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A quote from Dan McClellan, which I mentioned in another recent post, and have now turned into a meme.
“Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together.”
I know of no “literalist” who thinks rivers have hands.
When they say they take the Bible literally, they mean they take literally what *they* believe is literal; and metaphorically what *they* believe is metaphorical. Which is pretty much what everybody else does. The difference is that they’re CERTAIN that their opinions about what kind of literature they’re reading are OBVIOUSLY correct. So obvious that they don’t even realize that they ARE making a judgement. And all other opinions are simply willful lies.
That’s right. Literalists have already decided what is literal. In the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, they make the point that “in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production”. As such, “history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor… nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days”.
It seems to me that if “history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry”, etc, then it follows that myth must be treated as myth. But the Chicago Statement doesn’t look at that aspect as a factor within the Bible.
I once heard a Bible teacher say that all parts of the Bible should be taken literally unless the context demands otherwise. Not too bad a starting point, I think, although it underplays the importance of the various types of writing. In the creation accounts, the context (e.g. comparing Gen 1 with Gen 2) does demand otherwise, as does the content (how can it be a normal day if there is no sun yet?)