The Bible is 100% true, but not 100% literal.
The Bible contains lots of figurative language.
I Peter 5:8
Figurative language in the Bible makes the message more vivid, powerful, and memorable.
When should we take a word or phrase figuratively?
When it is said to be figurative
- John 2:18-21
- Galatians 4:24
- Ephesians 6:17 – “sword of the spirit”
- Isaiah 9:2
When a literal understanding contradicts another passage
- Mark 10:5 – Literally “all” the people? Luke 7:29
When it matches a pattern of figurative language in other passages.
- John 6:27 – “do not work for food”
- I John 3:18 – “do not love with word or tongue”
When a literal understanding contradicts known facts or common sense.
- John 3:3, 5 – being “born again” (compare I Peter 1:23)
When should we NOT take a word or phrase figuratively?
When a literal understanding simply contradicts our beliefs.
- This is intellectually dishonest!
If we miss a figure, we miss the meaning
- John 10:11
- John 11:11-14
- Matthew 16:6-12
- Matthew 26:26-29 – Partaking of Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. Missing this figure results in doctrines like transubstantiation.
- The Bible means what it means!
- There are lots of figures of speech in the Bible, and we need to do our best to accurately and objectively understand them.