Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do you take the Bible literally?

If someone asks me, "Do you take the Bible literally?"

Then I simply reply, "I don't take that question literally."

If you're really asking if I "take" a Bible literally then I would ask, "Is someone literally handing me a Bible to take? Am I literally taking a Bible that belongs to someone else? Or are you asking if I literally take the Bible, my Bible, "literally" everywhere I go?" And I would say "Yes, I try to."

You see, I interpret (or take) the Bible the same way I interpret (or take) that question. I take it at face value in the context of the conversation. Because of the context of that question I understand what you mean.

You were really asking if I "interpret" everything in the Bible literally, and yet you worded your question, "Do I take the Bible literally." You meant do I take what it says literally, not do I take actual physical Bibles literally. There is a big difference between the word “take” and the word “interpret” and yet within the context of your question and our conversation I understand your usage of the word “take” as meaning “interpret or understand.” And so what is literally said and what is literally interpreted are different and yet understood.

And the same deep profound interpretive skills I just used to interpret your question, I also use when reading my literal Bible.

I take the Bible at face value as I would any writing or book or article. When it is meant to be taken literally, I take it literally, and when it is meant to be understood figuratively (like your question) I take it figuratively, and when the passage is debatable among honest scholarly interpretation, then I am open to discuss it. It's pretty simple.

I read my Bible the way each genre or book is meant to be read.

I read the poetry and psalms different than the history and narratives.

History and narratives have much that is meant to be taken literally, and the poetry and psalms have much that is to be understood figuratively. It all depends on the context of what is being said.

Where most of the debate lies is regarding the issues of the supernatural and miraculous. People question whether the Bible should be taken literally or not because they have a predisposition against the supernatural and miraculous. They might agree that Jesus was born in a "literal" Bethlehem but question whether He was "literally" born from a virgin. They might agree that He was "literally" crucified outside of a "literal" Jerusalem, but they would question whether He "literally" rose from the grave three days later. When it comes to the miraculous and supernatural many people feel that those portions of the Bible should not be interpreted "literally" but rather "figuratively." And this is because they have a personal bias against the miraculous, not because that particular passage of the Bible is really meant to be interpreted figuratively.

And so, if you are someone who interprets the miraculous events in the Bible "literally" then your intelligence is under question and you are considered by many as gullible. The Bible has many passages that are to be interpreted figuratively, but it also has many miraculous events that are to be interpreted literally. And this is a very intelligent and rational way to approach the interpretation of the Bible.

I accept literal miracles in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

And I literally believe in the Person, work and miracles of Jesus Christ.

The ministry and miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are written in the context of historical narratives, not poetry.

However, there are many places in the Bible that I do interpret figuratively and not literally.

Let's talk for a minute about how someone could reason through this.

Taking the Bible literally or figuratively?

I currently live in the state of Nevada and in the USA. Now if I were reading online or in the newspaper about China how would I read the laws and news related to China? Would I read them "literally" or "figuratively"? Literally of coarse! Even though they do not specifically apply to me, I would still read they're laws and news as literal law and literal news applying to the Chinese people and those who live in China. Just because I live in Nevada and in America, under different laws and speak a different language does not mean that I would interpret figuratively writings from another country, about another people and culture who speak a different language. I would take what I read about China at face value, in context, understanding cultural differences and interpreting everything literally unless something is specifically meant to be taken figuratively.

This is how a Christian reads the Old Testament: Literal Laws and literal News applying to the Jewish People, living in the Nation of Israel, before the time of the Messiah. There is no reason someone should read the entire Old Testament as "figurative" writings when it deals with literal people, in literal locations and at a literal time in history. We can approach the New Testament the same way. Writings about real people, in real places, at a real time in history.

But what about those areas that are figurative?

First you consider the genre of the passage you're reading. Is it law, history, poetry, proverb, prophecy or narrative?

That helps determine how you read the passage.

For example:

If I was reading on the internet or in a newspaper, and I turned to the sports section and it reads:

"The Cowboys slaughtered the Broncos 36 to 7."

First of all because I'm reading the sports section (genre) I can assume it is not talking of "literal" cowboys killing and slaughtering "literal" broncos. It's speaking of football teams. And knowing this I can also assume the Dallas Cowboys did not "literally" slaughter the Denver Broncos football team. That word "slaughter" is not to be taken literally, it is a descriptive word describing that the Cowboys won the game by many points, and so I take that word “slaughter” figuratively. And yet, the numbers 37 and 7 I will interpret literally as representing real points scored, not as some figurative numbers representing something else.

Now, if I was reading an article in the newspaper or in a magazine on Early Texas Culture titled: "Cowboys slaughtered broncos" and it spoke about some starving cowboys who slaughtered their broncos, then I would interpret that to mean, literal cowboys, literally slaughtered literal broncos. Because this is an article describing a real historical event and not sports teams that use "figurative" team names I am logically forced to interpret the words: "cowboys", "broncos" and "slaughtered" differently.

And so we see that the genre and context determine how we interpret things, whether literally or figuratively.

It is the same when we interpret the Bible.

When the Bible says that David was a shepherd over sheep it is saying he was a literal shepherd over literal sheep. But when the Bible says the Lord is our "Shepherd" and we are His "sheep" it is obviously speaking figuratively, and communicating that the LORD is like a shepherd in how He cares for us, and we are like sheep in how we wander and need His protection. No one would interpret that as meaning "God is a literal shepherd in heaven" and "we are all literally and genetically sheep." This kind of irrational approach to biblical interpretation helps to fuel skepticism, ridicule and arguments that those who believe the Bible are not being logical or scientific. It is essential that we not only "believe" the Bible, but that we "interpret" the Bible responsibly.

So the next time someone asks you, "Do you take the Bible literally?" Tell them, "Where the Bible is speaking literally I take it literally, and where it is speaking figuratively, I take it figuratively, and where it is unclear I am open to discuss what the best interpretation would be."

Then ask them, "Do you interpret my answer literally or figuratively?"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Got Questions about the Bible?
-How can we know that the Bible is True?
-What proofs do we have that the Bible is Historical?
-Does the Bible contradict observable Science?
-How can we know that the Bible is “God’s Word”?

F.A.C.E.S.M.A.P. is an acronym Providing Evidence
for the Trustworthiness of the Bible

F- Fulfilled Prophecy:

What is Prophecy? In Isaiah 46:9-10 God declares the end from the beginning
Fulfilled prophecy is what sets the Holy Bible apart from any other religious text in the world.
Prophecies about JESUS CHRIST:
Genesis 12:3, 26:4, 28:13-14, 49:10-He would be born from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah
Isaiah 9:7-Jeremiah 23:5-6-From David’s lineage
Isaiah 7:14- Virgin birth of a Son
Micah 5:2-Birth place Bethlehem (from everlasting)
Isaiah 35:5-6-Miracle Ministry, He would heal the deaf, blind, mute and lame
Psalm 22:16-Pierced hands and feet (predicted 700 years before crucifixion was used as punishment)
Psalm 22:18-People would gamble for His garments
Isaiah 53-He would be rejected by men and die for sins
Psalm 16:10-He would rise from the dead
Isaiah 9:6-He would be called Mighty God, Everlasting Father
Prophecies about ISRAEL:
Ezekiel 37:21-22-Israel to be restored as one, no longer to be two (Judah & Israel)
Most prophecy is against Israel for their disobedience but can apply to us as well
Prophecies about the END TIMES:
2 Peter 3:3-7-People will willfully reject the “flood story” of the Old Testament so that they can continue in their lusts
2 Peter 2:1-3-Greedy preachers & teachers will manipulate many people causing others to reject the truth
2 Timothy 3:2-3-An increase in greed (love of self, love of money & pleasure/entertainment), blasphemy, rebellious among the youth, a love to fight, hatred for goodness, traitors, and superficial religion that has no power.

A- Archeology:
The Bible is a true historical document.
Much geography, cities, nations and people groups still exist today that are written in the Bible.
Places, rivers, language, coins, religion, the remains of temples and various artifacts validate those things mentioned in the Bible.
Stones of King David and Pontius Pilate have been discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, dated 200 to 100 BC reveal that the Old Testament was written and completed before the birth of Jesus. This means that Old Testament prophecies could not have been written after Jesus was born.
Many Biblical Events are recorded in other ancient histories and among other cultures:
The Sumerian King list- records a great flood & afterwards life spans are shorter
Sumerian Tablet- records Tower of Babel event and one language, then confused into many languages
The Gilgamesh Epic-Tablet 2- records an ark, flood, animals, landing on a mountain, birds sent out, a sacrifice made, etc.

C- Consistency:
The Bible is 66 different books, written by over 40 authors, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents and written over a time span of approximately 1600 years
It is written in different Styles:
Law, History, Poetry, Prophecy, Proverbs, Songs and Letters
The Biblical Authors were a wide variety of individuals: Shepherds, Kings, Prophets, Doctors, Fishermen, Pharisees, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor
The Bible was written in various Times: Wars, Peace, Famines, Prosperity, Blessings and Cursing, Joy and Despair, national obedience and disobedience, slavery and freedom
With all of this variety there remains one consistent theme throughout entire Bible: God’s Story of the redemption of man through Jesus Christ. The Bible summarized is:
God chose a man (Abraham) to make a nation (Israel), to bring a Man (Jesus) to send to the nations.
The fact that over 40 individuals who lived in different times, lands and even spoke different languages could create writings that are harmonious with one another’s history, and science and yet progressively reveal God’s plan without contradicting one another is a great testimony that the same God spoke and wrote through them a consistent message.

E- External Confirmation:
The Empty tomb of Jesus Christ- No body of Jesus has ever been found. Many of His disciples died as martyrs unwilling to deny the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is risen!
There are many non-biblical writings that validate the Bible:
Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus, (93 AD) Antiquities 18, 3:3 Arabic text & 20, 9:1 (He wrote about Pilate, Jesus & James as real historical figures.)
The Babylonian Talmud (70-200 AD) Sanhedrin 43a (This document wrote that they hung Yeshu, which is Hebrew for Jesus, on the eve of Passover)
Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (112 AD) Epistles 10:96 (He also wrote of Christians & Christ)
The Annals of Tacitus (115-117 AD) Annuls 15:44 (Wrote of Christians & about Pilate putting Jesus to death)
Today’s date (2000+ AD) validates the life and death of a Man named Jesus approximately 2000+ years ago.
Our 7 day week is a result of God’s creation order in Genesis chapter 1 and 2. God wrote that He worked (created) for 6 days and on the 7th day He rested to leave us an example.
Encyclopedias & Dictionaries throughout the world document Jesus Christ as a literal historical figure as well as much Biblical history. External resources confirm the Bible history and Jesus.
The Bible has been the most reproduced and best selling book on the planet for over a century!

S- Science:
The Bible does not contradict true science, but it does contradict certain interpretations of “science.” The Bible includes many scientific facts written before their actual discoveries and modern science.
Job 26:7– God hangs the earth on nothing
Psalm 8:8– There are paths of the sea
Leviticus 15:13– Says to wash with running water
Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7, 10– The Earth is a circle/sphere.
Leviticus 17:11- Life is in the blood of the creature
Amos 9:6, Ecclesiastes 1:6, 7, Job 36:27-29 Speaks of the hydraulic system or the global cycle of water
Genesis 1:21- Fish and birds are of their own “kind” (They did not evolve from another life-form but were created distinct species with the potential for great variety)
Genesis 1:25- Beasts, cattle, living things according to their kind (They did not evolve from another life-form but were created distinct species with the potential for great variety)
Job 40:15-24,41:1-34, Psalm 74:13-14, Isaiah 27:1, 30:6-Speaks of dinosaur-like creatures and other extinct creatures (Dinosaurs were called “dragons or serpents” before the word “dinosaur” was invented in 1841.)

M- Manuscripts:
There is a vast amount of ancient Biblical manuscripts for us to study and compare to better understand what the original autographs said.
The Dead Sea Scrolls (dated at 200-100 BC) discovered in 1949, include all the books of the Old Testament except Esther.
There are 24,633 partial & complete ancient handwritten manuscript copies of New Testament alone that are consistent with one another.
These include Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts which can be viewed at the Cambridge University Library, Oxford University, Smithsonian Institute, British Museum, and National Library at Paris
The complete New Testament Greek Manuscripts written 50-100AD, earliest copy is from 130AD, there are 5686 copies. Compare the quantity and dates in relation to original Biblical manuscripts with the manuscripts of other ancient texts:
Plato written 427-347BC, earliest copy 900AD, only 7 copies
Aristotle written 384-322BC, earliest copies from 1000AD, only 49 copies
Homer’s Iliad written 900BC, earliest copy from 400BC, only 643 copies
Note: Old Testament and New Testament Bible chapter numbers were added 1228 AD. Old Testament verse numbers added in 1509 AD. New Testament verse numbers added 1551 AD.

A- Author’s Forthrightness:The authors of the Bible are very open about their own personal faults, fears, failures, disobedience and lack of faith in God. They in no way try to portray themselves as “heroes” or “holier-than-thou.”
If men were writing this book to acquire a following they would probably omit many of their failures and faults.
Abraham- the “Father of the faith”-lied because he feared man and at times he didn’t fully trust God. Yet God continued to use him.
Moses- Murdered an Egyptian and tried to hide the body. He vented his anger at Israel and disrespected and misrepresented God. As a result he was forbidden by God to enter the Promise Land.
David- Committed adultery, murdered an innocent man, disobeyed God’s Word, and knew he was a sinner dependant on God’s mercy.
The Nation of Israel- was disobedient to God many times and received disciplining and judgment from God.
Paul- Was against Christianity before he got saved. He helped imprison Christians to have them executed, and even after his conversion he argued with Barnabbas over taking Mark on a mission trip.
Peter- Was arrogant, hasty, denied Jesus 3 times, showed hypocrisy when eating with Gentiles & Jews
Disciples- Were often ignorant, argued who would be greatest, forsook the Lord when Jesus was crucified and fled the scene as cowards.
Obviously none of these men went to heaven by the keeping of certain laws or their own self-righteousness, but by God’s mercy alone.
You will find that the only Person in the Scriptures that did not sin or make mistake was the Lord Jesus Christ who declared Himself to be God in human flesh. He alone lived a sinless life so that He could be a perfect sacrifice and die for sinners. Entrance into heaven is by grace.

P- Power:
The Bible has Power to change: personal lives, families, homes, communities, cities, nations, and the world.
Consider ancient Israel and the U.S. Constitution. They were both established on biblical principles and moral truth.
The Bible has Power to inspire the establishment of: Hospitals, schools, universities, homeless shelters, missions, orphanages, humanitarian aid, civil rights, women’s rights, slavery abolition, freedom, law, justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and faith.
The Bible declares itself to be supernaturally Powerful:
Hebrews 4:12– says the Bible is ALIVE!
Psalm 119:11– says the Bible helps deliver us from the power of sin as we hide it in our hearts.
John 8:32, 17:17– says the Bible is the Truth that makes free
2 Timothy 3:16-17– says the Bible is God breathed and is profitable to complete us to be useful to God and others.
Personal Testimonies– It is possible that the person who gave you this brochure at one time doubted, criticized, read, studied, tested, proved, believed and eventually experienced the power of the Bible first hand in their personal life.
If there is a one in a million chance that the Bible is God’s Word and can powerfully change your life, you owe it to yourself to read it and consider it’s claims with an open heart. Jesus Christ declared the Scriptures to be God’s Word and certainly we aren’t more knowledgeable about it than Him.
“But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” -Luke 4:4

Other examples of outside sources confirming Bible events:
• Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
• Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
• Fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, as recorded on his palace walls.
• Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.
• Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.
• Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.
• Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37), as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
• Fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15), recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
• Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14), as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
• Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16), as recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.
• Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
• Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
• The existence of Jesus Christ as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.
• Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.

Jesus' View of the Bible
Divine Inspiration: Matthew 22:43
Indestructibility: Matthew 5:17-18
Infallibility: John 10:35
Final Authority: Matthew 4:4,7,10
Historicity: Matthew 12:40-41; 24:37-39
Scientific Accuracy: Matthew 19:2-5, 24:37-39
Factual Inerrancy: John 17:17; Matthew 22:29
Christ-Centered Unity: Luke 24:27; John 5:39
Spiritual Clarity: Luke 24:25
Faith and Life Sufficiency: Luke 16:31