Can the Bible be Taken Literally? A Response to Lenny Flank

Posted by Chris Parker
Jan 18 2006

By Helen Fryman Setterfield

Can the Bible be Taken Literally? is a series of challenges posted by Lenny Flank.

Questions concerning this list of questions are frequently asked of Christians who field emails. It is with the very able help of Roger Hutchinson that I have decided to answer these ‘challenges’ in detail.

In the short form, the answer to Mr. Flank is “The Bible can be taken to mean what it says given a straightforward reading. The concept of ‘literal’ seems to invite some rather ridiculous criticisms regarding idioms and poetic language.

However, since Hebrew is a living language, tracing idioms and poetry is not nearly as difficult as it would be with a dead language, such as Latin.

So yes, Mr. Flank, the Bible is trustworthy.”

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3 Responses

  1. Teresa says:

    Hmmm… ok… since I’m not religious but also do not believe in evolution as the end-all, I would have to say that since the Bible is written BY men ABOUT God, and according to their own interpretations of what took place as they could best describe it…. that along with the fact that the book has been edited and translated NUMEROUS times since its creation, as well as the fact that the Bible was not fully established as to which books would be entered as scripture and which would not for hundreds of years after the writing (not written hundreds of years after) and these books were also determined by a panel of men (not God)… then we should take the Bible as a life guideline…. a handbook of sorts as to how to live a good life, but that it should not be taken as a literal translation of historical fact. Especially considering that so much of the book was mistranslated and lost as well as removed from what it began as, there is no way to be certain that some of the stories were not adapted from other cultures and some of the translations could very easily be incorrect in word usage trying to change from a basically dead language in some cases to known languages where the words have numerous meanings for the same words. Although a very solid book and one that all should read even if they do not follow the religion, I do not think it should be taken literally word for word as fact unless it is proveable, which most of it is not. Those parts that can or have been proven, if they match word for word what is written then by all means take them literally….

    Otherwise, they are meant as a guideline by which to live a good life, and I think the stories are meant a bit like Aesop’s fables in that they have a message that should not be ignored.

    I am a non-believer however, so undoubtedbly many people will say I’m an Atheist and trying to find fault with a faultless religion…. there is no such thing. All men are fallible, it is in our nature… and therefore no religion taught and preached by men can be infallible… although they can be worthy of teaching people value and morals.


  2. Administrator says:

    Dear Teresa,

    Any religion from or of man is by definition fallible. Also though, please consider extending your skepticism of mans abilities to the theory of evolution.

    Any religion that comes from the infallible is by definition; infallible. If man tries to adjust, amend, add or subtract from the infallible, those who accept such “changes” now follow something that has been made fallible by man.
    What Christians believe is that they approach God in the way He, infallibly wants to be approached. This belief hinges first, of course in the belief in God. If one does not believe in God, certainly one cannot believe in infallible instructions and Words from Him.

    Believing in effect that all religion is manmade and thus fallible is another way of saying that one does not believe that there is a God who is above man in Authority. Everything made by man is temporary, and flawed but if there is a God and he tells us how to approach Him, then again that raises a religion above all man made enterprises.

    Such is what Christians believe. And though the Bible has been translated numerous times God’s message remains and all man made changes will come to nothing.

    We believe that there is a God and that the Lord Jesus Christ is His son, who came to earth in the form of a man and died for our sins.

    If that is not true then we will be the most miserable of all men/women, having lived our lives in vain for something that is not true. If what we believe is true then we will be blessed above all other men and will be conquerors of sin and death and have the right to be called children of God.

    This belief is called foolish by the world–but we are proud to be numbered among the foolish.

  3. Teresa says:

    Thanks again to the admin for your reply. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this one :) I just want to let you know that I do in fact apply that same skepticism to evolutionary theory.

    Most people would label me an atheist or agnostic because I follow no given religion. That is simply because I am so skeptical. I cannot believe in something that happened thousands of years ago with no proof to show for it except a book. Most Christians believe that one book to be their “proof” that Christ was a living, breathing man and that he was the son of G-d.

    But if you look at it from the other side of the coin, I could easily “prove” in the same manner that Zeus and Hera are real… or Anubis… because it was all written down. And much of it in the same time frame. Granted, Anubis was a dog-headed god and therefore easily dismissed by modern man as a myth, Zeus was a “person” image and therefore just as valid in my opinion.

    I have nothing against Christianity and am in no way trying to bash on their beliefs. I think everyone needs to believe in something, and that is the thing they chose to follow. But, I do feel more Christians should research more into what they are actually reading, as should all religions. To me blind faith is simply a product of fear of the unknown, and or an ignorance of the truth about what they “know” to be true.

    I do not consider you foolish in any way. I highly respect your opinion (admin) because you HAVE done your research… and an awful lot of it *grins*. But, what if your research proves that you are wrong? Will that change your beliefs or your faith? And if not… why not?

    Thanks again for your time and tolerance :)

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