How Do BAR Readers Differ? You Tell Us

From Strata in the September/October 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review

We all know that BAR readers are better educated, more literate and know more about the Bible than Americans generally. How do we know? Well, we just know.

But what about BAR readers’ attitudes toward the historical accuracy of the Bible? Do they differ from other Americans? And, if so, how? We may be able to answer those questions.

A recent Gallup poll of more than a thousand American adults offered three different attitudes toward the Bible’s historical accuracy, as follows; after the question we give the percentage of people who agreed with the particular viewpoint (totaling 96 percent; 4 percent had no opinion):


Over time, the percentage of the first category has declined somewhat from earlier Gallup polls. The second percentage has remained about the same, and the third percentage has increased somewhat.

How do BAR readers compare? We are taking a poll. Cast your ballot below. We will publish the results.

We’d also like your views about the matter. Are these three attitudes the only ones? Are they described accurately by Gallup? What do they tell us about Americans (and perhaps about Gallup)? What will the answers tell us about BAR readers? And what will a comparison tell us about ourselves?

However, the answers depend on you. Please cast your ballot.—H.S.

Cast your ballot below. Check back in November 2014 for the final results!

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

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124 Responses

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  1. Cathy says

    I voted for #1, but many people don’t understand that some of the Bible is history, part of it is laws and commandments and agreements between God and man; some is poetry, there are parables, and stories of symbolism. It is all from God. There are things that may not make sense now, but as we learn and grow and prophesies are fulfilled, more things make sense. There are mysteries that we may never understand until we see Him face to face.

  2. Jan says

    I voted for #2 because there have been so many translations that I don’t think it is possible that every word in the Bible is the actual word of God. Also, some words can’t be translated into other languages, so things are an educated guess. That doesn’t mean it’s history isn’t accurate or that the teachings aren’t meaningful. Times may change, but the word of God does not, even though some interpretations may have minor flaws.

  3. Sandra says

    My belief is somewhere between 1 and 2. I believe the Bible is the word of God, but there are many different interpretations. So I didn’t vote.

  4. Miriam says

    I chose #1. I truly believe that the Bible is the word of God and as a teacher of the Bible, I have used the research of our brilliant archaeologists as support for my classes, bringing the past back to life. I have found that the more I learn about the Bible, the greater my appreciation is for archaeology and the gifts that BAR has brought to those of us not fortunate enough to be out in the fields. Sadly though, as time goes on, I am finding that many modern-day archaeologists are using their skills to try to disprove the authenticity of the Bible, unlike the original archaeologists who were theists and wanted to enhance an understanding for the Bible. I keep wondering when and why it changed. Perhaps it can be frightening to some when they recognize that if in fact the Bible is historically accurate then the moral responsibilities included within its eternal words are accurate as well. The Bible teaches us to live a life focusing on our responsibilities as man not the rights of man. This concept is antithetical to the rights mankind sees as law and order in the 21st century. I look forward to the day when truth will prevail.

  5. Julie says

    The story is written by men and only men!

  6. Paul says

    Another option might be “The Bible is an ancient historical religious text with a solid moral foundation.”

  7. Talia says

    I tend to take the view that it’s mostly inspiried by God, but certainly filtered through (mostly, if not entirely) men who put it into written form from the oral history and stories that form much of it. I would also add that as someone who is Jewish by way of Christianity I see, and have since before my journey of faith shifted, the epistles as part of a conversation with the writer’s particular viewpoints and biases coming to the fore based on their own interpretation of the question or problem and how they were responding to that need.

  8. Timothy says

    There are numerous passages that were understood to be figurative or symbolic that modern readers often interpret as literal depictions…..and then there are the teachings that were ambiguous because it sometimes serves God’s purposes to keep things hidden even from the wise.

  9. Meghan says

    The Bible was written mostly by men, compiled in the 300s by Constantine and his Council at Nicea. It doesn’t include apocryphal books, or a lot of Jewish texts. It is a piece of history, just like the Torrah, the Qu’ran, and Buddha’s teachings. I would say “just” a piece of history, but it’s too important, historically, to discount that way. I am, however, 100% certain it is not the words of a higher power because gods were created by humans to cope with the awareness that they will someday die.

  10. Craig says

    Man shall live by every word that is proceeding out of the mouth of God.

  11. Marcus says

    I would put forward a fourth option in between the first two: the Bible is the actual spoken words of God, but our understanding of it is finite. Because of this, we need to be careful of our actions when basing behavior on the Bible. Education and familiarity are key.

  12. Alastair says

    I think all three are true, but recorded the answer #2. The inspiration of the text lies in which human histories and laws and wisdom were chosen, in other words in the editing as much as the words themselves. It’s a matter of divine providence. If one doesn’t believe in divinity or providence, it’s impossible to take the Bible seriously at many places.

  13. Calvin says

    my view can’t be really describe with anything from the options. It’s in between #1 and #2 of course. I view the Bible as the inspired Word of God, as God spoke through these people, hence, not only containing the Word of God, but actual Word of God. And, quoting Ken Ham, to be read naturally. It’s not a matter that everything should be taken literally word-by-word, but context-by-context, and the whole Bible is the whole context, with its pericopes.

  14. tapani says

    I have searched the Bible with many many languages, and my alternative is #2. Paul speaks from the word of the Lord and from his own opinions. Resisting the woman clergy belongs to the latter one. The Bible is written by men and speaks from our world, but also bring to us devout guidance. *It is not comparable with “common” literature. Amount of translations amazing. Without believe and turn to God the Bible does not give much to the reader.

  15. Yossef says

    I essentially disagree with the premise of this question being that the choice is between the Bible being a science text book or a collection of helpful fables and the medium point is a divinely inspired collection of fables. If we take but one example; the Creation story, we find at least 2 versions of the same story 1:1 – 2:3, 2:4. So if I like your first option (The Bible as the literal word of God) then which story is the literal word. If 2 is true (The Bible is the inspired literal word of God, not everything is to be taken literally), then how come there are these two versions. If we’re dealing with the word of God, divinely inspired or word for word, one wants a clear message here, right? Why would I think not to take things literally? What else would I have thought knowing that there are 2 versions? It can’t be that all those people answering ‘yes’ to option one don’t know about these inconsistencies. If there are already two versions then I know that I need some sort of explanation, that would detract from it being a literal ‘science textbook’ style of text. So option 2 sounds a bit redundant. Finally 3 … the Bible is a book of fables and legends, OK that question makes sense, I don’t agree with it and I say ‘no’ because I am a religious person, however because the first two options are redundant then I’d rather just not answer the poll than answer yes to this.

  16. Jeffery says

    Number 3 plain and simple.

  17. Bill says

    The Bible is inerrant Word of YHWH inspired in man through the Holy Spirit; and the Word is forever settled in Heaven.

  18. Tony says

    much of the Bible is lost in translation… take the word CHARITY what does it mean ?? It doesn’t mean give to the poor and it is not a organization. going back to the Hebrew / Latin languages it simply means LOVE … I will add the CHARITY … give to the poor is a act of love. And there are a many more words the is lost in translation. i have a Bible with English/Greek/Hebrew all of them in one bible and words are different in each one. What about Ezekiel’s wheels in the sky the to me sound a lot like flying saucers.. I am Not putting down the bible is is the word of God in any way, I am just saying some of things but, very little in the bible are a mystery.. You have to think of it this way how would you explain a cellphone to the ancient peoples or a car, a TV, you see where i am going if this? How they explained what God wanted them to write not 100% should be taken as complete fact.. But rather think outside the box.. Jesus walked on the water that is fact taken as fact. Healing the sick and old Fact. the flood fact.. i am NOT in anyway saying things didn’t happen. God did give us a mind to think too. I am a Christian

  19. Martin says

    I selected #2 simply because there is only 1 light the sun, the moon merely reflects the light from the sun:

    Genesis 1:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

    16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

  20. mercedes says

    Even if it was divine you’d have to believe over thousands of years all who copied, translated, etc. didn’t change, detract, add, or embellish, even if some pages went lost or missing. We’ve got to stop worshipping a document.

  21. John says

    I voted #2 although in most cases I would agree with #1. On the other hand, there are such things as figures of speech and symbolic language which are used in a context where it is understood that such a genre is in use.

    There are no writings (including BAR) where we take everything with wooden literalism.

  22. Victoria says

    I voted for #2, but I believe that both #2 and #3 are correct and don’t contradict each other. The Bible is the inspired word of God that was recorded by man. The Bible is a complex ancient book with some fables/legends (which should not be taken literally) and some factual history (which should be taken literally).

  23. Jeff says

    I would be more comfortable with the questions if the word literally was replaced with the word seriously.

    As worded I don’t think it quite captures the issue. Either it is a message from God, or it is a piece of historical literature.

    In the first case it needs to be taken seriously with care to understand the message. A wooden literalness would distort some parts.

    In the second case, if it is not a message from God, it is still our best preserved example of historic literature.

  24. David says

    Events of the last couple of months have prompted me to move from #2 to #3. It’s becoming harder for me to differentiate between a God who seems to act in random, mundane ways and no God at all. And I’m not sure why I would need to worship such a God.
    Given that, the Bible does seem to be a record of an epic story of humanity which should be celebrated in its own right.

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