The Bible is not Fiction

The good news is that you can buy a Bible at Costco for $14.99.

The bad news is that you will find it under the fiction label at the Costco in Simi Valley, CA. The sticker on the back says “fiction” along with the price. That’s what Costco would have us believe.

I would understand if they disagree with the Gospel message found in the Bible, if they do not agree with the theology found there, and if they do not believe in God.  But by definition the Bible is not a work of fiction. Fiction is nothing more than imaginative writing which is not based in reality.

The Old Testament contains a code of living, the Law which we believe was given to Moses from God. It is a “how to live” guide that points forward to Christ.  It also contains songs, poetry, detailed historical accounts, artistic lamentations, prophecies, and many more types of non-fictional writing.

The New Testament contains the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) giving a somewhat parallel account from different perspectives on what Jesus said and did in His ministry.  The Gospel of John is a detailed account focusing on the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The book of Acts is detailed historical account of the way the Holy Spirit worked in the early church.  Many of Paul’s epistles are elaborate commentaries on the Old Testament and theological discussions on various subjects like human depravity, grace, faith, eschatology, etc.

Many of the other epistles contain exhortations and encouragements written to Asia Minor churches.

I could go on and on.

The Bible is not a work of fiction and anyone with a shred of honesty would agree.

But I believe the good news overshadows the bad news by a long stretch.  Costco is selling the Bible. The Word of God is making its way to the body of Christ and the masses by various means.

Costco may be doing it for the wrong reason (profit?).  But I will echo what Paul says: “in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Phil 1:18


16 comments on “The Bible is not Fiction

  1. I don’t think there is a Costco in Arkansas, Delight. There are some in Tennessee and Texas, but I do remember going to one when I lived in California. It is unfortunate that the Bible is being categorized as “fiction.” Like you, I believe the good news overshadows the bad. The Bible is being sold. I hope that many come to understand the Gospel message better through these Bibles.

    God’s blessings…

  2. Let’s say Im working at Costco for minimum wage.. and I am asked to mark the books “fiction” or “non fiction”. Let’s also say I understand that the Bible is not one book but 66 separate but related books ( something I learned at Sunday school ) These books include history, poetry, fiction, parables and many other forms of written communication. While thinking this through, I notice the “boss man” staring at my inaction, I panic and simply start marking the bibles ‘fiction”. As I am clicking the sticker gun I realize that the label “non fiction” is also not an accurate way to describe a book such as the bible.

    I am surprised to learn (here) that, poetry, songs, parables, and allegorical prose are classified as non fiction.

    What does not surprise me is the idea that fiction is simply made up fantasy with zero truth value or truth content. Outside of Uncle Toms Cabin or George Orwells 1984 American culture for the most part rejects passing down truth or values through stories (fiction). Why?
    #1 Fiction is not scientifically provable like history.
    #2 Fiction is recreation not serious like history
    #3 Fiction is not a reliable vehicle for truth unlike history

    Funny thing about this is, Jesus chose to teach with stories, parables and metaphors because by nature the hearers had to discern the meaning with their hearts… leaving behind any historical and cultural biases.

    In our culture unlike the middle eastern cultures, we want “just the facts.. Mam” … because after all we would want the scientific loving culture to think we are “bumpkins”.

    Take a hard look at the book of Job.. written in high poetical prose.. in my opinion one of the most powerful books ever put to paper. If it is not fiction… theologically it is a nightmare, one wich not even the best mind can undo..

  3. Anyways…( I hate when I accidently post before I am done).. correction: we do not want the scientific culture to think we are bumpkins!

    I agree with you completely slapping a non fiction label on the bible is not correct, it may not be sinister either.. they simply need to make a sticker that says “The Bible”.

    When Paul makes this statement ” All Scripture is God breathed” he speaks to the one who thinks it’s all made up stories, he speaks to the one who thinks Job is fiction and he speaks to the one who thinks every word is pure history. Let one judge the Bible as they see fit, according to their heart… They may be surprised in the end to find the Bible judges them.

    • Thank you for your comment. As I am reading it I realize that while the Bible is not fiction, the Bible cannot be labeled as non-fiction either.

      Neither can it be under “motivational”

      Spiritual? Hmm, maybe but spiritual can mean spiritism to people…

      So the best way to label the Bible is with its own category: Bible.

      BTW, what do you believe the book of Job is? Complex parable, fiction vs non-fiction, parody, satire, just a story with a moral teaching, or actual historical account with poetic theological discourse?

      • I could see the Bible in the “motivational” section.. I actually find it very motivating.

        Here is my bag …How much of what I believe is formed and molded by a “cultural bias”? In my case, American culture.. or Western culture if you like. Add to that..the sub culture of my church.. Let me unpack this a little. I started working on a book that tackles suffering and evil.. It is designed around the book of Job. I started doing all the research looking at a lot of different sources and scholarly folk. My target audience is burned out and bruised church people and everyday non believers.

        Job is the oldest book in the bible most likely written by Moses. That is the popular view, however I could not find any good evidence for this belief. The poetry, theology and style sound nothing like Moses. One conclusion I came to early on was the author of Job relies heavily on Proverbs and Ecclesiastes… that rules Moses out. The more I looked at the text and style the more convinced I became that Solomon actually is the author. Other than the textual and source evidence, Is there any historical evidence that Solomon could have been the author? I was happy to find that Eusebius (300 A.D.) writes that Solomon translated Job around the time he was writing Ecclesiastes.

        Job most likely is not the author because he records his own death.

        I now needed to look into the evidence as to whether this book is a historical book, poem, allegory or fable.

        Here comes the selective bias.. If the evidence points to it being fiction, then in my “Western enlightenment culture” the truth value is diminished. ( because our culture believes that truth is not delivered in the genre of poetry or fiction..un like other cultures.. never mind “Pilgrims Progress” “Hinds feet in High places” etc..)

        Church sub culture bias.. If I believe the evidence points to fiction .. where does it stop? The Gospels are they fiction too? This is a slippery slope argument .. If I believe it is fiction I am for sure going to become a huge liberal, atheist and gay rights activist in no time… I may even become…well, gay! ( now I’m just being stupid)

        I really wrestled with this subject.. I also realized that I am in no way immune to cultural biases influencing and putting pressure on what I believe. This bothered me because I want to come to conclusions based on the best evidence. There is also this.. I’m going to get criticized by many who would say… You believe Job is fiction? So you don’t beleive in Noha’s ark either?

        When a story begins.. “Once upon a time” The reader is supposed to pick up on this and understand he is about to hear a story.. The Kingdom of Heaven is like… We know Jesus is going to use an allegory.

        The Book of Job begins in the style of fiction, letting the reader know this is a story. The Job story has been found in other variations through out the ancient Middle East. I think it is telling that Eusebius said Solomon “translated” the book…however he was not the author of it.

        The book is classified as “Wisdom Literature” in the Old Testament canon.. along with another fictional allegory..The Song of Solomon. (now I’ve really done it)

        It is written in the poetic genre’ another indicator for the reader that this is not going to be pure history. The Books that are historical in the O.T. canon do not use the genre of poetry.

        The story itself uses hyperbole, rhetoric, metaphor and prose to deliver its message. Jobs story is powerful because in the genre it is written in, it is free to tell an extremely disturbing story, full of powerful word pictures.

        The Book is amazing for many reasons, Job has a very bold almost New Testament relationship with God .. His friends represent the old religious ideas of the day.. full of cliches and shallow bloviating. Much of what they say to Job is simply not true. The righteous do suffer, we dont always get justice from God on this side, suffering is a mystery for God and him alone to grasp.

        The books conclusion is a beautiful picture of justification by faith. Job clings to his faith against what he see’s with his eyes (we do not walk by sight)
        When he encounters God for his “hearing” God pronounces him innocent and rewards his faith with blessing and restoration. God also restores his dignity and respect.

        His new daughters are more beautiful than the ones that were killed. ( this should make any parent nauseated)

        The Bad Theological issues

        I went to a dysfunctional Assemblies of God church for years. The pastor preached out of Job a lot… He also believed that the scene with God and Satan preparing to destroy an innocent mans life was true. He would say befor Satan can touch you he needs to get permission from God.. Hallelujah! *yell in tongues Not only did i find that troubling, It warped a lot of my views on suffering.. it also warped my view of God.

        For a person who has studied Theodicy (the problem of evil) The Job epic as Historical fact causes many problems. A major issue is the books image of the nature and workings of God is not consistent with the rest of scripture.

        Allegories and parables cannot be pushed to hard. They usually have 2 to or 3 main points, I believe this is the case with Job.

        Gods purpose and intention for Job was to bless him for his faith.

        Killing his family and goods was just collateral damage on the way to Jobs great lesson.

        The bad theology here is God uses evil to do good.

        God says to the friends.. Who is darkening my intentions and council? I.E. Who is judging my motives and purposes?

        Suffering is a mystery, stepping forward to load someone down with cliches or voicing an opinion on the mind of God could give us a trip to Gods woodshed and hurt someone.

        anyways… I came to another conclusion about Job. The most important thing for the reader is to hear God speaking to us through this epic tragedy.

        • Interesting take BFC. I do appreciate the research and contribution.

          Theodicy is the #1 problem that keeps atheistic philosophers from coming to the Christian faith and it is #1 on my list of difficulties. Theodicy is closely related to the antinomy of Sovereignty and Responsibility as well.

          Having said that, I look at Job slightly differently. Besides the discussion on theology there are some events in the book which I believe ground it in reality. Names, places, actions (sacrifices at the end), and a certain flow. Other parallel stories coming out of other cultures (just like Noah’s story) could be cultural adaptations and hand-me-downs from the original.

          Having said that, theologically speaking I believe the book is a pillar that shows the depravity of man. No matter how righteous Job was, he was still a depraved human who repented in ashes. But it also is a beacon for faith. Job trusted his Redeemer no matter what.

          And ultimately the book is about the Sovereignty of God. The carnal man does not accept this idea. It is difficult to swallow that God can do whatever He wants anytime He wants. And that includes allowing suffering (note- he allows, he is not the cause of Job’s suffering) for His eternal purpose.

          So I think suffering is less of a mystery. It is grounded in the fall of man as in Rom 8

          20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

    • @ Chris.. It may very well be historical poetry. My bias that fiction has no truth value was something I needed to take a hard look at, the idea that if Job is fiction it’s not worth the paper it was written on, for me doesn’t hold water anymore. Jesus told stories and taught in parables, in that culture wisdom was handed down through many forms of literary genre. Think of the power and influence “Uncle Toms Cabin” had on the pre civil war era.. Mark Twain would be a good example of one who used fiction to teach wisdom.

      God has a discussion with Job, the interesting thing about that is it is the longest discourse from God to a man in all of scripture.That lets me know that God cares deeply about human suffering.

      What surprised me about the fiction nonfiction angle on this subject was how many conservative evangelical scholars recognize the story as a “life parable”. For those guys , it is blatantly obvious that Job is “wisdom literature”. Again, why did I have such a problem with that, as I said in the post.. I brought a lot of my own cultural baggage to the issue.

      I think it is reasonable to believe a man named Job actually lived and suffered greatly, however when it comes to the scene with God and the devil pondering Jobs fate, the reader is not told how these details became known.. When John penned the Revelation the style is very different, He is letting the reader know, this is what happened to me, this is how it happened, this is where it happened and this is what I saw.. Much like the Gospels it reads like history, in Job..not so much.

      I enjoy this topic alot and am now beginning to ramble on incoherently.. As important as I think this discussion is, what is more important is that we hear what Job is saying… and also what God is saying.. Job is an incredible story that has comforted and inspired many If it is a God breathed inspired life parable, and if it is just a story..that does not make it a lie.

  4. Hi I am from India and a born christian and had to accept the Lord through different breaking point in my life by finding out that I was adopted,not being accepted by family and friends,then my dad’s death and afterwards going through depression because of the sin that was still prevailing in my life.I also went and preached to people I knew about Jesus and my mom being a sceptic opposed it.My mom spoke to a uncle who is a well known Christian psychiatrist in India said preaching is part of a mental illness.I was given ECT my Bible was taken away and was given antidepressants.I am still on these tablets I know God has been with me all through this.My psychiatrist still keeps asking does she still preach or has she stopped.
    The answer to the question I am looking for do all the psychologists in the world believe when u speak of God we are in some sort of depression.The answer to it is ECT or lithium tablets.

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