Does the Old Testament teach us scientific truths?

Hi friends,

I’m wondering: does the Old Testament (or the New) teach us scientific truths?

Here’s my first consideration. Genesis, according to conservative scholarship, was written around 1400 B.C. Brittancia says that the Scientific Revolution was a “drastic change in scientific thought that took place during the 16th and 17th centuries.” Some date the “start” of this period to the publication of Copernicus’s work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI in 1543.

I’m not very good at math, but that appears to be a nearly three-thousand-year span between the publication of Genesis and Copernicus’s research.

Was it God’s intention that, for nearly three thousand years, his people would be unable to properly understand Genesis? The theory would be that God intended to provide scientific guidance in Genesis but did so knowing that this information would be a hidden secret until science became a developed intellectual discipline.

On the face of it, that seems implausible. It seems to be an anachronistic approach to determining the purpose of Genesis.

Secondarily, at what point does God want his people to integrate the scientific insights of Genesis with the reigning scientific theories of their day? Was it in 1545? In 1800? In 1957? In 2022? Or will Genesis ultimately be integrated with scientific research in 3057?

My second kind of consideration comes from a point made by the pastor and academic Dr. Michael LeFebvre. In his book The Liturgy of Creation he argues:

The apostle Paul states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible is not given “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in science.” If we want to find answers to scientific questions, we need to pursue those through the tools of science. We should approach the science of origins the same way we approach the scientific study of cancer or electricity or chemistry. The creation mandate (Gen 1:28) urges us to study and explore the world, using the fallible but meaningful tools of human intelligence… The Bible should no more be used to determine the age of the universe than to determine the processes of trait inheritance through reference to Jacob’s breeding methods in Genesis 30:37-43 (p. 201).

Now it’s clear that the “Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3 is referring to the Old Testament. Dr. Richard Averbeck helped me see that in verses 14-15 we read,

But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

What Scriptures did Timothy have available to him as an infant? It wasn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John! No. They weren’t written. Timothy was reading the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

In other words, what does the Bible teach us about how to read the Old Testament? It seems crystal-clear: read it to become righteous!

But this is not just a general argument, but one that is made with more specificity in the New Testament. As Dr. LeFebvre summarizes:

The New Testament authors seem to have preferred the term Lord’s Day (e.g., Rev 1:10) rather than sabbath in order to distinguish their first-day observance from the continued seventh-day observances of the Jews under the popularly recognized title Sabbath (p. 216-217).

He additionally notes the record of church tradition:

Ignatius of Antioch (35–108) described the church as those who “attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him" (p. 216).

That is, in both general and specific ways, the New Testament instructs us to read Genesis 1, as it is fulfilled through Jesus. Creation week gives us holy guidance on how to order the days of our lives.

What do you think? What Biblical grounds are there for reading the Old Testament as scientific literature?


Great question!
I’m wondering if I’m taking this too far along a tangent, and I’m certain that I’m stepping way out of my depth with this one…but I’m thinking about how Christians use the Bible to understand the part that dinosaurs play in the history of the earth. I know that some ministries use scripture to unpick the issues of dinosaurs on the Ark, or the identity of the behemoth and leviathan mentioned in the prophets. These ministries actually use scripture as their basis of their arguments against the accepted scientific narrative in some cases. Happy to find examples if you’d like me to be more specific. However, is this a necessary investigation for our spiritual walk with God? Probably for the most part, no. Maybe for some individuals it is important. It’s like the Age of the Earth debate amongst Christians. Both Old Earthers and Young Earthers can use scripture to support their views. It doesn’t impact the salvation message though, which is the primary purpose of the Bible.

As far as the Biblical grounds go for all this, I think that the Biblical grounds for using scripture as scientific evidence can be useful when the worldly narrative threatens a complete detour from God’s promises over the earth and mankind. The example that comes to mind is the Climate Change discussion. The current narrative doesn’t allow for hope of salvation and renewal outside of man’s own efforts. Here, scripture is important data for a Christian to consider when looking at the scientific data.

As long as scripture can be used to ground us on God’s overarching purposes and plans, then we can dive into modern science with this as our framework. I’m not sure it’s always beneficial to take on a fully modern scientific theory with just the Bible as the evidence. As you say, scripture is for our righteousness, not for our scientific understanding.


Quick clarifying question(s): When you say “scientific” truth, is that as opposed to, say, moral or spiritual truths? Is “cosmological” truth considered “scientific” or “philosophical”? What makes something a “scientific” truth? Empirical evidence?

I think our world has lost touch with the definition or conceptual understanding of “science” over the last couple of years. My standard line has always been, “The Bible is not a textbook as we know them, but it is a book that illustrates the truths of life on many different levels.”


@kathleen, that’s a great question. I think it could get us into epistemology as well as the philosophy of science as it’s intensely debated what it means for a proposition to be ‘true’ and another debate over what counts as ‘scientific truth.’

I think that a relatively common and appropriate definition of ‘scientific’ truth is along the lines of both 1) ‘facts about the natural world’ and 2) ‘theories about the operations of the natural world.’

For instance, 1) this rock weighs 10 grams.
And as to 2, “F = Gm1m2/r2” (sorry for the imprecise notation) describes the gravitational force between this rock and another mass.

So in Genesis 1:14, on Day 4, when God makes the two lights in the sky, the sun and the moon, it is anachronistic to understand this as scientific truth - that on the 4th day of the universe, the sun and the moon came into being. It is strange to see Genesis telling us that, chronologically, dry ground and plants existed (Day 3) before the stars.

Rather, we would interpret this to be teaching that, say, God is ultimately the Creator of the sun and the moon, and God is the one who orders our days.


As a young Christian, I thought if I didn’t believe in the 7-day creation of the world, I was not being faithful to the Bible. Even a quick reading of Gen 1-3 brings forth questions. How was there light before creation of the sun on earth? Why is man described as being created on the 6th day in Gen 1:27-31 and vegetation on the 3rd day in Gen 1: 11-13 which stands in contradiction to the words in Gen 2:5-7? Surely the author would have noticed the contradiction. There must be other explanations why the author doesn’t even try to discuss the contradiction. I dont quite still understand what lens we need to read Genesis through. But I am inclined to think the genre of the literature and the understanding of the audience in history must be important factors to keep in mind.

As an ex-hindu, I often wondered why the Bible is so limited and doesn’t seem to have enough detail of the physical world as some of the ancient hindu texts. I used to ask if the Bible is even worthy to be paid attention to if it is not comprehensive. I now find comfort in the fact that the Bible is more concerned about our spiritual life than our physical life here on earth. The point of the gospel is not about making us comfortable in this world but to warn us not to get comfortable in this world as this world is coming to an end one day. If God’s intent was for us to know Him, the inclusion of scientific details seem unnecessary. I agree with @alison and Carson on this.

Even if we believe that communication of scientific facts was not the overall purpose of scripture, the facts communicated about the physical world when we carefully interpret scripture should in some sense be consistent with our modern scientific understanding of the physical world and overall story of the Bible if we are to stand by the principle that Bible contains only truth. So certain facts such as historical Adam and Eve, the attestation of the story of Jonah by Jesus, Noah’s flood, the miracles of Jesus need to be taken literally as actual events.

So coming back to the question raised, I think there is biblical ground for some truths about the physical world to be taken literally but not all.


Thanks for the clarification, @Carson! You mentioned the OT in your question, but specifically mention Genesis, so, I take it we’re wanting to specifically consider the story of origins…beginnings?

Genesis is fascinating to me because it is essentially two stories – the story of the beginning of the world (ch. 1-11) and the story of the beginning of Israel (ch. 12-50). There is so much being conveyed in these stories, and I agree that it anachronistic to read modern scientific truth into them.

One of the more fascinating pieces of study for me was to read the Genesis creation accounts (yes, plural) and compare them with other creation accounts from other ancient Near Eastern religions. These are myths not in the modern sense. The concept of myth is often conflated with fairy tale, or a story that has no basis in reality. But, in truth, a myth is a story that is pregnant with truth!

In these stories, we see the Israelite understanding that humanity is not brought into existence to be slaves of the gods. Instead, humans are created and established by the One God in dignity to be image-bearers and a part of God’s work on earth. And the nation of Israel is the legacy of this God, chosen, established, prospered and disciplined as children, not used as slaves.

If we’re looking only for scientific fact in the story of origins, I believe we are missing the beauty of what these texts are meant to convey!


If you’re a fan of Chuck Missler and his ministry you would have learned about many scientific truths that are highlighted in the scriptures. Two that I can remember are below.

First, during the flood God opened up the springs of the deep to flood the Earth. While it did rain, the Biblical author made it a point to reveal that the flood waters came from beneath the surface. but the scientific truth about water being stored in the earth’s crust was not scientifically discovered for centuries.

Second, when we read Jesus making a seemingly unscientific statement that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45) we dutifully apply the scripture to be about the good or bad in our heart will flow out of our mouths. Which is a right application, but then imagine my shock when I come across a video of Richard Dawkins dissecting the vagus nerve in a giraffe to point out what he calls a “beautiful example of historical legacy” and evidence that no intelligent designer would make such a design decision. Because the vagus nerve starts at the base of brain, down the neck, loops around the blood vessels at the top of the heart, and then makes the return trip up the neck to the voice box. What could have been a two inch nerve is instead a long nerve that travels the length of a giraffe’s and human’s neck. Twice.
(NOTE: I have the link to this video but it is graphic in that it shows the dissection of the giraffe’s neck. I can share if there’s a desire to see it. )

It is not my point that the author of Genesis and Jesus are making scientific statements but the truth behind their words survive scientific scrutiny and even contains scientific truth hidden behind the text.

Ultimately I’d say, ”No, the Bible should not be read as scientific literature.” However, the scientific accuracy hidden in the text that have inspired scientists throughout history to make phenomenal discoveries that flew in the face of scientific truth cannot be ignored.

I personally believe the Old Testament will convey the why and the meaning behind the truth, while science will focus instead on the measurement and observability of what can be understood.

To @lakshmi’s point, Bible is about building our trust in God and not on our own understanding. Which is likely why the Bible leaves many of those observable details out.


Hi @chris,

I appreciate you raising these points. I am in complete agreement with you that,

At the same time, I think we have to be careful about finding scientific accuracy that’s hidden in the text. The risk is that we “cherry pick” the verses that make sense to us and ignore the ones that don’t.

For instance, Psalm 104:5 reads, “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

Scientifically, what foundations is the earth set on? And how is it that the earth cannot be moved?

It seems that this is better read as poetic worship rather than a textbook that explains how the earth is stationary.

Is there some principle by which we know when the Bible is hiding scientific truth and when it is wrong, as a scientific matter, but wasn’t intending to speak to that issue?

With respect, I’d like to suggest that Chuck Missler might not be a reliable source for discussing science. For instance, he once argued against the theory of evolution by saying:

If the theory of evolution is viable, then I should, occasionally, by subjecting this [jar of peanut butter] to energy, end up having new life. Now we go down to the store and if I open this jar of peanut butter, maybe, not often but on some occasion, I should find new life inside. And so, when we open the jar of peanut butter, you look in there, there is no new life. And aren’t you glad, ok? Now, you may smile at this but hopefully you will never forget it, because you and I, collectively, conduct over a billion experiments every year and we have done that for virtually a hundred years and we never encounter new life. In fact the entire food industry of the world depends on the fact that evolution doesn’t happen.

The response that’s provided by skeptics, among other issues, is that Missler “is speaking of abiogenesis, not evolution, so he’s not even “disproving” the right thing.”

Here’s how Augustine described this problem -

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [quoting 1 Tim 1:7].”

It’s so important that we carefully scrutinize these claims, because our credibility is gravely weakened when we get basic facts about either the Scriptures or science wrong.


Completely agree!

The OT is not a scientific text book and should not be used for those purposes.

I think I cited Churck by mistake. I am recovering from the flu and was feverish while typing. So I’m grateful what I said was at least coherent. I also remember Chuck giving that example of peanut butter and hearing the rebuttal concerning abiogenesis. My aim wasn’t to esteem him as the ideal only that I heard stuff from him once upon a time.

The point I was making is that what may be communicated poetically may also provide a rebuttal to the scientific arguments that argue against God’s truth. Richard Dawkins asked why would an intelligent designer cause the vagus nerve to travel so far when a much shorter nerve would suffice. God said it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. The poetic and narrative truths are not in conflict with scientific discovery, but instead can offer meaning and reason to the measured order that science observes.

I like that quote from Augustine. I think that’s why I delete a lot of what I write. The problem with those people he’s talking about is that Christians will dig their heals in and become adamant about their personal view. In that case the Christian has missed God and has instead chosen to lean on their own understanding. Yes it does cause…

But then so does all other sin and arrogance.

My response to Richard Dawkins dissection video wouldn’t likely compel him, a staunch atheist, to repent and turn to God. But it illustrates how the scriptures can interact with and respond to scientific observations, even observations put forth as truths.

Agreed. I’m not a trained apologist. I’m just curious enough about science and theology to chime in from time to time. I wish I had more time available to invest in writing a more composed reply.