I realize there is probably a large spectrum of opinions on this matter. Nevertheless, what is the general consensus among academics on the historical reliability of the Bible? Is it a sound historical document or is it simply a book of legends? Considering the number of books that comprise the Bible, are some considered more historically accurate than others?
closed as not constructive by American Luke, Steven Drennon♦ Nov 21 '12 at 16:31
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The overall "feeling" is that it is neither historical fact nor legends. It is a book of stories, many of which have real events that lies behind them, and many that do not. There is a discussion about exactly what is true, though.
The well known stories such as the flood and the exodus generally have no or little evidence behind them, and often a lot of evidence against them. In general, there is very little archaeological evidence, if any, for the stories in the Bible. Attempt to prove that there was a united kingdom under King David etc has been inconclusive, for example.
There are however historical documents that corroborates some things in the Bible, mainly wars and sieges by Babylonian and Persian kings. Many of the kings mentioned in the Bible have left their own written texts and in some cases these agree with the Bible on the events.
The prevailing sentiment among many in archaeology is that their profession should not be used to "prove" components of the biblical narrative. Archaeology can't tell us whether something happened. It can merely provide evidence.
There is strong evidence for Biblical accuracy. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a good example of Scriptural confirmation. There is a good description of how scripture and archaeology interact in the last section of this article (titled: A cautionary word about "biblical" sites...).
The archaeological evidence for Sodom and Gomorrah seems compelling but remains disputable. The layout of the remains of the City of Jerusalem agrees well with biblical references. Hezekiah's tunnel is an especially fascinating feature.
Evidence may be subject to interpretation. For example: Some people claim that the fossil record is evidence of the flood. Others say that it supports evolution because carbon dating places the fossils at millions of years old. The flood (and usually young earth) people then point out that carbon dating is based on assumptions concerning the concentration of Carbon 14 at the time the fossils were alive.
The strong correlations between scripture, archaeology, and historical references is beyond coincidence.