The Gospels and History

Simple question: how much of the gospels are literal history and how much is historical fiction about Jesus? I’m sure the Church has an official position on this I just don’t know what it is.

This might be a good starting point.

Not sure what you mean by historical fiction.
The Church holds all of scripture to be inerrant. *Inerrant is not the same thing as historic and scientific accuracy. *

Just a few thoughts

*] Historical fiction, = " narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages".

*] scripture = 2 Timothy 3:16

That said,

*] Is the story of Jonah and the whale a myth?

*]Given the evidence for evolution, are Catholics required to believe Adam and Eve existed?
Styles of writing

*]Don’t the different styles of the Bible prove that God didn’t write it?

*]Adam, Eve, and Evolution


Thanks for the links. And yes, your definition of historical fiction is what I meant by the term.

To the OP. There is no historical fiction. If you could provide an example of a passage that you think qualifies for that category, it would be helpful.


Well, because you have limited the question to the “Gospels”, the answer is fairly straightforward. None of the four Gospels contain “historical fiction” However, that is not to say that they definitively narrate all issues in a strictly chronological fashion. That is especially true of John’s Gospel, which is true, but not intended to relate facts in a chronological fashion but rather to relate facts in support of theological teaching.

We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.

The Bible is didactic literature; it wants to teach, not just to describe. We try to make the Bible something it is not, and that’s doing an injustice to the biblical writers. They were good historians, and they could tell it the way it was when they wanted to, but their objective was always something far beyond that.

The Bible is not history; it’s his story—Yahweh’s story, God’s story. Trying to put modern definitions of “history” on the bible (note here I have broadened beyond the Gospels) is really a fool’s errand. That isn’t how the ancients related past events.

Jesus is a historical fact. A real person.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

"The senses of Scripture

115 "According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

116 "The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83

117 "The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

"1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.84

"2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.85

"3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86

118 "A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:

The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87

119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgement. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88

"But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me."89


I have no examples for you. It was a purely hypothetical question.


Great stuff, thanks! :slight_smile:

Parables. There is zero evidence that any of our Lord’s parables represent physical/historical reality. They do, however, teach true and eternal principles.

Raising the dead, healing the lepers, giving sight to the blind and more. These are things Jesus did. He said that Moses wrote concerning Him.

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”

John 5:46


EVERYTHING in the Bible is True, BUT not everything in the Bible is factual {literal}; however as the NT relates to Jesus; everything is TRUE at least in a Moral Lesson sense.

God Bless you,

In a presentation by Father Larry Richards carried on the radio I was fascinated to hear that the Holy Scriptures of the time of Jesus and his Apostles was the Septuagint as most clearly demonstrated by St. Paul’s citations. I had heard that sometime in the 3rd century AD Jewish scholars of a certain religious group promulgated a canon which was based on a Hebrew-language Scriptures to supplant the Septuagint which was written in Greek.

I read in Wikipedia, that it was Iraneous who objected to this new canon because, in particular, it supplanted the savior being born of “a virgin” with being born of “a young woman”.

Do Protestant challenge the virgin birth of Jesus on this basis? If not, why do they object to the Catholic insistence on the primacy of the Septuagint?

Do the Dead Sea Scrolls clarify this controversy?

It would seem that this is a clear illustration of how the Holy Scriptures were given to the Church to protect and explain and, indeed, even to construct its contents!! Powerful stuff, no? TIA, Winters

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