Is the Bible History?

Written by Josiah Nichols

March 15, 2024

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Is the Bible history? This question is brought up in debates by believers and unbelievers alike. Peter Enns is one primary example of a person who teaches the Bible is meant to be taken as history, yet, not literal history (Peter Enns “Mutilating God’s Word”). This brings up the question if the Bible is in fact history.

What is History?

To answer the question, “Is the Bible History?” one must determine what history is. Most people agree history is the past. Yet, history is more than past events. History is also a discipline which studies past events by dealing with the source material that explains those events. To make sense of past events, those who study history study source material, statements which are written down or passed through oral tradition. Other sciences can confirm historical accounts; however, it is near impossible to use these other sciences to discredit historical accounts.

When is Oral History Considered Reliable?

Oral history is testimony which is passed down through speaking instead of writing. While it is not perfect, oral history has been the tradition of families and communities for centuries. Oral tradition is how family stories are passed down, like how one’s grandparents met, or what one’s great-grandparent’s life was like as a child. Oral history can be reliable especially if it is near the event; there are many people who talked to eyewitnesses or people who knew the testimony of the eyewitnesses, and it corresponds to other testimonies.

Over time oral tradition can become more elaborate and mythical though there should be elements of history still left in the testimony. For example, the Odessey, while it became a mythological story, does describe a time when Greece fought a war with Troy. Many scholars believe it was an oral story of war before it became a myth recorded by Homer.

When is Written History Considered Reliable?

While oral tradition can be used for understanding history, written History is much more reliable. Since oral tradition can change overtime, written history is more effective in recording and making sense of past events. Written history is when eyewitnesses or people who had access to eyewitness testimony record an event. The testimony is most reliable when one has access to eyewitness testimony. Yet, sources can be used that have access to people who had access to eyewitness testimony. This is called third-hand testimony. People who have access to eyewitness testimony are providing secondhand testimony. This is why firsthand testimony is the most important for determining history.

Written testimony is even more reliable when it is corroborated by other eyewitness accounts. The more witnesses to an event, the more likely this event happened, provided they are credible witnesses. Witnesses motivated by power, prestige, and sex are less credible than eyewitnesses who tell their testimony to their own hurt. Written testimony is also more credible when it is written close to the events happened. This way it can be falsified by other testimony.

Is New Testament History Credible?

In the case of the Bible, the New Testament has the most credibility to be history. It was written by eyewitnesses, Matthew and John, or people who had access to eyewitness accounts, Luke and Mark. Luke had access to Mary–Jesus’s mother–Peter, John, Paul, and others who witnessed Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. Mark is said to have recorded a sermon of Peter’s from Rome.

These eyewitnesses told the testimony of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to their own hurt. Paul explains their conditions:

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, ESV).

Other Credibility for the New Testament

Also, the Gospels were written close to the events in which they happened. Jesus died around 30A.D. and the Gospels were written around 50 – 60 A.D. The Talmud, the ancient Jewish writings, also says Jesus did miracles, died on a cross, and his disciples claimed to have seen him alive again after his death. Josephus claimed Jesus was a good man, was crucified, and his disciples claimed he was alive again in the Antiquities of the Jews.

The disciples also include the information of the empty tomb, women present at the tomb, and the disciples seeing Jesus alive again for an extended period. Also, there were people not inclined to believe in Jesus seeing him alive again. The gospels record history.

Does Archeology prove Historical Events?

Is archeology history? The Baker encyclopedia of the Bible says that archeology is the “Study of the remains of ancient civilizations, frequently as the result of systematic excavations.”[1] As one archeologist said, “Archeological evidence can neither prove nor disprove and event of history.”[2] It can unearth cities, pottery, evidence of cataclysmic events, etc. Archeology can unearth long lost writing, tools, clothing, paintings; however, it cannot tell historical events. These artifacts, findings from archeological excavations, do not come with dates. The evidence must be interpreted and evaluated. Without some written evidence or oral testimony, there is little room for accuracy.

There are numerous examples of instances where archeology supports the Bible’s historical accounts. The Bible claimed the Hittites were a civilization long before they were rediscovered by archeologists in the early 1900’s. The Bible claimed David was a king of Israel and had a dynasty. Just recently (in 1993) archeologists unearthed the Tel Dan inscription saying “House of David.”


The New Testament history is credible history. Archeology is not history but can corroborate with the history of the Bible. History is a discipline which studies source material to explain events. This definition fits with the Bible being a historical account. The Bible gives sufficient history of how God dealt with people in the past.

More From Striving For Eternity

If you want more information on studying the Bible and how to interpret it correctly, check out the store section at There are tons of resources to help you get started on your journey to interpreting the Bible better. Also invite Andrew Rappaport and Aaron M. Brewster to come to your church and teach you biblical interpretation with their Biblical Interpretation Made Easy Seminar. Andrew Rappaport, Aaron M. Brewster, and other guests on Apologetics live would also enjoy answering your questions on the live show on Thursdays from 7pm–9pm CST with the link to the stream yard at Lord bless you and strive to make today and eternal day for Christ Jesus.

[1] Edwin M. Yamauchi, “Archaeology,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 148.

[2] Randall Price and H. Wayne House, (Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archeology), 26.

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