Scientific Mistakes in the Bible?

Does the bible contain science mistakes? I was listening to a Catholic Apologist here in Brazil, and he said that although the bible does contain some scientific mistakes such as the fact that some of the writers of the bible thought the earth was plain and it refers to the “four sides of the earth” he said that the main message of the bible remains intact, which is the core message of jesus, etc.

But anyone could help me with this?
As far as I know, the bible doesn’t even infer on dealing with issues of the natural world, and I always thought it was metaphors, such as in the case when the bible mentions that in the end of times the stars would fall, and many other things.

Well…it does say in Genesis, i think, that the sun was formed after the earth.
That would raise eyebrows among scientists.

But is there even much science in the Christian canon?


On the other hand the Levitical law contained such things as regulations containing instruction on sanitation, camp cleanliness and the isolation of those with contagious and infectious diseases that were not discovered by Gentile society until millennia later.


Well, many of the strange things that happen in the bible cannot be explained thru science, as they are supernatural in nature, or at least partially. Thats a stumbling block for our world today, because most people expect EVERYTHING to have a scientific explanation. Personally, it doesnt bother me, I recognize that some things that happen in the world are supernatural and cannot be explained, not really a big deal to me, even things like this that happen in modern times dont bother me.

If someone is constantly searching for some scientific explanation for every single thing that happens, I tend to think their faith is probably pretty weak, and/or they dont really believe God is God

Believe it or not, even in this day and age, there are still alot of people and groups that believe the earth is flat or a square/rectangle. I was surprised when I first heard of this few years ago, but when you read some of their statements and theories, it kind of does make sense! Although I really dont believe it, I will admit its possible they are right, BUT, if they are, this would mean, the wool has been pulled over 99% of the population today, and ALOT of people are ‘in on’ this earth is truly round hoax!!

Genesis 30:37-42 would have us believe that both the appearance and strength of a flock of sheep’s offspring can be determined by what they stare at when mating.

Since the bible is not a science book, there can be no scientific mistakes. It’s like asking if there are any mathematical mistakes in the writings of T.S. Eliot.

Even if the main thrust of a work isn’t scientific or mathematical it can have those types of errors. I’m not terribly familiar with T.S. Eliot’s work, but if some other playwright had a story where a poor man had to pay back a loan with interest and the numbers don’t add up then it’s a mathematical mistake. The play may be concerned with the efforts of the poor man and not about how to calculate interest, but that doesn’t mean mistakes unrelated to the main thrust of the story can’t happen.

The same is true for the Bible. Although you can say that the Bible isn’t a science book it can still make scientific errors (as well as historical and mathematical errors among others).

Why is that a mistake. Even today we use the expression to all corners of the earth even though the earth does not have corners. It is simply an expression. Why do people take these things so literally.

It still would not be a mistake. Some novelists may go for exact verisimilitude, others not so much. If you point out that they got something wrong about math or a geographic location or anything else, they will say, “So what? That’s not what the story was about.”

And in science fiction, which is supposed to be about science, writers invent scientifically impossible scenarios on purpose.

If I am reading mother goose stories to children, and the child asks, “wait, how can an old woman live in a shoe?” I would point out that they are being too literal.

And an ancient author, even writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and intending to teach some truths about God, had absolutely no intention of informing people of that time or our own time about scientific facts.

I guess I’d better be more guarded when I say that “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

:thumbsup: Thank you, I was waiting for someone to mention that the Bible is not a science book! If I want to know how old the universe might be or how it was formed I will read the latest astronomy book. If I want to know who put the universe into motion at the ‘Big Bang’, I will consult the Bible! :slight_smile:

That makes no sense. Just because it’s not a science book, doesn’t mean it can’t contain erroneous science on its pages.

If T.S. Eliot had a scene in his novels in which a character adds two plus two equals five…that would be a mathematical mistake.
It may not make a difference in the plot of the book…but still, the error as we know it would be there.


How does one know what to take as literal and what is not to be taken as literal?

I don’t get your point.
Just because an “ancient author” might have no intentions of informing people about science, it still doesn’t mean they can’t write something that we know today is not correct regarding the laws of science.

And most novelists, if they are to be respected, go out of their way to research facts about geography etc for their novels to be as correct as much as possible.
In Science Fiction, writers are usually inventing something in the future…something we would not know yet may be correct or incorrect.


Bad example I think. That is a story of how Jacob successfully used animal husbandry. Jacob was a sophisticated farmer. Follow the story a bit more and you see that he used the marker of the reeds in the trough to only allow the strong animals to breed when they were near the trough. The animals knew over time that if you go to the marked watering trough you get to breed. The marker was an important cue for the animals. Tricks like that are used by farmers today. It is a matter of association in the mind of the animal. Trough with white reeds = good. Go there when in heat!

So the animal husbandry technique was basically this: when the strong animals were drinking, allow them to breed when in heat. They can see the reeds, and will come there to breed again. That is the breeding spot. Weak animals were kept away and separated, not allowed to breed. The weak ones have their own unmarked watering holes.This way the animals come to one place to breed. That way the farmer doesn’t have to roam around all over chasing spotted animals!

Since he started with animals taken from a herd that DID contain spotted animals, he knew from experience that he could get more spotted ones. Remember there is intentional deception going on here. He is starting with a flock where all the speckled animals have been removed. ‘Any sheep that is NOT speckled will be considered stolen’. He is outsmarting someone here. He wants people to think that the rods in the water were were some kind of magic, but actually he is just a great animal breeder.

Obviously as time passed, he selected for the spotted ones, and the strong ones using his system. He ended up with a herd of strong spotted animals. He knew exactly what he was doing. He effectively stole someone’s herd. That’s how they played back then!

JimG makes a very good point, although we have to be careful not to see the Bible as homogeneous in its intent. Some of it is intended to be correct scientifically (or at least to use the latest scientific knowledge) while other parts are obviously meant to be more like a religious story or long parable (most people would probably put Jonah and Job in that last category).

But we must always remember that this question is part of something much larger. St Paul says: “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

The Holy Spirit that guided the very ordinary people who wrote the Bible allowed their human failings to show. While there is great wisdom and moral power in the Bible, the Holy Spirit made no attempt to change the historical, grammatical, and scientific misunderstanding of these ordinary people. Many of those errors are so egregious that many great philosophers, including St. Augustine (for the first part of his life) struggled with the Bible.

Provided that your remember that ‘God’s folly is greater than human wisdom’ and that ‘God chose the foolish to shame the wise’ and that the fact that a ‘book’ was divinely inspired does not mean that we should read it out of the context it was written for, we can find and learn from many scientific ‘mistakes’ in the Bible. A moral story (with a wonderful sense of humor that can be understood by even young children) like Jonah should not be confused as being historical.

For what a divinely inspired author gets wrong (and right) about science can tell us a lot about the intent and the knowledge of the author and those to whom he is writing. When God describes how He created the world when He chastises Job is one of the greatest works of literature in the whole Bible. It is also very fascinating in the insight that it gives into what the culture of that time thought about how the world was structured. There is some evidence that Matthew uses astrological terms (which includes some small amount of science merged with a huge heaping of nonsense) to describe the movement of the Star of Bethlehem. When Jesus talks about light leaving the eye (as opposed to entering it) it tells us something about Jesus the man (assuming that is an original saying of Jesus and not something inspired by the Holy Spirit later).

If you have the right attitude, there is much that you can learn from the scientific mistakes in the Bible (as well as the historical and grammatical ones).

We must always remember that in all of salvation history God has systematically shown his power and wisdom through the hands and lips of the weak and foolish. Whether Moses, Abraham, Jonah, Jeremiah, Mary, Peter, or Paul, all were weak, foolish or both. We should not fear scientific mistakes in the Bible (nor try to sweep them away); rather we should remember the words of Paul: ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;’

I watched a special the other day on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, archeologists went to the area these cities once were and dug down, they did find lots of evidence of a MAJOR destruction there, lots of blackened things, and it happened very quickly too, and was devastating instantly.

BUT, they tried to give this destruction a natural explanation, they tried to say this was caused by asteroids or other such things that fell to earth, NOT ONCE, did they admit it may have been an act of God, they would never say such a thing anyway, no matter what happened, they would always try to make people believe it was a natural incident and God played no part in it.

These are the people, that I believe, even when Jesus comes again, they will be standing there trying to tell everyone its a natural event, nothing supernatural about it! LOL, sad thing is though, Id imagine lots of people will believe every word they say! They will not give God credit for anything.

I like St. Augustine’s view of this:

“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation” (ibid., 2:9).


“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).

Don’t worry.* A lot* of people give God *a lot *of credit for natural disasters and cities being destroyed and millions of people dying.

I think I saw that same doc. Are you talking about the one that talks about the stone tablet that describes an asteroid falling in Austria?
If so, you have it backwards.
This specific documentary was not attempting to explain the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were investigating the destruction that went on in that area, and suggested that this destruction was maybe what inspired the story of S&G that ended up in the canon.

But…if one believed in God, then wouldn’t an asteroid be considered an act of God?

You ever accidentally sit on a sharp rock on the beach?

You’re darn tootin’ Earth has corners.

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