Why Paul Literally Takes the Old Testament Figuratively

Why Paul Literally Takes the Old Testament Figuratively December 17, 2018
One of the more refreshing things about reading David Bentley Hart’s excellent translation of the New Testament is how often his notes reflect an entirely different set of suppositions than most of us have been handed by our pastors and Sunday School teachers over the years.
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For example, reading through 1 Corinthians chapter 10 – where Paul uses examples from the Old Testament scriptures to provide examples to the church in Corinth about how they shouldn’t murmur, or gossip, or complain as the Hebrews did when they wandered in the desert – you may run across this verse where Paul says:
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“Now these things have become typological figures for us, so that we may not lust after evil things, as ended those men lusted.” [v. 6]
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Or, even further down where he says:
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“Now these things happened to them figuratively, and were written for the purpose of our admonition, for whom the ends of the ages have arrived.” [v. 11]
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And, then you may scroll down and follow this footnote where Hart tells us:
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“As should be obvious, Paul frequently allegorizes the Hebrew scripture; the “spiritual reading” of scripture typical of the Church Fathers of the early centuries was not their invention, nor just something borrowed from pagan culture, but was already a widely accepted hermeneutical practice among Jewish scholars. So it is not anachronistic to read Paul here as saying that the stories he is repeating are not accurate historical accounts of actual events, but allegorical tales composed for the edification of readers.” [The New Testament: A Translation, David Bentley Hart, pg. 336]
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What’s more, you might also find yourself reading this verse in Galatians where, after Paul uses the lesson about Abraham’s two sons to point us to the differences between the Old and the New Covenants, he says:
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“These things are told allegorically.” [Galatians 4:24]
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And below this you might find Hart’s notation that reads:
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“Again, one should not assume that Paul does not mean precisely what he says, and takes the tale to be essentially (not merely secondarily) allegorical. His interpretative habits are rarely literalist.” [The New Testament: A Translation, David Bentley Hart, pg. 376]
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So, if you take Paul’s word’s at face value, what you come away with is that Paul – a Pharisee of Pharisees, taught by Gamaliel, and a student of the Hebrew Scriptures par excellence – read the Old Covenant scriptures not as literal historical accounts of actual events, but as figurative parables written to teach us certain lessons and morals.
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The reason, of course, why I find this so refreshing is that I am daily bombarded by Christians who argue that Jesus and Paul believed the Old Testament Scriptures were historical events and literally true. As if the fact that Jesus references Noah means that he believed the flood was an actual event, or the fact that Paul references the exodus means he believes everything about it was literally true.
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One can use a story to teach something without believing it to be historical or literal. As when your Pastor references something about Aslan or quotes Gandalf to make a point, or when anyone refers to a scene in the Matrix or Harry Potter to remind us of an important truth. These are not powerful lessons because they are true; they are powerful because we can clearly see the point through the lesson of the story that we all remember and share in common.
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We can value the Scriptures, and love the truth it contains without believing it to be completely historical or literally true. Don’t believe me? Just look at Jesus and Paul, and most of the early Church Fathers who never took the Scriptures literally, but always took them seriously.
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The Old Testament can still be inspired without being infallible or inerrant. The same way a song can be inspired and point us to a higher truth about life, or about God, or about ourselves and no one asks if the song is infallible or inerrant because that is the wrong question. God has spoken to us through Scripture, and through songs, and nature, and art, and by His Spirit, but none of these avenues need to be considered literal to be true, or historical to be profound. It’s the truth itself that is valuable, not the historicity of the story, or the literalness of the illustration.
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Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. 

Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

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  • Tammy Mills Hanley

    OMGosh. I have read those phrases for years and never understood their implications. Thank you!!!!

  • Alonzo

    Unfortunately, Giles gives a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11. Paul never said he was taking the cited Old Testament passages figuratively. First, Giles ignores that a given word in any language can have several meanings, and such a meaning depends on context. Nowhere in the Corinthian passage does Paul indicate that the events he cites are not historical. To say otherwise is just bad reading. Second, the word Giles uses, as cited from Hart, does not necessarily mean figure of speech. If such were the case, then we would also have to interpret 1 Peter 5:3 in the same way, “nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…” It would be ludicrous to claim Peter as writing, “nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being types (figures of speech) to the flock.” “Types” hardly fits the context. Peter was never telling his audience to be figures of speech. The proper meaning of the same word Paul uses is translated “examples.” The context of Paul’s citation is that of an example and NOT type or even figure. The English translation does not fit the context of Paul’s message. Giles does not even attempt an exegesis of the passage to extract the meaning of Paul’s message. Bad form on his part.

    Paul constantly refers to the historical even of the Exodus from verse one forward. He referred to the Israelite fathers and the constant cloud that followed them, representing God. Paul stated that God was not pleased with them (v. 5). Why would Paul refer to fictitious people in such a manner? He would not, because he knew them to be historical people. He said these people were scattered in the wilderness. How can figures of speech be scattered in the wilderness? They cannot, because they were real people in a historical context. This context demands a literal setting, and the more proper translation of the Greek word τύποι is examples. The children of Israel actually suffered in the wilderness and died because they disobeyed God. In this manner their punishment served as an example to the audience to whom Paul wrote for not doing the same as Paul expressed in the subsequent verses.

    Giles needs pay attention to context before digressing into poor eisegesis and totally misreading passages of the Bible. The same goes for the Galatians passage. There, also, Paul never denies the historical account of Abraham and Hagar. Giles needs to pay attention to context and apply plain reading skills. If the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Context determines that sense. Giles ignores context. Better learn the Greek and apply better reading skills Giles.

  • john Johnson

    The article runs into a major stumbling block right off. Hebrews has been in doubt since the 2nd century. And most modern Bible Scholars agree Paul didn’t write Hebrews.
    Indeed he only wrote 7 of the epistles. And part of one of those is pseudo epigraphic.

  • Jennifer Gorman

    This is so important to my experience as a Christian and as a Mom to my gay daughter and son, both of whom love Jesus deeply. It was when my daughter came out 4or5 years ago now that I began to read as much as I could about the way Paul and Peter and above all Jesus talked about, and didn’t talk about of course, being LBGTQIA and following Jesus, the context, historical and cultural and in what they wrote or said along with the way they have been translated. This obviously has led me into more and more people’s work in translation and theology and history about more questions and ideas that have been made out to be cut and dry and clear, but are anything but clear without thinking their words through and learning about them more deeply. So now I will find David Bentley Hart’s NT translation and read more of your writing as well. Thank you.

  • john Johnson

    Peter didn’t write the Book of Peter. At the earliest it was written in the late half of the 1st century. And it wasn’t attributed to him until the mid 2nd century. And it is evident that at least some of the Apostolic texts were written by someone unfamiliar with 1st century Jewish culture.
    Mark is the earliest.

  • Alonzo

    False. You have not done your homework and cite no scholarly references on both sides. Better read Daniel Wallace instead of Erhman. The Apostle Paul was the earliest writer with Galatians dating back to 51-53. Do your homework.

    Besides, you do not reply to the salient points of context and grammar.

  • Alonzo

    False. You are only reading liberal scholars and provide no sources. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

  • PhillipWynn

    I’m confused. My take on the early Church’s typological readings of the Old Testament has been based on Jean Danielou’s From Shadows to Reality. There it is clear that although it is true that Old Testament types were regarded as prefigurations of New Testament anti-types, that that did NOT imply that the Old Testament event did not, in fact, actually happen. So, the early Church regarded the Crossing of the Red Sea as an informing type of Christian baptism, and at the same time regarded the Crossing as a very real historical event (see Orosius’ description of the ruts of Pharaoh’s chariot being still visible at the Red Sea). In other words, this early Christian reading was BOTH typological AND literal. Or am I and generations of New Testament scholars and early Church historians confused about this?

  • Jennifer Gorman

    Sadly your own arguments only go in a circle of your assumptions that your own interpretation and understanding of these verses is the only correct way. There is no reason why Paul wouldn’t use the stories and people he wrote about as “examples”, meaning they were traditional stories given to teach his lesson. Even if they were originally based on real people or real events, that doesn’t necessarily mean that some of the stories about them are based on what exactly happened. The point is the lesson of the stories and people, much like the parables of Jesus or the story of Job. And I am currently reading the CEB translation and the Galatians passage, (4:24) “These things are an allegory: the women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, which gives birth to slave children; this is Hagar.” And he continues in v25 and26, “Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and she corresponds to the present day Jerusalem, because the city is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” I reminded of the story teachers
    of George Washington and the cherry tree and not being able to tell a lie. That the story is known to also be a traditionally told tale with a moral doesn’t mean that it is not valuable for the lesson it teaches. And as far as how fictional characters could be lost in the wilderness, why couldn’t they? In fact the very term of “being lost in the wilderness” has itself become a figure of speech meaning how a person can be lost in the wilderness of the human world and then find their way home to God. And again, there’s no reason Paul, if he thought that certain people were real people, couldn’t then take the traditional stories about them and use those stories to illustrate his lessons in his epistles. And the word being translated as “examples” could have multiple meanings, no? Using context clues that he meant it the way Keith Giles and David Bentley Hart have indicated is actually “plain sense” to them and now, frankly to me. And as far as “looking no further” that would be wrong, quite frankly. Proverbs 15:14a says “An understanding heart seeks knowledge” The Bible is rich and alive with wisdom and life, and sometimes it is deeper and more complex than we give it credit for. Learning more about what was written and why, and to whom it was written to and their lives and problems can only result in our own richer and deeper understanding. This is a truth in living life, that seeking to understand brings more understanding of how to live and love. The Bible, of course is that same precept, but at a unfathomable amount of more and more and morè about the God and Jesus who love every single cell of each person they have knit together, and how to do the hard work of the love and service of their people, their Way, their Kingdom

  • John Purssey

    If you read carefully there is nothing in the article that talks about Paul writing the letter to the Hebrews. It does talk about Paul using the Hebrew Scriptures i.e. the Old Testament as figurative parables. The quotes are from letters accepted as Pauline.
    But it would not matter if they were not Pauline. The Pharisaic tradition that Paul and other NT writers used was to create Midrashim on the Jewish scripture, and that is still used in rabbinic Judaism today. Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ teaching as five discourses are a midrash on the five Torah/Pentateuch books.

    The Transfiguration, where God tells Peter James and John (and by implication, us) to listen to Jesus, is a midrash on Moses going up the mountain to receive the 10 commandments, but now we are listen to Jesus Words as He is the Son of God.
    Similarly, When MLK on his last speech said he had been up the mountain and could see the promised land but may not reach it (which he didn’t), this was a midrash on God showing Moses the land of Canaan and telling him he would not be able to go over into it.

  • John Purssey

    Doesn’t matter. I think it is great that some NT writers recontextualised the traditional stories they received to suit their audiences. It sort of gives us the imprimatur to do our own recontextualisation for our own audiences.

  • John Purssey
  • Agr Unio

    Zactly!

  • Alonzo

    Sadly, you begin with the fallacy of presumption and then meander without offering any exegesis of the your cited passages. You also assume the Apostle Paul’s view of history without considering the context of all of his letters. Last, your arguments are not cogent and tightly reasoned while making unsupported presumptions. You speak of “context clues” without giving any support for your arguments. Furthermore, you engage in another fallacy of faulty analogy by referring to George Washington. You also fail to show how Giles or Hart provide a sound argument but simply make a hasty generalization.

    If you want to make an argument or engage in discussion, do not begin with presumptions about the person. That is not an argument on the merits. Your arguments begin with faulty logic and continue down that trail into more faulty arguments.

    I am not interested in your kind of discussion. It is fruitless.

    By the way, you also assume that the basis of Paul’s theology is a lie and truth by assuming he takes the history of Israel as fiction.

  • John Purssey

    No. I grew up with a typological exegesis, but I think we would do well to consider also the midrashic understanding of contemporary events by the NT writers. I think the Hellenising of Christianity from its Hebrew roots may have lost this understanding even by patristic times. I am afraid that I do not have a scholarly reference for this, but am keeping out a watch for some.

  • Steven Waling

    Sorry but when I did theology, I came to the sad conclusion that conservative “scolarship” was largely special pleading and reactionary posturing.

  • jekylldoc

    The more I read Jesus and Paul, the more I realize how radically not about judgment they were.

  • jekylldoc

    You seem very interested in this kind of discussion, but only to criticize it. Take away from me the noise of your solemn assemblies.

  • jekylldoc

    I do not have formal training on this matter, but I have a strong impression, from various readings, that in the ancient world there was not a clean break between literal and figurative use of supernatural imagery. It is not clear, for example, that the vision Jacob/Israel had of the steps into heaven was any less “true” than the wrestling match with “a man” who made him lame. People could take their miracle stories as literally true without implying any burden of verification on those who told them. But the supernatural was evidence of importance, it was “a sign”, as Paul said, for obvious reasons. So, you know, storms, comets, earthquakes, all those supernatural events were as real as the dream that told Joseph not to put Mary aside.

  • john Johnson

    I do my homework. I was referring to the Apostolic Texts, not the Pauline Epistles.
    1st Peter was written 75-90 ce. And 2nd Peter was circa 110 ce.
    A long lifetime indeed for the 1st century.
    As to Scholarly references. You seem to done as you accuse me of doing.

  • PhillipWynn

    In any case, then both Hart if Giles isn’t misrepresenting him, and certainly Giles himself, are flat out wrong in arguing that Paul regarded OT stories as “essentially” allegorical. Full disclosure: I’m a stone cold liberal myself. But I’m honest enough to see all this as a, failed, attempt to enlist Paul on the liberal side of contemporary Christian culture wars, a kind of anti-literalist avant la lettre. That he most definitely was not.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    I don’t accept your dates for the authorship of either of Peter’s letters. I Peter was most likely written in the middle 60’s with 2 Peter being written just prior to the death of Peter (67-68 A.D.). I Peter appears to have been written by Peter with help, while 2 Peter is probably the worst Greek in the New Testament, appearing to have been written by a Galilean fisherman of the first century A.D. Scholars are divided on the dates of authorship of both letters of Peter, with the more liberal ones accepting later dates and the more conservative ones accepting earlier dates on the basis of the syntax used in the letters and comparing the syntax of the letters with the syntax of secular Greek writings of the same period, which is often more helpful in determining dates of authorship than relying upon the dating of the paper and ink used in copies of originals.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    You are not confused yet, but there are those who would lie and try to confuse you, which is clearly the purpose of the original article. I will not reveal my identity, but I will say that I am a conservative seminary professor and I can see through the gibberish in this article – it is simply another attempt by liberals to impugn the Bible.

  • Jennifer Gorman

    The basis of Paul’s theology is Jesus. Since when is that a lie? And presumptions? What did I presume about you? You seem to be saying that I haven’t read all of Paul’s letters. Why because I don’t come to the same conclusions that you do?. You think my reasoning is faulty because you don’t agree. Again, you are arguing from the assumption that there is only the conservative way to look at Scripture. There are more ways. In other comments you complain that experts used are liberals, so you don’t accept them. That is a choice you’re making to just dismiss out of hand anything you disagree with by the label rather than actually thinking them through. The Bible is much more complex than such a us vs them, two sided way of thinking.

  • Alonzo

    In addition to not having writing skills, you do not read well, either. You failed to comprehend what I wrote. Now, go away. I do not engage in discussions with those who cannot read or reason.

  • Alonzo

    It is quite apparent that you have not done your homework. I see no sources in your post, and your dates are completely wrong because they agree with high critics. Those, like Bart Erhman and others like him, attempt to impose their methodology on the text and read into the text what is not there. In terms of scholarship, read the following:

    1. Bauckham, “Richard J. “James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude.” In It is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars, ed. D. A. Carson and H. G. M. Williamson, 303–317. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    2. ______. “2 Peter.” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, 923–27. Downer’s Grove, IL/Leicester: IVP, 1997.

    3. https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-2-peter

    4. https://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter NOTE: This article also has a lengthy bibliography.

    5. Crehan, J. “New Light on 2 Peter from the Bodmer Papyrus.” SE 7, ed. E. A. Livingstone, 145–149. Berlin: Akademie, 1982.

    6. Dunnett, Walter M. “The Hermeneutics of Jude and 2 Peter: The Use of Ancient Jewish Traditions.” JETS 31 (1988) 287-292.

    I would also suggest scholars such as Douglas Moo, D. A Carson, and Danial Wallace (whom I cited in a previous post).

    Now run along and begin your education. You have a lot of catching up to do before making any further responses. You have not even begun to understand 2 Peter. Try also reading this letter.

  • Alonzo

    Then you did not “do theology,” because you engage in the logical fallacy of automatic rejection. Your “conclusion” is not an objective approach. You also failed to cite any “conservative” scholars. Which ones did you read? What were their publications? Sounds like you are the one doing special pleading and reactionary posturing.

  • Alonzo

    So, you admit you have a personal bias lens for reading the Bible. Or did you ever read the Bible at all? I see no evidence that you did.

  • Jennifer Gorman

    Considering I have centered my life around my love for Jesus, of course I have bias. I read the Bible with a focus on what Jesus said and did and view the rest of it through that filter of interpretation. Meaning that when I read Paul’s words I read them knowing what Jesus said and knowing that Paul would want us to live the way of Jesus too. (For example) So if something he wrote seems to be opposed to the way of Jesus (love, service, humility, not judging, feeding, etc) I will try to read more about the way the verses or letter as a whole, or even just a word has been translated, the overall meaning of the passage, and the themes Paul and the other writers return to throughout the NT. I read what has been found on the history and cultural context of the people who were written to, and Paul’s relationship to them. I have found Marg Mowczko’s blog particularly helpful, for example, she goes into detail about the original Greek and about the history of the people spoken about and spoken to, and the history. But anyway, of course I have life experiences that are a part of my relationship with Jesus and the Bible. Yes, my kids are both gay. I am also 52 and have a strong egalitarian marriage for 28 years. My son has autism. I have 6 autoimmune diseases for 20 years, and a lot of complications from them. All of these things have deepened my faith in Jesus and my dependency on Him. He has never left me for a minute. The Bible is of course, a huge part of my life, and I continue to learn more about it all the time. I also learn more about love all the time as well. The older I get the more I become able to be comfortable with having questions yet still having faith, and with different, seemingly opposite at times, things being true at the same time. So you asked if I have read the Bible and the answer is yes, I am currently on my fourth time through as a whole, and I have lost count of how many times I have read the NT. Plus, of course, articles about it all the time too. Reading is something that I am still able to do, so I do it a lot. Did I go to seminary? No. I have been a Mennonite Christian for 30 years. Life happens, and our faith and trust and love gets stronger and deeper as life happens. And with it our interaction with the Bible. So, yes. I have read it. And yes, it changes me daily, but most of all it is Jesus who changes me.

  • Alonzo

    You make an extreme digression and fail to reply. Please do not reply again.

  • Jennifer Gorman

    And I have to add that in the whole thread of comments to this article you have been nothing but rude and condescending to everyone. Nothing you have said is helpful to build the faith of others, let alone showing kindness and love, or humility. All your comments have been to tear down the ideas and even the faith of the other commenters, which is what led me to respond to you in the first place. You can use the Bible as a weapon or you can use it to gain understanding and to change and to love. I am, as you phrased it, not seeing any evidence that you have read it for the latter.

  • John Purssey

    I am not keen on the use of the term “allegorical” as a general description here. It is a technical term for a correspondence between things in the story and things in real life. The prophet Nathan used an allegory when rebuking David. Parts of Revelation appear to be allegorical references to the Roman Empire of the writer’s time. There is a lot of language in Paul (and in the Gospels and other letters) that is metaphorical and symbolic. Contrary to some opinions, I see a literal understanding of the Bible as taking a low view of the scriptures and reducing it to the mundane.

  • John Purssey

    Just as you have a personal bias lens for reading the Bible. You seem to think you are a god in this matter. You certainly do not demonstrate the fruits of the spirit in your Patheos rants. Such massive beams in your eyes!

  • John Purssey

    As you are unable to make respectful dialogue, and as you obsessively return to interrupt discussions from a theological perspective you refuse to understand, it would be better if you go away and cease your trolling. It does not help anyone here and serves only to enforce your habit of nastiness.

  • PhillipWynn

    With all due respect, and I really mean that, I’m unsure of what you’re saying here. Allegory or a form of that word is used four times by Hart, as quoted by Giles, including the exact expression “essentially allegorical”. If you don’t think that word applies, then their “argument” falls down by their own words. But you seem to think otherwise.

    As to a mundane reduction, I’ve a question for you that may help to clarify why I’d argue the exact opposite for early Christians. The Crossing of the Red Sea, in addition to being probably the most symbolically resonant of OT texts for early Christians, was a popular motif in much of the earliest Christian art we possess, including in catacomb paintings and sarcophagi of the fourth century. The Canticle of Moses which celebrates it (Exod. 14:5-15:19) is one of the earliest OT lections in Christian liturgy we know of, associated with the rite of baptism usually performed then at the Easter vigil. A Hellenizing influence? No. Since, obviously, the influence here is more Judaic, which in turn shows a great antiquity for that particular lection in the liturgy, certainly pre-Constantinian.

    So my question for you is: Did these early Christians think the Crossing of the Red Sea was an actual historical event, or not?

  • John Purssey

    Hi Phillip. The approach to dialogue I find most useful is to see if there is something useful to consider in what someone says. I think a lot can be missed by simply being in opposition to a perspective presented and looking for a “deal breaker”.

    I agree that the article used the term “allegorical” and that I don’t think it is the appropriate term to use, at least by my understanding of the word. Here is a Bible Dictionary explanation of allegory https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/allegory/
    “A popular form of literature in which a story points to a hidden or symbolic parallel meaning. Certain elements, such as people, things, and happenings in the story, point to corresponding elements in another realm or level of meaning. The closer the resemblances between the two realms, the more detailed is the allegory. The best allegories are interesting, coherent stories in their own right and through the story provide new insight into the realm they depict (e.g., Pilgrim’s Progress and The Narnia Chronicles). Semitic parables, including the Gospel parables, have varying amounts of allegorical elements. Those with many corresponding elements in both realms are properly called allegories.”

    However, just because I do not think it the best term to use does not mean that symbolic or metaphorical understanding in Paul’s writing is wrong, or that the rest of the article can be discounted.

    From the end of the dictionary item linked to above we have
    “In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul uses the story of the children of Sarah (Isaac) and Hagar (Ishmael) and the images of Jerusalem above and Mount Sinai as a double allegory, both pairs contrasting the covenant of freedom and the covenant of slavery. This allegory adds an earthy, emotional appeal to Paul’s arguments for freedom in Christ.”

    Here is an interesting article on Paul using metaphors for salvation – https://revelationbyjesuschrist.com/metaphors/
    This literary approach of Paul is not unique, but a continuation of Jewish thinking and style of writing. Hosea Chs 1-3 represent God’s relationship with Israel as marriage, divorce, and reconciliation and symbolised by Hosea’s own marriage.

    I think your question about the Red Sea crossing misses the important difference in cultural thinking between early times and now. No doubt they were not troubled by the difference in scientific understanding of creation and the spiritual meaning of genesis, nor would there have been a distinction between a literal understanding of the crossing and the salvation the crossing provided. We may think of them as opposed and separate the mundane from the spiritual. As they did not make that distinction it is not a useful question to ask, though it is a type of question that is used to distinguish modern theologies that pit literal interpretations over symbolic ones.

  • John Purssey

    If you can only try to cast aspersions and try to support it with an unsubstantiated claim of academic knowledge then your contribution is valueless and demonstrates a lack of integrity.

  • John Purssey

    Other thoughts about the term “allegorical”. The use of the term goes back to Augustine and Origen (2nd cent AD). Maybe that is why Giles and Hart use the term.

    All our NT documents are written in Greek, with many of the Jewish scripture quotes from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Tanakh. There are only the occasional Aramaic words. So the words of Jesus we have are not verbatim but a translation, unless the unlikely view that Jesus spoke Greek is held.

  • Carl Longren

    Well Stated! 🙂

  • Carl Longren

    If we have not love, we have nothing!

  • Carl Longren

    Do you really enjoy insulting others? How is that Christ-like? Why would anyone want to be a Christian after reading your insults? I seem to remember a song that says something to the effect, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

  • Carl Longren

    I’ve asked this before, “Do you really enjoy insulting others?” I think we are happier when we express “love” to others.

  • This is incredibly myopic. Yes, Paul likely used common interpretive and rhetorical moves in how he handled his Bible. But to assert modern categories of “literal” and “figurative” on top of Paul is at best, anachronistic. I won’t even begin to mention the fallacy of appealing to authority for this… There is zero reason to assume that Paul didn’t have the same sort of understanding about his Bible that almost all of Judaism did in his time. Most of it (to them) “happened”. How the text rendered the happening was up for interpretation, but to say they (paul) didn’t take it as “literal” is to miss the forest for the trees. Paul believed his scripture was “god breathed”.

  • PhillipWynn

    I do regret coming off as nitpicky. Another commenter below, though, agrees it’s simply wrong to say Paul and others of his time didn’t regard events of the OT as real, historical events. Not only is that flat out wrong, but to their mind the power of the antitype in the present was actually enhanced by the historicity of the type in the past.

    I’ve an aversion to dogma of any flavor, where of the right or, as here, of the left. Both lead to the letter that killeth.

    That said, though my own thoughts matter nothing, I concur with the sentiment, that not only the OT, but the Bible as a whole is a signpost pointing to something beyond it. Both liberal and conservative interpretations of Scripture can end up wallowing in a kind of Bibliolatry and dogma that can lead, for example, to the heartless priest in Michigan who questioned, before his grieving parents, whether their suicided son would go to heaven, or to the abettors of rank homophobia who wrap themselves in Scriptural justification. To paraphrase Paul, if I understand all the interpretive mysteries of Scripture but have not love, I am nothing.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    I am not going to reveal who I am because I don’t ever want certain individuals to show up on our campus to cause problems. I can do more than cast aspersions – if you read an earlier contribution I made to the discussion, although I considered it minor, it does not cast aspersions, but does offers partial explanation for how the age of biblical sources may be determined. Such determinations are often made using more than one methodology. The only lack of integrity I see here is a willingness to disparage the Bible without being willing to examine what scholars from both ends of the spectrum and the middle have to contribute to the discussion. The original piece was completely one-sided and everyone reading it knew it.

  • Alonzo

    Non sequitur and hasty generalization due to lack of definition. If you do not have salvation, you will be eternally lost. Progressive theologians redefine love as something it is not and thereby water down God’s redemption to a grandfatherly maudlin inclusive teddy bear squeezing appeal while casting aside God’s righteousness and holiness.

  • Alonzo

    Do you really enjoy making presumptive false accusations? Why would anyone want to listen to you after reading your pejorative false accusations rather than you addressing specific points? You take your remarks to the person rather than to the argument as most liberals do. I encounter people like you online all the time who cast reason to the wind and go after the person. Bad form while failing to reply to what is said. I seem to remember what the Bible says about such accusations, “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9). Now put away your darts and stones and use reason. Stephen would have lived if people did not throw stones at him as you are currently doing metaphorically.

  • Alonzo

    Then quit your badgering. All it does is show your true character – one who likes to throw darts and cast stones. Do you really enjoy making false accusations? You would be happier if you stopped being so negative. Who is this “we” of which you speak? Such a remark is presumptive.

  • John Purssey

    Nit-picky is OK if it helps you develop your understanding. And you have to weigh up the evidence to come to a conclusion. We all give our own weights to the different evidences (if we are actually making up our minds rather than just following a party line).
    I like your paraphrase of Paul. That’s the best test. I see it as the heart of faith. Praxis trumps doctrine.

  • John Purssey

    We don’t have the originals for dating and so no dating relies on the dating of paper and ink. This is not the basis for accepting later dates.

  • John Purssey

    “God breathed” is how humans are described in the Torah and that phrase is how the Greek contemporaries of Paul described the inspiration of their poets. The reliance on that phrase is what is myopic as it fails to understand the cultural gap between Paul’s time and ours and so is itself anachronistic.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    Mr. Purssey (or Dr. Purssey), Please stop being obtuse. I know we don’t have the originals, but there are those whom I have encountered who would have us use paper and ink for dating of the originals, which says little for their understanding of these matters. I was seeking to deal with a misconception that some people have. What we have is more copies and earlier copies than we had thirty or forty years ago when I was first in seminary. The number of New Testament sources alone has grown greatly. Conservative scholars now believe that the originals can be mostly re-created with only 0.5% to 1.5% in the questionable range (depending upon the scholar, of course). Of the more than 100,000 words in the New Testament, only around 1300 are in question and, in most cases, they are words that do not change the message. A.T. Robertson believed the percentage of words that could be challenged to be on the lower end (0.5%). One well-known living New Testament scholar, says 1.5% and I know colleagues who place the figure at 1.0%. All of the individuals i know who are espousing these types of figures are persons with PhD’s in New Testament from a variety of institutions – Cambridge, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, etc. A few earned their PhD’s here in the U.S.

  • PhillipWynn

    Lo! I give thee a definition! It is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful.

    Of course, feel free to dispute, in a non-arrogant or rude way, this definition by an obscure and doubtless progressive theologian.

  • Alonzo

    Of course, feel free to stay on topic instead of engaging in non sequitur.

  • PhillipWynn

    Scribitis Carolum caritatis non habere definitionem; dedi vobis definitionem; ergo, sequitur.

  • Alonzo

    Based on what you wrote:

    PREMISE: To you words mean nothing at all given that specific words do not have definition.
    PREMISE: Given that certain words have no definition, they have no meaning. Such a contradiction coming from you.
    CONCLUSION: There is no meaning for love.
    CONCLUSION: Your so-called “progressive theologian” wrote meaninglessness, incomprehensible, and incoherent gobbledygook.
    Of course, you never identified this so-called progressive theologian, which means that you are clueless.
    CONCLUSION: One can dismiss everything you wrote, since one can gather that it is totally meaningless.

    Why then should anyone find you credible since nothing you say has meaning? That is not only incoherent but also total deconstructionism. Welcome to the world of Jacques Derrida. You must be a distant cousin.

    Thank you for revealing your absolute irrationalism. Now if you want to continue your incoherent diatribe, I suggest colleagues of Milledgeville. They might be more in keeping with your dialog. Do not bother further replies with me. I have blocked you also, since I do not engage discussion with irrational people.

  • PhillipWynn

    I hereby identify the so-called progressive theologian. See I Cor. 13:4-5. In the spirit of Paul, I shall be kind and let you have the last word, since you are clearly so determined to have it.

  • D. Cyril

    May I suggest that a glace at the Greek for some clarity? Paul uses the word alegoreo, and both so-called conservatives and so-called liberals might be ignoring that fact. May I also suggest that we let the distinction between “truth” and “fact” stand as we read Holy Writ. One can have 100% of the facts and still lie. Paul was, like Jesus, conveying truth, which is best processed in right brain. All history is interpreted, and at that point transitions from “fact” (historical/literal) to the unassailable “truth” of the messengers (Peter, Paul, Jesus, et.al.). It remains for us to hold to the Christian faith, not just left brained Christian fact. To ignore Paul’s use of “alegoreo” in 1Cor. 10 and Gal. 4 is to rob oneself of Paul teaching us how to read God’s literature on the Divine record of His-Story. A question remains, was Paul inspired to tell us to read the Hebrew Scriptures as alegoreo? Do we take him literally or not? Why make the assumption that “truth” is equivalent to “fiction.”

  • John Purssey

    I can understand you not wanting disruptive and worse people turning up on your campus. This sort of thing is happening far too often and increasingly these days.

    But saying that the purpose of the original article is to lie and confuse is casting aspersions in my view.

    There are a great variety of hermeneutics. People start with different assumptions, including different theologies, and place different weights and interpretations on the evidences. Just because yours is different from Giles does not justify impugning his motives. I may come to different conclusions from Giles, and I certainly do in places, but I respect that he is acting with integrity and that his writing contains content worth considering. These are not black or white matters, and disagreement over one point does not nullify the rest.

  • John Purssey

    It’s probably not worth the effort trying to get Alonzo to dialogue. Don’t feed the trolls, as they say.

  • Alonzo

    I agree with you. Most of those who call themselves progressive really ignore the biblical text in favor of cherry picking it with wild speculation. They also begin with the hypothesis that the Bible is not the inspired word of God, which is the fallacy of automatic rejection. When one begins with that presumption, one can toy with the Scriptures with impunity. Furthermore, they have no need to read perform a search of the literature, which includes examining both sides (and the middle). That is to much work for them.

    Erhman is a case in point. Regardless of how many times Daniel Wallace points out his errors, Erhman insists on the fallacy of automatic rejection and imposes his agnostic/atheistic onto the Scriptures and goes way astray. But liberal professors love him and use his books sadly enough.

  • Alonzo

    You started with discussing Paul, and gave wrong dating for Peter’s works where there is no reason from the text to accept such dating. If Peter actually wrote after 70 AD (Not ce), he would have made reference to Titus destroying Jerusalem. However, there is no reference to this destruction, a catastrophic event most liberal scholars totally ignore as worthy of mention. You never cite anything in Peter’s letters that support such late dating.

  • Alonzo

    Daniel Wallace is one of the world’s most notable scholar in terms of New Testament textual scholarship. He believes that given the overwhelming evidence in documents, what we currently have in the New Testament matches the original documents.

    One can find a lot of his writings here: https://danielbwallace.com

  • PhillipWynn

    No, I get it, but it is sad, and telling, that he didn’t recognize Paul.

  • john Johnson

    Your own dates put both well into the latter half of the 1st century whereas life expectancy was around 48. And longer lives would have been highly unlikely for an itinerant Rabbi.*
    As to Peter getting help with 1 Peter? Really, that’s just another way of saying it is pseudo epigraphic. How much “help”?
    And as I said 6, and part of a 7th of Paul’s epistles aren’t his. Though some suggest he “allowed a trusted scribe to write in his name.” Which is just a apologetic way of acknowledging the he isn’t the author.

    * Christianity at the time was a Jewish sect.

  • john Johnson

    If you don’t like the dating, take it up with the Biblical Scholars who did the work.
    It was quite common at the time to attribute one’s work to someone such as Paul to lend your words their authority. And a Roman Christian might not have concerned himself with or even known of the fall of Jerusalem. Word was slow to travel. And if the fall of Jerusalem had no bearing on his message he would not reasonably have felt obliged to work it in.

  • Alonzo

    “…take it up with the Biblical Scholars who did the work…”

    It is apparent that you have not read them.

  • john Johnson

    It is apparent that I am not interested in writing a dissertation which no one here would read more than a few short paragraphs of.
    And you have yet to do so. So, take your own advice. Quote 3-4 authorities, at sufficient length to support your claims. A few paragraphs each should suffice. Or paraphrase them, with details. *

    Mark is the oldest of the texts (outside of the Pauline epistles) and reading them in Koine it is evident that at least 2 of the others lift entire sections verbatim. So they are based on his work. And that means that they must have come after him.

    * For example: Dating Matthew to 80–90 CE is based on three strands of evidence: (a) the setting of Matthew reflects the final separation of Church and Synagogue, about 85 CE; (b) it reflects the capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE; (c) it uses Mark, usually dated around 70 CE, as a source. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_the_Bible#CITEREFFrance2007

  • john Johnson

    It is apparent that I am not interested in writing a dissertation which no one here would read more than a few short paragraphs of.
    And I don’t see you supporting your position by quoting or even paraphrasing Biblical Scholars.
    But let’s have a go:
    Mark is the oldest, and Matthew among others relies heavily on it. Two drawing 60 to 90% of their material from it. Read in Koine it is evident that they lift entire sections verbatim.
    And dating Matthew to 80–90 CE is based on three strands of evidence: (a) the setting of Matthew reflects the final separation of Church and Synagogue, about 85 CE; (b) it reflects the capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE; (c) it uses Mark, usually dated around 70 CE, as a source.
    https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Gospel_of_Matthew.html?id=0ruP6J_XPCEC

  • Alonzo

    “And I don’t see you supporting your position by quoting or even paraphrasing Biblical Scholars. ”

    You have not been reading my posts where I cited several scholarly bibliographical works and have numerous access to others i.e., Daniel Wallace whom I have cited numerous times, Bloomberg, Thomas Schriener, N.T Wright, Alister McGrath, McKnight, who co-edited The Dictionary of the New Testament, and D. A Carson, all of whom I have read. Have you? Guess not, and you won’t because you are afraid to get educated in real scholarship. You would rather stay with the Higher Critics and their speculative philosophy and their rejection of the Bible as the word of God. You do not know what you are talking about.

    Your books.google.com is not a valid reference

  • Alonzo

    Oh wow! Wikipedia! Now that’s a real scholarly source. What a laugh.

  • Alonzo

    Here is the website of one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars, Daniel Wallace: https://danielbwallace.com

    Now get educated!!

    Besides, Johnson, what are your credentials for what you claim, and what works have you written to back up your credentials?

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    Not exactly. Both were written before 70 A.D., which is not well into the latter half of the first century. Moreover, it is well accepted that Peter and Paul were put to death in the late 60’s. I don’t think you really understand what most would mean by the term pseudo-epigraphic: most people using the term would mean that someone else wrote in it its entirety, not that someone had a scribe’s assistance. I sometimes aid fellow faculty members by editing their work, but they are the authors of their books, not I. I am the author of my own works whether I ever use an editor or not.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    Yes, I’ve met Bart Erhman and heard him speak – he has an axe to grind that invalidates most of his opinions so far as I am concerned, although he is a properly credentialed scholar (PhD from Princeton, where he served as Bruce Metzger’s grader and fellow). I even have a couple of his books (picked up at outlet stores so he did not make any money on them – he probably lost money), so that I can more readily verify much of what he says.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    Please read Matthew! There is nothing in Matthew to support your contention that the setting of Matthew reflects the final separation of Church and Synagogue about 85 CE, as the Church isn’t depicted as being in existence in Matthew. Jesus mentions the church three times in Matthew, but in a way that indicates that He is talking about a body or organization that has not yet been fully established. Also, please note that there is nothing in Matthew indicating that the Temple had been destroyed by the time Matthew was written. As to using Mark for a source, this is one point on which we will agree, but Mark was also written prior to the destruction of the Temple.

  • Sorry. You’re not passing the test of history. The simple fact is, NO JEW would have believed anything other than this about the text. We don’t need to, but they did. Period. End of discussion. To say otherwise is to blatantly ignore about 3,000 years of Jewish history.

  • john Johnson

    I have supported my position. I have even been specific as to which of the Epistles Bible scholars agree are almost certainly Paul’s. Which ones few believe are his. And which are debated.
    And your ad hominem commentary is unconvincing. I a not afraid of anything.
    The earliest fragments are from the late 1st to early 2nd century. The earliest fairly intact examples are from the 4th century. And the “scriptures” of 1st century Christians was the Septuagent. All else was oral tradition.
    Moreover the earliest fragments are in Koine (common Greek) not the Aramaic Jesus and the Apostles would have spoken.

  • john Johnson

    Your response is passe. The usual comeback of those unwilling to read the article. Wikipedia is quite good at providing source links. Perhaps you should check them.

  • john Johnson

    I make no claims that are not supported by reputable scholars. So I need no “credentials.”
    And your ad nauseam ad hominem commentary disrespects your contention.

    I have been polite. You … have not.

  • john Johnson

    There is no evidence to support that the epistles in question were written by a scribe at Paul’s direction. Indeed the suggestion most supporters propose is that: “Paul allowed a trusted scribe to write in his name.”
    Which is an admission that they don’t know the authorship. And one of the epistles scholars agree Paul wrote contains an insertion not in his style.

  • john Johnson

    The only thing I recall saying about Matthew is that the author lifted large sections of text verbatim out of Mark. And therefore must have written after Mark.

  • john Johnson

    Oops, forgot the quotation marks. Seems you’re saying that scholars are wrong.
    I did provide the link.

  • john Johnson

    Oops, forgot the quotation marks. Seems you’re saying the source is wrong.
    Here’s the link, again.
    France, R.T (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802825018.

  • Joshua Sonofnone

    I am aware of who R.T. France is and I do disagree with him at this point – I don’t disagree with him at all points of his research, but in this instance I stand by what I said earlier. I have seen the research and it appears to be incorrect when one actually examines the text (Matthew).

  • Alonzo

    If you believe you supported your position, then it appears that you do not understand how to do that. You provided no exegesis of your cited passages. You gave no supporting sources. All you have done is generalize and said the same thing again and again without one shred of support for your claims. You continue to make claims about “earliest” manuscripts but never cite sources. Lack of sources show your lack of homework on the subject. That is the reason I said that you do not know what you are talking about, because you have not done your homework with the sources. You also show that you do not bother to read the sources I provided, indicating that you are so set in your philosophical thinking that you refuse to consider sources that go against what you believe.

    I see that you do not understand ad hominem, so I suggest you go look up that word to determine exactly what it means. Until you can provide support for what you claim, do not even bother to reply. You do not know anything about the Bible of biblical textual history, and that shows through in your lack of SOURCES!!! BYE.

  • Alonzo

    Wikipedia is a propaganda source that totally lacks scholarship. If you think it is a good source, then you lack education about scholastic sourcing. It seems your education level is stuck at the Wikipedia level.

  • Alonzo

    “I make no claims that are not supported by reputable scholars. So I need no “credentials.”

    You got that right about support. You give zero support for what you claim. That fact that you claim you need no credentials shows your lack of understanding of credentials or that you did not get very far with education. Consequently, you are way over your head in this discussion. Better try a discussion more on your level.

  • john Johnson

    My intent in linking to him is to address your suggestion that I should educate myself.
    I am always able to support what I say. He is not the only one to say that Matthew reflects the separation.
    The Pharisees represented those seeking to preserve Talmudic Law.

  • john Johnson

    LOL.
    It’s common knowledge among most who argue the aegis of the Bible. It isn’t common procedure to source common knowledge information.

  • john Johnson

    Right. Saves you checking sourcing for the article.
    Sourcing such as: France, R.T (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802825018.

  • john Johnson

    I’ve have cited:
    France, R.T (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802825018
    4 times now.

    And your responses have primarily been composed of ad nauseam ad hominem commentary.

  • Alonzo

    I can tell you have never published a paper. It is common, no, REQUIRED in manuscript publications to footnote sources to support one’s claims. Unfortunately, you are unaware of this requirement.

  • Alonzo

    Unfortunately for your lack of knowledge about sourcing, your citation is inadequate and does not support your claim.

  • john Johnson

    I’m not publishing a paper. I already said I have no interest in doing a dissertation, which no one wants to read.
    We’re having a debate. Different rules.

  • Alonzo

    No “we” are not having a debate. Your knowledge is far inferior for a debate. Now stop stalking me. That means GO AWAY! I am blocking you so that I will no longer see your posts.

  • john Johnson

    You start a debate then duck out? LOL.

  • soter phile

    No literal first Adam; no need for a literal second Adam.
    It’s a given underlying Paul’s entire argument in 1 Cor.15.
    And there’s many more like that – for both Christ & Paul.

    Your entire argument here is predicated on a surface pass at individual OT references.
    But you’ve ignored that their entire theological themes are built on the OT “stories” as facts.

  • disqus_bx04n9XdVU important

  • John Purssey

    Strongly assertive, but there is more scholarly debate than you are willing to admit, and this makes your post weak, which must be why you had to resort to wild statements.

  • capnadequate

    Have you ever read the Bible? Did Jesus ask for the credentials of the children He suffered to come unto Him?

  • Alonzo

    To your first question – YES. To your second question, read the following:

    Always be prepared to give answer for the reason of the hope that is in you – 1 Peter 3:15 Peter makes the argument that one cannot be prepared to answer unbelievers and ungodly people unless one knows the Scriptures.

    Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVER WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God – Matthew 4:4 If one does not know the Word of God, one cannot do what Jesus commands.

    Study to show yourself approved by God a WORKMAN who is not ashamed ACCURATELY INTERPRETING the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

    Your word I have kept up in my heart that I might not sin against You – Psalm 119:10-11

    The Bible gives us many more commands to be a student of God’s word and disciple of Jesus so we can discern the truth and recognize error.

    Besides your second question are the fallacies of the loaded question and an appeal to emotion, easily recognized when one know how to approach the word of God. Furthermore, it is an argument to the person and not the the merits of the argument itself. In both cases, it is deceptive by attempting to digress. It is one Satan employed with Eve and Jesus.

    Did Jesus and Paul have credentials? Indeed!! They were adept in the word of God, capable of replying to attacks, and always obedient to the will of God. They both mastered the Scriptures so they would not fall into error themselves. They did not question whether it was literal or not. Rather, they recognized that figure of speech is a function of language and was never meant to be twisted to dismiss the historical validity of the Scriptures as this article does. Jesus nor Paul questioned the historicity of the Scriptures. Satan always did. One learns these things when one has mastered the Scriptures and knows how to accurately reason from them.

    You are really asking the wrong questions in the first place.

    So during this Christmas season, have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and remember the literal birth of the Son of God and the reason He came, “…to save His people from their sins,” through LITERALLY dying on the cross and LITERALLY rising from the dead.

  • Alonzo

    Please support your claim from the biblical text, and give the Greek rendering. While you are at it, show from the text or from scholarly biblical literature how Paul and Jesus are lying.

  • soter phile

    Either you’ve misunderstood me or you’re not a student of the Greek… or both.
    I’m not claiming Paul & Jesus are lying – but precisely the opposite.
    Again, 1 Cor.15 is rather clear: Paul asserts a literal second Adam in Jesus…
    If there’s no literal first Adam, there’s no need for a literal second Adam.

    Point being: Paul believes both are literal… as does Jesus (obviously on the second count).

  • Summers-lad

    Although less well read than you in this regard, that is also how I would see it. I tend to think that in (some of?) the narrative parts of the Old Testament, it is not so much the writing that is inspired by God but the events themselves.

  • Summers-lad

    True, but you caught him very neatly.