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View Poll Results: Should the Bible be interpreted literally?

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  • Yes

    26 49.06%
  • No

    6 11.32%
  • It is not so black and white

    21 39.62%
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Thread: Should the Bible be taken literally?

  1. #1
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    Question Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Should the Bible be interpreted literally*? If so, which translation? There is much debate over this question. It feels to me as if there exists a dichotomy of the Christian world: fundamentalis versus their counter parts. There is, after all, no grey area in this, is there?

    Why is this not immediately clear to us? Is it God’s intention for us to be in conflict to this regard? Does God want us to do as the Bible says as we interpret it personally, or not?

    My thought: perhaps this very hunt for the truth is exactly what God intended for us. It drives us. It brings us together. (It brought me here did it not?). Eventually, it saves us?

    Your thoughts please.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_literalism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics

    [Edit] Some more things to consider:

    My question is not limited to parables. It also includes certain words and phrases which have been the source of much debate. For instance, the word “homosexuality” and its meaning today, versus what it meant in Biblical times.

    Another example is Acts 16:31: ‘They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."’ (Also see Romans 10:9). Many ‘Christians’ remove this line from context and do not consider the rest of the Bible, because they think that once they believe in God (or have ‘given their heart to God’) they are automatically saved (and will go to Heaven when they die). As I child, I was told by Sunday school teachers, and many others, that when I give my heart to Jesus, I will be saved. This is edged in the mind of many young Christians. Should this verse really be taken so literally? If so, why even bother doing what the Bible says once you believe in God?

    Quote Originally Posted by TrustGzus View Post
    Helpful quote from Dr. Norman Geisler . . .
    In addition to figures of speech, the Bible employs three basic kinds of metaphorical statements about God. First of all, there are anthropomorphisms, which depict God in human form, such as having eyes (e.g., Heb. 4:13), ears (2 Chron. 6:40), and arms (Deut. 5:15). Next, there are anthropopathisms, which picture God having changing human feelings like anger and grief (Eph. 4:30). Finally, there are anthropoieses, which attribute to God human actions, such as repenting (Gen. 6:6) and forgetting (Isa. 43:25; Job 11:6). None of these are intended as literally true, and to take them as such can lead to serious error.
    Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (28). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.
    Bottom line, it depends on what part of the Bible you're reading. But that doesn't mean we get to just pick and choose when to be literal or not. Let's not commit a slippery slope fallacy here.
    Quote Originally Posted by Old man View Post
    If we say that the scriptures should not (or cannot) be taken literally then we are saying that what they say is not what they mean. If this is true then we must establish who is competent to interpret the scriptures for us so that we would know the true meaning of the scriptures. But who will that be? Should it be you, me, your pastor, my pastor, the instructors at your bible college or the instructors at my bible college? Which of those who have received doctorate of divinity or theology should we deem competent to tell us what the scriptures that should not be taken literally mean. Should we base the qualification on who has the most Holy Spirit? Who hears Him the best or who does He speak to the most? Who is most filled or anointed by Him? Who is out there that we can say that this is the one who can determine what the scriptures (which should not be taken literally) mean? Is there anyone we will all agree to or trust enough to tell us what the scriptures which cannot or should not be taken literal means?
    If we say that the scripture cannot or should not be taken literally then anyone who has an opinion can be just as correct as anyone else who has one. Whether we like this idea or not this also includes Mormons, JW's, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists’, Taoists, etc. If the scriptures cannot or should not be taken literal who can be excluded from attempting to interpret them and if there are those who should be excluded from trying, who can we trust to determine who is to be excluded and who should not be (see the previous paragraph for choices for this role)?
    If we say that only some of the scriptures should not be taken literally then we must find someone who is competent to decide which ones should and which ones should not. Then we are back to figuring out who will all of us trust or believe is competent?
    Footnote * : By ‘literal’ I mean ‘word for word : EXACT, VERBATIM’ as per the Merriam-Webster definition of the word, as TrustGzus quoted it.
    Last edited by rikus; Apr 12th 2012 at 07:47 PM. Reason: Digest

  2. #2
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Yes .

  3. #3
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Yes, take the Bible literally. There are many times when parables come into play, for Jesus said, "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Matthew 13:13

    When both the Assyrian and Satan where referred to as a cedar in Lebanon. Ezekiel 31:3

  4. #4
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Interpret the Bible literaturally. For example, some of it is poetic. You wouldn't take that in a wooden literal sense. It all depends on what part of the Bible you're reading.
    In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. - unknown

    Read your Bible and pray every single day. - Pastor Jon Courson

  5. #5

    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Some of the Bible is to be taken literally, some of it isn't. When it is or isn't literal, that is the real issue.

  6. #6
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel Cripps View Post
    Some of the Bible is to be taken literally, some of it isn't. When it is or isn't literal, that is the real issue.
    I would disagree. While it is all literal, we do not always understand the pure sense of the literal. When Satan is portrayed as a Dragon, Satan is described in the spiritual sense. Can only the physical be literal, or cannot the spiritual be literal as well?

  7. #7
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Quote Originally Posted by rikus View Post
    Should the Bible be interpreted literally? If so, which translation? There is much debate over this question. It feels to me as if there exists a dichotomy of the Christian world: fundamentalis versus their counter parts. There is, after all, no grey area in this, is there?

    Why is this not immediately clear to us? Is it God’s intention for us to be in conflict to this regard? Does God want us to do as the Bible says as we interpret it personally, or not?

    My thought: perhaps this very hunt for the truth is exactly what God intended for us. It drives us. It brings us together. (It brought me here did it not?). Eventually, it saves us?

    Your thoughts please.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_literalism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics
    A method to clarify the poll might be to ask a number of questions, for instance--

    Do you believe that God made everything that exists in six consecutive twenty four hour periods?

    Do you believe that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, and after three days spewed out?

    Do you believe that Elisha was surrounded by chariots of fire?

  8. #8
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Jesus said you must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

    Anyone care to explain that in detail ?

  9. #9
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zack702 View Post
    Jesus said you must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

    Anyone care to explain that in detail ?
    Jesus said the bread represented his body, and the wine his blood. Jesus didn't say, here is my arm take a bite.

    Do you care to explain how Jesus was resurrected, or how Jesus in the flesh came into a room with the doors all locked?

    The question really is, do you believe it?

  10. #10
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Quote Originally Posted by rejoice44 View Post
    Jesus said the bread represented his body, and the wine his blood. Jesus didn't say, here is my arm take a bite.

    Do you care to explain how Jesus was resurrected, or how Jesus in the flesh came into a room with the doors all locked?

    The question really is, do you believe it?
    So basicly what your saying is it's not literal ?

  11. #11

    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    It is not so straight forward as to say it is literal or not literal; some parts of the Bible are meant to be interpreted literally and others aren't. If anyone tells you the Bible is supposed to be interpreted entirely literally, they are lying to you and also possibly to themselves because I guarantee you that there are things they interpret non-literally. The trick is deciding what parts are meant to be literal and which aren't; the best we can do is take all of the knowledge available to us, weigh the merits of the evidence for and against a literal interpretation of a certain part of the Bible, and draw the best conclusions we can.

  12. #12
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    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    If we say that the scriptures should not (or cannot) be taken literally then we are saying that what they say is not what they mean. If this is true then we must establish who is competent to interpret the scriptures for us so that we would know the true meaning of the scriptures. But who will that be? Should it be you, me, your pastor, my pastor, the instructors at your bible college or the instructors at my bible college? Which of those who have received doctorate of divinity or theology should we deem competent to tell us what the scriptures that should not be taken literally mean. Should we base the qualification on who has the most Holy Spirit? Who hears Him the best or who does He speak to the most? Who is most filled or anointed by Him? Who is out there that we can say that this is the one who can determine what the scriptures (which should not be taken literally) mean? Is there anyone we will all agree to or trust enough to tell us what the scriptures which cannot or should not be taken literal means?

    If we say that the scripture cannot or should not be taken literally then anyone who has an opinion can be just as correct as anyone else who has one. Whether we like this idea or not this also includes Mormons, JW's, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists’, Taoists, etc. If the scriptures cannot or should not be taken literal who can be excluded from attempting to interpret them and if there are those who should be excluded from trying, who can we trust to determine who is to be excluded and who should not be (see the previous paragraph for choices for this role)?

    If we say that only some of the scriptures should not be taken literally then we must find someone who is competent to decide which ones should and which ones should not. Then we are back to figuring out who will all of us trust or believe is competent?

    Besides the problem of finding (or trusting) at least one person (which all will agree to) to competently interpret the scriptures there is another difficulty.

    If we say that the scriptures should not be taken literally then we are saying that they do not mean what they say. This becomes a problem when we say that the Holy Spirit inspired and directed the writers of the scriptures to put down in writing what He told them to. The scripture says that the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all the truth so; if the scriptures do not mean what they say then there are four possibilities.


    1. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the writers of the scriptures after being inspired by the Holy Spirit made unintentional mistakes in what they thought He was directing them to say. This means that the scriptures are now unreliable because though they were inspired they somehow got it wrong.
    2. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the writers of the scriptures deliberately wrote what the Holy Spirit did not intend and the scriptures are again unreliable.
    3. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the Holy Spirit made a mistake in what He thought He was inspiring the writers to write. The scriptures are again unreliable.
    4. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the Holy Spirit deliberately inspired the writers to write what He did not mean and He is deliberately hiding the truth and misleading us from it if the scripture do not mean what He inspired them to say.


    Imagine yourself transported back in time to the time when Peter or Paul or any of the other writers of the New Testament (or OT). You walk up to one and he turns to you and says, “The Holy Spirit is inspiring me to write this letter so that those here-after would know the wonders of the truth of Christ and grow into a full relationship with Him knowing Him truly as He is. But I’m going to let you in on something; He doesn’t really mean what He telling me to write. He means something else. Although I know what He means He not telling me to write it. So for you who are coming after us; so yea … uh … good luck with that!”
    "He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."
    C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."

    "Oh, but sometimes the sun stays hidden for years"
    "Sometimes the sky rains night after night, When will it clear?"

    "But our Hope endures the worst of conditions"
    "It's more than our optimism, Let the earth quake"
    "Our Hope is unchanged"

    Emmanuel, God is with us
    El Shaddai, all sufficient
    We never walk alone
    And this is our hope
    "Our Hope Endures" Natalie Grant

  13. #13

    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Old man View Post
    If we say that the scriptures should not (or cannot) be taken literally then we are saying that what they say is not what they mean. If this is true then we must establish who is competent to interpret the scriptures for us so that we would know the true meaning of the scriptures. But who will that be? Should it be you, me, your pastor, my pastor, the instructors at your bible college or the instructors at my bible college? Which of those who have received doctorate of divinity or theology should we deem competent to tell us what the scriptures that should not be taken literally mean. Should we base the qualification on who has the most Holy Spirit? Who hears Him the best or who does He speak to the most? Who is most filled or anointed by Him? Who is out there that we can say that this is the one who can determine what the scriptures (which should not be taken literally) mean? Is there anyone we will all agree to or trust enough to tell us what the scriptures which cannot or should not be taken literal means?

    If we say that the scripture cannot or should not be taken literally then anyone who has an opinion can be just as correct as anyone else who has one. Whether we like this idea or not this also includes Mormons, JW's, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists’, Taoists, etc. If the scriptures cannot or should not be taken literal who can be excluded from attempting to interpret them and if there are those who should be excluded from trying, who can we trust to determine who is to be excluded and who should not be (see the previous paragraph for choices for this role)?

    If we say that only some of the scriptures should not be taken literally then we must find someone who is competent to decide which ones should and which ones should not. Then we are back to figuring out who will all of us trust or believe is competent?

    Besides the problem of finding (or trusting) at least one person (which all will agree to) to competently interpret the scriptures there is another difficulty.

    If we say that the scriptures should not be taken literally then we are saying that they do not mean what they say. This becomes a problem when we say that the Holy Spirit inspired and directed the writers of the scriptures to put down in writing what He told them to. The scripture says that the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all the truth so; if the scriptures do not mean what they say then there are four possibilities.

    1. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the writers of the scriptures after being inspired by the Holy Spirit made unintentional mistakes in what they thought He was directing them to say. This means that the scriptures are now unreliable because though they were inspired they somehow got it wrong.
    2. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the writers of the scriptures deliberately wrote what the Holy Spirit did not intend and the scriptures are again unreliable.
    3. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the Holy Spirit made a mistake in what He thought He was inspiring the writers to write. The scriptures are again unreliable.
    4. If the scriptures do not mean what they say, then the Holy Spirit deliberately inspired the writers to write what He did not mean and He is deliberately hiding the truth and misleading us from it if the scripture do not mean what He inspired them to say.


    Imagine yourself transported back in time to the time when Peter or Paul or any of the other writers of the New Testament (or OT). You walk up to one and he turns to you and says, “The Holy Spirit is inspiring me to write this letter so that those here-after would know the wonders of the truth of Christ and grow into a full relationship with Him knowing Him truly as He is. But I’m going to let you in on something; He doesn’t really mean what He telling me to write. He means something else. Although I know what He means He not telling me to write it. So for you who are coming after us; so yea … uh … good luck with that!”
    There's just one problem with your four choices. You are equating not literal with not truthful and that is an incorrect comparison. The most obvious case of this is Christ's parables. I don't think anyone would argue that they contain truth, but no one interprets them literally. Do you see how the two don't go hand in hand, as you are trying to say they do?

  14. #14

    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    Some parts yes, other parts no. The hard thing, of course, is figuring out what is literal and what is symbolic. Still working on mastering that.

  15. #15

    Re: Should the Bible be taken literally?

    YES - You should take the King James Bible literally


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