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Bible interpretation

Method 1 of 4:
Interpreting the Bible literally

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Interpreting the Bible literally:

Christians taking this conservative approach recognize that:

bulletSome biblical passages are clearly written as poetry.
bulletJesus made extensive use of parables; the people and incidents that he described may or may not have been fictional.
bulletSome other biblical verses must be interpreted figuratively. For example, when Jesus is reported to have said in John 15:1 "I am the vine, ye are the branches..." Jesus is obviously not a vine, and his followers are obviously not branches. He was speaking metaphorically.
bulletHowever, they believe that most biblical passages, from Genesis to Revelation, should be interpreted literally.
bulletThe default is a literal interpretation, unless some other method is clearly intended.

Thus, as the first part of Genesis explains:

bulletGod did create the first humans, the other species of life, the earth itself and the rest of the universe in six days. However, there is some wiggle room on the meaning of the word translated as "days."
bulletThe flood destroyed all of the human race except for 8 individuals: Noah and his family.
bulletNoah's descendents repopulated the earth after the flood.
bulletThe very first rainbow really was seen by Noah and his family.
bulletGod confused the speech of the people at the Tower of Babel and thereby established the major linguistic groups in the world,
bulletAnd so on.

It all happened exactly as the Bible describes.

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The literal interpretation of the Bible is generally based on the following foundational beliefs:

bulletThe Bible is a unique document. It is different from every other book in the world. Its authors were directly inspired by God at the time that they were writing their book(s).
bulletThe Bible is inerrant. That is, when its 66 books were originally written, God prevented the authors from making any errors. The biblical text is accurate, whether it is discussing science, history, theology, spirituality, morality, or any other topic. Some minor copying errors may have occurred since those original autograph copies were written. However, they have had no significant impact on modern-day religious doctrines.
bulletThe bible is infallible. That is, it is fully trustworthy. It does not deceive the reader.
bulletThe Bible is correct when it identifies authors of its books. So, the Pentateuch -- the first five books in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) -- were written by Moses. All of the Epistles in which Paul is identified as the author were written by him.
bulletThe official canon of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) was finalized by church leaders during the 4th century CE. Under God's inspiration, they separated the canonical books from the many heretical works which were then in circulation.  For example, they chose exactly four Gospels from among the over 40 that were in use within the early Christian movement as God inspired, inerrant and infallible. They rejected the rest.
bulletAll passages in the Bible are equally valid and are useful as a spiritual guide. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
bulletThe Bible is the "Word of God." It is internally absolutely consistent. It was as valid at the time of Moses as it is today, because God is unchangeable.
bulletMany English versions of the Bible are reliable translations. This is particularly true of the King James Version (KJV) and New International Version (NIV).
bulletLiterally hundreds of apparent contradictions exist in the Bible. However, almost all can be harmonized with a little thought. A very few unimportant contradictions can be attributed to copyist errors. It may be impossible to harmonize a few discrepancies with our currently available knowledge. However, an explanation does exist, and will be discovered some day.

Many, but not all, Christians who interpret the Bible literally also believe that an unsaved individual cannot achieve a deep understanding of the Bible. However, when the person repents of their sins and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them and leads them properly comprehend the text. As Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14 writes:

"...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

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Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update 2009-JAN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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