Is the Bible True or False?
The Da Vinci Code Argument TM
Just because a book contains some factual references does not make the whole book factual.
There are some stories written in the Christian Bible that have archaeological, geological or other evidence to back them up; or at least indicate a strong likelihood for being based on real places, people or events. However this does not necessarily prove that what the Bible says happened to them, or what they said or did, is true or correct.
For instance, there is evidence that Jericho was an occupied area as far back as the Natufian period (10,800-8,500 BC), and in the Early / Middle Bronze Age (3100-1800 BC) had extensive defensive walls. There is also evidence that Jericho was destroyed in the Late Bronze Age (1800-1400 BC). (from The Archaeology of the Ancient City of Jericho)
However, is there evidence that the walls of Jericho were blown down at the sound of Joshua’s horn? No, and it seems highly unlikely.
We have evidence for Jericho (or at least dwellings in the area prescribed to be Jericho) actually existing and being destroyed at some stage, however, this does not prove the story of Joshua being true as there is no evidence for the sounds of horns destroying the city. True, the absence of evidence does not mean it didn’t occur, a supernatural occurrence might not leave any natural evidence, but it also doesn’t prove it did occur. Additionally it is now held that Jericho was destroyed in 1562 BCE, well over 100 years before the accepted time of the biblical story.
Despite some stories having some evidence, there are also stories for which, despite intensive searches and investigation, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and in some cases completely contradictory evidence.
… geological investigations [have] proved without a doubt that there was no planet-wide flood as described in the Old Testament of the bible, …
from Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? History of Archaeology, Part 3 :
So, let’s not ask if the Bible is true or false. Instead, let’s ask a series of questions.
1. Did the places and cultures that are mentioned in the Bible and the other ancient texts exist? Yes, in many cases, they did. Archaeologists have found evidence for many of the locations and cultures mentioned in the ancient texts.
2. Did the events that are described in these texts happen? Some of them did; archaeological evidence in the form of physical evidence or supporting documents from other sources can be found for some of the battles, the political struggles, and the building and collapse of cities.
3. Did the mystical things that are described in the texts occur? It’s not my area of expertise, but if I were to hazard a guess, if there were miracles that occurred, they wouldn’t leave archaeological evidence. [Personally I don’t totally agree with this last statement from the author of the About.com article, some supernatural miracles could leave evidence, not necessarily evidence for their supernaturalness but evidence something happened]
4. Since the places and the cultures and some of the events that are described in these texts happened, shouldn’t we just assume that the mysterious parts also happened? No. Not any more than since Atlanta burned, Scarlett O’Hara really was dumped by Rhett Butler.
There are many many ancient texts and stories about how the world began; and many are at variance with one another. From a global human standpoint, why should one ancient text be more accepted than any other? The mysteries of the bible and other ancient texts are just that — mysteries. It is not, and never has been, within the archaeological purview to prove or disprove their reality. That is a question of faith, not science.
In my opinion, if you have to rely on faith, then in all likelihood it isn’t true.
The fact that parts of the bible are somewhat backed up by some evidence, doesn’t mean the whole of the bible is factual, especially all the supernatural elements of it. There are far too many errors in the bible, and sections for which there is no, or contradictory, evidence, for the Bible to be accepted as a factual book.
Why I call it The Da Vinci Code Argument TM. The Da Vinci Code contains a lot of facts; places, names and events that are real. It also contains a lot of “FICTS” (a made up word that represents a fiction that has some basis in fact or sounds convincing enough that it might be a fact), it is though a work of fiction. The Bible is, in a way, similar to the Da Vinci Code; it contains some factual places, names and events, it also contains some “ficts”, but overall it is a work of fiction.
When the Da Vinci Code was released there was quite an uproar among some elements of society, particularly the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and others spent considerable time and effort debunking some of the “facts”, “ficts”, myths and legends mentioned in the book. Dan Brown may have stated some points as facts that obviously weren’t, whether this was intentional or not is debatable, but ultimately everyone knew (or should have) that the book was a work of fiction.
It’s a pity that the Catholic Church and other Christians don’t spend as much time and effort debunking their own book, the Bible has been shown to contain many factual errors, contains plagiarised versions of older myths and statements about supernatural events that can never be proved. Rather than trying to bend and twist what little facts are in the Bible into declaring the Bible factual, perhaps it’s about time the churches came out and admitted the Bible is a work of fiction?
This post was inspired by a comment on Atheist Climber’s Scared of Death post, in which sabepashubbo questions how can we say the bible is a work of fiction when it contains some facts.