The Bible has a complicated history as it was written thousands of years ago by a number of different authors in different circumstances, thus, the answer to this question is not entirely straightforward.

So, is the Bible a primary source of information? Parts of the Bible are primary sources of information as they purport to be written by the authors themselves.  Other portions of the Bible are recordings of the memories of others who related in the information to the author and are thus not primary sources.

There are many nuances to that answer, however, which I will explore throughout the rest of this post.

Primary and Secondary Source Information is Frequently Mixed Throughout Biblical Acounts

An example of primary and secondary sources in the Bible comes from the story of Christ’s crucifixion.  In the gospel of Matthew, he records parts of the story which he witnessed first-hand and thus are primary sources.  

Matthew personally saw:

  • Jesus Christ was taken by soldiers
  • Christ went to Golgotha
  • Christ was nailed to a cross
  • Chief priests, four women, soldiers, and disciples were present at the crucifixion.
  • The sign above Christ said “This is Jesus, King of the Jews”
  • Jesus Christ died

Matthew may or may not have personally seen:

  • Simon, a Cyrene, was compelled to carry Christ’s cross to Golgotha
  • The veil of the temple was rent in twain
  • The conversation between Pilate and Christ
  • The bodies of dead saints coming back to life
  • The conversation between Joseph of Arimathea and Pilate

Matthew was certainly a first-hand witness of the most important parts of the story, but some details in the story may or may not come from first-hand knowledge.  It is important to understand, however, that a primary source need not come from first-hand knowledge.  An interview, for example, is a primary source.  Matthew may have interviewed others who did see those events, which would mean his information was primary, but we are reading it second-hand.

Portions of the Bible which are Primary Sources of Information

Much of the Bible is filled with religious teachings.  They are statements of wrong and right and faith and devotion.  Thus, they are really not primary nor secondary sources, but simple teachings.  The stories, however, can be proven as first or secondary sources.

A few examples follow:

  • Primary source – Jesus healing the 10 lepers as recorded by Luke
  • Unknown – The story of David and Goliath was recorded by Samuel.  Samuel was a contemporary of David, but it is unknown if Samuel actually witnessed this event in David’s life or if it was told to him.
  • Primary source – Paul’s letters to Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc.
  • Primary source – Christ calling the sons of Zebedee to the ministry was recorded by a son of Zebedee.
  • Probably not a primary source – The entire book of Luke. Most scholars agree that the Book of Luke was written by Luke after the time of Christ. His sources of information were likely Paul (his missionary companion) and another source (who scholars sometimes refer to as “Q”).
  • Etc.

Portions of the Bible which are Secondary Sources of Information

Not all of the stories in the Bible are written by the person in the story.  For example, no portion of the Bible was written by Adam or Eve, or even any of their contemporaries.  Adam and Eve’s story is recorded in Genesis, which was written by Moses in the late 1500s BC.  Thus, the entire account is a secondary source.

Another example is the writings of Paul.  Many of Paul’s teachings are about the actions of Christ.  Paul was not one of the original 12 disciples of Christ and in fact was antagonistic to Christianity in his early life.  There is no record in the Bible of Paul ever even meeting Jesus Christ.  Thus, Paul’s teachings, though valuable for study and devotion, would not be considered by a researcher to be a primary source of information.

Does the Biblical Translation Impact the Answer?

Not necessarily.  There are many ancient copies of the Bible and all differ slightly in detail because they were translated by different people from different original texts.  

Thus, if the question is if the current King James version of the Bible you may hold is an original source, the answer would still be largely yes, but that the original source has gone through a translation which must be verified for accuracy.

For example, if a researcher interviewed someone in a foreign language and an interpreter translated it for you, it doesn’t automatically make the information a secondary source, but it is a layer of change which should be investigated.

Was the Bible Indeed Written by Those who We Historically Say They Were Written By?

The argument that casts doubt upon the classic understanding of these sources is that it is possible that many of the books in the Bible were not actually written by the writers they say they were written by.

Some say that some of the books were likely ghost written under their names by others in a common practice of the day of writing from another’s perspective.  

This is possible and does not impact my belief that the Bible contains exactly what God wants it to contain, but from an academic standpoint it would change the answer to this question.  This question has no answer as scholars will undoubtedly debate it until the end of time, but it does at least deserve to be mentioned in this academic look at the information in the Bible.


  1. Jim Hi.
    I have been looking at your income school and see that you are a Mormon.
    Here is a question.
    In the Bible we read in Isaiah 43:10-11 “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me, there is no savior.

    Why do Mormons believe they are going to be gods one day and that there are many Mormons who have gone on to be gods when the bible says different? I believe the bible to be 100% God’s word of truth so who is right Mormons or God?

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I think that in the verse you are discussing, the audience is important. WE are the audience. God is telling us that there will be no other Heavenly Father for us. He is it. We are his sons and daughters and there will be no other leader for the human race.

      If the verse were taken more broadly to mean that no one else could ever achieve perfection throughout eternity, then it would conflict with other verses in the Bible that say the opposite, such as where it plainly says “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

      I can see how, to some, this may seem an odd belief, but really I think it’s the most normal belief ever. We believe we are sons and daughters of God. Even an imperfect, mortal parent wants their children to become better than they are, and to have more than they have. All earthly parents want that for their children. How much more then would a perfect heavenly father want for us?

      We believe that because we are sons and daughters of God, we have his seed planted in us. It seems impossible that someone so messed up as me could ever become a God. Ha! But I do believe I could be better next year than this year, and if I keep doing that for all of eternity, eventually I could achieve what God has.

      IF this weren’t true, the atonement of Jesus Christ would be limited and ineffective. It would only help us to wash away SOME of our sins. If Christ’s sacrifice for us was PERFECT (and it was), then we believe it can wash us of ALL our sins, and if we have no sin… we’d be perfect, right?

      1. Hi Jim
        Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. You said \”the audience is important\” The verse I quoted is found in Isaiah 43. Again in Isaiah 44:6-7 we read the same and more so.
        The initial audience is Jacob-Israel. God was speaking to them about Himself being the only God, the Lord. Israel was often warned not to have other gods, because there is but one God and Father of us all (who are in Christ) and one Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ and one Holy Spirit by whom Christians are baptized into the one body of Christ. Eph 4, 1Cor12:13.
        Of course idolatry applies to all mankind as no one is to worship any one or thing other than the creator of all things. It is a sin.
        You said \”We are his sons and daughters and there will be no other leader for the human race. \”
        I understand that as a Mormon you believe \”Every person who was ever born on earth is our spirit brother or sister. Because we are the spirit children of God,\” quoted from this link

        Mormons also believe “Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential.” quoted from this link

        The word of God actually says. All have sinned, the penalty for sin is death, and after death comes judgment. Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23, Heb 9:27
        But if you “consider every person divine in origin, nature,” This means that you believe men are inherently good by nature being divine.

        in 1Cor 15:45-46 we read \”And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.\” THE PHYSICAL COMES FIRST. We are therefor not pre existing spiritual sons and daughters first.
        Furthermore, we can only become Children of God through new birth. We must be born again. How? Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ who have died with Christ on the cross and have have received the spirit of the Son, can call God their Father. See Romans 6:1-9, Romans 8, Gal 2:20, John 1:12-13 and John 3.

        If we were already spiritually son\’s and daughters of God in the kingdom, why then are we commanded by Jesus to repent and believe the Gospel in order to be born again and enter the kingdom?
        Also if we are already divine by nature who does Christ need to die for?
        The scripture is clear that by one man sin death came to all in the world Romans 5

        Now there celestial bodies, angels,demons, satan a spiritual realm of course.
        God Himself through the Holy Spirit became a man ( 1Cor 15:40, Luke 1:35, John 1, 1John, 2:Tim 3:16)

        Jim you quoted John 10:34-35 “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”
        The weight of scripture that tells us that there is one God, defined in three persons (not 3 Gods) is huge.
        It would be wrong to take one line quoted from Ps 82:6 to make it a doctrine to say men are Gods or that we become God’s. That would be wrong.
        In Gen 1:26 “Let us make man in our image” in Isaiah 44:6 we read “I am the first and the last besides me there is no other God.
        In Rev 1:8-18 We read who the first and the last is. In verse 12 in the midst of the throne there was one like “the son of man” He is the one speaking. He tells John “do not to be afraid I am the first and the last. He who lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. (verse 17-18) God the Father did not die did He. But in Isaiah the first and the last is the Father- The one God. But here it’ s Jesus Christ the son of man and the son of God.

        Now let\’s consider Perfection doesn’t equal being God

        Certainly those born of God (as the word of God defines), partake of the divine nature, [Acts 17:29, 2Pet 1:4] they are called to be Holy as God is Holy. This again is only possible by the the working of the Holy Spirit. We also read in Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. The idea of firstborn here of course does not mean Jesus was born first as part of creation. If this was the case He would be born into sin, but we know that He had to be the sinless lamb without blemish. Col 1 :14-20 also makes it clear in verse 17 that He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. All the fullness dwells in Christ.
        So as believers in Christ we will certainly be complete in Him and made into His image, this doesn\’t mean we become God.
        Being loving, kind, joy full, peaceable, long suffering, gentle, self controlled, righteous, holy and truthful, are all a work and a fruit of the Holy Spirit, they are indeed of the divine nature of God. Example: We get in the shower we get wet, but we are not the water or the shower) but when we have been made alive by God\’s work in us we will certainly have wells of living water (John4:14) exuding from us as though we have being immersed in a shower.

        To be made perfect is to be made whole which is what God\’s salvation means. Look up the word Sozo. Christ certainly did come into the world to save sinners and only through the blood of Jesus is there forgiveness of sins to all who believe. When we read \”by His stripes we are healed\” (Isaiah 53:3-5, 1Pet 2:24) it means we are made well and made whole as in Justification, sanctification and glorification. The work that begins when a person believes in Jesus Christ to save them starts at the cross and finishes when Christ returns to resurrect and transform Christians both those who have die and those who live into His likeness. Romans 6:5, 1Cor 15,48-58, 2Cor 5:21, 1Thess 4:12-18, Matt 25:31-46, Rev 20.
        I see your reasoning is founded on worldly philosophy when you say \”Even an imperfect, mortal parent wants their children to become better than they are, and to have more than they have. All earthly parents want that for their children. How much more then would a perfect heavenly father want for us? \”
        Sadly the nature of man is selfish, we might think we want better things for our children but
        we read \”That if you being wicked know how to give good things to your children how much more will the father give the holy Spirit to those who ask.\”
        Salvation also means that saints will be saved from the wrath of God and eternal damnation in the lake of fire.

        So if you believe God\’s word is true that means that what Mormans say can\’t be true?

        Consider the book of Abraham, is it true? See here

        Jim, I don’t know you and you don’t know me really I get that. We can play tennis bating the ball back a forth. But if what you believe is not true then please consider where that leave you? To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Jesus said a person must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Him.

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