Easy as Ezekiel, Revelation and Daniel

The last time I got cornered and witnessed to, I got a lecture on how the Bible should be taken literally and at face value. The person insisted that “no one needs a scholar to tell them what the Bible means!” (This would have been more convincing if he’d been reading from Greek manuscripts instead of a translation produced by a whole room full of scholars.)

Yet, when left with a Bible for a suitable length of time, the same people will produce timelines like the following:

As folks like Fred Clark will tell you, there’s no quick and easy explanation of the Rapture in the Biblical text. You have to take pinch of Daniel and a soupçon of Ezekiel and fold it into the Revelation of St. John. Is this really “face value”? Can we call this “literal” in any meaning of the word?

(Image via Christian Nightmares)

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  • vasaroti

    On the theme of how to interpret the Bible, there’s an interesting article over at NPR: Christians Debate: Was Jesus For Small Government? http://www.npr.org/2012/04/16/150568478/christian-conservatives-poverty-not-government-business
    Glad to see there are quite a few anti-religion comments on the article.

  • http://www.skeletaldropkick.com SkeletalDropkick

    ok, when I first looked at that graphic, I totally thought it mean that seals were going to hell, right along with trumpets and bowls.

  • mikespeir

    You don’t get to define “literal.” They do.

    • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

      Apparently so. Biblical literalism is pretty much a nonsense term, because not only are there no biblical literalists on Earth, it would be logically impossible to be one, due to the significant contradictions the bible has within itself. Even the Westboro Baptist Church, frequently vaunted with a grudging respect from people for ‘at least being consistent’, are completely ignoring significant swathes of the bible or choosing to interpret the words to mean something other than what they say at face value. That’s why you don’t see them picketing outside McDonalds reminding us god hates cheeseburgers. In short, no one takes the bible literally, they just like to claim they do for the authority they think it adds to their own peculiar prejudices.

      • trj

        Well, concerning OT commandments, it is possible to interpret those laws literally while maintaining that they don’t apply anymore (though literalists tend to pick and choose between which laws they think do apply).

        But that’s a good example of how even literalists don’t agree with each other. Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the old laws and that they should in fact be upheld, while Paulus said pretty much the opposite. So which of these statements is literal and which is not? Reconciling them involves some creative apologetics which itself is not very literal.

        Unsurprisingly, literalists stray from a literal reading whenever it suits them, insisting that those passages which contradict their specific religious ideas are to be understood metaphorically. I had some conversations with some Jehowah’s Witnesses a while back. It truly amazed me how they jumped backed and forth between literal and metaphorical interpretations with no justifications other than how it made the pieces fit.

        • http://www.storytellersbible.blogspot.com Rob Crompton

          In one way or another, just about all believers will jump back and forth between literal and metaphorical interpretations. What remains constant is that it has to mean something which the person of faith believes. So when the literal meaning is obviously something untrue, ithas to be reinterpretated to mean something else. So we rarely hear it said that some passages of scripture get the facts wrong or that some commands of god are immoral. Rather, it is said that some passages are “difficult to understand.” No they are not, I say. They are easy to understand. Just plain wrong.

          • mikespeir

            “No they are not, I say. They are easy to understand. Just plain wrong.”



    Given the fact Christianity is the most fractured religion on the planet, one doesn’t need to be a scholar to grasp that there is considerable difference of opinion as to what the Bible means.

    • FO

      Islam is pretty fractured, too…

      • UrsaMinor

        I would still have to hand the “Most Fractured Religion” prize to Christianity, though. It seems to excel at producing splinter groups.

  • FO

    Great Bowls of Fire!?