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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 Is it a sound historical document or is it simply a book of legends?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?

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closed as not constructive by American Luke, Steven Drennon Nov 21 '12 at 16:31

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I don't think this question is that bad in its essence. Clean it up a bit and there is at the bottom a perfectly valid question about the reliability of he Bible as a historical document. –  Lennart Regebro Nov 22 '11 at 11:19
I think that if someone wiser than I were to edit this question it could be salvaged. Remove the religion tag and ask how we treat sources in the study of history. –  Mark C. Wallace Oct 10 '13 at 11:30

2 Answers 2

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There are however historical documents that corroborates some things in the Bible, mainly wars and sieges by Babylonian and Persian kings.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.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_history

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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.

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This is a horrible answer. There is of course some truth to the accounts of the Bible, but that's how (try to) gain credibility: by mixing fact with fiction. But the events of Genesis and Exodus are very strongly refuted by scientific evidence. So this assertion that "there is strong evidence for Biblical accuracy" is miserably wrong. –  Orion Oct 30 '11 at 4:56
The age of the Universe (13.7 billion years vs ~6000)? The Flood (no evidence exists) - and I mean, how ridiculous is the Ark story anyway? The creation of man (evolution vs. creation from dirt)? And a large group of people migrating through the desert would have left some evidence of this. There is none. –  Orion Oct 30 '11 at 5:02
@NullUserException All of your examples have not been proven. If God can create the universe, why can't he give it apparent age greater than actual age? The flood has not been proven false--in fact the large number of well preserved fossils supports the existance of a world-wide flood. The existence of fossil fuels (why didn't the trees just rot instead of being buried and turned to oil?) and the Grand Canyon also suggests the Flood is not impossible. The Israelites migrating through the desert had their food supplied daily, so what evidence is to be expected? –  JoeHobbit Oct 30 '11 at 5:13
Please, I am not having this argument with you. If you think stuff like Evolution is "just a theory," feel free to jump off the nearest ledge, since Gravity is also "just a theory". Obviously, anyone who can say with a straight face that science actually backs up the ridiculous stuff in the Bible can't be reasoned with. Sir, you win. –  Orion Oct 30 '11 at 5:15
@NullUserException I have no problem with micro or macro-evolution according to the scientific definitions. However, evolution of man from amoebas would take a lot more than the scientific definition of macro-evolution. –  JoeHobbit Oct 31 '11 at 1:55

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