Taking the Bible literally

by Richard on November 29, 2007

The scriptures ought to be interpreted according to their original intent and their actual form. To understand them otherwise is to proceed from mistaken assumptions. Should such an approach be dignified with the word “literal”? Literal meaning should not be seen as something other than the actual historical meaning.

It is precisely the critical scholar who takes the Bible literally. Rather than seeking to make everything in the Bible conform to some preconceived idea of its nature and inspiration, the critical method seeks to understand. At best, the critical approach is an attempt to inductively discover the nature and meaning of the scriptures from themselves and their own history; rather than imposing on the scriptures an a priori theology.

I’ve quoted this before, but sadly the source article seems to have disappeared.

Update: I’ve now posted the full text of the source article, courtesy of its author, Craig L. Adams.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


DH 11.30.07 at 4:12 pm

I thought this post to be interesting. However, I see many people not correctly identifying correctly the original intent and historical context. When I read NT Wright and the other Paul and all of the other “post modern types” I see a misunderstanding and incorrect appropriation of what was actually the case. THe fact is Scripture is consistent, perfect, does not contradict. It is God inspired and is the Word of God. I don’t believe that is a priori theology but is what is the correct understanding of the nature of Scripture original intent and actual form. So I agree with the post here but from a different perspective than the writer of the post.


BruceA 11.30.07 at 6:47 pm

DH -

I count at least two a priori assumptions in your comment:

1) “Scripture is consistent, perfect, does not contradict.”

Here is a direct contradiction/inconsistency in the New Testament:

“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” - Romans 3:28
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” - James 2:24

2) “[Scripture] is the Word of God.”

The Bible never calls itself the Word of God. The gospel of John explicitly calls Christ the Word; Acts refers to the Apostles’ preaching as the Word of God (see 4:31, 13:5, 17:13); Paul’s letters follow the usage in Acts (see 2 Cor 12:17, 1 Thess 2:13); Hebrews also assumes that God’s Word is spoken, not written(see 4:12, 11:3, 13:7); Revelation 19:13 again calls Christ the Word of God.

But nowhere in Scripture is Scripture called the Word of God. Anybody who thinks that it is, simply is not taking the Bible literally.


DH 11.30.07 at 7:39 pm

Well John 1:1 calls the Word of God both Scripture AND Jesus. When you think about it the Word of Jesus comes from God and as such both by being authoritative. “Word was with God and the Word was God”. I still believe the statements you mention on the Word of God don’t go against what I said previously.

I also don’t believe the two scriptures on Faith contradict because one must define what faith and works are between the passages in that you will find they do not contradict or inconsistent. Notice the first passage says “prescribed by the Law” the second doesn’t so in that based on the context there is no contradiction or inconsistency.


DH 11.30.07 at 7:42 pm

Basically John 1:1 is saying that Jesus (being God) and all of the things associated with God were there in the beginning that includes the Words from God which is Scripture. Entire Scripture is the Word of God and includes Jesus as well. Scripture should be taken as authoritative and Jesus should be taken as authoritative as well as all of the other passages of Scripture.


Richard 11.30.07 at 7:49 pm

I understand (and agree with) the point you’re making Bruce, but I’m not convinced that it is helpful to set up two verses like this and say that one contradicts the other. For instance, when considering Romans and James, we need to ask if “faith” means the same thing in both epistles. If it doesn’t, then the ‘contradiction’ goes away. In any case, I’d rather talk of the sublation of one text by another, but now is not the hour to go into that!

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