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OVER-LITERALISM IN READING THE BIBLE

(Some Bible Verses no-one takes Literally)


An extract from the Smith&Smith Bible Commentary, available without any cost from

http://sites.google.com/site/freecommentary

If it weren't for the doctrine that the Bible must be interpreted literally, I would not have to make this point -- that there are many verses that cannot be understood literally. I am quite convinced that no-one actually reads the whole of the Bible literally. It would be quite ridiculous to do so. The literalists may mouthe the words that they believe literally, and do their best to believe literally when reading Genesis 1, but by the time they have read much further, normal common sense takes hold of their minds, and they understand many things figuratively. This happens without anyone trying -- ultimately we all go for the intended meaning and not the literal words when we read. In a sense 'literalism' is an argument that we don't have to have. Jesus said how he spoke in 'dark sayings and riddles', and explained his meaning afterwards: Joh 16:25 These things have I spoken unto you in dark sayings: the hour cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in dark sayings, but shall tell you plainly of the Father. Mat 16:12 Then understood they that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. To understand the important spiritual meaning we need to stop looking so earnestly and mistakenly for physical-only literal-only understandings, and look for the real message -- the spiritual meanings which can only bring us joy. That even the law stood for something more than face-value, is evidenced by Paul: 1Co 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle

the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God careth, 10 or saith he it assuredly for our sake? Yea, for our sake it was written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking. See Topic Notes\ Imagery, for a large number of files which show that the Bible cannot be understood from a 'literal-only' standpoint. Do you want a real shepherd to feed you real grass? Jer 3:15 and I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. You can see no-one reads the following literally... Gen 3:14 And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: Gen 4:11 And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; Gen 25:23 And Jehovah said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, And two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels. And the one people shall be stronger than the other people. And the elder shall serve the younger. Exo 6:12 And Moses spake before Jehovah, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips? Exo 15:4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; And his chosen captains are sunk in the Red Sea [Reed Sea]... 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, The earth swallowed them. [The soldiers were drowned!] Jos 24:27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it hath heard all the words of Jehovah which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness against you, lest ye deny your God.

A stone memorial is a standard 'witness' set up to commemorate a worthy event. This is a word-play, not seriously teaching that a stone has heard what Yahweh said! People can look at the stone and say 'Yahweh spoke (such and such) here', because they had been written down in a book! Jos_24:26. The following is obviously a parable. Trees don't talk! Jdg 9:7-16 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. 8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree, Reign thou over us. 9 But the olive-tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to wave to and fro over the trees? 10 And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, and reign over us. 11 But the fig-tree said unto them, Should I leave my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to wave to and fro over the trees? 12 And the trees said unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. 13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my new wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to wave to and fro over the trees? 14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. 15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. 1Sa 2:12 (KJV) Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial [Worthless; Devil]; they knew not the LORD. ..the phrase 'sons of' indicates 'of like nature', not genetic descent, Mat_23:33. Job 10:10 Hast thou not poured me out as milk, And curdled me like cheese? Job 38:37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, Psa 2:7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. Psa 45:1 My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Psa 57:4 My soul is among lions; I lie among them that are set on fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, And their tongue a sharp sword. Psa 73:8-9 They scoff, and in wickedness utter oppression [12]: They speak loftily. 9 They have set their mouth in the heavens, And their tongue walketh through the earth. Psa 76:5 The stouthearted are made a spoil, They have slept their sleep; And none of the men of might have found their hands. Psa 80:8-10 Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt: Thou didst drive out the nations, and plantedst it. 9 Thou preparedst room before it, And it took deep root, and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with the shadow of it, And the boughs thereof were like cedars of God. Psa_85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Psa 90:9-10 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: We bring our years to an end as a sigh. 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away. Psa 97:11 Light is sown for the righteous, And gladness for the upright in heart. Pro 4:25 Let thine eyes look right on, And let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Pro 18:21 Death and life are in the power [literally hand] of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Ecc 11:7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. (It is not so wise to look at the sun -- you will be blinded.) Isa 11:4 but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Isa 30:6 The burden of the beasts of the South. Through the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the lioness and the lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. No-one believes there are flying snakes in the Negev. It is the same word as 'seraph' as in Isa_6:2, 6-- i.e. 'fiery and flying' but not serpentine, or (by extension and usage) 'poisonous (serpent)' but not really flying. But see also Isa_14:29. The words might say 'flying seraphs' and mean serpents in these two places, but that is a colourful label. It is more of a mistranslation. Possibly it is an allegorical reference to the 'fiery dragon' of Revelation, etc, and associated with Egypt, but figurative for Satan. More straightforwardly, it might simply mean 'swift'. Isa 32:16 Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness; and righteousness shall abide in the fruitful field. Isa 44:23 Sing, O ye heavens, for Jehovah hath done it; shout, ye lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob, and will glorify himself in Israel. Isa 49:9 saying to them that are bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and on all bare heights shall be their pasture. [They are not sheep!] Isa 55:12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing; and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands. Psa_98:8 Isa 62:5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. Jer 51:42-43 The sea is come up upon Babylon; she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof. 43 Her cities are become a desolation, a dry land, and a desert, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby. Jer 43:12 And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captive: and

he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. Joe 3:18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk [vines growing on the mountains produce wine; sheep grazing on the hills produce milk], and all the brooks of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of Jehovah, and shall water the valley of Shittim. Mic 3:3 who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron. Nah 1:3 Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Zep 1:12 And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with lamps; and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil. Mal 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings; and ye shall go forth, and gambol as calves of the stall. Mat 8:22 But Jesus saith unto him, Follow me; and leave the dead to bury their own dead. Mat 23:9 And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. Mar 1:33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. Luk 9:23 And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luk 23:54 And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on. ['began to dawn'] Act 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were

spoken by Paul. Act 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. Act 20:29 I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; Rom 2:29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. 1Co 1:21 For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. 1Co 3:9 For we are God's fellow-workers: ye are God's husbandry [field], God's building. 1Co 7:18 Was any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 1Co 15:31 I protest by that glorifying in you, brethren, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 2Co 3:2 Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; 2Co 11:8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you; 2Co 12:16 But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile. Eph 1:18 having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, Col 3:5 Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; 1Th 5:6 so then let us not sleep [until the Lord comes], as do the

rest, but let us watch and be sober. 1Th 5:23 And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh. Heb 12:24 and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel. 1Pe 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. 2Pe 1:19 And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: Rev 5:5 and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof. Rev 7:17 for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their [sheep's] eyes. Rev 12:1 And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered. [Do you really expect to see a pregnant woman clothed with the Sun??] Rev 18:24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth. Rev 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these

things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star. 'Imagining that the Bible occasionally talks figuratively is not good enough' There is still a real problem when readers who hold to the doctrine of hidden meanings, still fail to grasp the extent to which the Bible has been written figuratively. Imagining that the Bible occasionally talks figuratively is not good enough. The language of the prophets, in Jesus' parables, and poetic odes, is obviously permeated with imagery, but the symbolic language extends even to the law, which is itself figurative for events which are fulfilled in Christ's time, and which will be fulfilled in the end-times. The Bible is written with a higher meaning in mind, and anchoring ourselves to the face-value-only meaning stunts us. More and more we need to see in its pages the spiritual meaning -- and we cannot do that while we are concentrating on trying to read literally. If we are convinced that God is talking literally and straightforwardly, we will find some of the symbolism too 'far out' to take on board. In saying this I am not saying I do not believe the physical face-value of what it says. But I am saying that vast swathes of it are both physical and figurative -- E.g. The monumental Exodus, the dominant event in the Old Testament, was a physical and historical event. Yet it stands as a life-size parable for us of our eventual escape from death, through the resurrection. And the point is: The figurative or spiritual meaning is of more import to us and to God than the physical.