The Bible is the best-selling book in the world and can be found everywhere, from places of worship to hotel rooms. In times of crises, like the coronavirus pandemic, sales of the Good Book tend to increase, as people look for solace in its pages. Its writings are a matter of belief for some, though not for all. Belief is powerful, personal and very real, but, for many, it is also beyond the definition of reason. We, therefore, focus here on the question of the Bible’s legitimacy as a historical narrative, examining it through the course of history and scientific discovery.
Here are three reasons why bible stories should be regarded as history, and three reasons why they should not.
Three Reasons Bible Stories Should Be Regarded as Historically Accurate
Archaeological excavations in the Near East, Middle East and particularly in the Fertile Crescent, which includes Israel, have led to astonishing discoveries over the years, many of which relate to the biblical world. Mosaics, ancient fortresses, pottery and other items unearthed, cleaned and dated by trained and versed archaeologists have pointed time after time to an event or epoch straight out of the Bible. For example, archaeological site surveyor Gila Cook discovered an inscribed stone within a newly excavated wall in Israel. This stone contains the first historical evidence of King David apart from in the Bible. In addition, the Temple Mount Sifting Project uncovered tile floors from the Jewish Temple, built by King Herod. As voiced by journalist Dennis Leap, “Archaeology has confirmed without question the historical accuracy of the Bible.”
The burden of proof lies in corroborating evidence
A great deal of the ancient history we regard as truth is comprised of various pieces of evidence that corroborate each other. The Bible gives us just that, in one book. Despite having been written by more than 40 different writers over a timespan of about 2,000 years, the words of the Bible singularly echo a single voice. This indicates that the stories were passed down relatively accurately. Many Bible stories appear similarly, if not identically, in the books of the different monotheistic religions. The more texts that are collected that tell the same storyline, the greater and stronger their historical accuracy is believed to be. For example, Muslims agree with the other monotheistic faiths that Lot and his tribe were destroyed in the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It is the most accurate history we have of those times
True, some Bible stories are harder than others to accept as having taken place, but they are the historical representation of what people needed at that time and the way they thought, acted and lived. Those ideas that seem far-fetched can be explained by different perceptions of the world. For instance, Methuselah lived to the age of 969 according to the Bible, but maybe really only lived to 96, as age in the hundreds may have meant something else back then. This does not make the Bible a lie, rather it indicates that perhaps we need to shift gears and understand the Bible’s stories differently.
Three Reasons Why Bible Stories Should Not Be Considered Historical
Reading as mythology makes more sense
Understanding Bible stories as non-historical tales that contain a moral message gives the reader new freedom to understand and learn from the stories’ meanings. It also makes much more sense than reading these stories as a straightforward account of history. Does it really matter that Sarah was a senior citizen when she gave birth to Isaac? Is biology the focus point of Mary’s Immaculate Conception? Did the Red Sea really part or was it a tsunami? Or, is it more important to marvel at the power of belief, the force that is rewarded for loyalty? Isn’t it important enough to learn that consequences exist when rules are broken?
Science and technology make many bible stories unbelievable
We live in an age of science and technology. Frankly, from a scientific perspective, many of the “facts” of the Bible may be too outrageous to believe. Can man really be swallowed by a whale and live to tell his tale? How can it be that snakes that had vocal cords once no longer have them? While the Bible claims the world was created less than 6,000 years ago, scientific research in the field of physics has proven that the Big Bang, which began the cycle of life that has evolved to this day, took place 13.7 billion years ago.
Natural theories explain away miracle stories
Since the dawn of time, humanity has been searching to understand the world around them, recounting stories and holding to beliefs that explain natural occurrences, such as disease, disaster and death. In ancient times, people lacked the knowledge to explain natural phenomena and so they would make up stories to make sense of the world. As such, illness was recounted as punishments for wrongful acts, and natural disasters served were interpreted as heavenly omens. The flood described in the Bible story of Noah’s Ark can be understood as an especially massive hurricane. The locusts’ outburst in the Bible’s Ten Plagues story can be explained in scientific terms. These stories are, therefore, not historically accurate because they rely on an outdated understanding of the world.
The Bottom Line: Widely read across the globe, Bible stories are scoffed at by some as religious myth and highly regarded by others as everlasting truth. Do you think Bible accounts really took place, or were they written to serve another function? Can we make a singular judgment about a book that holds varying meanings to so many different people?