Taking the Bible “Literally”

Taking the Bible “Literally” August 6, 2015

Anyone who says they take the Bible literally

I used a photo of A. J. Jacobs trying to live Biblically as the background image. He at least tried to an extent that few who claim to be “Biblical” or “literalists” or both ever do. See his book, A Year of Living Biblically, which I have mentioned here before. See also Rachel Held Evans’ AYear of Biblical Womanhood, and also my blog post about why my book idea for A Year of Living Justly never got off the ground.

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  • Gary

    Just think of “literally” as short hand for “superficially” + “earnestly.”

    • R Vogel

      I always assume it means ‘according to the bits I like…’

      • Actually it often just means, “This is what it says, for the pastor tells me so.”

  • Ian

    Can we all agree to take the bible literarily? Seems to me to be self-evidently the correct hermeneutic.

    • I’ve been meaning to post this and share a link here, since it is relevant to your comment… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/09/take-the-bible-literally.html

      • Ian

        I couldn’t agree with you more in this, and in your post from today. But did I miss a bit in that post, or did you miss the pun in my comment?

        • I did in fact miss it the first time I read it, but then caught it and laughed at myself for having looked forward to sharing the Barr quote with you, and then realizing that it was less precise of a match to your sentiment than I had initially thought!

          • Ian


            I do agree with Barr also. I do feel it is a cop-out to treat things metaphorically that would have been understood at face value by the original readers. It seems like another way of prejudging that the bible is ‘true’ in some sense, and then going hunting for the sense. Rather than allowing oneself to consider a text and disagree with it.

            It’s typified for me in day-age creationism.

            Where I leave the literal view is that I think it can miss the broader question of what a text meant. You’ve pointed before to the Genesis account as being a text that is distinct from other ANE creation accounts not because of the details of what was created when, but by the character of the God that did the creating.

            It takes a hermeneutic sophistication I’ve not come across in church to be able to hold all those layers of meaning, agreement and disagreement in tension. That may be more my experience of churches, but I associate that sophistication more with academic than faith-based interpretation.

  • ccws

    Yeah, they use that word a lot. I do not think it means what they think it means. 😛

  • Bruce Jenkins

    Did you know that Jesus was a shape-shifter? He was a civil engineering project, a plant and a bakery product at various times. The Bible says so.