I have run across this claim in a few settings recently. It is not very helpful to the Christian position, nor is it even remotely persuasive to the skeptic.
First of all, it sounds like back-pedaling. As if the person saying sees an error and is trying to justify the Bible’s inability to be accurate. (Curiously, this phrase is often followed by “but the Bible is scientifically accurate” which seems to make the first worry useless. If the Bible is scientifically accurate, who cares about it being a science textbook or not.)
It looks like this:
Skeptic: The Bible claims that rabbits chew cud.
Christian: The Bible is not a Science Textbook.
It sure looks as if the Christian is agreeing that the Bible is inaccurate as to what is scientifically correct, but is trying to explain it away.
However, this does not help the claim that the Bible is super-natural. If the defense for why the Bible is wrong, is that humans were writing with the best knowledge they had at the moment—what makes this different than any other human work? What makes that particularly divine?
The point is not whether Moses knew about cud-chewing rabbits, but the fact that God would have known. If God is involved, shouldn’t it have at the least the knowledge of what humans know now? Sure, God can know more than us, but wouldn’t he know at least as much as us?
Or the order of light being created before the sun. Or flowering plants before the sun. Or birds before animals. Or how many animals would have to fit in that Ark? I am not holding the Bible to using the same scientific language we do today. Just because the Bible does not break out animals into mammals and reptiles, for example, does not make it inaccurate. It can classify animals as it chooses. But not make them do things they do not do, or appear when they do not appear.
What other types of textbooks is the Bible not?
As I have discussed, it is not historically accurate when it comes to Exodus. Can we also say, “The Bible is not a history book”? It has its numbers jumbled in various places, can we also say “The Bible is not a mathematics book?” It has some questionable ethical schemes—“The Bible is not a moral guide”?
What is left? Is it various humans providing their individual insights as to God’s relationship with humans? What is unique about that? What is divine there? Wouldn’t we expect in a human work to see variations and errors, based upon each human’s limited knowledge? Isn’t that what we see?
Or do we do even better as humans? A science textbook has no pretensions to be an English textbook. Yet it is written grammatically correct. If we saw misspellings in a science book, so we shrug it off with “Well…it’s not an English textbook.” Nope. We call them “errors.” An English textbook will use mathematics in the numbering of pages and chapters. If it skipped from Chapter 4 to Chapter 12, would we ignore it under the premise it is not a math book?
If God wanted to write an allegory of the creation of the universe—is it so difficult to do so by having the sun come before the light? Why is God getting the excuse for what appears to be human error?
No, the Bible is not a science book. But by being less knowledgeable in science than we are, it sure appears to be non-divine. Otherwise we seem to know more than God did 2600 years ago.
Do Christians think the Bible is scientifically wrong? Then how does that support divinity? Do Christians think the Bible is scientifically correct? Then why make excuses as to how it is not a science book?