I Take the Bible Seriously not Literally

I believe that the Bible was inspired by God.  The Apostle Paul puts it best in his second letter to Timothy:

All Scripture was written by people as God “breathed” [pneuma or air or wind] on them. In other words, the Holy Spirit was speaking to their minds and spirits as they put “pen to paper” [actually, not originally paper, but little scrolls of parchment or vellum]. This is a paraphrased version of part of 2Tim 3:16.

I believe that the Bible is the story of numerous relationships between God and God’ image in God’s creation– humans. 

As we work out our understanding and our relationship with each other and God, we are confronted with the fact that the Bible is extremely complex and we sometimes are not able to understand the written words.

We discover that no one can take the Bible literally.The Bible was written in ancient languages and understood by the readers in those ancient times.

For example, in Psalm 22:16, the speaker says that his hands and feet are like a lion’s.  Well, the Jewish scholars knew that what was “meant” was that his hands and feet were swollen and rough and malformed—as if the hands and feet had been stabbed or pierced or impaled.

We have a hard enough time reading the style of English that was in common use when the King James Bible was written—let alone understanding ancient Hebrew or Greek.

We rely on the experts to read the ancient texts and write that in our modern language.  We also rely on the experts to choose the “best” version to translate from among the several ancient versions available.

But, they do not always agree with each other.

Some Christians say, “I take the Bible word for word, literally, and live by it.”  The reality is that everyone interprets Scripture.

No one can take the entire Bible word for word.

Another reason [other than the ancient language aspect] is that the Bible is too “big” for us “mere images” to fully grasp in totality.

We all have a lens that we look through [personal bias] when we are reading Scripture and seeking understanding—as do the experts.

The life experiences affect the way Scripture is interpreted. 

Yet another reason is that we do not have the original documents—even when we consider the Dead Sea Scrolls [copies of Scripture written down in the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth].

Our modern understanding of certain verses of Scripture is that there was meaning in the 1st century CE, but not necessarily in the 21st century.

For instance, in virtually all but a very few of the Christian congregations today, women, no longer, wear coverings over their head.

Even though, Paul explicitly tells women to be silent and to cover their heads.  We understand that doctrine to be of another culture and time.

We no longer hold to the rituals of the Old Testament, such as slaughtering animals for sacrifice.We embrace the teachings of Jesus more than we do the teachings of the Old Testament.

But, we understand all of the Bible is part of our history and our journey as Believers.  So, we use all for teaching and for understanding of our lives. 

And, we believe that God inspired and used other writers throughout the ages.  People like Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., and other people have given us great understanding of God.

While their writings are not held as Scripture, their experiences can enlighten our spiritual beings.

If this seems a little far fetched, read the words to Amazing Grace.

We also use Scripture because it is the earliest text that we have of our “faith formation”.  It gives us a foundation of the early church.

The Gospels, especially, give us the closest understanding of what we know of Jesus of Nazareth, the one called the Christ, and His teachings.

By the way, Jesus used the Old Testament very often in his ministry, as did the Apostles who wrote the New Testament. 

It is important to understand that we all come with the concept of “looking through the glass, dimly”– understanding that none of us may have the absolute truth and understanding of all Scripture.

God continues to reveal Himself when we study Scripture—the Holy Spirit “breathes” on us as we read.In this way, we will respect and hold the value that each of us needs to read and study Scripture for our own spiritual growth.

In this effort, we need to be able to discuss, to question and to seek our own understanding. 

There are some churches that want to give people the idea that their interpretation of the Scripture is “the truth” and their way is the only way to understand Scripture and to live out their lives, accordingly.

However, I believe that all of us who are part of the Christian tradition [in all of the different denominations] have had different understandings of Scripture.

That is, in fact, the main reason that there are different denominations.

We differ, as people.We all have tried our best to live out how we understand our relationships with God.

We have different life experiences and different understandings about life.It is, as we come into conversations with one another, that we truly will have a better understanding of God and His Kingdom of Heaven and the fullness of Scripture.

The Bible is a wonderful love story between the Giver of Life and human beings on this spiritual journey.

May you let the Bible give you guidance as you continue on your journey.

Be a Miracle


1 Comment

  1. Good stuff Jerry. Thank you!


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