If the Bible is not history, then how can we trust it as truth?

The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible is a literary product of its time which must be read with due attention to its literary genre (Vatican II).

Some books of the Bible were written as “historical narrative” and attempted to preserve some basic historical happenings, for example the rise of the Israelite kingdom and the building of the Temple under Solomon’s leadership in I Kings. However, many books were never meant to be read as history in the sense that we think of history today. Books of the Bible include poetry, legends, proverbs, songs, apocalyptic writing, fables, parables, etc. that attempt to convey truth without suggesting that it is accurate historical fact. For example, in the Psalms God is referred to as a bird: “Under His wings you will find refuge.” Yet the writer did not intend us to imagine that God has feathers! Rather the psalmist attempts to communicate the “truth” that God is a figure of strength and protection by using metaphorical language.

The Catholic Church and other mainline Protestant churches differ from fundamentalist churches who read the Bible literally, believing that scripture can be “true” without being “factual.”

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.


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