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Is The Bible Literally True?

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  • Is The Bible Literally True?

    How should we read the accounts?

    The link can be found here.

    -----

    Should we take the Bible literally? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    Someone sent me an article from the Huffington Post recently on if the Bible is literally true. The article is by a Steve McSwain who is described as a speaker, author, counselor to congregations, Ambassador to the Councilor on the Parliament for World's Religions, and Spiritual Teacher. No academic credentials are listed. He does also describe Christianity as his faith so he claims at some level to be a Christian.*

    He does say at the start that while he values the Bible, he doesn't believe it to be divinely dictated or a sacred text without error. I don't know any evangelical today who really holds to the dictation theory. No doubt, there are some in the rank and file who do, but not the majority.*

    He goes on to say that if you are a Biblical literalist, that this bothers you. You believe that everything must be literal and it must be error-free. At this, I have a problem. What is meant by literal? It's a term that's often used and yet few people really define it. Most people do not think Jesus is literally a door or a vine when He uses that language.*

    Sadly, McSwain is probably accurate when some people think that if they risk undermining the text or questioning it, they could undermine all of it. Everything goes out the window then. This is the all-or-nothing thinking that many Christians do have and amusingly, many skeptics have that as well. I recall one person on Unbelievable? asking a guest on the show that if the Bible doesn't agree with how Judas died, then how can we trust that Jesus was crucified?

    McSwain goes to the flood accounts and says that they obviously contradict. He points to the differences between verses 2 and 15 of chapter 7. Let's go and look at what they say.*

    Verse 2:*Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean*animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate

    Verse 15:*Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.

    Look. I know that there are possible claims of contradictions and such, but this is not a good one. All that is said in verse 15 is pairs came. It doesn't specify how many and how many of each kind came. In that case, give the benefit of the doubt to the author instead.*

    He goes on to say that,

    The real Moses never wielded a staff with supernatural powers, the tip of which, when dipped into the Nile, turned the river into a cesspool of blood. Or, when dipped into the Red Sea, caused it to part so Israelites could pass to the other side on dry, not muddy, ground.

    None of these Biblical stories, including the ones where Jesus is depicted as defying the laws of nature and performing miracles... as in, walking on water or giving sight to the blind or, most amazingly, raising dead people back to life were recorded as factual, or literal, eyewitness accounts. And, even if they were, they cannot be depicted as such today, if you want any of it to be believed... to be respected... or, to be read with any seriousness.
    For the sake of argument, this could be true, but the problem is McSwain gives us no reason to believe any of this. I also have to wonder what kind of Christian he is if he denies any miracles at all. Again, McSwain's case could hypothetically be right, but he has given us no reason to think so, that is, unless you just come out and agree that miracles don't happen, but that is the very thing under question.

    As for the idea of eyewitness accounts, it would be nice to see some interaction with scholarship, such as Richard Bauckham, but we can suspect that won't happen. Statements of faith are problematic no matter who says it. Unfortunately, mayn people will read McSwain and believe it because, well he's in the Huffington Post, and do so without any real reason why they should believe it.

    What matters to McSwain is how the stories have shaped the lives of those who hear its message. This can sound good, but while it's great that people have their lives changed, do we want to enforce the Noble Lie? If Christianity is not true, then there is truly no resurrection, no heaven beyond this world, no hell to shun, no forgiveness of sins, no real love of God.*

    It's hard to believe that the early church was really excited about that.*

    McSwain has a watered down faith. Note I have not said he has to embrace inerrancy, but he seems to have just embraced that Christianity is all about being a good person and the truth of the Bible does not matter. If anything, the truth of the Bible matters abundantly. If it is true that God lived among us and that Jesus died and rose again and there is real forgiveness and a heaven to gain and a hell to avoid and eternal life in resurrected bodies, I should think we would want to know it. If it is not true, then who really cares? But if it is true, it matters greatly. As has been said, if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If it is true, it is of the utmost importance.

  • #2
    I take the bible as literally true in the sense that the authors were accurately reporting events as they actually happened, as far as they understood them. That doesn't mean that everything they reported on was literal. They reported Jesus speaking figuratively, for example. Or they told stories of visions. Or they reported what the LORD said, but the LORD could be using figurative language too.

    The bible also contains books of poetry and songs and proverbs which are not literal.

    Comment


    • #3
      As a new Christian I was attending a liberal church, before I knew better. When I was leaving to move to a conservative Bible believing church the pastor told me that the Bible was much as you describe McSwain's opinion. The Bible is a human document as well as a divine one. At the time I had no response to that. Now I realize that just as Christ was human and divine, so is the Bible. I see it as literally true in much the same way that Sparko describes.
      Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

      Comment


      • #4
        Yep, the literal parts are literally true. Only an idiot reads things that have metaphors, similes and figurative examples and thinks it's meant all to be taken literally.

        "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot


        "Forgiveness is the way of love." Gary Chapman

        My Personal Blog

        My Novella blog (Current Novella Begins on 7/25/14)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Teallaura View Post
          Yep, the literal parts are literally true. Only an idiot reads things that have metaphors, similes and figurative examples and thinks it's meant all to be taken literally.
          And the issue is determining what that is. One Catholic friend of mine just blogged on how he takes John 6:54 literally and that it's a salvation issue.
          "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
            How should we read the accounts?

            The link can be found here.

            -----

            Should we take the Bible literally? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

            Someone sent me an article from the Huffington Post recently on if the Bible is literally true. The article is by a Steve McSwain who is described as a speaker, author, counselor to congregations, Ambassador to the Councilor on the Parliament for World's Religions, and Spiritual Teacher. No academic credentials are listed. He does also describe Christianity as his faith so he claims at some level to be a Christian.*

            He does say at the start that while he values the Bible, he doesn't believe it to be divinely dictated or a sacred text without error. I don't know any evangelical today who really holds to the dictation theory. No doubt, there are some in the rank and file who do, but not the majority.*

            He goes on to say that if you are a Biblical literalist, that this bothers you. You believe that everything must be literal and it must be error-free. At this, I have a problem. What is meant by literal? It's a term that's often used and yet few people really define it. Most people do not think Jesus is literally a door or a vine when He uses that language.*

            Sadly, McSwain is probably accurate when some people think that if they risk undermining the text or questioning it, they could undermine all of it. Everything goes out the window then. This is the all-or-nothing thinking that many Christians do have and amusingly, many skeptics have that as well. I recall one person on Unbelievable? asking a guest on the show that if the Bible doesn't agree with how Judas died, then how can we trust that Jesus was crucified?

            McSwain goes to the flood accounts and says that they obviously contradict. He points to the differences between verses 2 and 15 of chapter 7. Let's go and look at what they say.*

            Verse 2:*Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean*animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate

            Verse 15:*Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.

            Look. I know that there are possible claims of contradictions and such, but this is not a good one. All that is said in verse 15 is pairs came. It doesn't specify how many and how many of each kind came. In that case, give the benefit of the doubt to the author instead.*

            He goes on to say that,



            For the sake of argument, this could be true, but the problem is McSwain gives us no reason to believe any of this. I also have to wonder what kind of Christian he is if he denies any miracles at all. Again, McSwain's case could hypothetically be right, but he has given us no reason to think so, that is, unless you just come out and agree that miracles don't happen, but that is the very thing under question.

            As for the idea of eyewitness accounts, it would be nice to see some interaction with scholarship, such as Richard Bauckham, but we can suspect that won't happen. Statements of faith are problematic no matter who says it. Unfortunately, mayn people will read McSwain and believe it because, well he's in the Huffington Post, and do so without any real reason why they should believe it.

            What matters to McSwain is how the stories have shaped the lives of those who hear its message. This can sound good, but while it's great that people have their lives changed, do we want to enforce the Noble Lie? If Christianity is not true, then there is truly no resurrection, no heaven beyond this world, no hell to shun, no forgiveness of sins, no real love of God.*

            It's hard to believe that the early church was really excited about that.*

            McSwain has a watered down faith. Note I have not said he has to embrace inerrancy, but he seems to have just embraced that Christianity is all about being a good person and the truth of the Bible does not matter. If anything, the truth of the Bible matters abundantly. If it is true that God lived among us and that Jesus died and rose again and there is real forgiveness and a heaven to gain and a hell to avoid and eternal life in resurrected bodies, I should think we would want to know it. If it is not true, then who really cares? But if it is true, it matters greatly. As has been said, if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If it is true, it is of the utmost importance.
            For the most part, no it isn't literally true.

            Comment


            • #7
              Did Jesus really mean, ". . . For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. . . ." (Matthew 5:18). That the original Hebrew, the very letters of the Hebrew words.
              . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

              . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

              Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                And the issue is determining what that is.
                That has caused problems in the past and to a lesser extent today as well.

                For instance, because Paul had declared that the entire world was hearing the gospel (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26; Col. 1:6, 23; cf. I Tim. 3:16)[1] later theologians used these statements as "proof" that it was impossible for humans to be living on the other side of the earth (the antipodes). They reasoned that since Paul had clearly stated that the gospel was preached "unto the ends of the world[2]" and in that nobody had ever gone to the other side of the earth this meant that there could be no humans over there.

                Lactantius, the noted African Christian apologist against Stoic thought at the beginning of the 4th century and one of the most reprinted of the Latin Fathers, was content to mock believers in the possibility of people living on the opposite side of the planet writing:

                "How is it with those who imagine that there are antipodes opposite to our footsteps? Do they say anything to the purpose? Or is there any one so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? or that the things which with us are in a recumbent position, with them hang in an inverted direction? that the crops and trees grow downwards? that the rains, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth? And does any one wonder that hanging gardens are mentioned among the seven wonders of the world, when philosophers make hanging fields, and seas, and cities, and mountains? The origin of this error must also be set forth by us. For they are always deceived in the same manner."


                He called them people who have "erred" and "consistently persevere in their folly and defend one vain thing by another."

                St. Augustine was considerably less amused. In his De Civitate Dei ("City of God") he declared that

                "Therefore we find it constantly declared that, as those preachers did not go to the antipodes, no antipodes can exist; hence that the supporters of this geographical doctrine give the lie directly to King David and to St. Paul, and therefore to the Holy Ghost."


                A few centuries later Isodore of Seville declared that "We cannot believe in the existence of a populace called 'Antipodae'." And not too long after we see that St. Boniface sought papal censure against another missionary in Germany for teaching that people lived at the antipodes among other things.

                Geocentrism is another example as is the notion that the firmament was a solid structure.










                1. And to a lesser extent Psalm 19 especially verse 4

                2 Irenaeus continued in this vein writing that, "Now the Church, spread throughout all the world even to the ends of the earth... even though she has been spread over the entire world," and "Anyone who wishes to see the truth can observe the apostleís traditions made manifest in every church throughout the whole world" (Against Heresies, 1.10.1, 1.10.2, 3.3.1-2).

                I'm always still in trouble again

                "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                  . . . For instance, because Paul had declared that the entire world was hearing the gospel (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26; Col. 1:6, 23; cf. I Tim. 3:16) .
                  . . .
                  First off, the Apostle Paul made no such claim. Let us read those references:

                  Romans 1:8, ". . . First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout[. . . εν . . .] the whole world. . . ." The Greek meaning "in," that is, within the whole world, is does not mean, nor does it say that was done everywhere, in every place.

                  Romans 10:18 is referring to general, nature revelation, the Apostle v.18 citing from Psalm 19, Romans 10:17-18, ". . . So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. . . ."

                  Romans 16:25-26, ". . . Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to[. . . εις . . .] all nations for the obedience of faith: . . ." The Greek meaning "into" all nations. Does not say all nations already have heard fully.
                  This is the on going commandment.

                  Colossians 1:6, . . 23, ". . . Which is come unto you, as [it is] in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as [it doth] also in you, since the day ye heard [of it], and knew the grace of God in truth: . . . _ . . . If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature [. . . παση τη κτισει . . .] which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; . . ." Echoing obediance to the command in Mark 16:15, ". . . παση τη κτισει . . . ."
                  . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

                  . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

                  Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    OK - Paul claimed that the gospel was made known in all the world (ROM 16), and was preached to every creature under heaven.

                    So then - "made known" and "preached," being both aorist tense and indicative mood, show that the "preaching" and the "made known" happened prior to the time of writing.
                    The arena is "all the world" and the target audience "every creature under heaven." That Paul didn't mean what he said doesn't seem to me a viable proposition - so to what can the apparent discrepancy be attributed?
                    sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You're missing the point. Theologians were sure that was what he meant because they were taking what he said in an overly literal manner.

                      I'm always still in trouble again

                      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hyperbole. Also, the Roman Empire WAS 'the world' in the figurative sense.

                        "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot


                        "Forgiveness is the way of love." Gary Chapman

                        My Personal Blog

                        My Novella blog (Current Novella Begins on 7/25/14)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Teallaura View Post
                          Hyperbole. Also, the Roman Empire WAS 'the world' in the figurative sense.
                          This kinda leads into a discussion concerning the use of "all" in the Bible and just how literally it should be taken.

                          For example, during the account of the Flood itself we read that all flesh had become corrupted; yet the text also says that Noah was a "righteous man, blameless in his time." Thus, "all flesh" doesnít mean all flesh since there was at least one exception. All does not mean all.

                          Likewise, Gen 3:20 pronounces Eve as "the mother of all living." Literally, that means that all life originated from a human woman, Eve, which nobody contends is the case.

                          Are there other instances when "all" does not literally mean "all"? Definitely.

                          "Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth" (Genesis 41:57). Did starving Australian Aborigines come to Joseph seeking food? How about Inuits? Similarly, the famine predicted by Agabus that "took place in the days of Claudius" was said to have occurred "over all the world" (Acts 11:28).

                          "And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations" (I Chronicles 14:17). Apparently American Indians were quaking in fear at Davidís reputation. But then they were apparently consoled when Solomonís reign began because now "the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom" (I Kings 19:11).

                          "And horses were imported for Solomon from Egypt and from all lands"(II Chronicles 9:28).

                          "All the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom." (II Chronicles 9:23) Ė does this include rulers in the Americas as well?

                          "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled" (Lk 2:1). In this case "all the world" means only the Roman Empire.

                          Likewise, when Cyrus declares in II Chronicles 36:23 that God "has given me all the kingdoms of the earth" he meant only the lands controlled by the Persian Empire.

                          "For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened" (Exodus 10:15 Ė KJV), though verses 12, 14 make it clear that it meant only the land of Egypt and why some other versions choose to use "whole land" instead of "whole earth."

                          Mark 1:5 tells us that "all the land of Judea" were baptized by John in the wilderness. Of course, we understand from the context that this does not literally mean every single human in the land of Judea.

                          And Mark 4:34 says Jesus taught His disciples about "all things," but does anyone serious believe this included details of such things like space travel, advanced calculus and the sex life of sea slugs?

                          These are only a few examples illustrating the fact that all does not always literally mean all.

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I do wonder why why Irenaeus (mid 2nd century, so not particularly far removed) was so dogmatic about this.
                            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 37818 View Post
                              Romans 16:25-26, ". . . Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to[. . . εις . . .] all nations for the obedience of faith: . . ." The Greek meaning "into" all nations. Does not say all nations already have heard fully.
                              This is the on going commandment.
                              Originally posted by tabibito View Post
                              OK - Paul claimed that the gospel was made known in all the world (ROM 16), and was preached to every creature under heaven.

                              So then - "made known" and "preached," being both aorist tense and indicative mood, show that the "preaching" and the "made known" happened prior to the time of writing.
                              The arena is "all the world" and the target audience "every creature under heaven." That Paul didn't mean what he said doesn't seem to me a viable proposition - so to what can the apparent discrepancy be attributed?
                              Literal reading of the text versus a literal misreading of the text.

                              Romans 16:25-26, ". . . Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: . . ."

                              Fact, what is past tense ". . . made manifest . . ." and ". . . made known . . ." was "by the scriptures of the prophets" and was explicitly "according to the commandment of the everlasting God" into "all nations." Can you prove this is not the case?
                              . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

                              . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

                              Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

                              Comment

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