How Accurate Is The Bible?

Accuracy is verifiable, quantifiable and measurable.
How much inaccuracy are you willing to invest in? 0%? 10%? 25%? 50%? How accurate do you want your road map? How accurate do you want your Scripture? All Christian Arguments can be reduced to the dependence on the presumption that the Bible is accurate to some degree. Accuracy is verifiable, quantifiable and measurable.

A Map is a model of the real world.
It is made to represent the world to some degree of accuracy decided upon before it was ever made. We can make value judgments about the map using whatever criteria are important to us. One criteria that should be important (because it is the purpose for the map) is how accurate it represents whatever it is that it is supposed to represent.

If we have to go somewhere and we are uncertain about how to get there, we can use a map. A map eliminates uncertainty to a degree because it represents a model of the world that we can use for planning. It gives us the ability to make choices and decisions that not only translate into success, but how comfortable it is to get there. We can see where the towns are in relation to one another, make rough guesses about the best route at a glance, make decisions about time and resources based on what resources are found along the path, we can make value judgments about those resources ahead of time. All in all it gives us the ability to form a strategy for the trip that probably has a high degree of likelihood for success. So a successful outcome for the trip really does reduce to the degree of accuracy of how well the map models the real world, and to what degree we are willing to tolerate and overcome whatever inaccuracies there are in the map.

The Bible is like a map.
Jesus describes himself as "the way" and goes on to further describe himself as a kind of "Model" to show what God is like.

John 14:6-11
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.


Jesus confirmed the Old Testament was the word of God by referring to it as such and referring back it frequently.

- Matthew 1-1:21, judgment of Tyre and Sidon
- Matthew 5:18, validates scripture
- Matthew 12:3, verifies Davids actions
- Matthew 12:39ff, verifies Jonah and the whale
- Matthew 15:3, validates scripture
- Matthew 15:6, validates scripture
- Matthew 15:7-9 He refers to the first part of Isaiah's work (Isaiah 6:9), verifies only one Isaiah
- Matthew 19:1-6, verifes Adam and Eve
- Matthew 19:8, 9, Moses wrote the Pentateuch
- Matthew 21:16, validates scripture by citing Psalm 8:2
- Matthew 22:31, validates scripture
- Matthew 24:15, verifies Daniel was a prophet
- Matthew 24:37, verifes Noah and the Global Flood

- Luke 4:17-21, He cites Isaiah 61:1, 2, verifies only one Isaiah
- Luke 11:51, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain
- Luke 17:29, 32, the destruction of Sodom and the death of Lot's wife

- Mark 12:26, calling Moses
- Mark 12:29-31, Moses wrote the Pentateuch

- John 6:31-51, manna in the wilderness
- John 7:19, Moses wrote the Pentateuch
- John 10:35, validates scripture

So how accurate should we expect the Word of God to be?
If we use a weighted raking we can get a rough idea. God is perfect, and man is not. So we can expect that man will be less accurate than God, but if God is helping man, then man should be more accurate that if he were working alone.

1. God is more accurate than man
2. Man is less accurate than God but more accurate with help from God
3. Man alone is less accurate

That should serve as a rough guideline and the first metric in an attempt to quantify the accuracy of the Bible.

Jesus intended us to use himself and, by extension, scripture as a model or a map for how to live our lives.
He intended it to reduce uncertainty about how to live a righteous life. Scripture was intended to eliminate uncertainty to a degree because it represents a model of the world that can be used for planning. It was intended to give us the ability to make choices and decisions that not only translate into success, but how comfortable it is to live with them. We can see where our goals are in relation to one another, make rough guesses about the best choices at a glance, make decisions about how to spend our time and resources based on what resources are found around us, we can make value judgments about those resources ahead of time. All in all it gives us the ability to form a strategy for our lives that probably has a high degree of likelihood for success. So a successful outcome for life really does reduce to the degree of accuracy of how well scripture models the real world, and to what degree we are willing to tolerate and overcome whatever inaccuracies there are in scripture.

Accuracy is verifiable, quantifiable and measurable.
How much inaccuracy are you willing to invest in? 0%? 10%? 25%? 50%? How accurate do you want your road map? How accurate do you want your Scripture? All Christian Arguments can be reduced to the dependence on the presumption that the Bible is accurate to some degree. Therefore, the probability of the likelihood that their conclusions are correct depend directly on the degree of accuracy of The Bible as a representation (or model) of events in the world past and present.

25 comments:

RichD said...

Hi Lee,
Are you looking to show that the bible is not historically acurate? I just wondered tha aim of this post.

Charlie said...

Seems like many Christians would be comfortable agreeing with this post.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richd,
its building a foundation for my other three series that i have going in parallel, one on genesis, its spin off on adam bombing, this first in a series is on applying information quality principles to deriving an "IQ" index for the bible and comparing it to other types of information sources such as text books and historical fiction, and ultimately where they all come together is refuting romans five.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Charlie,
I hope they do. Thats why its so short and sticks to one topic.

Did you notice how I arranged it like a song?

It starts out with the "chorus"
(Accuracy is verifiable, quantifiable and measurable) then theres a couple of verses, then there is a variation (Jesus intended us to use himself and, by extension, scripture as a model or a map for how to live our lives) on the second verse (If we have to go somewhere and we are uncertain about how to get there, we can use a map)and it ends with a variation on the chorus.

Evan said...

Lee this is an excellent format and to be honest, I hope when you are done with your series you consider compiling the argument into some sort of book form.

I think the blog format is helpful for developing the essays, but this is a long-form argument, and I'd be eager to see it all in one place.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richd,
i realize that I didn't answer your question.

its complicated....seriously,
(thats a tribute to greys anatomy which starts is new season this week)
anyway...

This post was meant to facilitate discussion, and help me verbalize whats going on in my head to help me write the rest of the articles.

here is a link to a place where I'm working on these articles, a big mess of notes and comments. I don't know how I want to present it, but its coming together gradually. It has a first round of research links in it, but I got lazy and haven't put the rest in cause, its really unnecessary at this point. That and my other six blogs are just places where I can organize my thoughts, get them formatted properly and presented properly before I put them on DC. Our problems with formatting may be fixed, but I always like to have a "plan b".

the questions that it addresses are
- what right do I have to question god
- how do we apply the principle of verification of information to the bible
- how do we break out of the logic loop of the bible says god exists, the bible is gods representation (revelation) of himself to us, god is the final judge, you have no right to question god because the bible says that god is the final judge.

I am drawing from the philosophy of Ontology, information science, Data and information quality science, and principles of research that we should have been taught in school.

Right now I'm wrestling with a paper called "anchoring data quality dimensions in ontological foundations". this whole thing started out kind of mind boggling, but over time, I got a grip on it.

the bible has been arranged for us like a relational data base. It has records, represented by chapter
and verse. Each verse should map unambiguously to a real world event, and each relationship between records should be consistent. I'm going to show that while it is an information source, it is a poor one by data quality standards.

I intend to use probability and metrics derived using data quality research and informal logic to derive an index for genesis 2 and 3 and compare it to some other data sources such part of text book, a newspaper article describing some event that was recorded on video.

by definition a poor quality data source does not map unambiguously or correctly to real world events and the relationships between records are not consistent.

I intend to show that my right to question god comes from the fact that bible does not map unambiguously to real world events, the relation ships between its records are not consistent, therefore is a poor data source albeit unique data source about the abrahamic god, therefore, as Jesus goes about mapping himself to god, and to the old testament, he has mapped himself into ambiguity, and uncertainty, therefore not only has Jesus mapped himself to a poor score (which is not what I would expect from the almighty) any conclusions made about god are logically weak,
and
(nothing up my sleeve, presto!)
there is my justification to question god.

and I know I gave away my strategy, but according to game theory, if I'm right, then it won't make a difference. I like to give away my strategy, its exciting and it puts more pressure on me to get it right the first time.

Are you looking to show that the bible is not historically acurate?
among other things,
I intend to show that it has a low percentage of historical accuracy and compare it to sources with a demonstrably high percentage of historical accuracy, while demonstrating that relationships between records are not consistent
and then saying
"at least in the categories of history, science and consistency between verses it has a low score, so how does it follow that it probably has a higher score in any other categories?"
(hows that for a sentence!)

Its basically taking biblical errancy and measuring it using data quality standards.

you should try it with the book of mormon. It is closer to the source. it might turn out that we should all be mormons!
;-)
or that its all bunk from the beginning.

Lee Randolph said...

thanks evan,
thats the plan,
If I don't ever put it together into a book, then maybe someone else will.

or maybe some sugar daddy will see it, tell me to stop and give me an advance to finish it in private so they can publish it.
;-)

RichD said...

HI Lee,
It might surprise you to find out that I am on board with the bible not being enough to base our knowledge about Christ and our expectations of how we are to live, what most likely won't suprise you is it will be for different reasons.

and I know I gave away my strategy, but according to game theory, if I'm right, then it won't make a difference. I like to give away my strategy, its exciting and it puts more pressure on me to get it right the first time.

Not that I am anything of a scholar but I will be watching like a hawk to spot mistakes:) In all seriousness, I like to be challenged on my beliefs, if they hold up then I am stronger in my faith for it, if not it isn't worth having. Wait I think I have heard that somewhere before? Hmm...

John W. Loftus said...

Lee, as I've said before, I echo Evan's comment. A "sugar daddy," eh? Let's hope so! Don't you just wish atheists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet would help our cause out! Damn them.

BTW Thanks for the kind review of my book on Amazon!

Lee Randolph said...

hmmmm,
I found a typo that I need to clean up in the comment above. I guess I got caught up in typing FRENZY! YIKES!

One of the sentence should read:

by definition a poor quality data source maps ambiguously or incorrectly to real world events and the relationships between records are not consistent.

Lee Randolph said...

John,
about the amazon review,
thanks for the book.
you earned the review and all the best.
chance be with you.
;-)

Harry McCall said...

The Bible said it. I believe it. That settles it!

No wait. The Bible said it. That settles it.
I don’t have to believe it! (An old Fundamentalist maxim)

In the world of electronic and engineering test equipment, there is a major difference between accuracy and precision. Older analogue meters such as the Simpson 260 volt-ohm meter had a scale which was considered only “accurate” while more advance meters had an analogue to digital (A/D) conversion which was consider in the area of precision. That is, the Simpson’s analogue scale could be compare to the old Slide Ruler used in mathematics to calculate problems where the solution is equal to being only “accurate” while a modern digital hand held digital calculator would be consider in the area of precision (provided the correct data was entered).

Now, based on the theology that God is perfect (as drawn not from the Bible, but Greek philosophy), we should expect perfection to be equated with precision, however the god Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible is far from even being “accurate” in his decisions and creation.

This situation means the Bible is only “true” because believers desperately want it to be “accurate”, not because of the limitations of what the ancient Biblical writers knew, but simply based on what they THOUHT they knew which is not forced on the modern world as factual via some religious dogma.

If we consider the Per-Socratics in Greek philosophy, we are told that the earth is composed of four elements: Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. This formed an ancient view or even a modern child’s thinking which, to the uneducated mind, seems very accurate in that these stimulate the human senses. But what was once considered accurate in the logic of ancient man is not the precision used in atomic physics.

Conclusion: Neither ancient man nor the god and Bible compiled by him is even now consider accurate and is far from being a text of precision. While human emotionalism is the bases for faith, theology and dogma, these facets are not and never will be modern precision.

As such, when the Greco-Roman world was finally Christianized under Constantine, this cultured ancient world began to trust an illogical document called the Bible which reverted human advances back into ignorance and started the Dark Ages where the Bible (and the dogmatic faith drawn from it) were the catalyst that stopped the march towards our modern human knowledge of precision.

Finally, the word "God” should be a synonymous with what we call ancient logic.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Harry,
Finally, the word "God” should be a synonymous with what we call ancient logic.
yea,
or chance.

chance be with you, I'll keep you in my wishes.
;-)

goprairie said...

"1. God is more accurate than man
2. Man is less accurate than God but more accurate with help from God
3. Man alone is less accurate"

God is supposed to be perfect. So it would be
1. God is perfect
2. Man with help from God is also perfect because God can help perfectly
3.Man is . . . imperfect?
And not to beat that dead horse, but the first thing in the bible, the creation story, has 2 versions that you have to do an awful lot of work to make fit to each other. God would not write it that way and God would not direct man to write it that way, so it must be all man. Why read beyond that?

zilch said...

And not to beat that dead horse, but the first thing in the bible, the creation story, has 2 versions that you have to do an awful lot of work to make fit to each other. God would not write it that way and God would not direct man to write it that way, so it must be all man. Why read beyond that?

Because, goprairie, it's all about the Dance. If God had presented everything in a clear, unambiguous, and internally consistent way, then believing in Him would be a piece of cake. Faith would not exist: there would be no one to toss into the Lake of Fire, because no one would sin.

And what fun would that be, for us or for God? No, He wanted us to work to believe in Him, to struggle mightily with the contradictions within and without. In short, He wants us to dance. And I'll be the first to admit that I've seen some mighty fine dancing by apologists trying to reconcile, for instance, the two Creation stories; or designing an Ark for dinosaurs. Yes, some mighty fine dancing.

Harry McCall said...

Zlich, as a former Christian I “Bore my Cross” of faith everyday for Jesus. Finally, in the stress test of faith, this soul failed. Now (as an atheist) Hell awaits me, but since it takes as much faith to believe in Hell as Heaven, even Hell has failed me too.

May all the Christians pray to Jesus than I’ll have at least enough faith to make it to Hell!

Phil said...

Still a little confused on what you are trying to argue. I know you are trying to show that the Bible is not accurate, but in what sense (historical,inspirational,inerrancy,transcription or ALL)?

Lee Randolph said...

HI Phil,
it is a argument to establish a premise.
If Jesus represents god, he represents the old testament, they all map to each other, they all represent each other. If this is what Jesus is saying then whatever problems the old testament has, jesus and god inherit them.

if it can be demonstrated that claims in the old testament are unsupportable by anything other than miracles, then they cancel themselves out because in that case the bible is the only premise that supports its own conclusion.

I know this is obvious to atheists, but I'm looking for a way to represent the information is such a way that more people besides atheists get it.

its part of an extended argument that uses lots of little ones to create its premises.

The goal is to debunk romans 5.

Geoff Hudson said...

Sorry guys, but God is chaotic, and his creatures are chaotic. This applies to what they record about their religion and their history. No chance of mapping anything.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Geoff,
three things,
- does the bible represent real world events?
- chaos as in "chance"?
- Even chaos creates a pattern in a closed system.

Geoff Hudson said...

Lee, what are real world events when you are talking about the the reported past of 2000 years ago? One can only surmise what the 'real events' were. For my money there is far too much literal acceptance of history, for example as reported in the writings attributed to Josephus or the NT. So before one can even start any mapping process, one needs to understand and interpret the recorded events, and the baises of the recorders. I have to laugh when I see so many modern writers slavishly quote the writings attributed to Josephus (especially texts about the Roman invasion of Judea in 66 CE) without some interpretation or comment.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Geoff,
I agree, and I think your blog looks like something I might follow.
speaking of bias, what is yours? believer, agnostic, or not?

Geoff Hudson said...

I believe that there was a historical prophet whose name wasn't Jesus, but Judas. How about that? I regard the establishment of the real history as important to our understanding that extant Christianity is largely fabrication. The cult of Jesus was developed from a radical first century movement of prophets who rejected animal sacrifices as a means of cleansing, and advocated obedience of the Spirit as Lord, in effect, superseding the Law. You will find some of my views here: http://earliestchristianhistory.blogspot.com/- see Mcknight in Battered Armour and Doubting Stephen

Phil said...

Appreciate the clarification. One more question, sorry for the misunderstanding(s)! When you talk about claims made in the Old testament and their being supported only by biblical evidence, would an example be the parting of the Red Sea or the plagues that occurred in Egypt before the Exodus? Being that there is no real evidence to support or show that these actual events took place and that miracles do not account for these claims being reliable, the only source of evidence for these actual events taking place would be found within biblical texts, which you are saying is no real evidence at all. Am I understanding correctly, your argument? Thanks for your time...love the blog

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Phil,
When you talk about claims made in the Old testament and their being supported only by biblical evidence, would an example be the parting of the Red Sea or the plagues that occurred in Egypt before the Exodus?
- the red sea could be the sea of reeds. It is a disputed translation. That is one information quality problem with the text. Another is that since it is disputed it maps to two potential real world events leading to ambiguity called "garbling" in Info. Quality jargon. So imagine all the claims that depend on the translation being the red sea suddenly becoming false and all the evidence amassed for it suddenly being exposed for how weak it really is with one reinterpretation. That is an example of an inherently weak argument.
- The plagues may or may not have happened, and may or may not have happened within the timeframe of the bible. I've heard from non-literalists that that story is "time compressed". Okay, fine, but showing they happened in some other way than naturally occurring is quite another thing. It depends on God, and God has no verifiable precedent, or distinct evidence in favor of and none of it has ever been reproduced in any other context than natural. That strongly suggests that any previous occurences were natural.

the only source of evidence for these actual events taking place would be found within biblical texts, which you are saying is no real evidence at all.
Make no mistake the bible is evidence. But how accurate it is, is the question. The more accuracy it has the more weight it has and the arguments that depend on it gain force. Weak evidence makes weak arguments.