The language of the Bible

In a recent discussion of biblical reliability and historicity I was struck by a rather obvious fact about the Bible that I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of before:  Its language is too confident to be regarded as historical.

When one reads historical accounts, one sees the following sorts of phrases: “The evidence suggests that”, “It is likely that”, “It is possible that”, “Only one source reports that”, etc. In other words, historians are aware that the strength of their conclusions rests on the evidence, and that evidence varies in quality and quantity. They are careful to share uncertainties with their readers.

It should be obvious to anyone who flips through the pages of the Bible that no such careful language is seen there. Everything is presented as if it were certain. Indeed, events are often described as if they had been observed firsthand by the author, even though we know that this was mostly not the case.

I realize that few Christians would care to defend the idea that the Bible was written by trained historians. Indeed, many Christians are still under the impression that the gospels, in particular, were written by Jesus’ disciples. The truth probably lies somewhere in between: The New Testament was essentially written by preachers. These were literate men who, although they had not witnessed the events they were recording, were not interested in writing in the careful, provisional manner of historians, but in the confident manner of evangelists. Their interest lay in promoting their message as unassailable truth. After all, what sort of faith would they be seen as having if they hedged every claim with phrases like “The oral tradition is not in complete agreement on this point, but…” or “I am not certain of the translation of this phrase”?

The authors’ manner of speech, then, is itself an indicator that the claims made by the Bible should be taken with a pinch of salt.


6 Responses to The language of the Bible

  1. I won’t repeat my challenge to you here on this comment … you’ve read it already under your “Nature is cruelty” comment section.

    I don’t think you will understand or fully grasp who God is, or the power of God until you’ve prayed and read the bible carefully, cover to cover, under God’s guidance.

    Some may say that you will be unable to spiritually comprehend the bible because you are not God’s.. this may be the case; I don’t know to be honest with you; nevertheless, I am praying that God will answer you if your prayer is sincere and reveal Himself to you through His word, the bible.

    Give Him the opportunity to do so.

    Historians aside, if the bible is truth and God is real, allow Him to show you who He is. I believe there is a reason that the bible is written as it is. They call this “faith” for a reason. The writers of the bible had faith. Just because you cannot scientifically dissect faith or reason yourself through it, does not make it an invalid notion.

  2. Lurker111 says:

    That should be, “pillar of salt.”

  3. Keith says:


    You forget that I was a Christian for many years. I’ve done my fair share of praying and reading the Bible. I’m not a novice. It simply didn’t work out for me – I asked too many questions!

  4. L.Long says:

    The buyBull does not have to have wishyWashy language because it is the absolute word of g0d….It says so right on the label and it would not lie!!
    So you know for a fact that slavery is OK, beating your kid & wife are A-OK, cuz it says so. And we know the Warrioress is male cuz it says right here that women are to shut up and spread’m to make hundreds of babies.

    We’ve heard all the ‘open your mind so your brains can fall out’ arguments. And you are very correct, as in reality there is no such thing as ‘certainty’ just high or low probability. If the Warrioress stepped out of a 20th story window and prayed and had perfect faith, I know to a very high probability that a red puddle would soon be below Warrioress. Only delusional or insane people can state absolutes about everything, all the time.

    • Keith says:

      L.Long: Once again, I appreciate your comments here, but I don’t like to see personal insults being made. From this point on, I will delete comments without further warning if they contain such insults. Let’s keep it respectful.

  5. L.Long says:

    I was being direct to the Warrioress statement not suggesting that she step out the window. The ‘step out the window’ is a line from ‘STORM’ and it was about the same thing that is prayer some how works.
    If any offense My apology.

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