Why The Bible Is Not Considered A Historical Document

How Reliable is the Bible?

The Bible – often considered by many as the world’s foremost authority on human morality, faith and spirituality – isn’t seen as a historical document by some professionals. Historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists often dispute the veracity of its stories, particularly those in the Old Testament. So what’s the disconnect between popular opinion and scientific findings, and why is the Bible seen as a work of literature instead?

One of the biggest factors is a lack of scientific evidence, as the archaeological and historical record supports some Biblical claims, but not others. For example, the existence of ancient Hebrew inscription was established about a century ago, which confirms its writers. However, time-specific details mentioned in the Bible are harder to pin down. For example, the New Testament contains references to cities and political events, several of which can’t be verified. Controversy surrounding the Exodus account is another key example: scientific opinion is generally divided on whether this even occurred.

Furthermore, the Bible is only human-sourced writing, with many passages showing signs of historical revision and editing. Almost all of it was written centuries after the supposed events, making it harder to verify many claims. The lack of any other ancient source to corroborate them brings it further into question.

Critics also point to the nature of its stories. Many recall supernatural occurrences and divine intervention, to a point where scientific plausibility is almost entirely removed. For example, the splitting of the Red Sea is an event that could have a natural interpretation, but the Bible describes it as a phenomenon attributed to God.

This is where the debate gets even more polarizing. For some, divine power is an accepted part of the world and thus supernatural details can be interpreted as fact. Many biblical stories operate as metaphors, which represent deeper meanings than their literal words may suggest. But to a historian or anthropologist, this is where disbelief begins.

Ultimately, the argument comes down to faith. For many people, the Bible is the ultimate and unchallenged authority. From this point of view, the Bible’s validity is beyond question, and faith overrides the need for scientific proof. However, those with a strict adherence to the scientific method will respond differently, as they’d rather rely on evidence-based proof compared to blind faith.

Impact of the Bible on Society

Critics of the Bible point out how its stories have influenced society in both positive and negative ways. While it inspires support for those in need, it also established oppressive systems that exist today. This includes some societies viewing women as the guardians of their values and marriages, relegating them to a subservient status.

The Bible also provided the rationale for slavery, which supported its continued use for centuries. Even during abolition, its principles were cited in favor of continuing the practice, until its eventual abolishment.

One of the more opposition-based challenges that historians have is that the Bible does not make a distinction between what is factual and what is allegorical. Religions belief the previous statements to be true, and make no distinction between those events which are based in reality and those that are purely metaphorical.

Historians often struggle to make sense of the various accounts of events described in the Bible. For example, some stories tell of a miraculous Tower of Babel episode where everyone becomes bilingual overnight, while others suggest a real-life effort to build a tower with many different types of stone and ore.

This challenge in separating fact from fiction presents difficulties in interpreting some passages, as the lack of consistency makes them hard to verify. While this isn’t an exhaustive analysis of why not all scholars view the Bible as a historical document, it gives an idea as to why many are skeptical.

Lack of Evidence

The book of Exodus claims that 600,000 Jews left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, a claim which some archaeologists dispute. The massive scale of this event makes it implausible, while an archaeological survey of the route found no evidence of the vast armies of people and livestock mentioned. Other events such as the conquest of Jericho or the fall of Babylon are also hard to verify.

Furthermore, some stories are impossible to believe without faith. For example, the story of Jesus rising from the dead is widely asserted, but there is no physical evidence to support this. Even if the body did disappear from the tomb, this doesn’t necessarily prove resurrection, but could have been taken away for normal burial.

Questions around historicity also extend to its authors. Some details in the Bible purportedly come from the same entity, yet can be contradictory. To some, this suggests multiple authors, calling into doubt the notion of it being an authored work.

Essentially, being a source of spiritual and moral guidance does not make the Bible a source of history. While many of its stories are compelling, there is no scientific evidence to back them up. Until this is rectified, skeptics will continue to attribute it to being a work of literature instead.

Conflicting Sources

In addition to a lack of archaeological evidence, the Bible presents further challenges when its stories are compared to other historical sources. Babylonian, Egyptian and Persian texts often contradict with it concerning such things as timelines, rulers, and foreign interactions.

Though these documents are incomplete, they are still more reliable than the Bible. While some parts may have been corrupted or lost over time, the archaeological record is considered more accurate than faith-based interpretations.

In some cases, the Bible’s authors and editors modified the stories slightly to introduce their own views. Furthermore, the phrasing and grammar of many stories suggest that translations have been manipulated, either intentionally or unintentionally.

For this reason, many historians refute some parts of the Bible’s historical account. This isn’t meant to directly challenge any form of religious belief, but to be an unbiased consideration of what’s considered by experts to be an accurate record.

Bible Not Written with History in Mind

Other interpretations suggest that the Bible was not meant to be an exact account of historical events. Various books, such as Job and Proverbs, contain little to no references to historical events and could be based purely on spiritual and moral teachings. While this doesn’t discredit their importance, these stories are much harder to verify.

These interpretations are more popular among religious scholars, as human authors could not have reinterpreted divine events. This suggests that some parts of the Bible are metaphorical and meant to provide moral, not factual, lessons.

The gospels similarly offer no objective evidence to support their claims. This further serves to make the Bible controversial, as it fails the gold standard of evidence-based proof. Instead, many of its stories are symbolic, providing a moral framework for those who follow it.

In retrospect, many events mentioned in the Bible are extraordinary and it’s understandable why many experts strongly question its place in history. This isn’t to say that the Bible is wrong or should be discounted, as its claims will always be subject to debate.


The Bible is a work of literature, not history. Its stories are meant to provide moral and spiritual guidance, not factual evidence. While some of the events and characters mentioned in it can be validated, much remains open to interpretation. This results in controversy, especially among historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists, who emphasize evidence-based proof over faith-based assertions.

Hilda Scott is an avid explorer of the Bible and inteprator of its gospel. She is passionate about researching and uncovering the mysteries that lie in this sacred book. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to bring faith and God closer to people all around the world.

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