Prophecies Fulfilled In Type
Biblical prophecies often include figures of speech. Some predictions came to pass exactly as written. Others were fulfilled in type one thing representing another.
Isaiah 40:3-4, for an extreme example, predicts that valleys will be raised and mountains brought low. Luke 3:4-6 indicates that this prophecy in Isaiah was fulfilled by the preaching of John the Baptist. The valleys and mountains of Isaiah 40:3-4 are apparently symbols for something else and therefore not to be taken literally.
The apostle John saw a beast coming, out of the sea and another beast out of the earth . Were the animals real, or only a vision? Were they literal or symbolic?
If we interpret the prophecy literally, we might worry about mutant dinosaurs. But few students of the Bible interpret these beasts literally as fearsome wild animals. Rather, the beasts symbolize a typological fulfillment.
Is figurative interpretation a second-best approach to the Scriptures? In these cases, certainly not! It is what God intended.
Through Isaiah God prophesied that the Messiah would reign on Davids throne with justice and righteousness forever . But did Jesus fulfill this prophecy? If we had lived then and insisted on a literal interpretation of the prophecies that describe the Messiah as a conquering hero, we would have rejected Christ, the spiritual fulfillment of Gods Word.
Why Should We Take The Bible Literally
Some Christians believe that the Bible stories, including the Genesis account, should be taken literally . This means that the biblical accounts are to be taken as fact, ie that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and that no alternative or scientific theory is considered.
How Literally Should We Take Each Word In The Bible
The books inside the Bible are the most read, and perhaps unread, spiritual literature of recorded history.
The Bibles words, translated into hundreds of languages and dialects, represent divine revelation for the Jewish and Christian religions. Its teachings and stories have made a huge cultural, societal and legal impact throughout the greater part of Western civilisation for two millennia, shaping the lives, thoughts and practices of countless millions of people.
Along the way, many people have been murdered because of how they have used, translated or perceived the book. Doctrine dogfights have seen people flee for their lives. Bible discussion still provokes strong responses today, with interviewees for this story using the terms heresy and blasphemous.
But, just how well is the Bible understood, even by those who try to live by its words?
Is the Bible the revealed word of God, or the work of humans? Is it inspired, or inerrant a lifeline or a sword? Chockablock with timeless wisdom, or irrelevant to our society? Is the Bible without error, as some Christians believe? Is it to be taken literally?
The first point worth stressing is that the Bible wasnt written by one person, at one time it was written by many authors over a period spanning about 1000 years.
This leads to some curious inconsistencies and varying versions of events, according to Dr Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Coordinator of Studies Old Testament, at Pilgrim Theological College.
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Truth In Symbolic Language
Some people prefer a literal interpretation of the Bible and defend it to extremes. Before they even see the context, they assume that the literal meaning is closer to the truth. They accept a figure of speech only grudgingly.
Their respect for the Bible is admirable, but a bit misguided. They are afraid that figurative interpretation can go too far. Such people fear that the Bible will be spiritualized away. For example, for any law some dont want to keep, the law might be called culturally obsolete or an exaggeration. Any miracle they dont think happened might be called a parable. Details of prophecies might be waved aside and proclaimed fulfilled in some vague symbolic way. Mary wasnt really a virgin, and Christ wont really come back, and God doesnt really exist, and everything is a big hoax, some might say.
But that is a dishonest way to interpret the Word of God. These examples show figurative interpretation can be taken too far. But that does not mean we should reject it or resist its every use. Insisting on the literal meaning as being true and accurate, and figurative interpretation as a watering down of the intended meaning, is an exaggeration.
When we read, we understand words in a literal sense first, then in a figurative sense if the literal doesnt make sense. Thats the normal way we use language, and its a sensible way to start. Literal first, figurative second.
How Many People Believe In The Bible Literally
WASHINGTON, D.C. Fewer than one in four Americans now believe the Bible is the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word, similar to the 26% who view it as a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man. This is the first time in Gallups four-decade trend that
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Should We Take The Bible Literally
In our very polarized culture, many people tend to view the Bible in one of two ways: either they take everything in it 100% literally, or they think its all just a bunch of made-up stories that at best teach a few good moral lessons. They think that if its the inspired word of God, it has to all be literally true, but if its not really Gods word, then theres not much of a reason to believe that any of it actually happened. Of course there are exceptions, but most people tend to gravitate towards one of these two extremes. So where should we as Catholics fall on this issue?
Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No
Unsurprisingly, we fall somewhere in the middle. The Church doesnt teach that we have to take everything in Scripture hyper-literally, but it doesnt allow us to go to the opposite extreme and view it as entirely make-believe either. And theres a really good reason for this.
See, the Bible isnt a single book. Rather, its a collection of books written at different times by different people in different cultural and historical contexts, and we cant interpret such diverse works in exactly the same way. Instead, we have to look at each book and determine how the author was trying to convey his meaning to us. Was he writing history ? Was he writing poetry ? Was he writing down a bunch of loosely connected maxims ?
Creation in Seven Days
A Complicated Answer
What Is The Author Trying To Do What Literary Forms And Conventions Are They Using
When we interpret a passage, first we have to identify what an author is trying to do. Sometimes authors want to tell what happened or will happen sometimes they want to explain or describe something sometimes they want to give instructions about how to do something and sometimes they want to give an exhortation or command.
All languages and cultures have ways of communicating these kinds of intentions. However, languages and cultures embed these intentions in different literary forms. These literary forms have certain conventions or rules that people within a certain culture and time recognize and easily interpret. But moving from one culture to another, from one time to another, or from one language to another, we may find that both the literary forms and the conventions within the forms are different than what we expect or easily recognize.
The literary forms and conventions associated with the ancient Hebrew psalms, a fifteenth-century Japanese haiku, an eighteenth-century English sonnet, and a twenty-first-century American rap song are very different, even though all could be classified as poetry.
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Response To The Question Of Human Procreation
I did not pose this question to the creation scientist because itwas my experience from a year’s correspondence on geology and otherscience topics that this question was unanswerable from a creation sciencepoint of view. Like our modern knowledge of chemistry, the biology of sexis not discussed in the Bible, and, therefore, the Bible has no opinion onthis subject from which the creation scientist could argue or defend.
Figures Of Speech In The Bible
Simile: A comparison using like or as. Example: As lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man .
Metaphor: One thing described in terms of some other thing. Do not be afraid,little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom .
Anthropomorphism: God described in human terms. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth .
Words of association: One word stands for something else. Examples: Circumcision meaning the Jews sword for all weapons .
Personification: Personal qualities assigned to an object. The mountains skipped like rams .
Euphemism: Substituting an inoffensive word for a possibly harsh or crude one. Adam lay with his wife Eve means that they had sexual intercourse.
Hyperbole: Exaggeration. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out .
Irony: The literal meaning is opposite the real meaning. You have become kings! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! .
But figurative meanings are not second best or inferior or anything to apologize for. They are often better, closer to the truth. Symbolic meaning is usually more powerful and profound.
The evidence is clear that parts of the Bible are meant figuratively, and we are rejecting the Word of God if we refuse to consider the possibility of figures of speech. We should not refuse to understand a method the Bible itself uses.
Importance Of The Subject
In the United States, the Bible is often hailed as a divinely inspired book. Television and radio carry religious programs praising the Bible as the holy and infallible word of God. Religious groups also distribute vast amounts of books, magazines, tapes, pamphlets, and other items. The materials promote the idea that, as televangelist Pat Robertson has said, The Bible . . . is a workable guidebook for politics, business, families and all the affairs of mankind.
The Bible is also extolled by many politicians. For instance, President Ronald Reagan signed into law an Act of Congress proclaiming 1983 to be the Year of the Bible. The law described the Bible as the Word of God and said there is a national need to study and apply its teachings.
Thousands of other religious and political leaders throughout the U.S. promote the Bible. In most communities, an opposing view is rarely, if ever, heard.
The massive and incessant promotion of the Bible significantly influences the beliefs of millions. A Gallup poll showed that over 30% of Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God and its teachings should be taken literally. Gallup identified an additional 25% of Americans who consider the Bible as inspired by God, but think some verses should be interpreted symbolically rather than literally.
What Does Metaphorically Mean In The Bible
A metaphor is a comparison made between two or more things using figurative or descriptive language. Some of the metaphors found in The Bible are alluded to and referenced in many other texts, so it pays to be familiar with them and understand what is being said. Lets take a list of metaphor examples in The Bible.
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The Purpose Of Scripture
Scripture is not intended as a moral guide book or a collection of propositions to believe. Its purpose is to reveal Gods plan and purposes throughout human history. According to the Apostle Paul, All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work . Among the most important objectives, Scripture is able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus .
Response On The Question Of A Dead Seed
The creation scientist responded to my questions on the abilityfor a dead seed to germinate in two separate letters. In the firstresponse he indicated that although such germination cannot naturallyoccur to produce a plant, creation scientists believe in the supernatural.God can make a lifeless seed grow. He posited that although miracles arerare, a plant does not need a soul in order to be resurrected. His finalpoints were that Jesus in this biblical passage was merely using a parableto demonstrate the need for self-sacrifice, and that there is no need fornaturalism to explain a miracle.
Three contradictory points were made here by the creationscientist. The first is the agreement that modern science is correct inshowing that dead seeds cannot germinate. The second is that a miraclecan explain the process in the time of Jesus. The third is that thebiblical passage should not be interpreted scientifically, butmetaphorically in which a parable is used to illustrate the need forself-sacrifice. He says that miracles are rare, but the quotation impliesthat every wheat seed that was planted in Jesus’ time went through themiraculous resurrection. That number is a lot of miracles. Asupernatural explanation is certainly an easy way out of the difficulty ofexplaining what happened, but such an explanation is not science.
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Should The Bible Be Taken Literally Or Metaphorically
Biblical literalists believe that, unless a passage is clearly intended by the writer as allegory, poetry, or some other genre, the Bible should be interpreted as literal statements by the author. WE AFFIRM the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense.
When Should The Bible Not Be Taken Literally
Explain how you can determine what is a real event with real people from that which is fictional in Scripture.
Fish Catcher Jim said:If the word of God said every Tuesday a two headed hippopotamus gave birth to an ostrich, well sir even though I have not seen this, I would believe it to be true.If something does not make sense in the natural then it is spiritual when dealing with the most Holy Written Word Of God.
Literal: the literal meaning of a word.Figurative:
Fish Catcher Jim said:You once asked me sir if Jesus was literally a vine. I said Yes.Now common sense tells us we don’t go out to the Vinyard and worship the vines.Spiritually speaking yes He is the vine and I am a branch.
like like b
if messageword imagery
fourth third and God divided the light from the darkness. above the brightness of the sun,
createsixth formedwhom he had formed. formed
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The Most Important Thing
If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one useful tip I could offer to help you solve the riddle of Scriptural meaning, its this: Never read a Bible verse. Thats right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraphat least.
On the radio I use this simple rule to help me answer the majority of Bible questions Im asked, even when Im not familiar with the particular passage. When I quickly survey the paragraph containing the verse in question, the larger context almost always provides the information I need to help me understand whats going on.
This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.
Heres how it works. First, get the big picture. Look at the broader context of the book. What type of writing is ithistory, poetry, proverb, letter? Different genres have different rules for reading them.
Next, stand back from the verse and look for breaks in the passage that identify major units of thought. Then ask yourself, What in this paragraph or group of paragraphs gives any clue to the meaning of the verse in question? In general, what idea is being developed? Whatistheflowofthought?
Dont forget the rule: Never read a Bible verse. Always read a paragraph at least if you want to be confident youre getting the right meaning of the verse.
Do You Read The Bible Literally
- TIM GRAY
Do you take the Bible “literally”? It is one of the great litmus tests of our day. The question is dangerously loaded. Answering “yes” or “no” puts you in an extreme position.
Affirming that the entirety of Scripture is to be taken literally is a confession of fundamentalism, which is one of the few things our pluralistic society cannot tolerate. Answering in the negative implies that you may not be taking the Bible seriously at all, questioning not only the historical credibility of the crossing of the Red Sea, but also that of the empty tomb. Some questions cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, precisely because some questions are themselves problems.
Word for word
Most often what our culture means by the phrase “reading Scripture literally,” would be more correctly rendered “reading Scripture literalistically,” that is, taking each word at face value apart from its literary context. Such an approach drains the life out of language such readers leech the meaning out of Scripture. For example, a literalistic take on the phrase, “Her eyes are as bright as diamonds,” would claim that her eyes provided a similar luminescence as diamonds. Such a wooden reading misses the poetic thrust of the simile the radiant beauty that flashes through her eyes.
What do you mean?
Keep it in context
In subsequent articles, we will see how taking the Bible literarily, and seeing how these cardinal genres fit together, makes for a dynamic reading of Scripture.
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