When Should the Bible Not Be Taken Literally?

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Hi FCJ. All quotes are yours.


"Rudy I am not trying to be rude here but I know what the words mean."

And neither am I trying to be rude, but you have clearly exhibited confusion as to what the words 'literal' and 'metaphorical' mean. I personally have greatly benefited whenever someone has pointed out that I was using a word incorrectly. We should always be eager and happy to learn, even if that entails being corrected. Indeed, there is no room for ego in the pursuit of truth. That said, if you will not agree to dictionary definitions of terms, then I'd at least expect to hear some good reasons for such. Otherwise, sir, this discussion is frankly a waste of my time and energy, unfortunately. Your response to this post will determine if I continue this discussion (or any) with you.


"I Refuse to look at the word of God with that kind of mind set. Yes looking for issues within the word of God is a mind set."


You have wrongly assumed that my intent here is to look for "issues" in God's word. I am merely pointing out what God's word says and and demonstrating that contradictions only arise when one wrongly takes as literal description what is actually figurative language. You may not agree with my interpretation of Genesis, but it is important for you to discern the difference between what I am here doing and looking for contradictions in God's word.

"Now that's nothing but stupid and lies but we can make God's word say anything we want when we only pick bits and pieces and build a doctrine or belief."

I am doing no such thing here, sir.

That is Exactly What We Do When We Try To Prove Error or Inconsistency in God's Word.

Again, I am doing no such thing.

Blessings.
 
Hi FCJ. All quotes are yours.


"Rudy I am not trying to be rude here but I know what the words mean."

And neither am I trying to be rude, but you have clearly exhibited confusion as to what the words 'literal' and 'metaphorical' mean. I personally have greatly benefited whenever someone has pointed out that I was using a word incorrectly. We should always be eager and happy to learn, even if that entails being corrected. Indeed, there is no room for ego in the pursuit of truth. That said, if you will not agree to dictionary definitions of terms, then I'd at least expect to hear some good reasons for such. Otherwise, sir, this discussion is frankly a waste of my time and energy, unfortunately. Your response to this post will determine if I continue this discussion (or any) with you.


"I Refuse to look at the word of God with that kind of mind set. Yes looking for issues within the word of God is a mind set."


You have wrongly assumed that my intent here is to look for "issues" in God's word. I am merely pointing out what God's word says and and demonstrating that contradictions only arise when one wrongly takes as literal description what is actually figurative language. You may not agree with my interpretation of Genesis, but it is important for you to discern the difference between what I am here doing and looking for contradictions in God's word.

"Now that's nothing but stupid and lies but we can make God's word say anything we want when we only pick bits and pieces and build a doctrine or belief."

I am doing no such thing here, sir.

That is Exactly What We Do When We Try To Prove Error or Inconsistency in God's Word.

Again, I am doing no such thing.

Blessings.
Rudy,
Never mind. It did not come out right.
I had not meant for it to come across as me saying that you were doing this, but simply showing how dangerous it is when one manipulates scripture out of the context that it was written by trying to find discrepancy in the bible.
Again I apologize for any confusion or offense that I created by not writing things out any better then I did.
Blessing
 
Rudy,
Never mind. It did not come out right.
I had not meant for it to come across as me saying that you were doing this, but simply showing how dangerous it is when one manipulates scripture out of the context that it was written by trying to find discrepancy in the bible.
Again I apologize for any confusion or offense that I created by not writing things out any better then I did.
Blessing

No problem, FCJ!

If you want to continue the discussion, can you please tell me if you accept the definitions of 'figurative' and 'literal' that I posted earlier? If you do not want to continue the discussion, then I'd like to thank you for your time. Blessings.
 
The alleged "contradiction" or "second creation account" issue has been around concerning Genesis 1:12 and 2:4-5 for a long time. It wasn't an issue until western Gentiles got hold of it, unable to grasp it from a western, Gentile viewpoint. For thousands of years it was understood from an eastern viewpoint.
One difficulty that arises is the placing of chapter breaks. The originals did not have chapter and verse breaks. Chapter breaks were developed in the 1400s, and with the coming of the Geneva Bible, the English Bible became divided up into chapters and verses. The goal was, of course, to make certain areas of Scripture easier to find, but unfortunately it has made an impact on the readers ability to follow the flow and context. It creates breaks and divisions where there really isn't a break sometimes. If one removes the chapter break, and looks at the Jewish/Hebrew flow and context then it really isn't that big of a deal.
Let me say at this point that if it truly is a contradiction, then the issue of whether or not it is fact or metaphor becomes pointless. Even if it is a metaphor that expresses truth...if it completely contradicts itself within a few verses...it becomes suspect. What has happened is a failure to look at what it says closely, in context, with the theme and intent of how it was written.
In Genesis 1:12 it simply says the earth (as a whole) brought forth grass, herbs and trees. That is understood to be a general, global statement.
As you read we find a chapter break at 1:31...but the flow and theme has not stopped. There is no real pause or shift until 2:4. So when one reads chapter 1 without stopping until 2:4 there is better flow and cohesiveness. But what about 2:4...is it another, new creation account that contradicts what came before? No. This was a common method and style for Jewish, eastern writing found even in non-fictional writings. It was a summary of what had just been written, and was often used before taking a closer look at something. What had been presented was a very broad view, and now the lens was coming in a bit closer. It was coming in to focus on the life of man before the fall. If you miss the very specific and intentional language you might think that 2:5 was saying there was no plant life at all. It says before there was any plant of the field in the earth and before any herb of the field. "Of the field" is very important and specific, and fits in context with what follows. It refers specifically to a cultivated field. There was no hand-tilled, cultivated field until the Lord created man, planted the garden, and placed man in the garden, and then trees and plants began growing in the garden that was good for food. A field for the specific purpose of providing for Adam and Eve. Even if you want to view it as metaphor, there is still no violation of context...no contradiction.
 
Hi! Genesis chapter 1 says that plants were growing on the 3rd day of creation, whereas chapter 2 says that there were no plants growing until a man was made. How do you reconcile this apparent inconsistency?

I think it would be wise for you to consider what you are asking. From where I am sitting, maybe I am wrong, but it seems like you are trying to find fault and or contradictions in the Creation account. Now in my humble opinion, I think it would be prudent for you to understand that you are not contradicting the account Moses gave us but God Himself.
You see.......What God told Moses he wrote. Moses did not write anything God did not tell him to write. How did Moses know what happened before man appeared? God told him the past, as He reveals the future to the prophets. Just a thought my brother.

Now as for your questions on contradictions, Gen 2:4-7: In Genesis we have what is called the Law of Recurrence. It is the way that writers (Moses) of that day told there story. Chapter 2, the 2nd block goes into more detail of the earlier segment. The Hebrews would write using a block of Scripture and would have certain parts repeated with more detail given on certain aspects of the event afterwards.

This produces a pattern when put together fits perfectly with both records. In chapter 1 of Genesis, the whole creation is described in sequential order of events but in chapter 2, the author takes portions of chapter one and adds in the details of certain portions he focuses on. Chpt.1 God created man and woman, in chpt.2 gives the details of how he did that.

Chapter 2:5-25 fills in the details of the sixth day of Creation, as how Adam and Eve were created and the order of that creation in verses 7 thru 24 of Gen. 2.

I hope that helps you.
 
The alleged "contradiction" or "second creation account" issue has been around concerning Genesis 1:12 and 2:4-5 for a long time. It wasn't an issue until western Gentiles got hold of it, unable to grasp it from a western, Gentile viewpoint. For thousands of years it was understood from an eastern viewpoint.
One difficulty that arises is the placing of chapter breaks. The originals did not have chapter and verse breaks. Chapter breaks were developed in the 1400s, and with the coming of the Geneva Bible, the English Bible became divided up into chapters and verses. The goal was, of course, to make certain areas of Scripture easier to find, but unfortunately it has made an impact on the readers ability to follow the flow and context. It creates breaks and divisions where there really isn't a break sometimes. If one removes the chapter break, and looks at the Jewish/Hebrew flow and context then it really isn't that big of a deal.
Let me say at this point that if it truly is a contradiction, then the issue of whether or not it is fact or metaphor becomes pointless. Even if it is a metaphor that expresses truth...if it completely contradicts itself within a few verses...it becomes suspect. What has happened is a failure to look at what it says closely, in context, with the theme and intent of how it was written.
In Genesis 1:12 it simply says the earth (as a whole) brought forth grass, herbs and trees. That is understood to be a general, global statement.
As you read we find a chapter break at 1:31...but the flow and theme has not stopped. There is no real pause or shift until 2:4. So when one reads chapter 1 without stopping until 2:4 there is better flow and cohesiveness. But what about 2:4...is it another, new creation account that contradicts what came before? No. This was a common method and style for Jewish, eastern writing found even in non-fictional writings. It was a summary of what had just been written, and was often used before taking a closer look at something. What had been presented was a very broad view, and now the lens was coming in a bit closer. It was coming in to focus on the life of man before the fall. If you miss the very specific and intentional language you might think that 2:5 was saying there was no plant life at all. It says before there was any plant of the field in the earth and before any herb of the field. "Of the field" is very important and specific, and fits in context with what follows. It refers specifically to a cultivated field. There was no hand-tilled, cultivated field until the Lord created man, planted the garden, and placed man in the garden, and then trees and plants began growing in the garden that was good for food. A field for the specific purpose of providing for Adam and Eve. Even if you want to view it as metaphor, there is still no violation of context...no contradiction.

"Law of Recurrence" is what is in view.
 
Let me say at this point that if it truly is a contradiction, then the issue of whether or not it is fact or metaphor becomes pointless. Even if it is a metaphor that expresses truth...if it completely contradicts itself within a few verses...it becomes suspect.

Hi CS,

By this reasoning, what do you do with Jesus using the metaphors of outer darkness and fire to describe Gehenna? After all, where there is fire there is light. There is no contradiction considering the fact that the language is figurative and is not to be taken literally, which is my point regarding Gen 1 &2


If you miss the very specific and intentional language you might think that 2:5 was saying there was no plant life at all. It says before there was any plant of the field in the earth and before any herb of the field. "Of the field" is very important and specific, and fits in context with what follows. It refers specifically to a cultivated field.

Does this mean that verse 19 is referring only to animals located within a cultivated field? Extremely unlikely.


Gen 2:19 reads, "Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed[fn] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name."

Clearly, "field" refers to all land on earth, and not just a garden.
 
I think it would be wise for you to consider what you are asking. From where I am sitting, maybe I am wrong, but it seems like you are trying to find fault and or contradictions in the Creation account. Now in my humble opinion, I think it would be prudent for you to understand that you are not contradicting the account Moses gave us but God Himself.
You see.......What God told Moses he wrote. Moses did not write anything God did not tell him to write. How did Moses know what happened before man appeared? God told him the past, as He reveals the future to the prophets. Just a thought my brother.

Now as for your questions on contradictions, Gen 2:4-7: In Genesis we have what is called the Law of Recurrence. It is the way that writers (Moses) of that day told there story. Chapter 2, the 2nd block goes into more detail of the earlier segment. The Hebrews would write using a block of Scripture and would have certain parts repeated with more detail given on certain aspects of the event afterwards.

This produces a pattern when put together fits perfectly with both records. In chapter 1 of Genesis, the whole creation is described in sequential order of events but in chapter 2, the author takes portions of chapter one and adds in the details of certain portions he focuses on. Chpt.1 God created man and woman, in chpt.2 gives the details of how he did that.

Chapter 2:5-25 fills in the details of the sixth day of Creation, as how Adam and Eve were created and the order of that creation in verses 7 thru 24 of Gen. 2.

I hope that helps you.

Hi Major,

I have certainly thought about what I'm asking. As I pointed out to FCJ, I am not looking for contradictions in the Bible, but am simply making a readily apparent observation that, taken literally, Gen 1 and 2 contradicts one another in several details. This fact is immaterial to whether or not Genesis 1 and 2 is true; indeed, they are true! You see, language need not be literal in order to be true. Jesus, for example, almost always used figurative language, and yet we believe that He always taught the Truth. I hope this clarifies matters for you. Blessings.
 
Hi Major,

I have certainly thought about what I'm asking. As I pointed out to FCJ, I am not looking for contradictions in the Bible, but am simply making a readily apparent observation that, taken literally, Gen 1 and 2 contradicts one another in several details. This fact is immaterial to whether or not Genesis 1 and 2 is true; indeed, they are true! You see, language need not be literal in order to be true. Jesus, for example, almost always used figurative language, and yet we believe that He always taught the Truth. I hope this clarifies matters for you. Blessings.

Hello Rudy and I hope that you are well. Welcome to CFS.

I understand what you are saying. What is being said to you by some is that this is not a new strategy.
From the first glace this argument looks like an attempt to show that inconsistencies exist between the first two chapters in the Bible. Now that may not be your purpose, it just looks like it to me.

Now what would be the root of that kind of question or strategy is the question I am asking you. I hear what you are saying, but is that the real reason my brother?

You see, and I do not know you or your thinking, but critics and skeptics use this kind of approach in an efforts to show that the Bible cannot be trusted. Whether or not that is your goal, I do not know. I am only telling you what has been seen and done before, hence some of the responses to your approach.

Now, consider something else. When we ask what you are asking, and of course we can all ask whatever we want to, but we have to understand that when we assume that this is a contradiction, it portrays the author of Genesis in a pretty dim light. Think about this for a moment.

Do you see what the posed question infers???? Was Moses so inept that he couldn’t keep from contradicting himself in the first two chapters or were these chapters written with two different focuses? Or did two different men write two different accounts???? Did God tell Moses one thing but Moses was smarter than God and wrote down what he wanted to??

Do you see what happens when you start to go down a rabbit hole such as this?

In my experience and my opinion there is No such thing as "contradictions" in the Scriptures. Rather than immediately assuming that the writer could not get his facts straight in the first two chapters, or that there was some kind of confusion, I always advice the same thing. Dig deeper and study harder and do not believe everything you read on a computer website. People have different agendas and some of them are to discredit God and His Word.

While man and the devil often do attempt to muck up God’s Word, we can have confidence that God’s Word is true and accurate from the very beginning to the very end.
 
Clearly, "field" refers to all land on earth, and not just a garden.

No, it depends on the context. The flow and context ties it directly to the cultivated garden of Eden.

I couldn't find a scripture where Gehenna and outer darkness are used in the same context.

Outer darkness....is it a metaphor or figure of speech...or is it a valid spiritual condition? The context in which Jesus uses it makes it rather clear how it is to be read and understood.
Gehenna...the word from which some English translations render (incorrectly) as hades. Was Jesus referring to what we call "hell?" Was He?
What was Gehenna? The valley of Hinnom. It means little to us...but there in Israel in Jesus' time they knew what it was. It was a nasty, burning waste dump that burned day and night where even the bodies of criminals were cast. Jesus used it as an visual, earthly example of condemnation...adding the elements of "where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." I don't believe His 1st century Jewish audience had any problem in making the connection.

But if you're going to get into stuff such as "Well, is outer darkness really outer...and is there no light...no sun or light bulbs? Can you see in outer darkness?" and other such debate...no deal. Pointless, fruitless, unedifying.
To prove you are sincere, Rudy, please tell us what you think the "truth" of Genesis 1 and 2 are/is. I am looking forward to your response which will not be middle-of-the-road, riding on the fence, nor simply the asking of more questions.
 
No problem, FCJ!

If you want to continue the discussion, can you please tell me if you accept the definitions of 'figurative' and 'literal' that I posted earlier? If you do not want to continue the discussion, then I'd like to thank you for your time. Blessings.

Hi Rudy,
I thought I had already said I know what the words mean but I guess I did not say that I agree with your definitions.

Any way, I am going to pass on further discussion on this type of topic.
I don't believe in bringing this type of thinking into any part of the word of God because I won't believe that His word has any.

So I won't be a good candidate for discussing this type of thing.

Thank you for asking and looking forward to some good discussion on a different topic.
Have a great weekend
Blessings
FCJ
 
No, it depends on the context. The flow and context ties it directly to the cultivated garden of Eden.

I couldn't find a scripture where Gehenna and outer darkness are used in the same context.

Outer darkness....is it a metaphor or figure of speech...or is it a valid spiritual condition? The context in which Jesus uses it makes it rather clear how it is to be read and understood.
Gehenna...the word from which some English translations render (incorrectly) as hades. Was Jesus referring to what we call "hell?" Was He?
What was Gehenna? The valley of Hinnom. It means little to us...but there in Israel in Jesus' time they knew what it was. It was a nasty, burning waste dump that burned day and night where even the bodies of criminals were cast. Jesus used it as an visual, earthly example of condemnation...adding the elements of "where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." I don't believe His 1st century Jewish audience had any problem in making the connection.

But if you're going to get into stuff such as "Well, is outer darkness really outer...and is there no light...no sun or light bulbs? Can you see in outer darkness?" and other such debate...no deal. Pointless, fruitless, unedifying.
To prove you are sincere, Rudy, please tell us what you think the "truth" of Genesis 1 and 2 are/is. I am looking forward to your response which will not be middle-of-the-road, riding on the fence, nor simply the asking of more questions.

What our brother seems to be doing, and maybe I am wrong and he is free to correct me, but it seems that he is coming form the idea of wanting "Philosophy" to answer his concerns on the validity and truthfulness of the Scriptures. He may not even be aware of what he is doing.

You see, "Philosophy" is not a process of finds truth but instead it is a system of "asking questions" .

"Philosophical theology" is not new and has been with us for a few hundred years. It is a tool that can be used in a right way or a wrong way. It is a question of motive and priority: if we attempt to understand God’s ways and thoughts by relying on man-made understandings, we will be disappointed. Man has been trying to prove his ability to reach up to God ever since the tower of Babel.

But there is key to this in that if motivated by love and a desire to know God, we use our minds to better understand His Word, our study will be rewarded. However, Philosophy is not truth itself but is subservient to the truth. Philosophy can become a tool for better grasping the truth for some but uselly turns out to be a trap in that there are never any answers in Philosophy, just another question and another question which tends to lead to confusion and rejection of truth .

IMO the inspired, inerrant Word of God is of supreme importance; any human philosophy must take a secondary place. The Bible is the judge of our philosophies, not the other way around.

Hebrews 4:12.........
" For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

I appreciate your comments and thoughtfulness.
 

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