#ReimagineSCRIPTURE...Always take it seriously, but don't always take it literally.
In his article on "7 Tips for Understanding Revelation," Scott Duvall stated we must . . .
"Take Revelation seriously, but don’t always take it literally."
#ItSeemsToMe...that wisdom applies to the entire Bible.
Not all passages, statements, descriptions in Holy Scripture are meant to be taken literally. A commitment to literal interpretation may sound like a commitment to doctrinal faithfulness but it is literary foolishness.
- representing the exact words of the original text.
- concerning the writing, study, or content of literature.
- The study literature is to interpret the meaning and patterns within texts to learn more about language, culture, history, society, power, art, and ourselves. (dictionary)
The Bible is a collection of 66 books from several dozen different authors utilizing different writing styles, based on distinct worldviews.
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." John 10:9
The good intention of "always literal" is to preserve the integrity of the text, but if you interpret John 10:9 literally, Jesus is proclaiming he is a door (some translations use 'gate'). Everyone reads that statement as a metaphor ("a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable."). Jesus is indicating that, like a door or gate, entry into the family of God is through faith in him. Jesus is not a door (interpreted literally); Jesus is our access, our port of entry (understood literarily).
Plus, the promise of a pasture is not literal. Our ives with Jesus will not be, in this life nor the next, in (or limited to) an actual pasture. Once again the term is used to give a word picture to his listeners.
I doubt anyone disagrees with this obvious example.
Our problems arise when we look, for example, at Genesis 1. Every word is true but is a literal interpretation using a scientific comprehension of the cosmos the original intention of the writer? Is it possible the divine message of that chapter is embedded in poetic, descriptive, evocative text that was not intended to be a science text for ancients?
Whether your view of the Creation story in Genesis, the first order of faithful biblical interpretation is to identify both the text and the text in it's literary context. The text is comprised of vocabulary. The context includes the literary style employed by the author to communicate God's truth.
I am a fan of black-and-white movies but I am also very glad some motion pictures are in color.
God has communicated to us in the literature of the Bible.(God's words are in human vocabulary; akin to the incarnation of Jesus (John 1). Some of God's message is in black-and-white, meant to be taken literally. Some of God's message is in color, meant to be understood literarily (prophecy, poetry, narrative, metaphor, hyperbole). "Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live." 2 Timothy 3:16 CEV
I am not making this distinction in order to liberalize scriptural teachings but to liberate texts from a literal interpretation that weakens, distorts, even corupts the actual word of God.
To paraphrase Scott Duvall,
"Take Holy Scripture seriously, but don’t always take it literally."