Literally millions or even billions of people have asked the provocative question that forms the title of this article. Countless books and articles address the topic from all possible perspectives, arguing for everything from a fundamentalist belief in complete inerrancy to utter skepticism and outright disbelief. In the academic world, the question of the Bible’s veracity plays out as a competition between the approaches known as “maximalism” and “minimalism.”

Put simply, minimalists believe that historical accounts in the Bible should be treated with extreme skepticism unless verified by other archaeological or documentary evidence. By contrast, maximalists argue that the Bible has a very good track record – even after being tested rigorously by modern scholarship – and therefore its stories should be seen as credible unless seriously contradicted by other evidence.

A good example of a maximalist approach on the part of leading academic scholars comes from Cyrus Gordon and Gary Rendsburg, who write in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, “While we must always consider the possibility that the text is in error, we must do so with the knowledge that the trend of archaeological discovery is to confirm even points [of the Biblical stories] that opinion had [previously] rejected as false.” Indeed, a great number of names, events, and other elements mentioned in the Hebrew Bible have been corroborated by the discoveries of modern archaeology.

Just last week, news media reported that a team working on the Tall el-Hammam excavation project near the Dead Sea had concluded that a huge meteor explosion was responsible for destroying the ancient Bronze Age civilization in that area. The scientific description of the theorized event bears a remarkable similarity to the Biblical account in Genesis 19:24-25: “Then YHWH [the Creator God] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire… and destroyed these cities and all the plain and all the inhabitants.” Maximalists are likely to see this “match” as yet more reason to credit the biblical accounts, even when they seem to include incredible details; but some minimalists argue that Sodom and Gomorrah were not even located in that area. Similar issues and arguments arise all the time as new discoveries are made, illustrating how much our preconceived notions and assumptions influence our interpretations of texts and evidence.

I recently had the great privilege of interviewing Dr. Gary Rendsburg (one of the authors mentioned above) on questions including minimalism vs. maximalism, other evidence for the reliability of biblical narratives, and how the Bible is written from a literary point of view. I recommend that everyone who is interested in learning more about the academic study of the Bible – and how to think about the question of biblical reliability today in the light of modern scholarship – should check out the interview here. Whichever answer you settle on, let it be an informed one!

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Doctor Yeshaya Gruber,
    Re: Holy Bible,
    Which Bible, if any, of the following do you mean? There undoubtedly are more “HOLY BIBLES” than these, but I am not at this time aware of any.
    ASV-BSB-CEV-CES-CSB-DBT-DRB-ERV-ESV-GNT-GWT-HCS-ISR-ISV-KJP-KJV-NAS-NET-NHE-NIV-NLT-QJV- (<QUEEN JAMES VERSION)-WEB-WBT-WYC < On the COVER of each Translation/VERSION, it is written, HOLY BIBLE.

  2. Dear ones, yes, I am one of those people who do not in any way question the Bible’s reliability. I would say that people have a reason to be skeptical, since The LORD ceases to reveal any measure events during these two millennia. If anyone is disconnected from the LORD it is possible to discredit the Bible, which I would find impossible in my case. Because as an individual who is living today, I am a product of all believes, that there is a God exists. If this is not the case I wouldn’t exist today for sure.

  3. The Word of God is perfect, it is not comparable to the versions and translations we have because those have human elements in them and bound not to make sense to some of the world. History/events are happenings interpreted by others from what others have witnessed or written from sources they might think are credible. Most people credit what Josephus wrote about the antiquities, and use that as a yard to discredit the events as they appear in the Bible. Why not do it the other way round?

    • Thank you for sharing. It’s worth noting that some scholars do subject Josephus to significant criticism also. The question of how / how much to rely on any ancient (or medieval, or modern) source is not always an easy one!

  4. There is something which I find quite contradictory: Adam and Eve did not yet eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge between right or wrong when The Lord commanded them not to eat it. Therefore they couldn’t distinguish the difference between obeying or not to a commandment… By that time, they couldn’t tell if it was wrong or right weather they obeyed or not because they couldn’t have that knowledge. In that case, I assume, they had no guilt nor honour based on their actions.
    There must be a missing detail.

  5. I was a missionary for 7 years and lived by faith without help from anyone but the people I ministered to in U.S.,Canada and Europe. God’s Word NEVER fails! Live by faith.

  6. The Problem is, as a debater once said: Adam and Eve are the first people ever on earth c. 4000 BC? If it’s a lie, how many more lies are there in the Bible?
    Eg. Noah, the Ark and the Flood, a paraphrase of the “Epic of Gilgameš” / “Atra-Hasis” / “the Eridu Genesis” But the Biblical Flood was probably a story about a local flood from the past.
    A problem:
    The use of Hell and Hades, Hades is original from the pagan Greek religions, but written into the oldest papyruses Scriptures Mtt 11:23

    • Thanks for commenting, Jalmar. It would be helpful if you could identify/explain what exactly is the problem you want to raise. It may be relevant to note that Greek ᾄδης (haidēs) “Hades, the grave, death, place of departed spirits, netherworld” was used by Jewish translators as the closest equivalent for Hebrew שאול (she’ol) “underworld, realm of the dead” already in the Septuagint (about 3rd-2nd centuries BCE/BC). E.g., Gen. 37:35. First-century CE/AD texts like Matthew follow this Jewish-Greek practice.
      Regarding your other points, the recommended interview provides some insight into beneficial ways of approaching these stories.

  7. Shalom. The bible has two creation accounts of mandkind. The first one says he created them male and female and told them to be fruitful and multiply. The second one says he created Adam and put him in a garden and then created Eve from Adams side. There had to be other people on earth for Cain to find a wife in another land. I think perhaps Adam and Eve were a special creation but we can not know for sure. There is so much missing that we can not know for certain. The book of Enoch helps to explain

  8. Some people think the Bible is a myth as they don,t take it literally.For myself a Christian I prefer to look at it as a Covenant Book of the Law to the Jewish people & their God.

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