Monday, June 25, 2018

The Bible as (Non) History


For the past few days, several of my religious Facebook friends have climbed back on the old warhorse by claiming that the Bible is historically accurate.  One challenged me to show otherwise.  That’s not hard at all.  Anyone with a computer can go on line and find endless reams of material that details biblical inaccuracies.  

However, one religious friend who doesn’t use Facebook said that she couldn’t accept such findings since they are open to “interpretations.”  I accept that limitation and will present only evidence that isn’t open to any kind of argument. I do not claim this list is complete.  There’s not enough room on the internet for that.

Here are the highlights of errors from the Old Testament:

Moon rocks
Scientific research on chemicals found on Earth, in moon rocks and in meteors clearly shows a consistent result of about 4.6 billion years.  Such evidence from folds in the Earth, stratification such as visible in the Grand Canyon and multiple geological studies demonstrate the vast number of years needed to develop today’s environment. Simply adding up biblical years is pointless and completely refuted by scientific study.

In the beginning, the biblical order of creation starts with the Earth and places stars, birds and whales before reptiles and insects, as well as flowering plants ahead of animals. Science has easily demonstrated that’s the reverse of reality.

On the first day, God created light, but the sun and moon don’t arrive until the fourth day: “the greater light [the sun] to rule the day, and the lesser light [the moon] to rule the night.” However, the moon has no light.  It only reflects the sun. Nevertheless, repeated biblical writers in the Old and New Testament somehow think the moon creates its own light and that the stars are incredibly close.  Vegetation, created on the third day, would have no sun, based on the biblical version.

Noah’s flood is impossible, not just from all the geological evidence to the contrary.  Scientific research into DNA shows that, for humans to be as diverse as we are, the population had to contain a minimum of 1,500 unrelated individuals, not just a single family on a floating zoo. 

Sodom and Gomorrah, two large and prosperous cities supposedly destroyed by God, are phantoms.  No other culture mentioned the cities despite voluminous records, and no trace of them has ever been found.  The tiny bit of ruins today erroneously called Sodom shows no sign of the “fire and brimstone” and contains maybe six homes in contrast with the biblical account. 

The story of Jewish slavery doesn’t match known history.  For starters, Egypt did not use forced labor to build anything.  Moreover, documented evidence, including archaeological, written language and other finds from the region, shows that Jews lived in what is now Israel the entire time period of their supposed sojourn in Egypt.  Moreover, many of the cities cited in the text did not exist until centuries later.

Scholars now think the Exodus account was a fabrication to justify a war with Egypt in the 8th century B.C.E., when the first texts were written down.  Yes, that’s an interpretation, but it matches the complete lack of evidence of any wandering in the Sinai Desert or Jewish presence in Egypt.

In Leviticus, we are told that hares and coneys (akin to a rabbit) are unclean because they “chew the cud” but do not part the hoof. However, those animals are ruminants; they don’t have cuds.

In Daniel, the author doesn’t know the name of the king.  He identifies Belshazzar as the king. Here’s actual history: Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BCE.  His son, Awil-Marduk (who the Bible calls "Evilmerodach") followed him on the throne, but was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Nergal-shar-usur, in 560. The next and last king of Babylon was Nabonidus who reigned from 556 to 539, when Babylon was conquered by Cyrus. Belshazzar was a son of Nabonidus, but not king or a relative of Nebuchadnezzar.

Not one to stop there, the author then makes Darius the successor to Cyrus.  Actually, that was Cambyses.

The New Testament is no better. Here’s just a few known historical mistakes.  

Herod the Great
The census described in Luke took place, in 6 C.E., 10 years after Herod the Great died.  However, Matthew said Jesus was born when Herod was in power.  According to Luke, Emperor Augustus ordered the whole world registered. Not true. In fact, the census was held only to determine taxable property in Judea, which had been placed under Roman control.  No one had to return home, such as Joseph from Galilee to Bethlehem. Luke just wanted to get Jesus to Bethlehem for polemic purposes.  So did Matthew; he just used a different device that contradicted Luke.  Mark and John are sure Jesus was born in Galilee.

There was no murder of the innocents as described in Matthew.  Josephus, who left us a detailed history of the time period, hated Herod and yet knew nothing about this supposed slaughter.

One of my favorites in the New Testament is where Paul was bitten by a snake on Malta.  The pagans there decided Paul must be a god because he didn’t die.  Except there are no snakes on Malta.  Never have been.  (That’s true in Ireland, too, despite stories of Patrick.)

Close examination of records from the time of Pontius Pilate show that the description of the trial of Jesus bears no resemblance to documented Roman trials.  For one, judges were never seen.  There was no “tradition” of freeing anyone on Passover.  Romans never “wash hands” to free themselves from guilt.  That was a Jewish custom. The Sanhedrin didn’t meet on holidays; there’s no record of any earthquake in that time.  

Having written several books detailing many – but not all – of the textual problems, I see no reason to continue a familiar recitation.

I do not mind when anyone uses the Bible as a moral and ethical guide.  As long as readers overlook the massacres and zealous hatreds, there are lots of positive ideas.  Nor do I have any problem with someone believing in any of the known 4,600 religions.  Belief is personal, and no one can possibly claim any belief is wrong.  No one knows.  Besides, beliefs can have positive benefits for some people.

Albert Schweitzer

However, as soon as someone insists that the Bible somehow is historically accurate, I object strenuously.  The biblical authors were not trying to write history.  They were successfully transmitting religious concepts and eagerly distorting facts to fulfill that goal.  Historians, including a minister like Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the 19th century, have known that since the 1700s when the first examinations of the books began to reveal some of its flaws.

To claim inerrancy – which is a relatively new belief anyway, dating from the 1800s – is to ignore the extensive and readily available research that clearly and unconditionally proves otherwise. 

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  A recent book, Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.


  1. Roger M Pearlman Hi Bill, I give you credit for making some specific points. Yet all the facts built on have legit YeC explanations.
    while my expertise is in that Babylonian King chronology where it fully aligns w/ Chazal and Belshazzar being the son of Evil-Merodach son of Nebuchadnezer, not the ignorance based current consensus,

    Like · Reply · 11m

    Roger M Pearlman Here I will briefly comment on: you wrote:
    'On the first day, God created light, but the sun and moon don’t arrive until the fourth day: “the greater light [the sun] to rule the day, and the lesser light [the moon] to rule the night.” However, the moon has no light. It only reflects the sun. Nevertheless, repeated biblical writers in the Old and New Testament somehow think the moon creates its own light and that the stars are incredibly close by. Vegetation, created on the third day, would have no sun, based on the biblical version.'

    Per SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis and model, hyper-dense proto galactic formation was on day one. The sun existed prior to day four but the orbits for it , the moon and stars.. at the mature size were set by the end of day four.
    The moon had a molten phase, however brief, so would have generated iit's own light, just like you can see molten lava from a volcano at night.
    Even w/o taking into account the sun already existed day 3 vegetation can easily last a day w/o any sunlight, and if you study on you will see no rain till yet (till after Adam prayed for it day 7? or 8?) so outside of Eden where it was watered, the vegetation out of water in the ground had not yet breached the surface. Think of the arctic where vegetation is dormant under the frozen tundra for months every year, where there is a long period w/ out sunlight, the further north the less sunshine.. in winter ..
    also your translation definition of the animal kind may differ w/ what the intended kind named by Moses in scripture was and or your definition of 'chew the cud' may differ from what Moses taught.

  2. All you are doing is trying to find an explanation when none related to creationism works -- there's either a sun or there isn't, orbits not withstanding. You are also wrong about that, too. To deny decades of scientific and historical investigation to preserve the supposed accuracy of an ancient book is simply ridiculous. As I've noted earlier, religion is the last refuge of the ignorant. You are living proof.

  3. Apparently you think you are answering me, but, as usual, you are wrong. You are trying to answer the thousands of scholars who for more than three hundred years, armed with the best scientific equipment and education, have easily refuted every claim made by religious fanatics. I'm just a messenger. As long as you and your ilk remain ignorant of the immense body of research, then nothing any of us say will mean anything. But, as you well know, your ignorance will never erode a single grain from the mountain of evidence.

    1. My dear, I have nothing against answering that army of scholars, as I am a messenger and only somewhat of a scholar myself.

      My own army of scholars would be the scholastics.

      The claim of my (and my ilk) being ignorant of the research you represent is simply untrue.

      I have heard the research saying TF is a Christian fake, but I am not impressed.

      I have seen silent authors list and given excellent reasons to why neither Velleius Paterculus nor Strabo nor Pliny the Elder alluded to Christ. And so on with other parts of the three centuries old research.

      I go with a more like millennium of research on my side - including the research into really simple arguments like "primus motor". Plus a few updates answering that on your side.

      Sorry for just being rhetorical and giving no real substance, but I am therein replying in kind and have had an unusually hectic past few days.

  4. Creationists had every chance to present their arguments in court, and failed miserably. There's never been a single scientific paper on the subject. Even the scholars who presented their arguments had to admit that evolution would achieve the same results without any divine involvement. To claim there's a "millennium of research" on your side is absurd. There is no research in support of creationism (or intelligent design.) There is only belief, which fails in the face of actual studies.