Argument from historical sources

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Apologists claim that there are historical sources that support the events described in scripture. This argument is often used to try to establish biographic details of Jesus in Christianity. Sources that are mentioned include other historian's accounts, primary sources, archaeological findings. The aim of this argument is to validate a particular religion's holy book. If a holy book is true, it implies God exists.

"Something else that helps solidify the truthfulness of eyewitness testimony is the use of archaeology or external evidence. In his book The Reliability of John’s Gospel, Craig Blomberg has identified 59 people, events, or places that have been confirmed by archaeology [1]"
"If the text shows itself to be reliable in matters of history including statements of fact as well as geography, etc., then we may conclude that it is a reliable source regarding other matters that it affirms[2]"
"Although the Bible is not a history book it does contain a great deal of historical data and whenever it has been possible to check this against contemporary evidence the Bible has been found to be accurate. [...] With its impeccable track record, it is unreasonable and illogical to charge it with making thousands of false and blasphemous statements about its own authorship [...][3]"
"[...]I believe because I find the Bible to be authoritative and historically accurate. [...] I find it historically accurate because the life, crucifixion, empty tomb and eye witness testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus are all recognised as historical facts. These core beliefs are defended by historians.[4]"


The argument

Apologists sometimes claim that archaeological research has confirmed many of the Bible's claims, including the existence of cities and kings mentioned in the Bible. This is an attempt to establish the Bible as a historical source in its own right.

  1. The Bible describes events and places.
  2. Some of these events are independently verified.
  3. Therefore, all the events are accurately described in the Bible.

Counter arguments

Hasty generalization

Such discoveries do confirm parts of the Bible. However, we must be careful not to commit what might be called the Spider-Man fallacy: just because some facts in a holy book are correct, such as "Jerusalem exists", it does not follow that the entire book is factually correct. That is a hasty generalization. Suppose that a few thousand years from now, an archaeologist discovers a cache of Spider-Man comic books. Judging by the backgrounds, the stories are clearly set in New York. New York is a real place, as confirmed by archaeology. However, this does not mean that Spider-Man exists. Similarly, Homer's Odyssey describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek Islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not. Since accepting myths as true if they reference real places leads to multiple contradictory conclusions and is therefore a broken compass argument.

Similarly, the fact that Bible stories are set in real places does not mean that the stories themselves are real. The Red Sea is a real sea, but that does not mean that Moses parted it.

Historical evidence for the Bible

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

There is very little evidence that the events of the Bible took place, particularly the earlier books which have no independent sources to confirm their claims. There is reason to believe that many of the stories in the Bible are not historically accurate. It was also not written by eyewitnesses. Among historians, the existence of Jesus is a controversial issue with several different theories being advanced. Perhaps the most popular view is that he was a minor preacher/cult leader that was later considered to be a god by later followers. There is a general lack of evidence for the events described in the New Testament.

Historic inaccuracies

Main Article: The Bible is not a reliable historical source

There is no evidence that Hebrews were ever enslaved in Egypt in significant numbers, as recounted in the book of Exodus. The Bible's track record as a historical book is certainly imperfect, and therefore its claims must be considered skeptically, one at a time.

Archaeological support for the Bible

Tablets discovered in Ebla, in Syria, allegedly contain references to cities mentioned in Genesis, including Sodom and Gomorrah.

Noah's ark

Full scale replica of Noah's ark, based on the description in the Bible.

The final location and remains of Noah's ark has been of interest to pseudo-archaeologists of centuries. Apologists have argued that various sites have evidence of the ark, such as the Durupınar site [5], but no conclusive evidence has been found. These findings are probably explained by pareidolia. Even if a large ancient ship was discovered, it would be difficult to establish it was specifically Noah's ark.

Pyramids as grain stores

One theory is the Great Pyramids of Egypt were grain stores constructed at the time of Joseph to ensure enough food was available in a famine he predicted though dream interpretation Genesis 41 Bible-icon.png. Expert archaeologists totally reject this theory, saying the pyramids were pharaonic tombs and do not have large storage areas.[6]

Related arguments

Historical Jesus is generally accepted

Apologists claim that it is generally accepted among historians that there is a historical Jesus. This may or may not be a valid argument from authority or an invalid ad populum, depending on the context.

Other holy books have better support

If we accept that the Bible can be authenticated by historical sources, we face the problem that other holy books have better historical support. For instance, the Qur'an was actually written (or transmitted) by eyewitnesses.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. John Blanchard, Why believe the Bible?, 2004
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. [5]

External links

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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