Literal Interpretation?

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Tim, Feb 5, 2003.

  1. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    Why is it that a "literal" interpretation of prophecy has come to be a litmus test of orthodoxy when Jesus himself and the apostles did not consistently interpret Old Testament prophecy that way?
     
  2. Helen

    Helen
    Expand Collapse
    <img src =/Helen2.gif>

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2001
    Messages:
    11,703
    Likes Received:
    1
    Could you explain what you are talking about, please?
     
  3. LandonL

    LandonL
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2003
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but if you mean literal in the strictest sense... well, even fundamentalists like me don't necessarily believe that a giant monster with seven heads is going to emerge from the sea.
     
  4. Daniel David

    Daniel David
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    5,316
    Likes Received:
    0
    If language is clearly symbolic, it still represents something that is literal.

    You know, the prophecies of Christ's first coming were literal. The birth town of Christ wasn't a symbolic city of something else. Mary wasn't a symbolic virgin.

    [ February 06, 2003, 02:34 PM: Message edited by: Preach the Word ]
     
  5. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    What I mean by literal interpretation is saying that prophetic Scriptures mean exactly what they seem to mean with little room for figures of speech, or symbolic representations.

    For example, when Malachi says that Elijah will come, he must mean the Elijah the prophet as we read of him in 1 Kings rather than a prophet like Elijah.

    Jesus doesn't seem to be a literalist regarding that prophecy because he tells the disciples that Malachi's prophecy was actually referring to John the Baptist.
     
  6. Johnv

    Johnv
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2001
    Messages:
    21,321
    Likes Received:
    0
    Tim, you bring up a good point. I don't think it's necessary for the Bible to be literal in order to be inerrant.
     
  7. rufus

    rufus
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2003
    Messages:
    730
    Likes Received:
    0
    A literalists is someone who believes the text provides the meaning. The sense and reference will be given by the context and by the semantic range of the textual constructions.

    Rufus (a literalists of the strictist sort)
     
  8. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    I really don't think you can say that Malachi's prophecy can be understood literally at all. There's nothing in the context to indicate that the Elijah he's speaking of is really John the Baptist.

    That's why the disciples couldn't understand it (see Mat. 17:9-13) until Jesus explained it to them. Before that, they obviously thought that Elijah himself would return to earth to do the mininstry that Malachi had spoken of.
     
  9. Paul of Eugene

    Paul of Eugene
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2001
    Messages:
    2,782
    Likes Received:
    0
    If the Bible flatly states one thing, and we know the contrary to be the case, then we know not to interpret that passage literally! That's the long and short of it all.
     
  10. tyndale1946

    tyndale1946
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2001
    Messages:
    6,179
    Likes Received:
    226
    The Old Testament is The New Testament consealed and The New Testament is The Old Testament revealed... That is how I read and understand the Bible and the rule of thumb I go by!... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  11. Jim1999

    Jim1999
    Expand Collapse
    <img src =/Jim1999.jpg>

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2002
    Messages:
    15,460
    Likes Received:
    0
    The old adage remains true to-day" "Where the bible makes common sense, seek no other sense. It just might turn out to be nonsense."

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  12. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    Maybe I should clarify my point:
    First of all it is not "common sense" to assume that when Malachi said Elijah, he really meant John the Baptist. The New Testament reveals the symbolism that Malachi's prophecy intended, but there is nothing in the Old Testament alone that would lead us to that conclusion. It was a mystery to the peoples of that time.
    Jesus revealed a hidden truth about Malachi's prophecy--specifically, that it was NOT to be understood at face value.
    And yet today, if a conservative Christian trys to demonstrate that a particular prophecy should not be understood at face value, he's assumed to be a closet liberal! Or at the least, full of nonsense.
    So why is it that Jesus can do that, and the apostles can use that same method when they explain parts of the Old Testament, but we shouldn't even consider the possibility?
    Aren't we supposed to get out hermeneutic principles from the example of Jesus and the apostles' reading of the Old Testament rather than an arbitrary rule that some theologian declared that it has to be literal?
     
  13. David Cooke Jr

    David Cooke Jr
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Messages:
    516
    Likes Received:
    0
    wow. Tim, you make a great point. Makes you wonder how Jesus would interpret Genesis...
     
  14. Daniel David

    Daniel David
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    5,316
    Likes Received:
    0
    David, I don't wonder at all. Jesus believed in the Genesis record as though it was all historically accurate.

    Have you not read where Jesus answered the Pharisees regarding divorce? Jesus said that it was not so from the beginning. What could he be talking about if not Adam and Eve since he quoted Gen. 2:24?

    I suppose if you need to comfort yourself with ideas that live and breathe in fantasy, Jesus could have interpreted it in whatever way that liberal scholarship says.
     
  15. Daniel David

    Daniel David
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    5,316
    Likes Received:
    0
    Is there anything in the Bible that would verify such a position?
     
  16. David Cooke Jr

    David Cooke Jr
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Messages:
    516
    Likes Received:
    0
    I guess I could interpret the OT literally and still be waiting on Elijah...
     
  17. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think one of my posts got lost in cyberspace.

    Anyway, I don't see any evidence that the N.T. doesn't accept the O.T. narratives as historically accurate (as Preach said), but I do think it interprets many O.T. prophecies in a non-literal way.

    As far as the saying about the O.T. concealed and then revealed in the N.T., I believe we have lots of biblical evidence for that. But the saying that "if it makes common sense seek no other sense" doesn't hold up very well when we study the way the N.T. interprets the O.T.
     
  18. Daniel David

    Daniel David
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    5,316
    Likes Received:
    0
    So, since you think that many O.T. prophecies are fulfilled in a non-literal way, then that is your hermenuetic?

    Regarding Elijah, there are two thoughts regarding it that I know of:

    One deals strongly on the passage where Jesus said that John is Elijah if the Jews accept him. Since they didn't, John did not completely fulfill the role of Elijah.

    The second says that Elijah is the primary representative of the prophets (as seen by him appearing with Moses during Christ's transfiguration: Law and Prophets). Thus, those who are true prophets come in the "spirit and power of Elijah". So, John met the immediate fulfillment though partial, but there is still a future and final fulfillment.

    A better term than literal would be normal or plain meaning.
     
  19. Tim

    Tim
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2001
    Messages:
    967
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't mind the term "plain" meaning, but literal is the generally accepted buzzword.
    But I really see no solution to the Elijah question in the two possibilities you offered. Mat. 17:12,13 really doesn't support either one.
    Malachi's naming of Elijah cannot be made to be John the Baptist in anything other than a representative way-not literal, not plain meaning.

    And yes, there are more examples! Consider James' quotation and application of Amos' prophecy in Acts 15:13-19. Not physical, not literal or plain meaning, but once again a figurative interpretation of O.T. prophecy.
     
  20. Daniel David

    Daniel David
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    5,316
    Likes Received:
    0
    Tim, I see where you are coming from. If John really did fulfill Elijah completely, than we can say that it is only so because Jesus specifically said so. The Jews of his day should not have thought any other way. I think the issue is questionable.

    The Acts passage is actually one I use to say that God is not done with national, ethnic Israel. I guess that is equally as debatable. I do understand your point though. I just don't think it is compelling enough to abandon the plain/literal/normal sense of words.
     

Share This Page

Loading...