Not a history book


In his homily at the Sunday Mass, Father uttered a very profound statement:
The Bible is not a history book but is words of wisdom.



I would say it contains both.


One bit I remember from a homily that really helped me was the reminder that the Bible is made up of many books, written under many circumstances, for many audiences. Some of it is letters and correspondence; some of it is poetry; some of it is history; some of it is allegory; some of it is law; and so on. You don’t read a letter like you read history, and you don’t read poetry like you read law.


Obviously, he is not referring to the first three chapters of Genesis from which basic fundamental Catholic doctrines flow.

Actually, Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. :smiley:


Was he referring to early history (Adam/Eve) or later history? (New Testament)

From my studies, I would say that biblical dates from King David onwards are rock solid reliable.



Ah, soundbites, for a low-attention-span audience.

No, the Bible is not a history textbook. It does not give historical facts in a “blow-by-blow” account of every event. But to call it “words of wisdom” is to completely underestimate the power of Sacred Scripture. Mahatma Gandhi had “words of wisdom” but his words were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible documents salvation history, which is more important than mere secular human history. It is the ONLY document for salvation history, so it commands a great deal of respect, yes, veneration. The Bible is more than a book. The Word of God is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ. The Word of God is living and true, and with us today, proclaimed at every Christian liturgy, and obeyed by Christians of good will.


My two cents.

The Bible is not a single, univocal book. It’s not a self-interpreting magical ‘book of answers’.

It is a library - a library of questions upon questions, many of which remain unresolved. It is polyvocal, speaking in many, different, sometimes even rather conflicting voices. In a way, it is a mirror of the world. (If as we Christians believe God inspired different writers who wrote in different genres from differing perspectives, who are we to stifle all those voices and smoothen the rough edges out?)

You’ll always discover something new. It isn’t meant to simply reassure the reader in his faith or preconceptions or make him feel good; the Scriptures are to challenge and confound any reader who wades through them, make him lost in the middle of the maze. And that’s the beauty of the thing. (I have a rather odd personal belief that you’re probably not reading your Bible carefully if you don’t come out with questions after reading it. :D)

There was Jewish saying about the Torah: “Turn the Torah over and over, for everything is in it. Look into it, grow old and worn over it, and never move away from it, for you will find no better portion than it.”


I agree to this. Divine revelation is intimately connected to real historical people and real historical events. The chosen people, the Israelites, are an historical people to whom God revealed himself too and through whom he was preparing for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. The focus of the New Testament is, of course, Jesus Christ who was a real historical person who performed many miracles. The life, public ministry, passion, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus into heaven isn’t going to make sense to us if these were not real historical events.

 Father was referring to the entire Bible: The Old Testament and The New Testament.


With all due respect, I think that your teacher is not correct. His emphasis on the “wisdom” of the Bible is correct of course, and that is admittedly the important part. Also, it may never become an issue of faith for older Christians.

However, younger Christians can suffer crises of confidence in scripture when faced with history “contradictions” from hostile skeptics. This is often why university students become agnostic. :sad_yes:

I think that it behooves us (and our pastors) to re-examine the historical information contained in the Bible. Progress has been made in the last century to resolve what used to be problems.


I’ll never forget when a wise old priest told us that the Bible should not be read like a history book, it should be read like a love letter from God.



but it has a lot of history so how can you not read it as a history book also?


Sacred history written by another culture in another language, which is to say that you cannot just crack it open and expect it to be like a history textbook from the 2000s or Encyclopedia Britannica.

The sacred writers are not 21st century Americans/Europeans with the same notions or values as you or I do. I remember when Western scholars in the 18th-19th century derided Hindus for ‘confusing’ and ‘conflating’ what in the Western POV would be called ‘mythology’ with ‘history’: to them it proved that Indians are an uncivilized, backward people. They never considered that Indian values and perspectives are not the same as Western values and perspectives. We could say the same for the writers of the biblical books: our idea of what ‘history’ is may not necessarily 100% the same as their idea of what ‘history’ is. Their values are not our values and vice versa.

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