Some people say that the Bible is just a book, others say that its 100% accurate. The statistics might lie, so what I want to know is how the Bible compares to other books. Books like the encyclopedia, known historical writings and other books. The comparisons can definitely use statistics, but I definitely am looking for other books that the Bible does, or does not compare with.

edit: What I'm really curious about is if the premise: "The Bible is as accurate as an encyclopedia." is true, or if this premise could be true for any other history book.

closed as not a real question by Caleb Sep 18 '11 at 14:02

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    Hmm... interesting question... but I'm not sure how to answer it... :) – Flimzy Sep 17 '11 at 19:12
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    How could anyone answer that question if most people can't agree on what parts of the bible should be taken literally or not. – Sven Sep 17 '11 at 19:12
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    @Sven: Easy: by giving an answer based on a given (stated) set of Biblical hermeneutics. – Caleb Sep 17 '11 at 20:18
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    I agree with Sven. This topic is either (a) too broad or (b) going to incite arguments. If I say "Yes", then I have to prove the entire Bible. If I say "No", then any example I pick is going to be hotly debated. (Even a "Yes" answer may invite debates.) – Richard Sep 18 '11 at 12:55
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    This question is flirting with all kind of things that aren't good question form here. Too broad, unanswerable, likely to cause extended debate, list-ish, and so on. Let's work on a way to break this down into manageable pieces. – Caleb Sep 18 '11 at 14:08

If the Bible is 100% accurate, it is accurate in a different sense than we would apply to other books.

Studies of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica found an average of one serious error per ten articles (each)--this number is not stated but can be calculated from numbers given here. An article is usually a few hundred words (exactly how many depends on the edition), so that's a serious error every few thousand words.

Unfortunately, most of the events described in the Bible are hard to rigorously validate, unlike encyclopedias where most every statement can be validated. Nonetheless, we can attempt to validate the Bible against itself by comparing a straightforward interpretation (as one would use with an encyclopedia) of different passages in the Bible.

The best opportunity to do this is with the Gospels since they all describe the same period of time. Thus, we can use them for cross-validation (when interpreted plainly as a historical account).

Matthew 1:16 (ESV) explains:

and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

But Luke 3:23 (ESV) instead says:

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

Joseph is presumably not the son of both Heli and Jacob, so at least by the standards used with encyclopedias*, this is an error.

According to Matthew 2:13-15 (ESV), Jesus spent some time in Egypt (immediately following a visit by the wise men):

13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Luke, on the other hand, seems to indicate that Jesus never left (Luke 2:21-42 are all relevant, in but brief):

21And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

So within about 5000 words, we have one assuredly contradictory account and one probable contradiction--no better than encyclopedias (and perhaps worse, since this is not an exhaustive survey, and many accounts cannot be confirmed).

Thus, claims that the Bible is 100% accurate, if correct, cannot mean that it's 100% accurate in the way you would expect an encyclopedia to be 100% accurate.

*There is a "Levirate marriage" explanation for the discrepancy, but we generally don't expect encyclopedias to require us to go to so much trouble to figure out what is being said. Also, there's Ram vs. Arni and Admin in the Abraham to David line; Ruth agrees with Matthew, not Luke on this.

  • There is a list of historical inaccuracies at truth-saves that are worth looking at. Also a list of contradictions. They are the few sections of the site that are not simply opinions. – DampeS8N Sep 18 '11 at 1:04
  • @DampeS8N: Interesting links. Although the first link has some dates wrong; it says the Bible claims the Battle of Jericho happened before the Tower of Babel, for instance. – Flimzy Sep 18 '11 at 5:21
  • @Flimzy: All human made texts contain errors. – DampeS8N Sep 18 '11 at 14:38

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