BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

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):
gallup-poll-lg
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.


Update, February 10, 2015: The BAR poll was open from August 8–October 31, 2014. Click here for the results!


“Strata: How Do BAR Readers Differ? You Tell Us” was originally published in the September/October 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


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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136 Responses

  1. Gene Peterson says:

    The words may have changed but the concepts have not in some bibles. Unfortunately the words have changed the true meaning is modern bibles.

  2. Armand L. Circharo, Jr says:

    We know that the Bible was written by men; people, perhaps a number of women as well. It has been written, re-written, edited, altered, added-to, deleted-from, translated countless times and, in many cases, deliberately corrupted by church fathers trying to reconcile prophecies that have passed unfulfilled. And there are many. Jesus said “This generation will not pass before all these things come to be.” Obviously when that generation had, indeed, passed, they had some reconciling to do. This happened many times, almost from the inception of the Torah.

  3. Gary Harper says:

    This is actually tough. Every word of the Bible is inspired by God. Everything in the Bible is true. The problem has been in corruption from the event to its recording. The second problem is in the interpretation of what was said. How many of the Prophets wrote down their own testimony? God speaks through the Prophets, which speech is recorded by a scribe, who emphasizes what he feels to be the most important. Things are lost there, literally and contextually.

  4. Alonymous says:

    This is a poorly formulated survey. To use the phrase “is to be taken literally, word-for-word” is, as others have mentioned (see Marlan #32), not exactly what even biblical inerrantists believe because, for instance, poetic sections aren’t to be taken “literally,” per se, but poetically, for instance. Or phrases like “the rising of the sun” is not expected to be taken “literally” (from a purely scientific standpoint) because it’s not a scientific account, but rather a figurative statement (and one used by us today. But neither we, nor the Bible assert that the sun is “rising.”) This suervey would have been much more interesting if the options were more precisely worded to accord with the actual views scholars take on biblical accuracy.

  5. Marlan Knittel says:

    I am am avid BAR reader, but I did NOT take your survey as you had no option that represented me. There are millions of people who believe that the entire Bible is inspired (Not verbal word-for-word inspiration, but thought inspiration–thus not fitting into question #1) who would *NEVER* say it shouldn’t be taken literally. Rather they would say that it is God’s message to us that should be understood in its historical, literary and cultural context.

  6. Colette says:

    The Bible like this poll are chained with limits. The poll is good but stops at three choices out of billions of opinions. So in a sense the poll is a question with chains. The Bible was created by minds who did not take in consideration collective knowledge. So actually they bound those scriptures that applied to their thinking. The same with Napolen and Carter. We are still finding scripture. We have questions yet to be answered. The God of the scriptures is past present and future. The Bible chains people in purgatory. Like a puzzle with just a few of the pieces.

  7. Arlin says:

    Numbers 1 and 2 do not adequately distinguish between “word inspiration” versus “thought inspiration”. I believe in “thought inspiration” rather than “word inspiration.” The Word of God can speak to us through the Bible in whatever language or translation we may read it. We don’t all have to read the Bible in its original words in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, to understand what God is saying to us. I chose #2, but I was not fully in agreement with that statement. I think the poll questions could be stated in better ways and yield more effective results. The way a poll is stated can easily bias or skew the results. I suspect this poll suffers from its lack of precision in its questions, which leaves many readers unsure how to answer.

  8. Janice Probert says:

    I also chose No. 2 because I believe that the actual words have to be viewed in the context of history at the time, and most of us are unaware of the situation surrounding when the words were written. Definitely the inspired word of God, though. Just as a point, this vote is open to people other than just Americans. I am from South Africa.

  9. Michael says:

    I chose #2 because of the wording of the statements but lean heavily toward #1. I do believe that the Bible is the actual inspired word of God but to take every single word literally is to ignore that some passages are clearly figurative or metaphorical.
    Any conflicts between Bible and archaeology or science can be explained as a lack of understanding of one or both. I don’t study the Bible with the aim of destroying science nor do I study science and history to disprove the Bible. On the contrary, I study all three to find the harmony in them.

  10. Maxine Eldred says:

    I vote for No 1..I believe God really told each prophet what to write . I read about a Mathematician who was an atheist and was going to prove the bible wrong by mathamatics. But he found the things he was trying to prove wrong turned the other way. Every thing either added up to seven or was a multiplication of 7 . So he tried other books like Shakesphear and other great writers none of them had the same code., So he turned in to a christian and knew it had to be a Supreme Being to be able to write anything that made sense and had the code of 7 as he was finding..

  11. Barbara Kellam-Scott says:

    Hope the followup will give links and more information about the Gallup survey and findings. This one question is wholly inadequate to discussion of the question.

  12. Rose Marie Lewis says:

    I voted number 2. I am a catholic and I am also educated in the sciences. The two sometimes don’t always co-exist well together. That doesn’t mean that my faith in God and my church is any less. One has to remember that the bible was written by men (I still hope that it will be proven that female scribes did exist). Whether these men were directed by God directly or inspired by God is not something I think anyone can either prove or disprove. We all have to take it on faith really. The bible does indeed use fables, stories and tales to get the message across. But those fables and stories can’t be disproven either.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. John Stevenson 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.

  17. Merc8es 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. Bill says:

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

  21. Jeffery says:

    Number 3 plain and simple.

  22. Yossi Silverman 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.

  23. tapani annila 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.

  24. Calvin Limuel 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.

  25. 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.

  26. Marc 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.

  27. Craig miller says:

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

  28. 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.

  29. T. McD 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.

  30. 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.

  31. Paul says:

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

  32. Julie Twining says:

    The story is written by men and only men!

  33. Miriam Jaffe 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.

  34. Sandra Laythorpe 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. Janusz says:

    Between 2 and 3, Jesus taught using parables, as did many teachers specially in philosophy, so three also qualifies

  38. Kris says:

    it seems that most folks fall either between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 … which may explain why 2 gets a plurality. I find myself mostly between 2 and 3 and voting 2.

  39. Judy Jones says:

    I choose number 1, and agree most closely with Christopher (23). However, I think it is not complete. It is the actual INSPIRED Word of God, but we must take into account that it contains figures of speech which must not be taken “woodenly”, and need to be properly exegeted by a person highly knowledgeable in the original languages with a literal, grammatical hermeneutic in order to develop a proper theology.

  40. Tom Sievers says:

    I agree that there should be a choice between 2 and 3. I believe that there inspired passages in the bible. I also believe that it includes stories that illustrate varies theological or political points but may not reflect objective historical fact. I also believe that people with non-orthodox views can benefit from the stories in the bible. For instance one can believe in reincarnation and have an appreciation for the issues and teachings. A belief in reincarnation can also be compatible with an interest in Biblical Archaeology. I’m sure many people who have travelled to ancient sites have had a feeling of having been there before.

  41. Doug says:

    Unfortunately, social scientific survey questions by nature usually miss necessary nuances that faithfully express actual opinions. So if these are the only three choices in the universe of options, then my choice is #3. In my faith tradition (United Church of Christ) we look to the word of God speaking in and through the Bible but we don’t equate the Word of God with the Bible (nor do we presume that the Bible is the only word of God). In one sense it’s unfair to expect the Bible to live up to our contemporary criteria of truth. Truth for us usually means accuracy, especially in the claims the Bible makes about history and the physical world. That is why, as Mark (8) correctly points out, fundamentalists and atheists have an easier time debating each other: because both presume that the Bible’s claims to truth must be accurate–they happened just the way the Bible describes it.
    However, when we try to test the Bible’s accuracy against scientific warrants for explaining the physical world or historical warrants for explaining the past, serious students of the Bible quickly realize that the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy is quite unreliable. Sometimes its claims are close to fact, though many other times they are not. I prefer to advocate that the Bible is theological fiction. Much of it was composed long after the events occurred that is supposedly reported and for theological not historical or scientific reasons. This applies as much to the stories of Jesus as to other events such as the creation story. In addition, many of he narratives of the Bible clearly demonstrate being influenced by the religious literature of its day, literature that is extant and easily compared. But, just because a story didn’t happen just the way it was told, doesn’t mean it isn’t true or have relevance to forming how we make sense of life and the world around us. Works of fiction can communicate deep truths about humanity and life even though the stories didn’t really happen. The bible’s power to communicate truth is not tied up with its accuracy but its ability to communicate powerful truths, such as the effective power of reverence, trust, love even in the most difficult of times.

  42. Peggy S says:

    I very much like what Mark wrote in number 8. Well said, Mark.

  43. Peggy S says:

    I fall between 1 and 2 because of the range of literary styles found in the Bible. I would change the wording to read, “and everything in it should be taken seriously, with attention being paid to the literary genre being used.” For example, when the prophets speak of the huge swarms of locusts but mean the invading armies. Or when Jesus said that John the Baptist IS Elijah. There we can see his sense and know that John is not literally Elijah.

  44. Larry/Martha Rippere says:

    I’m actually between 1 and 2: the Bible is the factual Word of God, but those “words” as we see them are subject to an enormous variety of translations. Good Christian believers will cling to a certain translation – say the KJV if you’re English-speaking – and therefore overlook or misinterpret a number of passages whose translated text actually reads closer to the Hebrew/Greek originals.
    The Hebrew Bible is also filled with puns, typically impossible to translate. Therefore, the direction of their context is lost on us who are not scholars in contact with the original texts ( = nobody!).

  45. David says:

    #41 should read “David,: not “Lisa” (#@! browser defaults).

  46. David says:

    I also agree that there needs to be an option between #1 and #2, an option stating that the Bible is the actual, inspired Word of God and is to be understood according to the syntax,grammar, context and writing and cultural style of that particular section (or our best, current understanding of these). Hence, I could go with either 1 or 2, but given the forced choice format then I will go with the one with the higher view of scripture in the absence of more precision, This is because while #1 does not account for the linguistic complexity of the Bible, #2 does not sufficiently look to the Bible itself in its complexity for some basis of interpretation. If I have to make a choice between misunderstanding the words or disregarding the words of someone I love and respect, and I am given no other choice, I’ll take a risk on the former; I find that #2 risks the latter in the absence of clarification. But I would prefer an option that decreases the propensity to do either.

  47. emmanuels7 says:

    I chose #2. I believe the Bible to be inspired by God, but it won’t make sense to take everything in it literarily as some parts are obviously poetic and figurative.

  48. gabriela says:

    It’s for sure inspired by God,but at that time humans hadn’t the words and the knowledge to put In writing all that God told them.So they wrote only that
    they understood

  49. missy says:

    People. The bible isn’t supposed to be taken completely literally! It’s full of poems and parables! Hence my answer of #2!

  50. Ivor Muir says:

    It’s all propaganda, to further a lucrative idea ideal and feather the nests of of the powers that were.
    They knew how easily people of 2000 years ago could be easily fooled, so they had scribes, and gave them carte blanche, to come up with the most outrageous, fantastical stories.
    This is how King Constantine, converted, they all new they were on to something, that would make them all rich beyond their wildest dreams……..BIGGEST SCAM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!

  51. Eric says:

    The Word of God is the will of God. How else are we to know just what His will is for each of us. Research is necessary to rightly divide the Bible (II Timothy 2:15). The Bible interprets itself ( I Peter 1:20 and 21). More at http://www.theway.org

  52. Jim says:

    I chose #2, but really I would be between 1& 2. As others already elegantly pointed out, there are some obvious places where Jesus is speaking in parables or a prophet describes a vision that is not meant to be taken literally. But I find that if I have faith enough to believe Christ resurrected and atoning for my sin, everything else (6 days of creation, 10 plagues, Jonah swallowed by a great fish, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Daniel in the lions den, etc.) is small potatoes. Besides that, the more we learn about science (astronomy, genetics, biochemistry, etc.) the more learn the Bible is true. The Big Bang, Darwinist evolution, & other recent scientific theories are beginning to require more faith than the Bible as more scienctific discoveries & evidence are learned.

  53. Brad R says:

    A research paper by Steven W Boyd, Ph.D on the statistics of Genesis Hebrew. http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/technical/Statistical-Determination-of-Genre-in-Biblical-Hebrew.pdf

  54. Brad R says:

    I would tend to agree with Mark J. The Hebrew language is quite specific about word tenses that are only found in particular genre of writing. In Genesis 1 to 2:3, for instance, there is a very high statistical correlation (>98%) that the verb tenses specify a historical reading. The scroll was written as a literal history of events as they were dictated to Moses by God.

    I would be interested to hear about those who see contradictions in the Bible. Please point them out for discussion. As for any errors that exist, there are well over 5,500 well preserved manuscripts of the New Testament. See this website for information on the availability of manuscripts for other ancient authors like Plato, Aristotle, etc. http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

  55. LYN says:

    1 and 2 …. the BIBLE is the WORD OF GOD — but there are passages that only pertained to the people they were spoken to — BUT they can be inspiration to all of us — TAKE UP YOUR MAT AND WALK — that was personally told to a lame man by JESUS —- but we can be inspired to pray for others and ourselves — whether we are healed or not — we are encouraged that GOD is with us and will never leave us ever 🙂

  56. Dean Fiala says:

    #3 – I also enjoyed reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad. These ancient texts give an excellent look into the minds of our ancestors, but we all must come to realize that they were the works of man in their attempt to explain and put meaning to the world at that time. Very interesting, but fables and myths nonetheless.

    Please take some time to research human civilization and religion origins. Doing so will give you a much clearer understanding of how our belief systems came about. Also, our actual history is no less awe inspiring without some ‘intelligent agent’ pulling our strings.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/world.htm

    http://www.talkorigins.org/

  57. Carey Cossaboom says:

    The Bible is the actual word of God recorded and transcribed by men. Therefore, we should expect some glitches (errors) in literal translation. However, none of these errors are of a significant nature. I see virtually no contradictions, understanding that certain accounts are intended to be allegorical, and therefore, literally non-literal. We are advised to use discernment in interpreting the actual meanings and contexts of the recorded accounts. That is the exciting challenge of the Bible, and the ultimate test of life. I vote #1.

  58. Ric Olsen says:

    Need a category between 1 & 2. “The Bible is the actual Word of God, but not everything is to be taken literally”, i.e. there is poetic language but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the actual word of God. I do not hold a Muslim view of the Word for Word where if the grammar is wrong so it God, but I do believe that besides scribal errors/comments, the Spirit of God used the personalities and educational styles of a large body of authors to communicate exactly the message He intended.

  59. Richard Hofelich says:

    I suspect some things were not originally intended to be taken literally, but over time people did start to think they were.
    Other stories have errors because although they tried to explain what happened they didn’t really understand (gave it their best shot).
    Some things may have been written purely for political reasons and the author new it wasn’t true.

  60. J HAMMOND says:

    I think that, like many of the commenters, I am between #2 and #3. The creation and transmission of this collection of stories, history and culture has been carried out by human beings,but the values and spiritual experiences which these texts help to inspire have a divine component. I think of the text as the means of transmission, like the phone lines, and the divine element is the voice that comes through the line. Humans built the line, God talks!

  61. Edward says:

    Those that choose other than #3 live in a fantasy world. That is their right and privilege, but one wonders how they make any logical decisions as they go through life. One can believe in God and/or Jesus as God and still see that #3 is the logical choice.

  62. Kathy says:

    Haven’t time to read all of the comments but must agree with the first few. The bible is a marvelous book about people’s perceptions of God but it is also a wonderful combination of literature, a cultural record, stories, myths, legends and wisdom literature. There is a great deal in the bible but for me most importantly it is like a window on an ancient world showing the ideas and world perceptions of people of the ancient world. Some of it is not necessarily relevant because science has shown the nature of the world and the universe to a greater degree but the ideas presented are pretty good for an ancient people with no scientific understanding. On the other hand the ideas presented about god and interactions with people are still very relevant for every age. Even here, thought we can see a progression from the perception of ‘violence in the name of god’ to the greater importance of peace, justice and love of neighbor.

  63. John Campbell says:

    Mark Johansen (8,9), Andrea (10), Mary (14) all capture my thoughts. Fundamentally, however, I doubt that a survey will help us. The act of surveying a large number of individuals on a subject of this depth assumes that faith/religion/unbelief is a purely subjective, private matter. Beyond that, the surveyors must oversimplify to make the responses manageable, and they must classify the responses in a way that is not fine-tuned to the variety of responses that would paint an accurate picture of the target audience. If the target audience is BAR readers, then we can assume that there is a tilt toward science in our thinking, but that we are not all scholars. I would like to add 1) the term “Bible” means for most of us a canonical set of books that require a lifetime of study to begin to comprehend, 2) the writings are heavily edited and redacted over centuries of human interpretation, 3) humans had a hand in writing it all down, so it reflects the cultural and social environments of the times written or redacted, and 4) God has a significant role in guiding us how to read and understand it as the Word of God.

  64. Chris says:

    I chose 2, but in reality it is because 1 does not adequately explain the issue. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but it is certainly not all to be taken literally. Based on the different genres of Scripture, some of it is figurative. God inspired much in the way of symbolism (Ezekiel, Daniel, or Revelation, anyone?), but the symbols have concrete meanings if understood in the context of the original authorial intent. That is where a well-thought out hermeneutic is crucial. But, yes, indeed, the Bible IS the Word of God, word for word. Just some of those words are figurative in meaning.

  65. drexelr2 says:

    Like a number of folks above, I would’ve chosen an option between 2 and 3. I lean heavily on the 3 side, but there’s some mighty inspiring and inspired material in the Bible.

  66. Len Hart says:

    Although I understand what is being said in #3, I fall more in between #1 and #2. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God but that He used man to record it. Therefore, it does reflect the transcribers cultural context. I believe that it is meant to be taken literally except in places where allegory, figures of speech, cultural context, and such like deem otherwise. In other words, in certain passages there needs to be an interpretation to determine meaning. In such cases I believe that God has given the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.

  67. Steve Ellery says:

    Firmly No 1. It appears to me the more humanity moves from belief in God and His holy word, to self belief and living for oneself, a world obsessed with wealth, belief in science and technology, and in most instance cases cares little for others, a world that shows less tolerance for those whose beliefs are different from their own, a world that spends vast somes of money on find bigger and better ways to kill each other, a world that depletes our resources at an alarming rate, a world where natural and man made disasters are occuring at an alarming rate, one would think that reading and believing what God has to say in the Bible might not be such a bad idea.

  68. Judith says:

    It is encouraging that there are more people in #2 than in #1. Let’s hope they all eventually move to #3.

  69. David R Lowden says:

    #1 is the truth for me. I believe the reason faith exists is because man is imperfect and in fact sinfully flawed which extends to every aspect of his existence past, present and future until God’s kingdom. Specific to this debate flaws exist in his recording of God’s word, his interpretation of God’s word and it’s recording, his constantly migrating belief system and the science that he practices to prove or disprove anything. The facts are that biblical things exist and have been substantially proven in qualitative and quantitative means. All other arguments are of “degrees” (multiple meanings intended).

  70. czdsp says:

    Marked #2, because I cannot exactly take the Bible as exactly literal. Jesus refers to many of his teachings as parables (E.g. Mt 13:18). The stuff is true, because it teaches what is true. The Bible teaches the mind of Christ (“annointedness”). Jesus is the Word of God.

  71. Mahlon Marr says:

    I believe the Bible and all other “holy” books to be only the word of men; some of it history, some of it inspired by a desire for power & influence, and some of it inspired by true wisdom–but none the subject of divine influence, even though I believe there is a God.

  72. Mary Caywood says:

    Mine is No.14

  73. Mary Caywood says:

    In the Gallup poll, the second statement reflects my viewpoint more closely than the other two. My actual viewpoint is as follows: The Bible is the true inspired word of God, written over a long period of time, with the intent of being understood by a wide range of readers of different cultures and times in history and despite differences in levels of literacy and scientific education. Thus, interpretations may vary and still be correct within the context of historical era and circumstances. A continuing challenge is the need to discern the truth in the many messages in the Bible. In addition to our own study, we must rely on interpretations by a wide range of Bible scholars and theologians, not on individual leaders or special groups.
    Example: Today there are leaders and groups who think they are defending the Bible by claiming that creation as described in Genesis was accomplished in six earth days. In addition to scientific evidence and logic that say otherwise, they are missing clues in the Bible itself. Psalm 90:4 says, “A thousand years to you are like one day; they are like yesterday, already gone, like a short hour in the night;” and 2 Peter 3:8 “. . . There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same.” For those who take the Bible literally, Genesis 1:16 says God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day. The “formless and void” universe created on the first day of creation in Genesis 1:1-5 seems similar to a description of the formless universe that science tells us exploded into being about 13.7 billion years ago.
    Those who study effective communications today are told, “Keep it simple, -“. The original communicator knew that. The description of creation in Genesis is a simple account of a process that took eons of time. Theologians should help reconcile science and religion.

  74. Mari Bonomi says:

    Just to bo on record: there are indeed avid readers of Biblical Archeology who are secular humanits, agnostics, atheists. One can be fascinated by our early history without being in any way seeking for proocs of a divinity.

    I first came to the magazine out of a fascination with ancient Rome. Raised as a mostly cultural Jew, I have been for most of my life a deeply skeptical secularist. Nothing I read here changes that mindset.

  75. Ray says:

    I find the Bible is a record of peoples’ experiences and understandings of the Divine. Because it is about the divine it is in a sense “inspired” by the Divine. However, I checked #3 as I find it a record of experiences and understandings. Therefore, as a human creation, there is problematic material in it.. This does not diminish it as an inspiring tool. Teaching how to live today by reflecting on the biblical past using our reasoning ability – study, traditions, research and checking with others..

  76. Gloria Carl says:

    As with many others I am somewhere between 2 and 3. The Bible has too many contradictions and has had too many revisions and errors, even if one wanted to take it literally. It is a book recorded by man. But, it is also our book about our relationship to God and each other and God’s relationship to us. If one reads it metaphysically it become a clear blueprint on how to live our lives. As I said, somewhere between 2 and 3.

  77. Andrea Daniel says:

    None of the choices seem appropriate to me. With knowledge mostly of the Hebrew Scripture I find the Bible to be an often fragmented, certainly contradictory, and endlessly fascinating book of history, theology, customs, and laws from ancient times. I also take issue with the words, “recorded by man.” Surely there is the hand of a female author in Song of Songs.

  78. Mark says:

    Jolynn: Yes, a fascinating comparison (i.e. that a Gallup poll finds that 46% of Americans believe the world was created in 6 literal days but this Pew poll finds that only 28% take the Bible literally). I suppose it’s possible that one poll or the other was biased in some way. Frankly I suspect it brings up a classic problem in polling: Questions — and answers — are subject to interpretation. The Gallup question was pretty concrete and unambiguous. I think this question is a little more amorphous. Could some number of people have said, Well of course the parables aren’t literal, and so checked #2? Or might someone have hesitated over checking #1 because he doesn’t believe that translations necessarily preserve the originally-inspired meaning? Etc. Or was there a relevant difference in how subjects for the poll were selected?

  79. Mark says:

    I checked number 1, but when I say that I take the Bible literally, I don’t mean that literally. :-)Rather, I read the Bible as I would read any other book: it is usually pretty straightforward to determine what is intended to be read literally and what is figurative or poetic. I doubt there are many people who think that Jesus’s parables were intended to be understood as true stories relating actual events. Or that a statement like “the mountains clapped their hands for joy” or “his heart broke” is intended literally. Granted, there are cases when it might be unclear — especially when describing subjects not within normal human experience, like Heaven and angels. But surely the REAL question is not, Do you take every word in the Bible literally? But rather, Do you believe that the statements which were clearly written as descriptions of actual events, and which you would surely understand to be intended as descriptions of actual events if they did not include things that you find difficult to believe, like miracles, are in fact actual events, or do you say that anything that you find hard to believe must be re-interpreted symbolically?

    If you accept that it is INTENDED to be a description of an actual event, of course we could still debate if the story is accurate or not. Personally, as a Fundamentalist I often find it much easier to have rational conversations with atheists than with liberal Christians. The atheist and I agree that the words on the paper mean what they say, and the question before is to determine whether those statements are accurate. We can then debate the historical and scientific evidence, etc. But the liberal Christian says that the words DON’T mean what they say, that we must search for the “deeper meaning”, and in fact that the words mean whatever he in his totally subjective opinion wants them to mean. There’s no way to debate such interpretations. We just go in circles. “Well, if YOU want to interpret that to mean that Jesus actually went to a real place called Capernaum, that’s fine for you. But I prefer to think of Capernaum as a state of mind, and ‘walking’ as a way to describe the meditation that leads us to that state of mind …”

  80. susan freiman says:

    No question to show how many of us are atheists?

  81. Jolynn says:

    In 2012 Gallup conducted a poll that reported that 46% of Americans believe the world was created in six days. If you look at that in light of this Pew poll that means that a hefty number of ppl who don’t believe the bible is true still believe in 6 day creation! I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip: there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Looking forward to the results.

  82. Erik Weaver says:

    None of the answers adequately describe my views. I cast my vote for option #2, but with leanings toward the very important role of mythos (in the sense that parables and mythology often relate profound truths better than a purely empirical model); and a lack of importance on theism, which however, is not to be read as atheism, but rather akin to Tillich’s Ground of Being concept.

  83. Barbara says:

    I have just finished doing a study of the book of Judges. It turned my stomach to read the graphic details of how the people of God lost their way and did such evil.
    When we finished this study my Bible study group spent some time discussing and wondering how Judges ever made its way into the Bible when we are told all scripture is inspired by God.

  84. Martha says:

    I agree with Margaret Lois and Elli. There needs to be an option that says “God inspired the recording of myths, superstitions, legends, fables, history and moral precepts. “. There is much history in the Torah and the moral precepts are for the most part proven to be the way we should live together. But there are also many stories from other cultures and stories that contradict other stories. As I study more, I realize that from the beginning (I.e., two differing creation stories) we are required to discuss, question and achieve synthesis on our own. That’s why God gave us free will.

  85. Elli says:

    I agree, there needs to be an option in between two and three….something like, “God inspired the recording of myths and superstitions and legends and fables because he likes teaching through these methods.”

  86. Margaret Lois Jansen says:

    Voted 2 but fall between 2 and 3 in reality….maybe a continuum of 1-5 with each of the statements being the odd numbered one. Agree with someone above who reads 3 as the reality and at the same time theologically opting for 2.

  87. Leo Richardson says:

    I don’t think that the 3 poll questions covered the topic sufficiently. But, using these questions, I would say the answer is a combination of #2 and #3.

  88. Ernest Jurick says:

    I side with those who find the three categories much too limiting for such a complex work as the Bible. There’s no mention of geographical or historical accuracy or inaccuracy, for one thing.

    But consider the origin of the poll: the Gallup organization paints with a very broad brush in an attempt to gather a large number of respondents to its polls.

    BAR might offer to design the next Gallup poll on the topic with at least double the number of viewpoints. I list the Hebrew Bible as my favorite book because it’s the only work I’m aware of that delves into everyday life and language in a long-ago age. I read BAR because the Biblical era fascinates me despite my lack of religious faith.

  89. Dan says:

    I believe the questions could be worded better, particularly with regard to the expressions “literal” or “literally.” These two words are interpretive descriptions, while the idea that the Bible is God’s Word is a description of faith. In Question #1, for instance, the word “literally” seems to equate being “literal” with the belief that the Bible is the “actual word of God,” but any serious interpreter of biblical literature knows that the Bible contains metaphorical language which is not to be taken literally. This has nothing at all to do with whether or not it is the “word of God.” In Question #2, the language about the Bible is changed from “the actual word of God” to “the inspired word of God” (a distinction without a difference?), but here it seems to suggest that one can believe in inspiration without literal interpretation. It would seem to me that one might believe the Bible to be “the actual word of God” without subscribing to pan-literalism.

  90. Jeanie says:

    Hans W. Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative may serve as a reference to overcome the “too much simplicity” in the forced three positions suggested by the Gallup poll.

    Frei simply reminds readers that the way in which “meaning” is understood has changed. Frei describes a precritical approach that understood the Bible as literal, historical, with words meaning what they say, accurately describing real events and real truths, and as telling a single story. A way of envisioning this is to see an external pattern as informing the story rather than the story having to conform to external pattern (in this case, factuality limited to the “historical world.” He says that before empirical philosophy, deism, and historical criticism, the Bible could be read in a “literal sense” identical with “historical truth.” What is now regarded as “literal” must fit the patterns of “probable” and “language-neutral historical veracity.”

    The option which the Gallup poll has omitted is realistic narrative (literature). Readers might consider Frei’s categories of realistic narrative: indispensability of narrative shape, chronology, meaning, theme, subject matter, character set firmly within their external and social environment, inseparability of subject matter from depiction or cumulative rendering, literal rather than symbolic, ordinary and credible characters–and characteristics which taken together constitute the serious, sublime, and tragic impact of history.

    Perhaps a way to view what has happened is to think of external pattern (including both the physical and metaphysical) as impacting the world (story) rather than story as now being interpreted only in relation to the physical world and contrasted to history and verifiable fact.

    In the wake of the change from one way of knowing to another, I appreciate BAR’s tongue in cheek: “We all know that BAR readers’ attitudes are better educated, more literate and know more about the Bible than Americans generally. How do we know? Well, we just know.”

  91. Jim says:

    While #3 best fits my views now (#1 would fit the belief I grew up with) I agree that 3 choices leave something to be desired. Which, in my experience, is usually the case with the forced choices of polls.

  92. Nancy Hetrick says:

    The more I read & study the Bible the more I find it is The Truth. From Gen. 10:25 One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; – I believe this is speaking of the continents dividing – to the ‘rock poured out for me streams of oil’ Job 29:6 – aren’t we getting streams of oil from shale? Or Judges 6:12 when the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon as he was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites & He said to Gideon ” The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” He saw something in Gideon that we could not & Gideon showed he was a mighty warrior. God proved Himself to Gideon as He has proved Himself to me over & over in my life. I may not have put out a fleece but God proved His love for me anyway & in ways I never could have imagined! Do I deserve this love? Absolutely Not! Does He give it to me anyway? Absolutely Yes! As for me & my house, we will serve the Lord! I will not be moved because He has shown me true faithfulness. It saddens me to see a move away from 1 & towards 3 in our time. Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. El Shaddai is who I take refuge in Jehovah Jirah is my provider & the name allah is not in Gods’ Word.

  93. Steve Henigson says:

    I gave up imaginary friends back when I was a child. Thus, I do not believe in God—or in Angels, devils, Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory, for that matter.
    I see the Bible as a collection of precepts making up a valid and useful system of morality, and the stories necessary to illustrate them.
    I also see the Bible as a book which contains a fair amount of real history, although much of that history was manipulated, and therefore is somewhat perverted, by the need to illustrate the series of moral precepts to which I previously referred.

  94. Robert R. Dykstra, Ph.D. says:

    Count me as a #3 reader. I’m an atheist; Bart Ehrman’s “God’s Problem” says it all for me, but like him I’m fascinated by late Judaism and early Christianity. A God in Heaven is the height of absurdity, and I’d wish for a wholly secularized world – except that 20th century examples (see Naziism and Communism in its various Stalinist manifestations) demonstrate that any system demanding unquestioning adherence to some unprovable set of ideas is nuts. And comments like “the Bible is the truth, there are no other options” make me sick to my stomach. Please don’t get me started on Noah’s Ark or the Virgin Birth.

  95. Tony Wilson says:

    The Bible is the truth, there are no other options – it is all true or a lie, simple It is all true

  96. Bob says:

    My support for the first category is based on the Divine Miracle presented in the Bible. The Judaic-Christian Scriptures comprise the World’s ONLY “Holy Book” that presents prophecies forecasting future Events that actually have materialized. There must be a caveat attached to the claim of the Bible as God’s Word, however. There are multiple “translations” in many languages. The ORIGINAL Scriptures, however, were written AND spoken – NOT in Hebrew nor in Greek. They were originally inscribed in Aramaic (aka Chaldean). For that reason, Mel Gibson insisted his film dialogue to be in Aramaic – the spoken and written language of The People of Judea and Samaria during the 1st century C.E. The MOST authoritative text available is the Peshitta (or “Syriac”). It has been held by “The Church of the East” during two millennia, virtually without any alteration. This condition exists despite that about five bitterly rivaling sects exist within that church. They have manuscripts dating to the 2nd century C.E. Nevertheless, the same “bottom line” persists for Christians “Blessed Assurance” Promising their Salvation and their acceptance into God’s Kingdom. – His Word IS Good. – In any language.

  97. Anthony says:

    I subscribe to the 3rd position that “The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.” I would add that if God seems to speak to us through the Bible most often it’s because we are more likely to be paying atention when reading the Bible not because of any inherent virtue within the Bible. Further I would say that the first position that: “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” is a demonic deception. As can be seen in the atrocities commited by ISIL in Iraq fundamentalism is always a demonic deception regardless of wether or not the creed is Hindu, Buddist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Communist.

  98. George says:

    I have read somewhere that the Bible, taken as a whole, is ancient man’s attempt at a theodicy, and I find that quite reasonable. I must also note, based on what I have read here, that it is a sort of a literary Rorshach test. It certainly contains a variety of materials: legend and myth, history, poetry, wisdom, religious propaganda, and many other categories. A lot of it is just stories which call out for some sort of metaphorical treatment. I like reading and thinking about it. By the way, SamG, assertion is not demonstration; and I say the same to you, Paul.

  99. Ann Luce says:

    Of which Bible are we speaking – one with 24 books, 66, 73, or 81? Which translation, from which linguistic tradition, edited by and noted as being from E, J, P, or D sources? Number 3 is as close to my answer as I can give. Personally, I follow the Unity tradition of allegorical exegesis, and doing so am able to look for, and find, human history and truth in the sacred writings of all sorts of paths.

  100. ed says:

    #3 is factually accurate. At the same time these very human documents speak to us because we are human; we still perceive and interpret history and life’s experiences in certain ways reflecting our patterns of thought and education. For that reason, careful readers need to remind themselves that many of these texts are slanted to value priesthood and church, patriarchy and obedience, and the social customs and beliefs of the ancient Middle East of at least 2,000 years ago. Individual Bible verses plucked from one context or another are certainly not literally “true.”

  101. SamG says:

    So we walk in our own wisdom now ?

    (Psalms 94:11) “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.”

    (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. {19} For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. {20} And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”

  102. Bill says:

    Factually I agree with # 3 The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recordfed by man.
    Theologically I agree with # 2 The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in is should be taken literally.
    I do not see a contraduction between the two beliefs.

  103. Sue Ann Taylor says:

    I voted for number 1, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but also know and realize that language has changed quite a bit since the Bible was written. Metaphors, poetry, vocabulary, social / environmental happenstance, parables, our own education, and our knowledge of the Bible will make a difference in how we personally view the suggested responses. I will stand with #1 until proven wrong. ( Along with daily Bible studies, I have read three different translations of the Holy Bible – from Genesis 1:1 through Revelations 22:21 eight times – minimum of one chapter per day – and consistently find something new. I believe our personal daily experiences guide us in our understanding of the Holy Bible.)

  104. Ron Merlo says:

    It may help to review the details of the Gallup Poll which is available on-line. In addition to the three questions that were asked of half of those polled, a fourth question was added to the other half – – – “The Bible is the actual word of God, but multiple interpretations are possible”. When the additional question was added (as a second question), the responses to the four questions were 22%, 28%, 28%, and 18% (with 4% having no opinion). The breakdown of the poll also gives results by Christian and Non-Christian respondents. (Of interest, 11% of the Non-Christians agreed with the first question in the 3-question poll, dropping to 6% in the 4-question poll)

  105. Andrea Sender says:

    The Bible is an account of God’s self-revelation to human beings. As such it has been mediated through prophets, inspired literature, myths, fables, historic episodes and editors. Parts contain primitive magical religion from earlier times. Parts contain teachings modern cultures have not attained the wisdom to understand.

  106. Gary Tompkins says:

    We had a similar question on a questionnaire to the congregation of our church a few years ago to be used for a “mission study.” Most church members were also at a place similar to that described by #4 (Greg) above. Few though that biblical stories trumped either physical or social science; rather they thought of them as instructive and useful for discussion and study. I personally support Eric Law (Holy Currencies, page 44) in his chapter on “Truth” and his concern that we NOT take ANY biblical verse as the whole truth to use in a polarizing way; “To discern the truth we need to read the whole Bible from beginning to end.”

  107. Garrett Luce says:

    I go with number 1, all the while understanding that there are parables and symbolic language in the book. I don’t have to turn off my brain to believe. Jesus said point blank that He spoke in parables for the understanding of those who believe and vice versa. It is a supernatural book that will never be understood by the “natural man”. The prophets wrote of things they did not understand and could not see, e.g. the church age. I trust God that He has put all truth in His book and that it is the duty of man to discern it. That has been my life’s work. And BAR’s articles continue to show me the physical reminders of the supernatural as well as the historical.

  108. Janet Freckleton says:

    I’m not a believer, but I’m endlessly interested in the belief systems of others. I try to remain open-minded, curious and humble when confronted with new information and contending views.

  109. Al says:

    I fall between categories 4 and 5 – the Bible is no more literally true, or useful, than any other religious writing (4) and that it’s a bunch of bs, written by people seeking some sort of personal gain (5). I see no difference between Christanity/Judaism/Islam and Dianetics or tea leaf reading – the childish human desire to be something special.

    As a guide to morality, it fails miserably – you can beat your slave to death as long as he doesn’t die within the first day or two? The Marquis De Sade was more moral.

  110. Robert Staples says:

    I picked the first response. However it must be stated that the Bible employs much figurative language. It would be better to say the Bible is to be taken as truth in all areas of life. It is the ultimate standard for all areas of life including religion. This view is not popular, especially to the priests of academia, but we do not need Jesus to matriculate our university while we confer a degree from him. He is the co-creator, savior, wisdom of God, and the Lord of Glory. We will bow down to him, even secular humanists and those like-minded. Thank you.

  111. Gretchen says:

    As an atheist I believe the bible is an interesting compilation of stories written to help explain how a society behaves and with the intent of providing a framework of behavior that was appropriate to the period in which it was written. As with many writings, the book can be used as a spiritual guide and even interpreted as a book of holy wisdom if the reader so chooses. The same, however, could be said of Aesop’s fables. Answer number 3 most closely reflects my opinion but I would have either left out “moral precepts” or replaced it with “guide to social behavior” since the word “moral” is often equated with the concept of religious as opposed to secular attributes.

  112. steven says:

    the great falling away has begun

  113. Barry says:

    Which Bible? The Jewish Bible? The Catholic Bible? The shorter Protestant one? The Gnostic Bible? The New New Testament?

  114. William H. Scarle, Jr. says:

    The use of the word “literally” in the first choice confuses the issue. Since the Bible contains many differing literary styles it is obvious that some portions are to be understood literally and others figuratively – as poetry etc. The choice of number two does not constitute a rejection of number one. The vocabulary is deceptive. The word “actual” is unnecessary. The Bible is the word of God or it isn’t. Does number two’s use of “inspired” substitute for “actual?” Can the Bible be “inspired” and not be “actual?” The real question is does the Bible carry the Authority of the Almighty. Here is the existential crunch. WHS

  115. Bill Muller says:

    Many respondents are blaming BAR for these questions. They are from the Gallop organization and are on this page because BAR considers them insufficient, as do I.
    I answered to #2, but do believe some stories have other purposes. I was taught that the first creation myth was a lesson : observe the Sabbath. The second myth was to be sure women were subject to men and were inferior (although Adam doesn’t show a lot of spine when questioned about eating the apple).
    I consider the OT history and, as Paul often states, not the way to live a Christian life.
    Put me down as an “informed agnostic”, to use a term from Marcus Borg.

  116. Terry says:

    Is a question ever worded the way a reader would like? I selected #1. This is an amazing work of complexity and patterns. A map of events past through future. This book has depth I have yet to discover but anticipate a continued adventure.

  117. E. Derreth says:

    When all discussion ends, I still place my emphasis on one word, “believe.”

  118. David Schwausch says:

    The Bible obviously contains all three categories, though too often we tend to listen to what we say or think about it rather than what God is saying to us through any of it. When I take the time to look at what’s really in a passage instead of what someone else has told me is there, I’m continually amazed at what surfaces.

  119. John B says:

    Test only: why does your system not accept my email and erase my message?

  120. Nanabedokw'Môlsem says:

    The answer is somewhere between 2 and 3, or a merger of them. I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, yet each book within the Bible must be taken as written at a given time in an idiom of the time for communication with the people of the time who lived and listened in the context of the culture of those people at that time.

    For instance there is the story of the Israelite sheepherders who approached a Canaanite village. While engaged in normal commerce and courtesies the sheepherders are dismayed to learn that a young man among them is becoming enamored of a Canaanite girl. The upshot is that upon an engineered social event when the Canaanites have become soundly asleep possibly with the help of one of the drinks provided to them, the Israelites murder all the Canaanites and then move on. Now is this a portrayal of extraordinary violence in which Israelites engaged? Or is it instead a tale for instructing young Israelites to marry within the faith? I believe the latter.

  121. Mark Farris says:

    There needs to be a little inclusive clarification of category 3 because I’m certain the Jewish authors of the old testament plagiarized much of their mythology from Sumerian sources. Samuel Noah Kramer’s book, ” History Begins at Sumer” lays out some of this info. The biblical great flood story was lifted from the Babylonian tale of Gilgamesh which was as well borrowed from the Sumerians. All are probably accounts of the end of the last ice age. Oceans rose around 400 feet which led to the creation of numerous great floods, the creation of the Black Sea probably represented the localized great flood of Gilgamesh. As for the New Testament, I have to agree with Joseph Atwill and others that the Flavian dynasty is responsible for creating the New Testament and the mythical character Jesus Christ.

  122. Joshua Zambrano says:

    Agreed with what others are saying about the problems with the wording. For example the books of Revelation and Daniel use prophetic symbolism, even stating that certain words stand for others, for example olive trees are symbols for two witnesses, the harlot of Babylon refers to a great city (end of Rev. 17), etc. The Bible tends to be pretty obvious when it’s using a parable, dream, or vision to speak symbolically, and when it’s speaking literally (which is most of the time). The question does need to be worded better to avoid overlap though, as some who believe the Bible inerrant and means what it says could still fall into the second category.

  123. Bien says:

    The Bible is the inspired Word of God. I take the literal statements literally, and the figurative statements figuratively. I use my common sense, my experience, and my knowledge of language and grammar to know the difference and to determine what the figures of speech mean. This statement I take against “hyper-literalism”.

  124. carolyn says:

    I am more apt to place creedence in the new testament simply because Jesus said so. Many p eoplle use the OT to justify their own hatreds Mostly the books ask us only for obedience. The rest appears to be man made pregedouses..

  125. Harry Briley says:

    As a conservative in both Jewish and Christian interpretations of the text, this poll does a disservice to BAR by couching it in simple end-points and a monstrously huge middle. Better to ask three questions instead: What percentage of the text we have today matches the text as authored (e.g. the reliable transmission question)? What percentage of seminary interpretations match the intended meaning of the author in that time and setting (e.g.the isogesis factor)? and What percentage believe in a viable supernatural realm? If we deny the supernatural engagement of G-d or deny a G-d even, then the Bible is not believable except for names, places, political maneuverings, and dating assistance for archaeology.

  126. DavicC says:

    I’m a Calvinist: T.U.L.I.P. so I know the difference in #1 and #3. Could it be: Jn 8:47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

  127. Lee says:

    To start with there should at least be a fourth category. Something to the effect that allows one to say, “none of the above”. Quite possibly that might well gather the most votes , as evidenced by the responses already given. Either the poll was “inspired” by religious fundamentalism, or by someone trying to incite controversy. As for choice #1, only certain fundamentalists can “honestly”fill that bill. –The other two questions don’t leave much room for the rest to express what they know to be the truth in their understanding of the scriptures and their relationships with God, …so we end up trying to shoehorn our beliefs into the ignorant choices the pollsters have given. –Ignorance vs. stupidity! –Guess I am one of the stupid ones!

  128. Rev Thomas J Hudson, OPA says:

    I’ll stick with the Catechism of The Episcopal Church:
    Q. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?
    A. We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.
    Q. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?
    A. We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.

    The Rev. Thomas J. Hudson, OPA

  129. Janice says:

    Our bible study group recently undertook the study of Jesus’s parables. We always start out with one point of view and as we read, discuss and consult commentaries, we frequently find we have missed the point entirely. As with the story of the Good Samaritan I learned as a child, I have found numerous ways of interpreting the bible (I now think of myself as the injured Jew on the side of the road, and the Samaritan as Jesus) and each is correct with it’s own level of understanding of the message God is trying to impart to me. It is pure God sent communication. I just need to spend the time and effort to seek His message.

  130. DanL says:

    I agree that the Gallop poll is poorly worded, and agree with others that it depends on how one interprets the word “literally”. I answered 1 because I take the words literally in the sense in which they were intended by the original author. For instance poetical scriptures need to be interpreted in light of symbolism, metaphor, etc.

  131. Pastor David says:

    I agree the question is poorly constructed, I fall between one and two, in that I believe the scriptures are inerrant and infallible, and should be taken as intended, yet their is poetic usage and allegory, yet these are apparent in the type of literature they are in.

  132. Bob says:

    Horrible wording of the question. You don’t take figurative things literal. If you fear God as you should, then you follow His Word, word for word.

  133. Greg says:

    My position falls somewhere between #2 and #3. I’d probably word it something like this:

    The Bible is an ancient book of wisdom that brings together a hodgepodge of writings from many different sources, representing many different genres (history, poetry, myth, law, polemic, etc.). Its writers and editors were devout people of faith who may even have possessed some special spiritual insights (what we might call “inspiration”) that allowed them to grasp certain eternal truths better than their contemporaries did, and who were trying to convey the essence of those truths in a manner that could be grasped by ordinary human beings in that pre-scientific age. The Bible should not be read literally, as a textbook or instruction manual, but should instead be read literarily, as a wonderful story that is able to inspire the reader to see things in a different light.

  134. Kebas says:

    I agree that the question is poorly worded, for which polls are notorious. I answered the first reply. However, I could have answered the second also. It really depends on the meaning of the word “literally”. For example, some books and portions of Scripture are obviously intended to be symbolic, i.e. “the hills clap their hands.” If the first answer is supposed to mean that the hills literally have hands that they clap, then I would give the second answer. On the other hand, there are portions of Scripture which people try to assert are symbolic or poetic when they are not that type of literature at all. If the second answer means interpreting portions of Scripture symbolically in opposition to their actual literary form, then I would give the first response. Many people who readily accept secular accounts from the ancient world (with much less textual and other support) suddenly jump to the category of symbolism, myth, fable, etc. when it comes to Scripture. That is not interpreting Scripture “literally” in the basic sense, as literature.

  135. Andy says:

    I think there needs to a be a couple more categories. I fall some place between 2 and 3. There are too many contradictions (2 stories of Noah, 2 stories of David and Goliath, etc) to take it literally without doing some serious mental gymnastics. Science has long since proven the creation story to be myth / parable. Besides everything I have read of the ancients said that they wouldn’t have viewed it as literal either.

    That being said I do think it is more than a simple collection of stories and pseudo history. I think it is was inspired to tell us what we needed to know when we needed it. Yet the stories were inspired such that they still maintain there core teaching millenia later.

  136. James Shewmaker says:

    This question is poorly worded. There are parables, figures of speech and such-like. When Gideon heard that a man had dreamed that a loaf of bread had rolled into the camp of Midian, neither he nor the man who he heard talking thought that this was supposed to represent bread. When Nathan told David the story of the rich man who took a poor man’s lamb, Nathan meant it as a metaphor even though David did not realize that at first. When Jesus told the woman at the well that He could give her a well of water springing up unto eternal life, He was not speaking of literal water.

    Now if you want to ask: do I believe in a literal 6 days of creation? Yes. Do I believe in a literal flood that took a year to dry up? Ye.s Do I believe that Jesus literally died and was literally raised? Yes.

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136 Responses

  1. Gene Peterson says:

    The words may have changed but the concepts have not in some bibles. Unfortunately the words have changed the true meaning is modern bibles.

  2. Armand L. Circharo, Jr says:

    We know that the Bible was written by men; people, perhaps a number of women as well. It has been written, re-written, edited, altered, added-to, deleted-from, translated countless times and, in many cases, deliberately corrupted by church fathers trying to reconcile prophecies that have passed unfulfilled. And there are many. Jesus said “This generation will not pass before all these things come to be.” Obviously when that generation had, indeed, passed, they had some reconciling to do. This happened many times, almost from the inception of the Torah.

  3. Gary Harper says:

    This is actually tough. Every word of the Bible is inspired by God. Everything in the Bible is true. The problem has been in corruption from the event to its recording. The second problem is in the interpretation of what was said. How many of the Prophets wrote down their own testimony? God speaks through the Prophets, which speech is recorded by a scribe, who emphasizes what he feels to be the most important. Things are lost there, literally and contextually.

  4. Alonymous says:

    This is a poorly formulated survey. To use the phrase “is to be taken literally, word-for-word” is, as others have mentioned (see Marlan #32), not exactly what even biblical inerrantists believe because, for instance, poetic sections aren’t to be taken “literally,” per se, but poetically, for instance. Or phrases like “the rising of the sun” is not expected to be taken “literally” (from a purely scientific standpoint) because it’s not a scientific account, but rather a figurative statement (and one used by us today. But neither we, nor the Bible assert that the sun is “rising.”) This suervey would have been much more interesting if the options were more precisely worded to accord with the actual views scholars take on biblical accuracy.

  5. Marlan Knittel says:

    I am am avid BAR reader, but I did NOT take your survey as you had no option that represented me. There are millions of people who believe that the entire Bible is inspired (Not verbal word-for-word inspiration, but thought inspiration–thus not fitting into question #1) who would *NEVER* say it shouldn’t be taken literally. Rather they would say that it is God’s message to us that should be understood in its historical, literary and cultural context.

  6. Colette says:

    The Bible like this poll are chained with limits. The poll is good but stops at three choices out of billions of opinions. So in a sense the poll is a question with chains. The Bible was created by minds who did not take in consideration collective knowledge. So actually they bound those scriptures that applied to their thinking. The same with Napolen and Carter. We are still finding scripture. We have questions yet to be answered. The God of the scriptures is past present and future. The Bible chains people in purgatory. Like a puzzle with just a few of the pieces.

  7. Arlin says:

    Numbers 1 and 2 do not adequately distinguish between “word inspiration” versus “thought inspiration”. I believe in “thought inspiration” rather than “word inspiration.” The Word of God can speak to us through the Bible in whatever language or translation we may read it. We don’t all have to read the Bible in its original words in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, to understand what God is saying to us. I chose #2, but I was not fully in agreement with that statement. I think the poll questions could be stated in better ways and yield more effective results. The way a poll is stated can easily bias or skew the results. I suspect this poll suffers from its lack of precision in its questions, which leaves many readers unsure how to answer.

  8. Janice Probert says:

    I also chose No. 2 because I believe that the actual words have to be viewed in the context of history at the time, and most of us are unaware of the situation surrounding when the words were written. Definitely the inspired word of God, though. Just as a point, this vote is open to people other than just Americans. I am from South Africa.

  9. Michael says:

    I chose #2 because of the wording of the statements but lean heavily toward #1. I do believe that the Bible is the actual inspired word of God but to take every single word literally is to ignore that some passages are clearly figurative or metaphorical.
    Any conflicts between Bible and archaeology or science can be explained as a lack of understanding of one or both. I don’t study the Bible with the aim of destroying science nor do I study science and history to disprove the Bible. On the contrary, I study all three to find the harmony in them.

  10. Maxine Eldred says:

    I vote for No 1..I believe God really told each prophet what to write . I read about a Mathematician who was an atheist and was going to prove the bible wrong by mathamatics. But he found the things he was trying to prove wrong turned the other way. Every thing either added up to seven or was a multiplication of 7 . So he tried other books like Shakesphear and other great writers none of them had the same code., So he turned in to a christian and knew it had to be a Supreme Being to be able to write anything that made sense and had the code of 7 as he was finding..

  11. Barbara Kellam-Scott says:

    Hope the followup will give links and more information about the Gallup survey and findings. This one question is wholly inadequate to discussion of the question.

  12. Rose Marie Lewis says:

    I voted number 2. I am a catholic and I am also educated in the sciences. The two sometimes don’t always co-exist well together. That doesn’t mean that my faith in God and my church is any less. One has to remember that the bible was written by men (I still hope that it will be proven that female scribes did exist). Whether these men were directed by God directly or inspired by God is not something I think anyone can either prove or disprove. We all have to take it on faith really. The bible does indeed use fables, stories and tales to get the message across. But those fables and stories can’t be disproven either.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. John Stevenson 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.

  17. Merc8es 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. Bill says:

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

  21. Jeffery says:

    Number 3 plain and simple.

  22. Yossi Silverman 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.

  23. tapani annila 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.

  24. Calvin Limuel 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.

  25. 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.

  26. Marc 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.

  27. Craig miller says:

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

  28. 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.

  29. T. McD 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.

  30. 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.

  31. Paul says:

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

  32. Julie Twining says:

    The story is written by men and only men!

  33. Miriam Jaffe 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.

  34. Sandra Laythorpe 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. Janusz says:

    Between 2 and 3, Jesus taught using parables, as did many teachers specially in philosophy, so three also qualifies

  38. Kris says:

    it seems that most folks fall either between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 … which may explain why 2 gets a plurality. I find myself mostly between 2 and 3 and voting 2.

  39. Judy Jones says:

    I choose number 1, and agree most closely with Christopher (23). However, I think it is not complete. It is the actual INSPIRED Word of God, but we must take into account that it contains figures of speech which must not be taken “woodenly”, and need to be properly exegeted by a person highly knowledgeable in the original languages with a literal, grammatical hermeneutic in order to develop a proper theology.

  40. Tom Sievers says:

    I agree that there should be a choice between 2 and 3. I believe that there inspired passages in the bible. I also believe that it includes stories that illustrate varies theological or political points but may not reflect objective historical fact. I also believe that people with non-orthodox views can benefit from the stories in the bible. For instance one can believe in reincarnation and have an appreciation for the issues and teachings. A belief in reincarnation can also be compatible with an interest in Biblical Archaeology. I’m sure many people who have travelled to ancient sites have had a feeling of having been there before.

  41. Doug says:

    Unfortunately, social scientific survey questions by nature usually miss necessary nuances that faithfully express actual opinions. So if these are the only three choices in the universe of options, then my choice is #3. In my faith tradition (United Church of Christ) we look to the word of God speaking in and through the Bible but we don’t equate the Word of God with the Bible (nor do we presume that the Bible is the only word of God). In one sense it’s unfair to expect the Bible to live up to our contemporary criteria of truth. Truth for us usually means accuracy, especially in the claims the Bible makes about history and the physical world. That is why, as Mark (8) correctly points out, fundamentalists and atheists have an easier time debating each other: because both presume that the Bible’s claims to truth must be accurate–they happened just the way the Bible describes it.
    However, when we try to test the Bible’s accuracy against scientific warrants for explaining the physical world or historical warrants for explaining the past, serious students of the Bible quickly realize that the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy is quite unreliable. Sometimes its claims are close to fact, though many other times they are not. I prefer to advocate that the Bible is theological fiction. Much of it was composed long after the events occurred that is supposedly reported and for theological not historical or scientific reasons. This applies as much to the stories of Jesus as to other events such as the creation story. In addition, many of he narratives of the Bible clearly demonstrate being influenced by the religious literature of its day, literature that is extant and easily compared. But, just because a story didn’t happen just the way it was told, doesn’t mean it isn’t true or have relevance to forming how we make sense of life and the world around us. Works of fiction can communicate deep truths about humanity and life even though the stories didn’t really happen. The bible’s power to communicate truth is not tied up with its accuracy but its ability to communicate powerful truths, such as the effective power of reverence, trust, love even in the most difficult of times.

  42. Peggy S says:

    I very much like what Mark wrote in number 8. Well said, Mark.

  43. Peggy S says:

    I fall between 1 and 2 because of the range of literary styles found in the Bible. I would change the wording to read, “and everything in it should be taken seriously, with attention being paid to the literary genre being used.” For example, when the prophets speak of the huge swarms of locusts but mean the invading armies. Or when Jesus said that John the Baptist IS Elijah. There we can see his sense and know that John is not literally Elijah.

  44. Larry/Martha Rippere says:

    I’m actually between 1 and 2: the Bible is the factual Word of God, but those “words” as we see them are subject to an enormous variety of translations. Good Christian believers will cling to a certain translation – say the KJV if you’re English-speaking – and therefore overlook or misinterpret a number of passages whose translated text actually reads closer to the Hebrew/Greek originals.
    The Hebrew Bible is also filled with puns, typically impossible to translate. Therefore, the direction of their context is lost on us who are not scholars in contact with the original texts ( = nobody!).

  45. David says:

    #41 should read “David,: not “Lisa” (#@! browser defaults).

  46. David says:

    I also agree that there needs to be an option between #1 and #2, an option stating that the Bible is the actual, inspired Word of God and is to be understood according to the syntax,grammar, context and writing and cultural style of that particular section (or our best, current understanding of these). Hence, I could go with either 1 or 2, but given the forced choice format then I will go with the one with the higher view of scripture in the absence of more precision, This is because while #1 does not account for the linguistic complexity of the Bible, #2 does not sufficiently look to the Bible itself in its complexity for some basis of interpretation. If I have to make a choice between misunderstanding the words or disregarding the words of someone I love and respect, and I am given no other choice, I’ll take a risk on the former; I find that #2 risks the latter in the absence of clarification. But I would prefer an option that decreases the propensity to do either.

  47. emmanuels7 says:

    I chose #2. I believe the Bible to be inspired by God, but it won’t make sense to take everything in it literarily as some parts are obviously poetic and figurative.

  48. gabriela says:

    It’s for sure inspired by God,but at that time humans hadn’t the words and the knowledge to put In writing all that God told them.So they wrote only that
    they understood

  49. missy says:

    People. The bible isn’t supposed to be taken completely literally! It’s full of poems and parables! Hence my answer of #2!

  50. Ivor Muir says:

    It’s all propaganda, to further a lucrative idea ideal and feather the nests of of the powers that were.
    They knew how easily people of 2000 years ago could be easily fooled, so they had scribes, and gave them carte blanche, to come up with the most outrageous, fantastical stories.
    This is how King Constantine, converted, they all new they were on to something, that would make them all rich beyond their wildest dreams……..BIGGEST SCAM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!

  51. Eric says:

    The Word of God is the will of God. How else are we to know just what His will is for each of us. Research is necessary to rightly divide the Bible (II Timothy 2:15). The Bible interprets itself ( I Peter 1:20 and 21). More at http://www.theway.org

  52. Jim says:

    I chose #2, but really I would be between 1& 2. As others already elegantly pointed out, there are some obvious places where Jesus is speaking in parables or a prophet describes a vision that is not meant to be taken literally. But I find that if I have faith enough to believe Christ resurrected and atoning for my sin, everything else (6 days of creation, 10 plagues, Jonah swallowed by a great fish, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Daniel in the lions den, etc.) is small potatoes. Besides that, the more we learn about science (astronomy, genetics, biochemistry, etc.) the more learn the Bible is true. The Big Bang, Darwinist evolution, & other recent scientific theories are beginning to require more faith than the Bible as more scienctific discoveries & evidence are learned.

  53. Brad R says:

    A research paper by Steven W Boyd, Ph.D on the statistics of Genesis Hebrew. http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/technical/Statistical-Determination-of-Genre-in-Biblical-Hebrew.pdf

  54. Brad R says:

    I would tend to agree with Mark J. The Hebrew language is quite specific about word tenses that are only found in particular genre of writing. In Genesis 1 to 2:3, for instance, there is a very high statistical correlation (>98%) that the verb tenses specify a historical reading. The scroll was written as a literal history of events as they were dictated to Moses by God.

    I would be interested to hear about those who see contradictions in the Bible. Please point them out for discussion. As for any errors that exist, there are well over 5,500 well preserved manuscripts of the New Testament. See this website for information on the availability of manuscripts for other ancient authors like Plato, Aristotle, etc. http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

  55. LYN says:

    1 and 2 …. the BIBLE is the WORD OF GOD — but there are passages that only pertained to the people they were spoken to — BUT they can be inspiration to all of us — TAKE UP YOUR MAT AND WALK — that was personally told to a lame man by JESUS —- but we can be inspired to pray for others and ourselves — whether we are healed or not — we are encouraged that GOD is with us and will never leave us ever 🙂

  56. Dean Fiala says:

    #3 – I also enjoyed reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad. These ancient texts give an excellent look into the minds of our ancestors, but we all must come to realize that they were the works of man in their attempt to explain and put meaning to the world at that time. Very interesting, but fables and myths nonetheless.

    Please take some time to research human civilization and religion origins. Doing so will give you a much clearer understanding of how our belief systems came about. Also, our actual history is no less awe inspiring without some ‘intelligent agent’ pulling our strings.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/world.htm

    http://www.talkorigins.org/

  57. Carey Cossaboom says:

    The Bible is the actual word of God recorded and transcribed by men. Therefore, we should expect some glitches (errors) in literal translation. However, none of these errors are of a significant nature. I see virtually no contradictions, understanding that certain accounts are intended to be allegorical, and therefore, literally non-literal. We are advised to use discernment in interpreting the actual meanings and contexts of the recorded accounts. That is the exciting challenge of the Bible, and the ultimate test of life. I vote #1.

  58. Ric Olsen says:

    Need a category between 1 & 2. “The Bible is the actual Word of God, but not everything is to be taken literally”, i.e. there is poetic language but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the actual word of God. I do not hold a Muslim view of the Word for Word where if the grammar is wrong so it God, but I do believe that besides scribal errors/comments, the Spirit of God used the personalities and educational styles of a large body of authors to communicate exactly the message He intended.

  59. Richard Hofelich says:

    I suspect some things were not originally intended to be taken literally, but over time people did start to think they were.
    Other stories have errors because although they tried to explain what happened they didn’t really understand (gave it their best shot).
    Some things may have been written purely for political reasons and the author new it wasn’t true.

  60. J HAMMOND says:

    I think that, like many of the commenters, I am between #2 and #3. The creation and transmission of this collection of stories, history and culture has been carried out by human beings,but the values and spiritual experiences which these texts help to inspire have a divine component. I think of the text as the means of transmission, like the phone lines, and the divine element is the voice that comes through the line. Humans built the line, God talks!

  61. Edward says:

    Those that choose other than #3 live in a fantasy world. That is their right and privilege, but one wonders how they make any logical decisions as they go through life. One can believe in God and/or Jesus as God and still see that #3 is the logical choice.

  62. Kathy says:

    Haven’t time to read all of the comments but must agree with the first few. The bible is a marvelous book about people’s perceptions of God but it is also a wonderful combination of literature, a cultural record, stories, myths, legends and wisdom literature. There is a great deal in the bible but for me most importantly it is like a window on an ancient world showing the ideas and world perceptions of people of the ancient world. Some of it is not necessarily relevant because science has shown the nature of the world and the universe to a greater degree but the ideas presented are pretty good for an ancient people with no scientific understanding. On the other hand the ideas presented about god and interactions with people are still very relevant for every age. Even here, thought we can see a progression from the perception of ‘violence in the name of god’ to the greater importance of peace, justice and love of neighbor.

  63. John Campbell says:

    Mark Johansen (8,9), Andrea (10), Mary (14) all capture my thoughts. Fundamentally, however, I doubt that a survey will help us. The act of surveying a large number of individuals on a subject of this depth assumes that faith/religion/unbelief is a purely subjective, private matter. Beyond that, the surveyors must oversimplify to make the responses manageable, and they must classify the responses in a way that is not fine-tuned to the variety of responses that would paint an accurate picture of the target audience. If the target audience is BAR readers, then we can assume that there is a tilt toward science in our thinking, but that we are not all scholars. I would like to add 1) the term “Bible” means for most of us a canonical set of books that require a lifetime of study to begin to comprehend, 2) the writings are heavily edited and redacted over centuries of human interpretation, 3) humans had a hand in writing it all down, so it reflects the cultural and social environments of the times written or redacted, and 4) God has a significant role in guiding us how to read and understand it as the Word of God.

  64. Chris says:

    I chose 2, but in reality it is because 1 does not adequately explain the issue. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but it is certainly not all to be taken literally. Based on the different genres of Scripture, some of it is figurative. God inspired much in the way of symbolism (Ezekiel, Daniel, or Revelation, anyone?), but the symbols have concrete meanings if understood in the context of the original authorial intent. That is where a well-thought out hermeneutic is crucial. But, yes, indeed, the Bible IS the Word of God, word for word. Just some of those words are figurative in meaning.

  65. drexelr2 says:

    Like a number of folks above, I would’ve chosen an option between 2 and 3. I lean heavily on the 3 side, but there’s some mighty inspiring and inspired material in the Bible.

  66. Len Hart says:

    Although I understand what is being said in #3, I fall more in between #1 and #2. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God but that He used man to record it. Therefore, it does reflect the transcribers cultural context. I believe that it is meant to be taken literally except in places where allegory, figures of speech, cultural context, and such like deem otherwise. In other words, in certain passages there needs to be an interpretation to determine meaning. In such cases I believe that God has given the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.

  67. Steve Ellery says:

    Firmly No 1. It appears to me the more humanity moves from belief in God and His holy word, to self belief and living for oneself, a world obsessed with wealth, belief in science and technology, and in most instance cases cares little for others, a world that shows less tolerance for those whose beliefs are different from their own, a world that spends vast somes of money on find bigger and better ways to kill each other, a world that depletes our resources at an alarming rate, a world where natural and man made disasters are occuring at an alarming rate, one would think that reading and believing what God has to say in the Bible might not be such a bad idea.

  68. Judith says:

    It is encouraging that there are more people in #2 than in #1. Let’s hope they all eventually move to #3.

  69. David R Lowden says:

    #1 is the truth for me. I believe the reason faith exists is because man is imperfect and in fact sinfully flawed which extends to every aspect of his existence past, present and future until God’s kingdom. Specific to this debate flaws exist in his recording of God’s word, his interpretation of God’s word and it’s recording, his constantly migrating belief system and the science that he practices to prove or disprove anything. The facts are that biblical things exist and have been substantially proven in qualitative and quantitative means. All other arguments are of “degrees” (multiple meanings intended).

  70. czdsp says:

    Marked #2, because I cannot exactly take the Bible as exactly literal. Jesus refers to many of his teachings as parables (E.g. Mt 13:18). The stuff is true, because it teaches what is true. The Bible teaches the mind of Christ (“annointedness”). Jesus is the Word of God.

  71. Mahlon Marr says:

    I believe the Bible and all other “holy” books to be only the word of men; some of it history, some of it inspired by a desire for power & influence, and some of it inspired by true wisdom–but none the subject of divine influence, even though I believe there is a God.

  72. Mary Caywood says:

    Mine is No.14

  73. Mary Caywood says:

    In the Gallup poll, the second statement reflects my viewpoint more closely than the other two. My actual viewpoint is as follows: The Bible is the true inspired word of God, written over a long period of time, with the intent of being understood by a wide range of readers of different cultures and times in history and despite differences in levels of literacy and scientific education. Thus, interpretations may vary and still be correct within the context of historical era and circumstances. A continuing challenge is the need to discern the truth in the many messages in the Bible. In addition to our own study, we must rely on interpretations by a wide range of Bible scholars and theologians, not on individual leaders or special groups.
    Example: Today there are leaders and groups who think they are defending the Bible by claiming that creation as described in Genesis was accomplished in six earth days. In addition to scientific evidence and logic that say otherwise, they are missing clues in the Bible itself. Psalm 90:4 says, “A thousand years to you are like one day; they are like yesterday, already gone, like a short hour in the night;” and 2 Peter 3:8 “. . . There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same.” For those who take the Bible literally, Genesis 1:16 says God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day. The “formless and void” universe created on the first day of creation in Genesis 1:1-5 seems similar to a description of the formless universe that science tells us exploded into being about 13.7 billion years ago.
    Those who study effective communications today are told, “Keep it simple, -“. The original communicator knew that. The description of creation in Genesis is a simple account of a process that took eons of time. Theologians should help reconcile science and religion.

  74. Mari Bonomi says:

    Just to bo on record: there are indeed avid readers of Biblical Archeology who are secular humanits, agnostics, atheists. One can be fascinated by our early history without being in any way seeking for proocs of a divinity.

    I first came to the magazine out of a fascination with ancient Rome. Raised as a mostly cultural Jew, I have been for most of my life a deeply skeptical secularist. Nothing I read here changes that mindset.

  75. Ray says:

    I find the Bible is a record of peoples’ experiences and understandings of the Divine. Because it is about the divine it is in a sense “inspired” by the Divine. However, I checked #3 as I find it a record of experiences and understandings. Therefore, as a human creation, there is problematic material in it.. This does not diminish it as an inspiring tool. Teaching how to live today by reflecting on the biblical past using our reasoning ability – study, traditions, research and checking with others..

  76. Gloria Carl says:

    As with many others I am somewhere between 2 and 3. The Bible has too many contradictions and has had too many revisions and errors, even if one wanted to take it literally. It is a book recorded by man. But, it is also our book about our relationship to God and each other and God’s relationship to us. If one reads it metaphysically it become a clear blueprint on how to live our lives. As I said, somewhere between 2 and 3.

  77. Andrea Daniel says:

    None of the choices seem appropriate to me. With knowledge mostly of the Hebrew Scripture I find the Bible to be an often fragmented, certainly contradictory, and endlessly fascinating book of history, theology, customs, and laws from ancient times. I also take issue with the words, “recorded by man.” Surely there is the hand of a female author in Song of Songs.

  78. Mark says:

    Jolynn: Yes, a fascinating comparison (i.e. that a Gallup poll finds that 46% of Americans believe the world was created in 6 literal days but this Pew poll finds that only 28% take the Bible literally). I suppose it’s possible that one poll or the other was biased in some way. Frankly I suspect it brings up a classic problem in polling: Questions — and answers — are subject to interpretation. The Gallup question was pretty concrete and unambiguous. I think this question is a little more amorphous. Could some number of people have said, Well of course the parables aren’t literal, and so checked #2? Or might someone have hesitated over checking #1 because he doesn’t believe that translations necessarily preserve the originally-inspired meaning? Etc. Or was there a relevant difference in how subjects for the poll were selected?

  79. Mark says:

    I checked number 1, but when I say that I take the Bible literally, I don’t mean that literally. :-)Rather, I read the Bible as I would read any other book: it is usually pretty straightforward to determine what is intended to be read literally and what is figurative or poetic. I doubt there are many people who think that Jesus’s parables were intended to be understood as true stories relating actual events. Or that a statement like “the mountains clapped their hands for joy” or “his heart broke” is intended literally. Granted, there are cases when it might be unclear — especially when describing subjects not within normal human experience, like Heaven and angels. But surely the REAL question is not, Do you take every word in the Bible literally? But rather, Do you believe that the statements which were clearly written as descriptions of actual events, and which you would surely understand to be intended as descriptions of actual events if they did not include things that you find difficult to believe, like miracles, are in fact actual events, or do you say that anything that you find hard to believe must be re-interpreted symbolically?

    If you accept that it is INTENDED to be a description of an actual event, of course we could still debate if the story is accurate or not. Personally, as a Fundamentalist I often find it much easier to have rational conversations with atheists than with liberal Christians. The atheist and I agree that the words on the paper mean what they say, and the question before is to determine whether those statements are accurate. We can then debate the historical and scientific evidence, etc. But the liberal Christian says that the words DON’T mean what they say, that we must search for the “deeper meaning”, and in fact that the words mean whatever he in his totally subjective opinion wants them to mean. There’s no way to debate such interpretations. We just go in circles. “Well, if YOU want to interpret that to mean that Jesus actually went to a real place called Capernaum, that’s fine for you. But I prefer to think of Capernaum as a state of mind, and ‘walking’ as a way to describe the meditation that leads us to that state of mind …”

  80. susan freiman says:

    No question to show how many of us are atheists?

  81. Jolynn says:

    In 2012 Gallup conducted a poll that reported that 46% of Americans believe the world was created in six days. If you look at that in light of this Pew poll that means that a hefty number of ppl who don’t believe the bible is true still believe in 6 day creation! I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip: there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Looking forward to the results.

  82. Erik Weaver says:

    None of the answers adequately describe my views. I cast my vote for option #2, but with leanings toward the very important role of mythos (in the sense that parables and mythology often relate profound truths better than a purely empirical model); and a lack of importance on theism, which however, is not to be read as atheism, but rather akin to Tillich’s Ground of Being concept.

  83. Barbara says:

    I have just finished doing a study of the book of Judges. It turned my stomach to read the graphic details of how the people of God lost their way and did such evil.
    When we finished this study my Bible study group spent some time discussing and wondering how Judges ever made its way into the Bible when we are told all scripture is inspired by God.

  84. Martha says:

    I agree with Margaret Lois and Elli. There needs to be an option that says “God inspired the recording of myths, superstitions, legends, fables, history and moral precepts. “. There is much history in the Torah and the moral precepts are for the most part proven to be the way we should live together. But there are also many stories from other cultures and stories that contradict other stories. As I study more, I realize that from the beginning (I.e., two differing creation stories) we are required to discuss, question and achieve synthesis on our own. That’s why God gave us free will.

  85. Elli says:

    I agree, there needs to be an option in between two and three….something like, “God inspired the recording of myths and superstitions and legends and fables because he likes teaching through these methods.”

  86. Margaret Lois Jansen says:

    Voted 2 but fall between 2 and 3 in reality….maybe a continuum of 1-5 with each of the statements being the odd numbered one. Agree with someone above who reads 3 as the reality and at the same time theologically opting for 2.

  87. Leo Richardson says:

    I don’t think that the 3 poll questions covered the topic sufficiently. But, using these questions, I would say the answer is a combination of #2 and #3.

  88. Ernest Jurick says:

    I side with those who find the three categories much too limiting for such a complex work as the Bible. There’s no mention of geographical or historical accuracy or inaccuracy, for one thing.

    But consider the origin of the poll: the Gallup organization paints with a very broad brush in an attempt to gather a large number of respondents to its polls.

    BAR might offer to design the next Gallup poll on the topic with at least double the number of viewpoints. I list the Hebrew Bible as my favorite book because it’s the only work I’m aware of that delves into everyday life and language in a long-ago age. I read BAR because the Biblical era fascinates me despite my lack of religious faith.

  89. Dan says:

    I believe the questions could be worded better, particularly with regard to the expressions “literal” or “literally.” These two words are interpretive descriptions, while the idea that the Bible is God’s Word is a description of faith. In Question #1, for instance, the word “literally” seems to equate being “literal” with the belief that the Bible is the “actual word of God,” but any serious interpreter of biblical literature knows that the Bible contains metaphorical language which is not to be taken literally. This has nothing at all to do with whether or not it is the “word of God.” In Question #2, the language about the Bible is changed from “the actual word of God” to “the inspired word of God” (a distinction without a difference?), but here it seems to suggest that one can believe in inspiration without literal interpretation. It would seem to me that one might believe the Bible to be “the actual word of God” without subscribing to pan-literalism.

  90. Jeanie says:

    Hans W. Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative may serve as a reference to overcome the “too much simplicity” in the forced three positions suggested by the Gallup poll.

    Frei simply reminds readers that the way in which “meaning” is understood has changed. Frei describes a precritical approach that understood the Bible as literal, historical, with words meaning what they say, accurately describing real events and real truths, and as telling a single story. A way of envisioning this is to see an external pattern as informing the story rather than the story having to conform to external pattern (in this case, factuality limited to the “historical world.” He says that before empirical philosophy, deism, and historical criticism, the Bible could be read in a “literal sense” identical with “historical truth.” What is now regarded as “literal” must fit the patterns of “probable” and “language-neutral historical veracity.”

    The option which the Gallup poll has omitted is realistic narrative (literature). Readers might consider Frei’s categories of realistic narrative: indispensability of narrative shape, chronology, meaning, theme, subject matter, character set firmly within their external and social environment, inseparability of subject matter from depiction or cumulative rendering, literal rather than symbolic, ordinary and credible characters–and characteristics which taken together constitute the serious, sublime, and tragic impact of history.

    Perhaps a way to view what has happened is to think of external pattern (including both the physical and metaphysical) as impacting the world (story) rather than story as now being interpreted only in relation to the physical world and contrasted to history and verifiable fact.

    In the wake of the change from one way of knowing to another, I appreciate BAR’s tongue in cheek: “We all know that BAR readers’ attitudes are better educated, more literate and know more about the Bible than Americans generally. How do we know? Well, we just know.”

  91. Jim says:

    While #3 best fits my views now (#1 would fit the belief I grew up with) I agree that 3 choices leave something to be desired. Which, in my experience, is usually the case with the forced choices of polls.

  92. Nancy Hetrick says:

    The more I read & study the Bible the more I find it is The Truth. From Gen. 10:25 One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; – I believe this is speaking of the continents dividing – to the ‘rock poured out for me streams of oil’ Job 29:6 – aren’t we getting streams of oil from shale? Or Judges 6:12 when the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon as he was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites & He said to Gideon ” The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” He saw something in Gideon that we could not & Gideon showed he was a mighty warrior. God proved Himself to Gideon as He has proved Himself to me over & over in my life. I may not have put out a fleece but God proved His love for me anyway & in ways I never could have imagined! Do I deserve this love? Absolutely Not! Does He give it to me anyway? Absolutely Yes! As for me & my house, we will serve the Lord! I will not be moved because He has shown me true faithfulness. It saddens me to see a move away from 1 & towards 3 in our time. Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. El Shaddai is who I take refuge in Jehovah Jirah is my provider & the name allah is not in Gods’ Word.

  93. Steve Henigson says:

    I gave up imaginary friends back when I was a child. Thus, I do not believe in God—or in Angels, devils, Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory, for that matter.
    I see the Bible as a collection of precepts making up a valid and useful system of morality, and the stories necessary to illustrate them.
    I also see the Bible as a book which contains a fair amount of real history, although much of that history was manipulated, and therefore is somewhat perverted, by the need to illustrate the series of moral precepts to which I previously referred.

  94. Robert R. Dykstra, Ph.D. says:

    Count me as a #3 reader. I’m an atheist; Bart Ehrman’s “God’s Problem” says it all for me, but like him I’m fascinated by late Judaism and early Christianity. A God in Heaven is the height of absurdity, and I’d wish for a wholly secularized world – except that 20th century examples (see Naziism and Communism in its various Stalinist manifestations) demonstrate that any system demanding unquestioning adherence to some unprovable set of ideas is nuts. And comments like “the Bible is the truth, there are no other options” make me sick to my stomach. Please don’t get me started on Noah’s Ark or the Virgin Birth.

  95. Tony Wilson says:

    The Bible is the truth, there are no other options – it is all true or a lie, simple It is all true

  96. Bob says:

    My support for the first category is based on the Divine Miracle presented in the Bible. The Judaic-Christian Scriptures comprise the World’s ONLY “Holy Book” that presents prophecies forecasting future Events that actually have materialized. There must be a caveat attached to the claim of the Bible as God’s Word, however. There are multiple “translations” in many languages. The ORIGINAL Scriptures, however, were written AND spoken – NOT in Hebrew nor in Greek. They were originally inscribed in Aramaic (aka Chaldean). For that reason, Mel Gibson insisted his film dialogue to be in Aramaic – the spoken and written language of The People of Judea and Samaria during the 1st century C.E. The MOST authoritative text available is the Peshitta (or “Syriac”). It has been held by “The Church of the East” during two millennia, virtually without any alteration. This condition exists despite that about five bitterly rivaling sects exist within that church. They have manuscripts dating to the 2nd century C.E. Nevertheless, the same “bottom line” persists for Christians “Blessed Assurance” Promising their Salvation and their acceptance into God’s Kingdom. – His Word IS Good. – In any language.

  97. Anthony says:

    I subscribe to the 3rd position that “The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.” I would add that if God seems to speak to us through the Bible most often it’s because we are more likely to be paying atention when reading the Bible not because of any inherent virtue within the Bible. Further I would say that the first position that: “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” is a demonic deception. As can be seen in the atrocities commited by ISIL in Iraq fundamentalism is always a demonic deception regardless of wether or not the creed is Hindu, Buddist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Communist.

  98. George says:

    I have read somewhere that the Bible, taken as a whole, is ancient man’s attempt at a theodicy, and I find that quite reasonable. I must also note, based on what I have read here, that it is a sort of a literary Rorshach test. It certainly contains a variety of materials: legend and myth, history, poetry, wisdom, religious propaganda, and many other categories. A lot of it is just stories which call out for some sort of metaphorical treatment. I like reading and thinking about it. By the way, SamG, assertion is not demonstration; and I say the same to you, Paul.

  99. Ann Luce says:

    Of which Bible are we speaking – one with 24 books, 66, 73, or 81? Which translation, from which linguistic tradition, edited by and noted as being from E, J, P, or D sources? Number 3 is as close to my answer as I can give. Personally, I follow the Unity tradition of allegorical exegesis, and doing so am able to look for, and find, human history and truth in the sacred writings of all sorts of paths.

  100. ed says:

    #3 is factually accurate. At the same time these very human documents speak to us because we are human; we still perceive and interpret history and life’s experiences in certain ways reflecting our patterns of thought and education. For that reason, careful readers need to remind themselves that many of these texts are slanted to value priesthood and church, patriarchy and obedience, and the social customs and beliefs of the ancient Middle East of at least 2,000 years ago. Individual Bible verses plucked from one context or another are certainly not literally “true.”

  101. SamG says:

    So we walk in our own wisdom now ?

    (Psalms 94:11) “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.”

    (1 Corinthians 3:18-20) “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. {19} For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. {20} And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”

  102. Bill says:

    Factually I agree with # 3 The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recordfed by man.
    Theologically I agree with # 2 The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in is should be taken literally.
    I do not see a contraduction between the two beliefs.

  103. Sue Ann Taylor says:

    I voted for number 1, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but also know and realize that language has changed quite a bit since the Bible was written. Metaphors, poetry, vocabulary, social / environmental happenstance, parables, our own education, and our knowledge of the Bible will make a difference in how we personally view the suggested responses. I will stand with #1 until proven wrong. ( Along with daily Bible studies, I have read three different translations of the Holy Bible – from Genesis 1:1 through Revelations 22:21 eight times – minimum of one chapter per day – and consistently find something new. I believe our personal daily experiences guide us in our understanding of the Holy Bible.)

  104. Ron Merlo says:

    It may help to review the details of the Gallup Poll which is available on-line. In addition to the three questions that were asked of half of those polled, a fourth question was added to the other half – – – “The Bible is the actual word of God, but multiple interpretations are possible”. When the additional question was added (as a second question), the responses to the four questions were 22%, 28%, 28%, and 18% (with 4% having no opinion). The breakdown of the poll also gives results by Christian and Non-Christian respondents. (Of interest, 11% of the Non-Christians agreed with the first question in the 3-question poll, dropping to 6% in the 4-question poll)

  105. Andrea Sender says:

    The Bible is an account of God’s self-revelation to human beings. As such it has been mediated through prophets, inspired literature, myths, fables, historic episodes and editors. Parts contain primitive magical religion from earlier times. Parts contain teachings modern cultures have not attained the wisdom to understand.

  106. Gary Tompkins says:

    We had a similar question on a questionnaire to the congregation of our church a few years ago to be used for a “mission study.” Most church members were also at a place similar to that described by #4 (Greg) above. Few though that biblical stories trumped either physical or social science; rather they thought of them as instructive and useful for discussion and study. I personally support Eric Law (Holy Currencies, page 44) in his chapter on “Truth” and his concern that we NOT take ANY biblical verse as the whole truth to use in a polarizing way; “To discern the truth we need to read the whole Bible from beginning to end.”

  107. Garrett Luce says:

    I go with number 1, all the while understanding that there are parables and symbolic language in the book. I don’t have to turn off my brain to believe. Jesus said point blank that He spoke in parables for the understanding of those who believe and vice versa. It is a supernatural book that will never be understood by the “natural man”. The prophets wrote of things they did not understand and could not see, e.g. the church age. I trust God that He has put all truth in His book and that it is the duty of man to discern it. That has been my life’s work. And BAR’s articles continue to show me the physical reminders of the supernatural as well as the historical.

  108. Janet Freckleton says:

    I’m not a believer, but I’m endlessly interested in the belief systems of others. I try to remain open-minded, curious and humble when confronted with new information and contending views.

  109. Al says:

    I fall between categories 4 and 5 – the Bible is no more literally true, or useful, than any other religious writing (4) and that it’s a bunch of bs, written by people seeking some sort of personal gain (5). I see no difference between Christanity/Judaism/Islam and Dianetics or tea leaf reading – the childish human desire to be something special.

    As a guide to morality, it fails miserably – you can beat your slave to death as long as he doesn’t die within the first day or two? The Marquis De Sade was more moral.

  110. Robert Staples says:

    I picked the first response. However it must be stated that the Bible employs much figurative language. It would be better to say the Bible is to be taken as truth in all areas of life. It is the ultimate standard for all areas of life including religion. This view is not popular, especially to the priests of academia, but we do not need Jesus to matriculate our university while we confer a degree from him. He is the co-creator, savior, wisdom of God, and the Lord of Glory. We will bow down to him, even secular humanists and those like-minded. Thank you.

  111. Gretchen says:

    As an atheist I believe the bible is an interesting compilation of stories written to help explain how a society behaves and with the intent of providing a framework of behavior that was appropriate to the period in which it was written. As with many writings, the book can be used as a spiritual guide and even interpreted as a book of holy wisdom if the reader so chooses. The same, however, could be said of Aesop’s fables. Answer number 3 most closely reflects my opinion but I would have either left out “moral precepts” or replaced it with “guide to social behavior” since the word “moral” is often equated with the concept of religious as opposed to secular attributes.

  112. steven says:

    the great falling away has begun

  113. Barry says:

    Which Bible? The Jewish Bible? The Catholic Bible? The shorter Protestant one? The Gnostic Bible? The New New Testament?

  114. William H. Scarle, Jr. says:

    The use of the word “literally” in the first choice confuses the issue. Since the Bible contains many differing literary styles it is obvious that some portions are to be understood literally and others figuratively – as poetry etc. The choice of number two does not constitute a rejection of number one. The vocabulary is deceptive. The word “actual” is unnecessary. The Bible is the word of God or it isn’t. Does number two’s use of “inspired” substitute for “actual?” Can the Bible be “inspired” and not be “actual?” The real question is does the Bible carry the Authority of the Almighty. Here is the existential crunch. WHS

  115. Bill Muller says:

    Many respondents are blaming BAR for these questions. They are from the Gallop organization and are on this page because BAR considers them insufficient, as do I.
    I answered to #2, but do believe some stories have other purposes. I was taught that the first creation myth was a lesson : observe the Sabbath. The second myth was to be sure women were subject to men and were inferior (although Adam doesn’t show a lot of spine when questioned about eating the apple).
    I consider the OT history and, as Paul often states, not the way to live a Christian life.
    Put me down as an “informed agnostic”, to use a term from Marcus Borg.

  116. Terry says:

    Is a question ever worded the way a reader would like? I selected #1. This is an amazing work of complexity and patterns. A map of events past through future. This book has depth I have yet to discover but anticipate a continued adventure.

  117. E. Derreth says:

    When all discussion ends, I still place my emphasis on one word, “believe.”

  118. David Schwausch says:

    The Bible obviously contains all three categories, though too often we tend to listen to what we say or think about it rather than what God is saying to us through any of it. When I take the time to look at what’s really in a passage instead of what someone else has told me is there, I’m continually amazed at what surfaces.

  119. John B says:

    Test only: why does your system not accept my email and erase my message?

  120. Nanabedokw'Môlsem says:

    The answer is somewhere between 2 and 3, or a merger of them. I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, yet each book within the Bible must be taken as written at a given time in an idiom of the time for communication with the people of the time who lived and listened in the context of the culture of those people at that time.

    For instance there is the story of the Israelite sheepherders who approached a Canaanite village. While engaged in normal commerce and courtesies the sheepherders are dismayed to learn that a young man among them is becoming enamored of a Canaanite girl. The upshot is that upon an engineered social event when the Canaanites have become soundly asleep possibly with the help of one of the drinks provided to them, the Israelites murder all the Canaanites and then move on. Now is this a portrayal of extraordinary violence in which Israelites engaged? Or is it instead a tale for instructing young Israelites to marry within the faith? I believe the latter.

  121. Mark Farris says:

    There needs to be a little inclusive clarification of category 3 because I’m certain the Jewish authors of the old testament plagiarized much of their mythology from Sumerian sources. Samuel Noah Kramer’s book, ” History Begins at Sumer” lays out some of this info. The biblical great flood story was lifted from the Babylonian tale of Gilgamesh which was as well borrowed from the Sumerians. All are probably accounts of the end of the last ice age. Oceans rose around 400 feet which led to the creation of numerous great floods, the creation of the Black Sea probably represented the localized great flood of Gilgamesh. As for the New Testament, I have to agree with Joseph Atwill and others that the Flavian dynasty is responsible for creating the New Testament and the mythical character Jesus Christ.

  122. Joshua Zambrano says:

    Agreed with what others are saying about the problems with the wording. For example the books of Revelation and Daniel use prophetic symbolism, even stating that certain words stand for others, for example olive trees are symbols for two witnesses, the harlot of Babylon refers to a great city (end of Rev. 17), etc. The Bible tends to be pretty obvious when it’s using a parable, dream, or vision to speak symbolically, and when it’s speaking literally (which is most of the time). The question does need to be worded better to avoid overlap though, as some who believe the Bible inerrant and means what it says could still fall into the second category.

  123. Bien says:

    The Bible is the inspired Word of God. I take the literal statements literally, and the figurative statements figuratively. I use my common sense, my experience, and my knowledge of language and grammar to know the difference and to determine what the figures of speech mean. This statement I take against “hyper-literalism”.

  124. carolyn says:

    I am more apt to place creedence in the new testament simply because Jesus said so. Many p eoplle use the OT to justify their own hatreds Mostly the books ask us only for obedience. The rest appears to be man made pregedouses..

  125. Harry Briley says:

    As a conservative in both Jewish and Christian interpretations of the text, this poll does a disservice to BAR by couching it in simple end-points and a monstrously huge middle. Better to ask three questions instead: What percentage of the text we have today matches the text as authored (e.g. the reliable transmission question)? What percentage of seminary interpretations match the intended meaning of the author in that time and setting (e.g.the isogesis factor)? and What percentage believe in a viable supernatural realm? If we deny the supernatural engagement of G-d or deny a G-d even, then the Bible is not believable except for names, places, political maneuverings, and dating assistance for archaeology.

  126. DavicC says:

    I’m a Calvinist: T.U.L.I.P. so I know the difference in #1 and #3. Could it be: Jn 8:47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

  127. Lee says:

    To start with there should at least be a fourth category. Something to the effect that allows one to say, “none of the above”. Quite possibly that might well gather the most votes , as evidenced by the responses already given. Either the poll was “inspired” by religious fundamentalism, or by someone trying to incite controversy. As for choice #1, only certain fundamentalists can “honestly”fill that bill. –The other two questions don’t leave much room for the rest to express what they know to be the truth in their understanding of the scriptures and their relationships with God, …so we end up trying to shoehorn our beliefs into the ignorant choices the pollsters have given. –Ignorance vs. stupidity! –Guess I am one of the stupid ones!

  128. Rev Thomas J Hudson, OPA says:

    I’ll stick with the Catechism of The Episcopal Church:
    Q. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?
    A. We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.
    Q. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible?
    A. We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.

    The Rev. Thomas J. Hudson, OPA

  129. Janice says:

    Our bible study group recently undertook the study of Jesus’s parables. We always start out with one point of view and as we read, discuss and consult commentaries, we frequently find we have missed the point entirely. As with the story of the Good Samaritan I learned as a child, I have found numerous ways of interpreting the bible (I now think of myself as the injured Jew on the side of the road, and the Samaritan as Jesus) and each is correct with it’s own level of understanding of the message God is trying to impart to me. It is pure God sent communication. I just need to spend the time and effort to seek His message.

  130. DanL says:

    I agree that the Gallop poll is poorly worded, and agree with others that it depends on how one interprets the word “literally”. I answered 1 because I take the words literally in the sense in which they were intended by the original author. For instance poetical scriptures need to be interpreted in light of symbolism, metaphor, etc.

  131. Pastor David says:

    I agree the question is poorly constructed, I fall between one and two, in that I believe the scriptures are inerrant and infallible, and should be taken as intended, yet their is poetic usage and allegory, yet these are apparent in the type of literature they are in.

  132. Bob says:

    Horrible wording of the question. You don’t take figurative things literal. If you fear God as you should, then you follow His Word, word for word.

  133. Greg says:

    My position falls somewhere between #2 and #3. I’d probably word it something like this:

    The Bible is an ancient book of wisdom that brings together a hodgepodge of writings from many different sources, representing many different genres (history, poetry, myth, law, polemic, etc.). Its writers and editors were devout people of faith who may even have possessed some special spiritual insights (what we might call “inspiration”) that allowed them to grasp certain eternal truths better than their contemporaries did, and who were trying to convey the essence of those truths in a manner that could be grasped by ordinary human beings in that pre-scientific age. The Bible should not be read literally, as a textbook or instruction manual, but should instead be read literarily, as a wonderful story that is able to inspire the reader to see things in a different light.

  134. Kebas says:

    I agree that the question is poorly worded, for which polls are notorious. I answered the first reply. However, I could have answered the second also. It really depends on the meaning of the word “literally”. For example, some books and portions of Scripture are obviously intended to be symbolic, i.e. “the hills clap their hands.” If the first answer is supposed to mean that the hills literally have hands that they clap, then I would give the second answer. On the other hand, there are portions of Scripture which people try to assert are symbolic or poetic when they are not that type of literature at all. If the second answer means interpreting portions of Scripture symbolically in opposition to their actual literary form, then I would give the first response. Many people who readily accept secular accounts from the ancient world (with much less textual and other support) suddenly jump to the category of symbolism, myth, fable, etc. when it comes to Scripture. That is not interpreting Scripture “literally” in the basic sense, as literature.

  135. Andy says:

    I think there needs to a be a couple more categories. I fall some place between 2 and 3. There are too many contradictions (2 stories of Noah, 2 stories of David and Goliath, etc) to take it literally without doing some serious mental gymnastics. Science has long since proven the creation story to be myth / parable. Besides everything I have read of the ancients said that they wouldn’t have viewed it as literal either.

    That being said I do think it is more than a simple collection of stories and pseudo history. I think it is was inspired to tell us what we needed to know when we needed it. Yet the stories were inspired such that they still maintain there core teaching millenia later.

  136. James Shewmaker says:

    This question is poorly worded. There are parables, figures of speech and such-like. When Gideon heard that a man had dreamed that a loaf of bread had rolled into the camp of Midian, neither he nor the man who he heard talking thought that this was supposed to represent bread. When Nathan told David the story of the rich man who took a poor man’s lamb, Nathan meant it as a metaphor even though David did not realize that at first. When Jesus told the woman at the well that He could give her a well of water springing up unto eternal life, He was not speaking of literal water.

    Now if you want to ask: do I believe in a literal 6 days of creation? Yes. Do I believe in a literal flood that took a year to dry up? Ye.s Do I believe that Jesus literally died and was literally raised? Yes.

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