Inerrancy: Literal

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve lately started a series on inerrancy. In going with this look, I would like to suggest some ways in which we can interpret a text. To begin with, I am going to start with the most obvious one for most of us, and the one we probably use the most, the literal approach.

Have you ever wondered what it would mean if we took the Bible literally as much as possible? Many of us say we would. Well there was someone named Finis Jennings Dake who did just that. In fact, if you get his Study Bible, you will find that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each have a body, a soul, and a spirit. (Ever wonder where Hinn got it from?)

Something’s wrong there.

Often times, we will see a poll being said about how many Americans believe the Bible should be interpreted literally. If I got that question asked to me by a pollster, I would have to say “Depends.” Why? There are definitely times where you should take it literally, and there are definitely times you should not. For example, on the latter, if we all took Jesus’s commands about lust literally, we would all be blind right now.

Literal readings can work well with events like narratives, but even narratives themselves can be filled with other parts that should not be taken literally, such as hyperbole happening or the writer using metaphors to describe something or even possibly apocalyptic language. How do you know which is which? Well there is no ardent rule that we have set down that can determine the truth each and every time, so the best method overall is to try to study the culture and language.

If that is not the easiest route, it is good to also consult with those who do, though keep in mind with all authorities you contact, even myself, that we are not the Holy Spirit and we are all fallible people who can error in our interpretations of the text. As one who believes in inerrancy, I do believe the Scripture cannot error, but our interpretations of Scripture certainly can.

When reading the text literally, do always be on the look out for figures of speech and events of that sort. I believe the events of Joshua and Judges for instance, particularly since I just finished Joshua and I’m going through Judges now in my own reading, are by and large literal truth, but I do believe that there is rich symbolism in some parts. I would say the majority however is literal.

Also, because an event is literal, that does not mean it does not have a deeper meaning. Consider in the gospels when Jesus curses the fig tree. I believe that that literally happened. I believe that that is also an apocalyptic warning where Jesus is comparing the fig tree to Israel and how Israel had all the appearance of having fruit, but had no fruit, and judgment was to come. Remember, it is not always an either/or game.

The bottom line again at this point is to study and study more. Always be learning and always be open to the fact that you could be wrong. That rule goes for myself also.

We shall continue next time.

  • I once heard someone respond to this issue that they believe in taking the Bible literal where it is intended to be taken literal. I have often used the picture of Jesus with a sword coming out of his mouth to show that it is obvious that not everything in the Bible is intended to be taken literally. One atheist friend of mine baulked at this idea, protesting that this kind of interpretation is unfair and is more or less, special pleading. I could hardly believe my ears. The Bible is a compilation of books, written by real people who lived in the real world. Jesus, himself, constantly appealed to parables and used communication methods that would allow his message to be perminently fixed in the hearer’s mind and heart. He wasn’t giving lectures to the American Scientific Association in the 21st century on bacterial flagellum, he left that to folks like Michael Behe.

    Nice work.

  • J. P. Holding

    Why of course that sword thing is meant literally. How else do you expect the omnipotent Son of God to brush and floss his teeth? You know as powerful as he is, he must also get some mighty powerful plaque too. Stop being illogical.