Historically correct?


Which parts, verses of the Bible are historically correct/accurate? And what method could be used to declare “verse X” is historically accurate, while “verse Y” is inaccurate? Please do not try to derail by asking back: “what does it matter?”.


I doubt such a chart exists.


First of all, if by historically accurate, you mean by modern historical scholarship standards, likely very little. We can start by saying the Gospel accounts and the Acts were intended, by their authors, to be historically accurate. But they had a different understanding of that, than we do. Hence the discrepancies between the details of the four authors.

Imagine if you will, the guy writing the last gospel, and he had the other three sitting in front of him, plus perhaps his own memory and first hand accounts of other witnesses. If he was a modern historian, he would attempt to resolve the discrepancies and explain why and how he did so, or why he was unable to do so.
At that time, that was not how a "history " was done.


Different historians will give you different answers.


The Bible is a collection of books, and while some of those are historical in nature, they are not historically accurate books in the manner that you inquired about.

They are meant to tell the STORY of salvation history - through various kinds of writing.

You may know that the chapters and verses were put in at a much later date - as was the organizing of which books to included, and the order that they would occur in.

So there is no way of parsing this verse or that one as historically correct while the very next (or preceding) one may not be.

The Bible is just not the kind of book that can be divided in the way you suggest.

Deacon Christopher


I am talking about the problem: “is verse X a factually correct description of what happened?”

So there is no way to decide if any verse is factually (historically) correct?


Down to the exact detail? I thought my answer would have sufficed for that.

Every verse is factually correct, I am using the term factually to be equivalent to truthful. Historically correct, again, you are looking at it the wrong way. The Deacon explained that quite well.


As every text was written before the enlightenment, I doubt it would be prudent to treat any of it with the same rigor as your college history text.

The perspective through which you want to read it is one that didn’t exist when any of it was written.

See the issue?

Making it worse, some of it is trying to convey a point without being historically true. Daniel and Ester might not have happened.

But that’s not the point.


I am using it to accurately display the actual events. That is what “truthful” means. Did Jesus actually walk on water, and actually perform all those miracles? If there was no actual resurrection, then Christianity is unfounded.

Why not? Christianity is founded upon texts which are supposed to be historically and factually correct, which prove the existence of the supernatural deity. It is not supposed be just the collection of wise stories.


As gently as I can while being frank, only the naive and uneducated consider the biblical narratives as such.

Viewing them in that light would be a case of interpretive anachronism so clear as to be exemplar.

For starters, the bible isn’t one text. It’s a collection of many texts - written in different times in different cultures by different people for different purposes.


As such? As “what”?


It doesn’t sound like you’re asking if the Bible is “historically correct” as an academic person would use the term today. “Historicity” would mean there is some independent proof other than the Scripture that something happened. There is historical evidence support for a few parts of Scripture (for example, the existence of the Jewish King David, the fact that Jesus Christ existed and was crucified under Pilate) but for much of Scripture, there isn’t. Many parts of Scripture were not written as a historical account but rather in a specific writing style familiar to the target audience at the time, in order to convey a specific message or point.

But you seem to be asking, rather, if the events of Jesus’ life actually happened, in other words are the Gospels the truth. Yes they are, and yes the events described such as Jesus’ miracles and resurrection did actually occur. But if someone asked us to historically prove, as in prove with some archaeological evidence or independent sources, that Jesus walked on water or rose from the dead, we don’t have any independent “historical proof” for that. It’s a matter of faith for us.

About the only aspects of Jesus’ life that historians (which includes non-Catholics and non-Christians) agree on from a historical evidence standpoint is that Jesus existed, that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

On the subject of Catholic Scripture interpretation generally, you might find this article helpful.


On one hand, we can look to the teaching of the Church (although, to be honest, the Church doesn’t have the kind of verse-by-verse cross-reference that you’re looking for, either).

But, often, we find that Church Fathers take verses that we’d consider literal and preach on them allegorically. So, the mere presence of an allegorical interpretation doesn’t imply that we don’t take a passage as literal history.

In general, we’d view the NT as attempting to be historically accurate. There are “historical books” of the OT, in whose narratives we would suggest we find events that happened as described.

But no… there’s no ‘master index’ of the sort you want. After all, the Bible is a book that’s meant to teach us God’s plan for our salvation, not a mere history book.

Perhaps in a 21st-century approach. However, the point of the Bible is to teach salvation; as others have said, it does so truthfully.

We would say ‘yes’. (Don’t ask Thomas Jefferson, though. :wink: )

St Paul makes this exact assertion in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15.

Seriously, though: what is it that you’re looking for, in particular?


Are these mutually exclusive?


Have you ever taught a lesson using a historical event?

Have you ever taught a lesson using a description that’s non-historical?

They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they can be… :wink:


Its not a matter if they are mutually exclusive or not. Its a matter if they were written to the level of historical accuracy one would expect from a history book today, or to have a clear explanation of what is known and unknown as to the details. They were not.
You need to realize this a Catholic forum, Catholics have never been concerned with the literal accuracy of the Bible that some protestants presume. So you will not find what you are looking for here, because it is not important to us. Our faith does not rely on the fact that every little detail actually happened exactly as described. And when you are wanting to know down to the verse level what is “historically accurate”, that is a very fine detail.


I wonder if you can speak authoritatively for ALL Catholics. Of course Catholics in general do not subscribe to the concept of “Sola Scriptura”, but that does not mean that the whole text of the Bible is allegorical in nature.

But some details are important… like the resurrection. How do you differentiate between the “important” and the “not so important” events? Is the description of the events in Genesis historically / factually accurate? And even if it is just an allegorical description of an actual event… what really happened?


Historians and scholars spend their whole careers attempting to figure out this exact thing. Many of them will say that there are significant portions of the NT that “we” simply cannot know happened, because they do not fit the criteria necessary.

I know this will not be popular with many on the board, but Bart Ehrman is a distinguished historian and scholar of the NT and maintains a blog, in which he posts 5 or 6 times a week. He even answers members questions. He charges $25 for annual membership, which all goes to charitable organizations. He has a good pulse as to what scholars think on many of the issues. Although a non-believer, most of the scholars he converses with are believers.


One of the issues is that historians can not recreate any event in the past. What they do is look at the probabilities using what we know of reality today. This is why a historian AS AN HISTORIAN cannot claim that any miracle occurred. By definition a miracle is a supernatural event or involves supernatural interference.

A historian CAN say that Jesus existed and was crucified. There is no way they can confirm an improbable event such as the resurrection. The resurrection is a theological belief.

I agree with the BART Ehrman recommendation if you want to know what historians can say about the NT and what they can’t. He has written many books for the regular reader that explains how historians work and how they know what they know. Start with Did Jesus Exist? It’s a good introduction to scholarship by NT historians.


The Resurrection itself is not considered a “detail”. It’s a central doctrine of the Church. We rely not only on sacred Scripture but on tradition for our knowledge of it. And as PattyIt said, it’s a theological belief.

A “detail” would be something like whether there were three angels at the tomb or four.

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