Is the Bible historically accurate?


This question came up in my mind because I saw a Penn and Teller episode about the Bible, and it seems that the Bible is historically inaccurate.

How does one prove that the Bible is historically accurate?


The point of the Bible is salvation. God gave us the Bible so that we might be saved. Everything God wanted in the Bible for our salvation is without error.

Historical accuracy is not the point of the Bible. Whether the Bible is historically accurate or not completely misses the point of the Bible.

I’m sure Penn and Teller are nice people but they should stick to illusions and comedy and leave Biblical scholarship to trained professionals. There are a lot better places to learn about the Christian faith than from Penn and Teller. The entire topic is covered in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation - Dei Verbum.



No one truly familiar with the Bible would expect it be be historically accurate. There are many different genres represented in the library of scripture we call the Bible. There are poems, songs, dramas, and poetry besides the books actually called the historical books.

Remember this doesn’t mean that we believe the Bible isn’t true. It just means we are focused on the Great Truths in the overarching themes of faith that it contains.


New archaeological finds have been supporting the historicity of the bible for decades.


Archaeology have proven many of the historical facts in the Bible to be true. That is not the same thing as being able to depend upon it as we would a history book.


By reading Bible History, OT History and archeology
rather than comedians. :smiley:
The Bible is actually remarkably historically accurate
and more proofs come up day by day.
There discrepancies such as Maccabees 3 and 4
which really have nothing to do with Maccabean period
but are fictional accounts of persecution under Ptolemy.
You won’t find 3 and 4 in a Catholic Bible for that
very reason.

Agape Bible Study in the link below does a fabulous
job of giving actual non religious historical references
to details in the Bible from those outside the Jewish
or Christian community which provide a lot of knowledge
for the Church to use verifying Bible accounts.
Check it out.


The historical accuracy of the Bible has only been seriously questioned over the last 150 years, but it is misinformed criticism. Its historical accuracy is far better than originally thought.

I believe we can precisely date major events as far back as Abraham, and many events in between. For example:

*]Exodus Egypt 1444 BC
*]Promised Land 1404 BC
*]Division Kingdom 930 BC
*]Fall of Samaria 718 BC
*]Fall Jerusalem 587 BC
*]Babylon Destroyed 539 BC
*]Crucifixion Christ 30 AD


I believe the Bible is historically accurate. A lot of the perceived historical inaccuracy (and I have not seen the Penn and Teller episode to which you refer) is focused on the Babylonian, Medes and Persian 600-400BC era. It is unfortunate that that period of time has only been recorded by Herodotus, which is a history that for him was second hand from someone who purported to be in the area, and one who certainly did not live for 200 years. Some of it conflicts another writing written by a Greek mercenary soldier.

The Greek was so isolated from that region that according to Josephus, they were entirely unaware of the antiquity of the Jews.


Forget about historical accuracy and concentrate on salvation. The Bible is about salvation, not history. Arguing about the historical accuracy of the Bible completely misses the point of the Bible.



I disagree. Reading the actual history behind the
events outlined in the Bible with expanded details
on stuff we usually skip over like: the significance
of the Kings Vicar- his duties and why, or the times
of the two Tamid lamb sacrifices in the temple with
the Crucifixion–


All these serve to broaden a persons understanding
of what we believe and why. It is very faith affirming.
The more I read each book of the Bible with good
historical references alongside my awareness of
the actual truth of Catholicism especially Roman
Catholicism grows by leaps and bounds.



Please don’t change the subject.



The following should help those who need to understand that although the Bible uses various literary forms, it does record actual history. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are factual realities that need to be part of us. The fact that Pope John Paul II and other popes have/are being named saints is because of actual literal events that are attributed to their intercession for us to God. God did not end his work 2,000 years ago. The same Jesus is alive right now.



I am totally in love with studying the background of the Bible, so I agree with all but your first two words! The study of the history and the culture of the people in the Readings you are studying is absolutely essential. We don’t study the history of the bible by using the Bible as our primary source. We select “facts” and search competent sources to verify the facts, interpret the cultural meaning, and deepen our understanding in exactly the way you describe,

I don’t think that is the point of Timothy’s post. (Forgive me, Tim!) He is stressing that the Bible was never intended to be mere history. We don’t want to let our focus on the facts distract us from the message. Interpretation of scripture is the search for God’s great revelations. There are many correct details. There are erroneous details. (Misnaming a name or town for instance.) Neither of these examples of lack of historicity diminishes the revelation of God’s Divine Plan.


It is historically accurate.

It records God’s acts with humanity.

It is our inability to understand all of those actions which makes it extraordinarily difficult to comprehend.


I like TimothyH, but he is dead wrong here because he contradicts the teaching of the Church, which is that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and again that the sacred writers did not speak of themselves but inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Read what the Second Vatican said about the extent of Divine Inspiration.

For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

The council teaches that all of Scripture in all of its parts is inspired by God. Moreover, it teaches that the inspired authors wrote everything that God wanted to be written and that he did not allow anything to be written that he did not want to be written. Thus God is truly the author of every single part of Scripture. But God does not lie, so how can Scripture be false when it speaks historically?

The root of Timothy’s error in the interpretation of Dei Verbum is a badly translated sentence:

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.

The mistake is that salvation is the reason which God revealed truth in the Scripture, not the extent of either truth or inspiration. This is obscured in the English word order and by baffling translation choices such as translating “veritatem” as “that truth,” implying that the text is qualifying the extent of truth rather than what the original text says, which is that the books of Scripture teach the truth firmly, faithfully and without error. The point is that everything the inspired authors asserted is asserted by the Holy Spirit, not just some things.


Note also that footnotes 4 and 5 in the quoted texts refer to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus. Here is what Leo had to say about error in Scripture.

  1. The principles here laid down will apply cognate sciences, and especially to History. It is a lamentable fact that there are many who with great labour carry out and publish investigations on the monuments of antiquity, the manners and institutions of nations and other illustrative subjects, and whose chief purpose in all this is too often to find mistakes in the sacred writings and so to shake and weaken their authority. Some of these writers display not only extreme hostility, but the greatest unfairness; in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture, if they only find in it a suspicion of error, is set down with the slightest possible discussion as quite untrustworthy. It is true, no doubt, that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible; this question, when it arises, should be carefully considered on its merits, and the fact not too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear. It may also happen that the sense of a passage remains ambiguous, and in this case good hermeneutical methods will greatly assist in clearing up the obscurity. But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.”(57) Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.”(58) And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution. "(59)

  2. It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. And so emphatically were all the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error, that they laboured earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance - the very passages which in great measure have been taken up by the “higher criticism;” for they were unanimous in laying it down, that those writings, in their entirety and in all their parts were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything but what was true. The words of St. Augustine to St. Jerome may sum up what they taught: “On my part I confess to your charity that it is only to those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”(60)


I tend to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt and rather doubt the accuracy of recorded history based upon how man has recorded it, which is ever-changing. Do I trust the Bible or what some Berkley professor writes in a history book? I know which one I trust.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit