Ah, Literally.

…perhaps the most ignorantly-ironic, poorly-misused, often-overused adverb in the English language.  [Sometimes, I find myself wondering if its equivalent is (mis)used likewise in other languages.]


Chris Traeger (doing what he LITERALLY does best)

In consideration of the oft-rehashed and too, too tired debate concerning Scripture and the means of interpretation (e.g., Is the Bible to be taken literally or metaphorically?), a few things have occurred to me of late.  My gift to you:

  1. The literal and metaphorically categories are not alone in the world of literature, and to be sure, yes, Scripture is (as it purports itself to be) literature.  Sure, it’s much more, but it is literature nonetheless.
  2. What’s more: literal and metaphorical are not mutually exclusive categories.  As Dr. John Walton of Wheaton often points out, sometimes the more literal interpretation of a passage is not the modernistic or “scientific” reading that we might quickly presume and thereby impose upon the text but, rather, what the author intended his original audience to understand within the historical, theological, literary (even mythological) context of the day of its writing.
  3. Additionally, those who quickly call for a literal reading of Scripture are often the most quick to assume a metaphorical reading of certain difficult passages.  How many times have we heard those who vehemently insist upon a literal 1,000-year Millennial Reign of Christ, accuse those who disagree of being ant-blbical only then to conclude that the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is, of course, only so symbolically.  “You know… They just remind us of His body and blood, of course.  After all, that can’t be taken literally.”  Hmm.
  4. Lastly, those who readily impose a metaphorical reading upon the Bible in almost all instances are often guilty of the same bating-and-switching sins.  I know, I know — I’m using the concept of bate-and-switch loosely, here, but I hope you understand my point.  Interpreters often draw us in using wholesale language (and “bumper-sticker” cliched terms) only to  change (or, at least, adjust) the rules of the game once we buy into their all-too-simplistic thinking.

In sum, I’m literally sick of it all.  Literally?  Yes, literally.  But, no, not really.  Even still, perhaps I should be…

About Adam Godbold

husband, father, pastor, and more View all posts by Adam Godbold

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