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Thread: Literal or non-literal? How do we determine the way to interpret a Bible passage?

  1. #1
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    Literal or non-literal? How do we determine the way to interpret a Bible passage?

    Literal or non-literal? Historical or allegorical?

    A previous thread looking at the opening chapters of Genesis. There we found that many of us had vastly different approaches to Genesis. But what never came out of that thread was WHY we did.

    In this thread I would like for us to get at the core of the reasons why we view this text (Genesis 1, 2) or any text so differently. Some take this text, for example, as having been intended to be more allegorical, or perhaps we should just say, not historical or literal, and think that others are forcing on it a literal interpretation. Others believe the text is 100% historical and literal, and ask why some have taken a less than purely literal approach to the text.

    We also had a little rabbit trail on this thread regarding Judas' death and two Bible texts which say much different things about how it happened: Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19.


    Crawfish made some posts which gave me some things to think about. Here's how Crawfish described the two accounts, and how they might be resolved. I hope he doesn't mind me re-posting that here:

    On the first: Matthew implies the chief priests used the money to purchase a field after Judas's death. Acts implies that Judas purchased the field in which he died himself. The timing and the payoff are different.

    On the second: Matthew implies that Judas hung himself. Acts implies a different death.

    The truth is, the discrepancies are easily explained by looking at the purpose of both accounts. The chief priests are being vilified in Jesus' death by Matthew, so their involvement is spelled out. In Acts, the focus is on Judas himself and the need to replace him. Chronology was not important at all to Matthew; his book is not written in order, but is topical. I'm guessing that it was not important for Luke as well here. What I'm sure happened is that Judas threw the money, killed himself and then the priests bought the field and named it.

    Here is my point with this: if we can look at these two stories and put together a slightly different literal truth based on combining both accounts, why should we assume that if an account is only written of once that it is "truly literal"? Scripture is written in a way to stress the point the author wants to stress, and the author will ignore chronology or exact facts in order to present that point.

    OK, I think we need to ask just what is"literal"? Crawfish is not showing less respect for scripture, or a view that it is not fully inspired. She is suggesting that the Holy Spirit at times shares events in a less than chronological manner because it can more effectively accomplish its purpose. Now if we look at the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) they are referred to as synoptic because they are very similar. Yet we find many differences in these gospels chronologically. That cannot be denied. Anyone who has read through the gospel accounts with any care will be aware of this. The gospel accounts are not completely chronological... intentionally.


    So let me ask regarding Judas' death what the basis is for taking a non-literal (or non-historical, for those who prefer) approach. You see, IMO the text must in some way make it clear that the intention was not literal, otherwise we should assume a literal approach. Hence, I was genuinely interested in why Crawfish preferred to interpret one of those texts about Judas' death as non-literal. I agree completely about the reasons Crawfish shared concerning chronology and thinking about the purpose behind each account.


    Let's also consider the early chapters of Genesis. It is believed that Moses wrote them inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course. Jesus referred to Moses' writings, so I think we can assume that he wrote much of the Penteteuch, at least. Therefore we need to be aware that the readers would have been the Israelites who had just escaped from Egypt after 400 years of living among the Egyptians. Those who hold to a traditional, strictly literal view of Genesis often do so without really understanding why, and they oppose those who have any different view simply assuming that they are distorting scripture in some way. That is what they genuinely believe.

    Now I am hoping that by discussing why we should, or perhaps should not, treat Judas' death as recorded in two accounts as literal might help others to see if there are other legitimate views for the opening chapters of Genesis other than the traditional view.

    So, have at it... either looking at Genesis or those two texts regarding Judas' death.

    I would be very interested in both sides on this issue sharing their understanding of how we can tell when a text should be interpreted in a.. shall we just say "literal"... manner and when it should be interpreted in an allegorical or "non-literal" manner.

    Remember, this is not about who's right in how to interpret Judas' death or Genesis. It's about how do we know when to use a less than purely historical or literal approach to understanding a Bible text. You may choose to use either Judas' death or the early chapters of Genesis to make your point, or speak in more generalities.

    Take care,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

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    Well you sure do start some good topics!

    I myself insist that scripture should always be sought to be understood allegorically or symbolically. (This doesn't mean that historical accounts and so forth should not be understood as literal occurences.)

    One of the primary reasons for that belief is this:

    When Yahshua first appeared to man in the flesh, no one recognized Him. This in spite of the fact that He admonished people, even His own disciples, for not recognizing that the scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament) spoke of Him.

    Matthew 22
    29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

    Matthew 26
    53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

    Luke holds the most fascinating indications about the truth of scripture being understood allegorically.

    Luke 24
    27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

    Luke 24
    45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

    Now, here is the question of all questions. Where oh WHERE in the OT is anything like that said or implied in any scripture? Well, Yahshua Himself insists that "beginning with Moses and all the prophets," the OT was all written about Him, and the fact that He would be crucified and rise again for the forgiveness of sins.

    John 5
    39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,

    Again, if only taking OT scripture literally, without any allegorical outlook, the scriptures do not testify about Him and all the things that had to happen to Him. And yet it is recorded multiple times in the gospels that Yahshua insisted that all of the OT scriptures testify about such things.

    And the truth it, none of us, if we have lived 2,000 years ago, would have recognized Him either. We can look back in hindsight and see how He was foreshadowed in different ways, different events that took place, only because we now know and can look back and see how things were fulfilled.

    But even more than that, what is the ultimate convincing evidence for me in terms of taking an allegorical approach to scripture, is that there is no way that 30,000+ denominations of Christianity would exist, with differing and conflicting beliefs, all while using the same exact book, if men had a clear understanding of the scriptures, or if they were easily understood! This proves to me beyond any doubt that even still today, men don't understand the scriptures. This included pastors, elders, shepherds, everyone. This is by Yahweh's sovereign design.

    As a whole, we are all basically just as blind to to a true and deep understanding of the scriptures as men were 2,000 years ago.

    Now, I'll touch briefly on a very passionate subject for me that you mentioned - that is, the differences in the gospels. Not only are there chronological differences in the accounts of the gospels, there are differences of detail as well. Many differences! And what I have found is that instead of trying force square pegs into round holes to somehow harmonize or reconcile these differences, it is much more profitable for us to understand what these differences are telling us. It's pretty amazing actually. It's the most interesting, convincing, and astounding "thing" (for lack of a better term) I have ever seen in the scriptures. I'll post more on that at some point soon in this thread if there is interest. The differences in the gospel accounts are an "allegory" in themselves.

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    BD,

    Nothing to particularly respond at this point other than Crawfish is a he.
    Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
    Ecc 7:10

    John777 exists to me only in quoted form.



  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by BadDog View Post
    Literal or non-literal? Historical or allegorical?

    A previous thread looking at the opening chapters of Genesis. There we found that many of us had vastly different approaches to Genesis. But what never came out of that thread was WHY we did.

    In this thread I would like for us to get at the core of the reasons why we view this text (Genesis 1, 2) or any text so differently. Some take this text, for example, as having been intended to be more allegorical, or perhaps we should just say, not historical or literal, and think that others are forcing on it a literal interpretation. Others believe the text is 100% historical and literal, and ask why some have taken a less than purely literal approach to the text.

    We also had a little rabbit trail on this thread regarding Judas' death and two Bible texts which say much different things about how it happened: Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19.

    Crawfish made some posts which gave me some things to think about. Here's how Crawfish described the two accounts, and how they might be resolved. I hope she doesn't mind me re-posting that here:

    On the first: Matthew implies the chief priests used the money to purchase a field after Judas's death. Acts implies that Judas purchased the field in which he died himself. The timing and the payoff are different.

    On the second: Matthew implies that Judas hung himself. Acts implies a different death.

    The truth is, the discrepancies are easily explained by looking at the purpose of both accounts. The chief priests are being vilified in Jesus' death by Matthew, so their involvement is spelled out. In Acts, the focus is on Judas himself and the need to replace him. Chronology was not important at all to Matthew; his book is not written in order, but is topical. I'm guessing that it was not important for Luke as well here. What I'm sure happened is that Judas threw the money, killed himself and then the priests bought the field and named it.

    Here is my point with this: if we can look at these two stories and put together a slightly different literal truth based on combining both accounts, why should we assume that if an account is only written of once that it is "truly literal"? Scripture is written in a way to stress the point the author wants to stress, and the author will ignore chronology or exact facts in order to present that point.

    OK, I think we need to ask just what is"literal"? Crawfish is not showing less respect for scripture, or a view that it is not fully inspired. She is suggesting that the Holy Spirit at times shares events in a less than chronological manner because it can more effectively accomplish its purpose. Now if we look at the synoptic gospels (Matthews, Mark and Luke) they are referred to as synoptic because they are very similar. Yet we find many differences in these gospels chronologically. That cannot be denied. Anyone who has read through the gospel accounts with any care will be aware of this. The gospel accounts are not completely chronological... intentionally.

    So let me ask regarding Judas' death what the basis is for taking a non-literal (or non-historical, for those who prefer) approach. You see, IMO the text must in some way make it clear that the intention was not literal, otherwise we should assume a literal approach. Hence, I was genuinely interested in why Crawfish preferred to interpret one of those texts about Judas' death as non-literal. I agree completely about the reasons Crawfish shared concerning chronology and thinking about the purpose behind each account.

    Let's also consider the early chapters of Genesis. It is believed that Moses wrote them inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course. Jesus referred to Moses' writings, so I think we can assume that he wrote much of the Penteteuch, at least. Therefore we need to be aware that the readers would have been the Israelites who had just escaped from Egypt after 400 years of living among the Egyptians. Those who hold to a traditional, strictly literal view of Genesis often do so without really understanding why, and they oppose those who have any different view simply assuming that they are distorting scripture in some way. That is what they genuinely believe.

    Now I am hoping that by discussing why we should, or perhaps should not, treat Judas' death as recorded in two accounts as literal might help others to see if there are other legitimate views for the opening chapters of Genesis other than the traditional view.

    So, have at it... either looking at Genesis or those two texts regarding Judas' death.

    I would be very interested in both sides on this issue sharing their understanding of how we can tell when a text should be interpreted in a.. shall we just say "literal"... manner and when it should be interpreted in an allegorical or "non-literal" manner.

    Remember, this is not about who's right in how to interpret Judas' death or Genesis. It's about how do we know when to use a less than purely historical or literal approach to understanding a Bible text. You may choose to use either Judas' death or the early chapters of Genesis to make your point, or speak in more generalities.

    Take care,

    BD
    Hi BD,

    Why shouldn't we take both accounts of Judas as literal since they both say the same thing? The reward of iniquity done through Judas did purchase the field of blood. There would have been no reward, no field of blood purchased if not for Judas' iniquity. So Judas is the reason, or how the field was purchased; therefore "this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity." How do we reconcile how Judas died? One says, "he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." The other says, "he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." Why aren't both statements literal? He first hanged himself, then fell from wherever he hang and burst asunder in the field. How else can we make sense of his bursting asunder in the midst unless he fell hitting something sharp?

    Many Blessings,
    RW

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    Quote Originally Posted by BadDog View Post
    Literal or non-literal? Historical or allegorical?

    A previous thread looking at the opening chapters of Genesis. There we found that many of us had vastly different approaches to Genesis. But what never came out of that thread was WHY we did.

    In this thread I would like for us to get at the core of the reasons why we view this text (Genesis 1, 2) or any text so differently. Some take this text, for example, as having been intended to be more allegorical, or perhaps we should just say, not historical or literal, and think that others are forcing on it a literal interpretation. Others believe the text is 100% historical and literal, and ask why some have taken a less than purely literal approach to the text.

    We also had a little rabbit trail on this thread regarding Judas' death and two Bible texts which say much different things about how it happened: Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19.


    Crawfish made some posts which gave me some things to think about. Here's how Crawfish described the two accounts, and how they might be resolved. I hope she doesn't mind me re-posting that here:

    On the first: Matthew implies the chief priests used the money to purchase a field after Judas's death. Acts implies that Judas purchased the field in which he died himself. The timing and the payoff are different.

    On the second: Matthew implies that Judas hung himself. Acts implies a different death.

    The truth is, the discrepancies are easily explained by looking at the purpose of both accounts. The chief priests are being vilified in Jesus' death by Matthew, so their involvement is spelled out. In Acts, the focus is on Judas himself and the need to replace him. Chronology was not important at all to Matthew; his book is not written in order, but is topical. I'm guessing that it was not important for Luke as well here. What I'm sure happened is that Judas threw the money, killed himself and then the priests bought the field and named it.

    Here is my point with this: if we can look at these two stories and put together a slightly different literal truth based on combining both accounts, why should we assume that if an account is only written of once that it is "truly literal"? Scripture is written in a way to stress the point the author wants to stress, and the author will ignore chronology or exact facts in order to present that point.

    OK, I think we need to ask just what is"literal"? Crawfish is not showing less respect for scripture, or a view that it is not fully inspired. She is suggesting that the Holy Spirit at times shares events in a less than chronological manner because it can more effectively accomplish its purpose. Now if we look at the synoptic gospels (Matthews, Mark and Luke) they are referred to as synoptic because they are very similar. Yet we find many differences in these gospels chronologically. That cannot be denied. Anyone who has read through the gospel accounts with any care will be aware of this. The gospel accounts are not completely chronological... intentionally.


    So let me ask regarding Judas' death what the basis is for taking a non-literal (or non-historical, for those who prefer) approach. You see, IMO the text must in some way make it clear that the intention was not literal, otherwise we should assume a literal approach. Hence, I was genuinely interested in why Crawfish preferred to interpret one of those texts about Judas' death as non-literal. I agree completely about the reasons Crawfish shared concerning chronology and thinking about the purpose behind each account.


    Let's also consider the early chapters of Genesis. It is believed that Moses wrote them inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course. Jesus referred to Moses' writings, so I think we can assume that he wrote much of the Penteteuch, at least. Therefore we need to be aware that the readers would have been the Israelites who had just escaped from Egypt after 400 years of living among the Egyptians. Those who hold to a traditional, strictly literal view of Genesis often do so without really understanding why, and they oppose those who have any different view simply assuming that they are distorting scripture in some way. That is what they genuinely believe.

    Now I am hoping that by discussing why we should, or perhaps should not, treat Judas' death as recorded in two accounts as literal might help others to see if there are other legitimate views for the opening chapters of Genesis other than the traditional view.

    So, have at it... either looking at Genesis or those two texts regarding Judas' death.

    I would be very interested in both sides on this issue sharing their understanding of how we can tell when a text should be interpreted in a.. shall we just say "literal"... manner and when it should be interpreted in an allegorical or "non-literal" manner.

    Remember, this is not about who's right in how to interpret Judas' death or Genesis. It's about how do we know when to use a less than purely historical or literal approach to understanding a Bible text. You may choose to use either Judas' death or the early chapters of Genesis to make your point, or speak in more generalities.

    Take care,

    BD
    I understand the Scriptures literally unless there is a reason in the text to do otherwise. It seems to me that when we converse with people we do not begin with allegory. I mean I don't go up to my friend and say, How is that great and beautiful creature that shares your life with you and those beautiful little dolls that adorn your home. I say how's the wife and kids. I mean Jesus wasn't a poet He was a savior. If there is a specific reason to understand a text as allegory then I do. Look at the book of Revelation, yes, we understand that the churches were not literal candlesticks, so there is reason here to interpret it as an allegory. However, unless we have such a reason I see no reason to interpret the Scriptures that way.

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    Principles for interpreting scripture (Hermeneutics)

    OK, the following hermeneutic principles for interpreting scripture were developed by your truly, so some of you will find fault with some of my principles for interpreting scripture (hermeneutics). But I think it will be perhaps a good starting point for discussion. Perhaps some of you would like to share what you consider to be important principles to follow when interpreting a text.

    Some hermeneutic principles to consider:
    1. SOLA SCRIPTURA - our theology is based upon the Bible alone, rather than tradition. Martin Luther made an infamous “Here I stand” speech at the Diet of Worms. There he refused to compromise scripture with tradition.
    2. Inerrancy - All scripture is given by inspiration ("God-breathing) of God and is profitable...
    3. Author intent - What did the human author (inspired by the Holy Spirit) intend when he wrote? We cannot ignore this. This is perhaps the most important hermeneutical principle in interpreting scripture. We cannot interpret a text such that it contradicts what the author is trying to say.
    4. Scripture has been progressively revealed - according to God's timetable and sovereign plan. Paul's writings are now a priority in terms of doctrine. Of course God did not deal with doctrine in the OT as He could in the NT, after Christ had been revealed and successfully paid the penalty for sin. The truth of God has been progressively revealed. Another application has to do with the tithe, for example, which was part of the Levitical system of sacrifice, and Paul made it clear that we are no longer under the Law.
    5. No contradiction - All scripture is inspired by God, and hence none of it contradicts any other portion of it, whether NT or OT. Assume no contradiction when interpreting.
    6. Certain scriptures have more value for doctrine - Paul's writings are at the top of the heap regarding doctrine as compared to the OT scriptures as well. That does not mean that the OT does not have value for Christian growth or are not as much inspired. But to pretend that they are all equal in value for doctrine is unrealistic and ignores the Spirit's purpose in writing each portion of scripture (see below). For example, all of Paul's letters (didactic in nature) take precedence over all narrative literature (most of OT, gospels, Acts) and prophetic literature (some of OT, Revelation) when dealing with doctrine. (Others will take precedence regarding Christian living.) For another example: no parable was written to reveal doctrine, but to touch hearts - those prepared by the Spirit to respond. Those not prepared will simply not understand them. When people try to develop doctrines based on parables or other allegorical teachings, they're making a serious hermeneutical error!
    7. Context is key to interpretation - Start with the immediate context, then the context of the letter itself, followed by the context of other letters written by the same author, followed by other letters in general in the NT, and lastly followed by the OT context. The OT context jumps way up when it was quoted in the NT.
    8. God has a purpose for every scripture written - Each scripture had a specific purpose, and we need to determine that purpose IOT properly interpret passages in them.
    9. Those letters written for a particular purpose take precedence over those which touch on that topic but which were written for another purpose - Remember, no scripture contradicts any other. But if a particular text has a purpose to focus on a particular doctrine, it makes sense that the teaching will be more clear there, since that was its focus. Those letters written for a particular purpose take precedence over those which touch on that topic but which were written for another purpose. It isn't that one will be wrong and the other even a little off, but that we believers tend to misinterpret scripture, and by following this "rule" we will protect ourselves from misinterpretation, which happens to all of us.
    10. With parables and allegorical literature, seek the main point - Parables were spoken by our Lord with an explicit purpose. They are allegorical in nature. The safest tactic to take when interpreting allegorical literature is to ask ourselves what was the main point the person is making, then stick with that. be very careful about taking the illustration, and making assumptions about what various things are illustrating which have little to do with the main point of the illustration.
    11. When a scripture text is not clearly intended to be allegorical in nature, then assume a literal view - Look at the context, but if we cannot tell that the text was likely intended to be non-literal, then we should assume a literal basis.
    12. When interpreting OT scripture, which was quoted in the NT, go by the OT context only - IOW, if we see Isaiah 7:14 as talking about a young women, though it is translated in the NT as "virgin," we must stick with the Hebrew lexical meaning. Do not conform the OT with the NT just to avoid apparent contradictions. That is a matter of integrity. Those interested in this particular text, read what the NET Bible does and says about this text. (http://net.bible.org/bible.php)
    13. Clear reading of the text - Allow the scripture to naturally speak for itself. Be careful about imposing your own theology upon the text.
    14. The OT is relevant today - Read Romans 15:4 and this will be clear. Though doctrinally, the NT takes precedence, the OT applies for us today. Now Paul did say that we are no longer under the OT Levitical law, so clearly we can eat pork, for example. Be careful about drawing out doctrine from the OT though. Scripture is progressively revealed. The NT takes precedence. There is no contradiction, but we need to be aware of the purpose. The purpose of the OT Levitical law was to lead us to Christ. (Galatians 3)
    15. Added: Revelation is aimed at its original recipients - IOW it was originally communicated in language to be understood by the initial recipients. Scripture often uses analogies to realities or historical contexts that fit the time frame in which it was written. The application of this principle requires some knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of the people to which the portion of the Word was addressed.
    16. Added: Scripture interprets Scripture - meaning that the obscure passage should give way to the clear. I hinted at this when I spoke of looking where an issue is the primary focus, and that this should have precedence over those texts in which the issue was not the focus. This principle accepts that essential truths are not hidden. We should look for detailed passages on a given subject and let them be the guide in the interpretation of the passages with less detail.



    Quite a mouthful, I know. I also know that some of you will have an issue with me placing Paul's letters at the top of the scripture heap in terms of doctrine. I don't want this to be a big area of discussion. If you don't buy it, so be it. Paul was specifically selected by Jesus as a special agent to the Gentiles and to expand the church in the 1st century. He was taught directly from Christ while in Arabia and God specifically chose Paul to develop NT doctrine. Hence, it was God who placed Paul.'s writings above all other didactic scriptures, according to His plan. Jesus called Paul His chosen instrument. Like it or not, the church has given precedence to Paul's writings historically.

    Regarding progressive revelation, God did not reveal Himself or His plan all at once. The promise of salvation was revealed in seed form in Genesis 3:15 (the fall), but it is expanded upon and developed throughout the OT until we come to its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ and its full explanation in the NT. This means that in the process of revealing His message to mankind, God may add or even change in one era what He had given in another. Obviously the NT has much that was not revealed in the OT yet. What God revealed as obligatory at one time was later rescinded. For example, we may now eat pork (1 Timothy 4:3), and we no longer are required to have our male children circumcised.


    Now, point #11 above probably is the main hermeneutical principle regarding allegorical literature. Perhaps some of you would like to expand upon it, or correct it.

    Thx,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

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    Joey,

    Well, I think you're going to find many here who differ with your approach of assuming an allegorical approach. For those intereested, his approach does have some precedence. Origen felt that the allegorical view was the deeper and more significant view.

    Thx,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

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    Quote Originally Posted by RogerW View Post
    Hi BD,

    Why shouldn't we take both accounts of Judas as literal since they both say the same thing? The reward of iniquity done through Judas did purchase the field of blood. There would have been no reward, no field of blood purchased if not for Judas' iniquity. So Judas is the reason, or how the field was purchased; therefore "this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity." How do we reconcile how Judas died? One says, "he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." The other says, "he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." Why aren't both statements literal? He first hanged himself, then fell from wherever he hang and burst asunder in the field. How else can we make sense of his bursting asunder in the midst unless he fell hitting something sharp?

    Many Blessings,
    RW
    Roger,

    That's my approach, as outlined in that other thread. But I'm wondering when we should consider that a particular text is not written so "historically" or "literally" - intentionally. What clues will tip us off to this?

    Thx,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butch5 View Post
    I understand the Scriptures literally unless there is a reason in the text to do otherwise. It seems to me that when we converse with people we do not begin with allegory. I mean I don't go up to my friend and say, How is that great and beautiful creature that shares your life with you and those beautiful little dolls that adorn your home. I say how's the wife and kids. I mean Jesus wasn't a poet He was a savior. If there is a specific reason to understand a text as allegory then I do. Look at the book of Revelation, yes, we understand that the churches were not literal candlesticks, so there is reason here to interpret it as an allegory. However, unless we have such a reason I see no reason to interpret the Scriptures that way.
    Butch,

    Again, that is my usual approach as well. I am hoping that we can get some of those who have a different approach, such as Joey above, to participate so that we can delve into this more deeply. I would really like to hear what Crawfish has to say, for he gave some significant points to consider on this.

    I do however think that many of the scriptures were originally intended to be allegorical in nature, and we try to assume a literal basis when the allegory is fairly clear.


    Joey,

    Can you explain why you think it best to assume allegory with scripture?

    Thx,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

  10. #10
    BD,
    We actually agree on Paul!! Not often this happens but hey "a broken watch is correct twice a day"!

    Literal is my vote but I'm sure you knew that already. My issue with figurative and allegorical is once you start it where do you draw the line? Taken to the extreme even Christ on the cross and the resurrection can be deemed figurative or allegorical and that worries me. Common reasoning would tell us that there's some allegory but I would restate #11...scripture text is clearly intented as literal first and allegorical literature second

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    Taking the clear, natural view

    I would like to comment about the importance when interpreting a scripture of taking the clear, natural interpretation. We should assume that scripture is clear. 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 14:32, 33 speak on this:

    2 Peter 1:20, 21 "But first of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

    1 Corinthians 14:32, 33 And the prophets' spirits are under the control of the prophets, since God is not a God of disorder but of peace...
    (A bit out of context, but I think still applicable.)

    Scripture is clear because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. We must remember that although Scripture is "clear" there still may be parts that are difficult to understand...

    2 Peter 3:15, 16 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as [an opportunity for] salvation, just as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.


    How does this principle apply to allegorical literature?

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

  12. #12
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    Oops - missed a key principle of hermeneutics

    I was thinking about it, and I realize that I missed two key principles of hermeneutics. I'm going to edit that post and include it, but i need to just post it here first:

    1) Revelation is aimed at its original recipients - IOW it was originally communicated in language to be understood by the initial recipients. Scripture often uses analogies to realities or historical contexts that fit the time frame in which it was written. The application of this principle requires some knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of the people to which the portion of the Word was addressed.

    I applied this principle when I said that we must interpret OT scriptures in their OT context, and not as quoted in the NT. The Holy Spirit may likely have a different application to a particular scripture quoted than that of the original.

    2) Scripture interprets Scripture - meaning that the obscure passage should give way to the clear. I hinted at this when I spoke of looking where an issue is the primary focus, and that this should have precedence over those texts in which the issue was not the focus. This principle accepts that essential truths are not hidden. We should look for detailed passages on a given subject and let them be the guide in the interpretation of the passages with less detail.

    Regarding this principle, Paul spent much time talking about justification by faith--being declared righteous before God. When people try to force Paul's teachings to fit into their misunderstanding of what James is teaching, all kinds of mistakes on interpretation are made. Start with the place where the Holy Spirit made it clear--in this instance concerning justification, Paul's writings in Romans and Galatians. Read James 2 in light of it. The issue with James 2 is that it is taken out of context.


    Some of you may have heard of the ole Navigator's quote:

    "The New is in the Old concealed
    The Old is in the New Revealed"


    Thx,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BadDog View Post
    Joey,

    Well, I think you're going to find many here who differ with your approach of assuming an allegorical approach. For those intereested, his approach does have some precedence. Origen felt that the allegorical view was the deeper and more significant view.

    Thx,

    BD
    Oh yes I find many people who disagree not only here, but everywhere! But I think we can find many profitable things by taking the time to digest the idea of taking an allegorical approach to scripture.

    For example, Paul writes that the first Adam came from the dust of the earth, while the last Adam (Christ), came from heaven.


    1 Corinthians 15
    45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being;" the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

    47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

    So right then and there we can know that Adam is a "type of Christ" in certain ways because they are compared to one another by way of contrast. Paul was making a contrast between a perishable body that goes back to the dust, and an immortal body that will never die.

    But knowing that we are talking about two "Adam's" here, and knowing that Yahshua said all of the OT scriptures testify about Him, we can draw comparisons and understand prophetic allegories about the last Adam that are represented in the first Adam.

    We know that at first, Adam was alone, and Yahweh determined that it was not good for him to be alone and formed a woman, a "bride" for him from out of his side while he slept.

    Well, we can then also conclude that Yahshua Himself, the last Adam, did not want to be alone, therefore, not only was man created - but the NT gives an allegorical depiction of Yahshua returning back for His "bride" to spend eternity with.

    Now look at this scripture -

    1 Timothy 2
    14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (fell into transgression).

    It was not Adam that the serpent tempted and deceived, it was his "bride." Looking at this only literally, we can gain nothing more from it other than a historical account, and/or maybe the idea that women are more easily deceived than men, or other such basic thoughts.

    But, looking at the "fall of man" story allegorically, we can see that just as we, created flesh man, the (hopeful) bride of Christ, just as we are the ones who are deceived by satan and commit sin and ultimately perish back to the dust, so did Adam's "bride" get deceived and commit transgression. And since Adam was not deceived, and knowing that the punishment for eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was death, we can find an exciting parallel between the first Adam and last Adam.

    Ephesians 5
    25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

    Romans 8
    3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering

    Hebrews 2
    9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

    2 Corinthians 5
    21God made him who had no sin to be sin (or sin offering) for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    Perhaps you are starting to see the picture. Yahshua, the last Adam, was not the sinner, but knew that He had to come in the likeness of sinful flesh in order to taste death, giving Himself up for His church, His bride, who is comprised of sinful and deceived man.

    This is the same thing that the first Adam did. He "tasted death" on Eve's behalf. Had he not eaten the fruit, Eve would have been driven out of the garden (representing heaven), helpless and alone, while Adam Himself would once again have been alone in the garden (heaven). Just as if Christ had not tasted death for us, we would have no hope of salvation and be doomed to eternal death, and would be confined to an eternity outside of His presence. And likewise, He would have no bride in heaven.

    So, Yahshua came out of the garden (heaven) to taste death on behalf of His bride, just as Adam tasted death and was driven out of the garden on behalf of his. The only difference is, the last Adam is going to ultimately restore what the first Adam messed up. Reconciling man back to God by way of His death (Colossians 1), He will ultimately restore man back to the garden on a much larger, heavenly scale.

    Now all of the parellels above may not be 100% exact, but the similarities are too obvious to dismiss and none of the "types of Christ," even the most known ones in the OT, are 100% exact. Remember, Yahshua even compared Himself to disobedient Jonah!

    So we can see that's just one example of many, many ways in which the OT scriptures "testified" of Yahshua's death and resurrection for the salvation of man.

    There is also symbolism in the way in which both the first Adam's and last Adam's sides were opened up while they "slept."

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by BadDog View Post
    Roger,

    That's my approach, as outlined in that other thread. But I'm wondering when we should consider that a particular text is not written so "historically" or "literally" - intentionally. What clues will tip us off to this?

    Thx,

    BD
    I would say the first clue - does the author tell us the passage is allegory, symbolism, parable etc.? For instance in Gal 4:24 Paul tells us two women represent two covenants. One by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

    At least some passages of Job are spoken parables, meaning metaphorical in nature. Chapter 27:1 & 29:1 for instance says, "Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,". So when we read such as found in vs 3, "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils", it would not be wise to assume the Spirit of God is literally up Job's nose. More likely Job is saying the living soul is breathed into man by God.

    We find parables in the Psalms, Proverbs, the Prophets and Jesus Himself often spoke in parables. So a good indication that something is not to be taken literally is when we find passages expressly parabolic, or non-literal. The same is true of a proverb; which like a parable is an enigmatical or fictitious illustration, not to be taken literally.

    When it comes to Genesis, I find no indication, no mention of parable, proverb, allegory, metaphor, sign, symbol etc. There is nothing in Genesis that would cause me to consider the text written as anything less then an historical account, especially regarding chapters 1 & 2. It seems to me when one attempts to interpret Genesis as allegory, or non-literal/historical, they do so in an attempt to reconcile Science and Scripture.

    Blessings,
    RW

  15. #15
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    Thanks for starting this thread. As Teddy mentioned, I am a he, not a she.

    I will ask a question that anybody is free to answer. What is "literal"? If scripture is literal, could you write a screenplay using it and film an accurate recording of events? Is literal free from bias, or can it be expressed in a way that alters chronologies, eliminates data or combines events to make a theological point?

    Let me make an example. Consider when Jesus cursed the fig tree - Matthew 21:18-22, and Mark 11:12-25.

    In the Matthew account, Jesus curses the fig tree, followed by the next line: "Immediately the tree withered." In the Mark account, Jesus curses the fig tree, then travels to Jerusalem. He cleanses the temple, and then it tells us: "In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots." In Matthew, Jesus cleansed the temple before he traveled back and cursed the tree.

    Here, you have two recordings of the same event. One book implies that the fig tree immediately withered right in front of their eyes; the other implies that they left, came back the next morning and saw it wither. Is this a contradiction? Did Jesus curse two fig trees? What is scripture exactly trying to tell us here?

    Here is my take. Matthew is definitely not concerned with a correct chronology. He is assembling a list of stories, arranging them topically, and only the beginning and ending of Christ's life remain in the proper order (and that only because each is in itself a topic). The stories of the cleansing of the temple and the fig tree are being presented as separate, individual stories, and thus the wording phrases them to be read independently.

    Mark, on the other hand, uses a common literary technique where a story is wrapped by another story that illustrates its principle. The focus is on the cleansing of the temple. The fig tree is symbolic of the temple, and when the disciples see it cursed withered it's meant to indicate that the same thing will happen to the temple. It was rotten, producing no fruit and would be destroyed. Mark presents the story in a way that reveals it as prophecy.

    So, what does literal mean? Do we know when the fig tree was cursed? Do we know how long it took it to wither? No, because such questions are irrelevant to the point being presented. The authors make no attempt to force each story to jibe perfectly; they play a little loose with the historical truth in order to better reveal spiritual Truth.

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