! hahaha

I was raised Christian. I was also raised to believe that most Christians, including ones like Judi, have no idea what the bible actually has to say about anything because very few Christian religions really push their bible reading to find out what the Bible has to say on a verse-by-verse basis.

I think it’s entirely possible to re-imagine the bible as a book of allegory but I have no reason to believe that it was written as such and I still have no clue why some Christians feel it is okay to assume that the Bible was written as anything other than 100% believable and accurate fact. “Facts,” as it would turn out, which happen not to be facts:

Evolution is a good example of an evidently historical fact that the bible has wrong. When you consider the Bible as just one piece (or group) of evidence about what is and isn’t true in the world and then you compare it to other pieces (or groups) of evidence in the same universe, like genetics, dna, etc., it all tends to make me realize that the Adam and Eve creation story was just plain false; Noah and the ark: False.

The evidence says very clearly to me: The Bible attempted to represent history and biology accurately. And the evidence is also very clear: The Bible fails to represent history and biology accurately. So, allegory is all you’re left with. Not because it was meant to be that way, but because nothing else fits anymore.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the alleged fictions represented. Even intentionally fictional stories can have deep philosophical and beneficial messages that are worth considering. After all, the Bible is the oldest human book (or one of) that we have. It’s a remarkable piece of history depicting our social and moral growth, clearly. But a book written with miraculous, technology-busting, accuracy? The evidence suggests otherwise.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@talljasperman, @Dutchess_III

Human civilization is a bit older than 6,000 years. The first traces of agriculture, as well as structures like Gobekli Tepe (which may have been a religious complex) and the first founding of the city of Jericho date back to around around 9,000 – 10,000 BC (or BCE if you prefer).

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thanks @Darth_Algar. It’s all fascinating to me.

ragingloli's avatar

Before Human Christ.
There was another Christ, 65 million years before the Human one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

ROLL!! OK! I ♥ u, Raggie!

ragingloli's avatar

He was called Raptor Jesus, and he went extinct for the sins of his fellow dinosaurs.
Those who were saved by accepting his clawiness as their saviour, were indeed saved and lifted up into the heavens as birds, the rest were vanquished in the hellfire following the asteroid impact.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Raptor Jesus! LOL!

Cruiser's avatar

Did Raptor Jesus get along with Allah-Saurus?

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