Bible stories literal or symbolic?

General discussions about Christianity including salvation, heaven and hell, Christian history and so on.

Bible stories literal or symbolic?

Literal
7
47%
Symbolic
5
33%
Exaggerated
0
No votes
Not sure
3
20%
 
Total votes: 15

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Gman
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#46

Post by Gman » Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:24 pm

Jac wrote:Yes, we only take accounts to be visions if the text tells it is a vision.
I disagree… We don't even know who the author is (although it is “presumed” to be Moses) and we don't know how the information was relayed to the prophet either. The texts do NOT say either way… Therefore you have to create your own personal hermeneutic. Ultimately we don't know.. Just because some verses say that they are visionary you can't say that the others are not. You CANNOT say that you ultimately know.
Jac wrote: I cannot stress this enough: Genesis 1-11 bears the marks of HISTORICAL NARRATIVE[/b]. As such, we interpret it as historical narrative. As far as how Moses knew about all of it, it could have been several things, or a combination. It could have been oral tradition passed down from generation to generation. There could have been written records Moses appealed to and worked with (the word "generations" in the text implies as much). God could have sat him down on the mountain and just told him the story. All kinds of things. But there is simply NO reason to say that this was a vision.
How else could the narrative be explained to the prophet? Again he was NOT there witnessing the actual event… God could be conveying the message anyway he wants. It there a law against that? Show me where there is a law from the scriptures that the use of visions are contrary to the word of God.
Jac wrote: Preceding, not proceeding. To precede means to come before; to proceed means to continue, to come from, to go forth. Regardless, man being made in God's image certainly gives us insight into the curse on several levels, but it gives no indication that the snake in Genesis 3 was anything less than an actual snake.
Ok, then that preceding information we get from Genesis 1:27 or 2:7 states that God made man in His image, not snakes... And that is the proceeding insight or information that carries on throughout the rest of scripture.
Jac wrote: Here's your problem, Gman. You are asserting that the snake in Genesis 3 was not a real snake. You have to the burden of proof to demonstrate, from Scripture, why you are right.


I already have many times… Please read my other posts...

Jac wrote: I assert it was a literal snake based on a face-value reading of the text. So tell me, on what is your hermeneutic--your interpretational basis--for saying the snake is symbolic, and how does that same hermeneutic not allow someone to say that Jesus was symbolic, too?


I would say... whenever and wherever it is possible, the words of Scripture are to be understood literally. However when a statement appears to be contrary to our experience, or to known fact, or revealed truth, or seems to be at variance with the general teaching of the Scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that some figure is employed. It's that simple...

Jesus, however is not symbolic. We have mountains of evidence from scripture and outside sources that he was a literal person INCLUDING his resurrection.

Jac wrote: You simply misread me. I never thought no implied as much. Just the opposite, the snake spoke BEFORE the curse. Therefore, the vocal chords could not be a RESULT of the curse. And I was specifically addressing legs. You may have missed it, and I may not have been clear, but that is exactly what I was talking about. So, if you'd like to address that point, I'm still waiting to hear your response to it.


You certainly weren't clear about it…. As for as addressing legs in Genesis 3, the Bible DOES NOT state that the snake had legs BEFORE the curse. You are simply applying your own interpretation of that into the text. You are simply "reading" what you think should be in the text...

Jac wrote: There doesn't have to be. The text says that they did, and that's enough. I have my doubts that they were "freaked out." Why would they be? They lived in a perfect world--there was no danger to them. There would have been nothing to be afraid of. And you don't know that they couldn't talk. It's a huge--and dangerous--assumption on your part to look at the way the world behaves now, in its fallen state, and project that back into how the world worked then, in its unfallen state.


They probably would have freaked out as they would today. Your belief is what I would call a YEC belief… They did NOT live in a “perfect” world. I quote Rich on that…

“It should be noted that the Bible never says that original creation was "perfect." It is described as being good and very good, but never "perfect." How does one determine what God's perfect creation would look like? It turns out that young earth creationists have assumed that God would not have been able to create any world less than "perfect" - based upon biblical descriptions of the millennial kingdom and the new creation. Unfortunately, the Bible never indicates that either the millennial kingdom or the new creation represent the state of the original creation. In fact, the Bible indicates that this creation was not created to be perfect, but is only a partial representation of that which is to come,4 which will be perfect. The new creation will be the perfect tabernacle - the city "whose architect and builder is God",5 which will not be of this creation.6 Old earth creationists agree that the creation was perfect for the purpose for which it was created. However, the Bible indicates that the purpose of creation is not what has been claimed by young earth creationists.”

Source http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/paradise.html

Jac wrote:It's not pulling extremes. In logic, it is called a reductio ad absurdum. It means to show the logical consequences of an idea, thus:

If A necessarily ->B, and if B necessarily ->C , then A necessarily ->C. If, then, C is false, A must also be false.

Your hermeneutic is A. If it says that unmarked people/events may be taken as symbolic on the basis of the miraculous, then, by definition, I can take the resurrection as symbolic as it is both miraculous and unmarked. If you reject that I can do that, then you likewise must reject that you can do it with the snake, unless, of course, you simply wish to be irrational--that is, logically inconsistent. Or, the alternative is that you can provide a consistent hermeneutic that allows me to take the snake as non-literal while, by the same principles, allowing me to take the resurrection as literal. And that is what I have been asking you for from the beginning. I still am.


Asking me what? I am pointing out that your own hermeneutic is also inconsistent… If you want to use logic (reductio ad absurdum), then explain to me how an actual live snake can talk. Again…. They DO NOT have the vocal chord capacity to produce human-like sounds. Even if you want to possess them… You could barely get a chirp out of them let alone a squeak even if you stepped on it. Their sounds are much like when you get a flat on the tire of your bike… A hissing sound. Has your bike tire ever talked back to you when it went flat? I hope not… This idea alone is turning God's word into a laughable fable. Also you have not addressed how animals can sin against God. NOWHERE in scripture has an animal been called moral or accused of sinning against God and then being cursed (punished) for it. And that is what I have been asking you for from the beginning too. I still am…

Jac wrote:Crossan is one of the co-founders of the Jesus Seminar. He doesn't believe Jesus was raised from the dead, and is the premier scholar who advocates that position. It is really scary. If you read his arguments, they sound exactly like the ones you are using here. I'll provide quotes when I get to work today. I have two of his works, Who Killed Jesus and N.T. Wright and J. D. Crossan in Dialog.


Ok, I remember that guy. Yes, here is one thing we can agree on, I do not support his view at all. If you are comparing me to him then I'm taking that as an offensive remark by you....

Jac wrote:Anyway, yes, meaning is important, but so is reference. Remember the distinction between the mention/use and sense/reference. Likewise, there is another general category along these lines we call meaning/mode, which ROUGHLY corresponds to the idea of concrete/abstract. You are taking the snake as abstract, not concrete. You are exalting meaning and ignoring mode. You are insisting on mention without use, sense without reference. Gman, these are things you are simply not allowed to do and be logically consistent. If you take your path, then the logical result is that we can't take Jesus' resurrection to be an actual event. Crossan has championed this position. It has, indeed, become the premier argument against His resurrection in modern times.


How about being logical about a literal talking snake?

Jac wrote:Not on the basis of Gen 3, I am not. I happen to believe that the snake was in some unspecified way related to the devil, but that is completely and 100% based on the reality of the snake in the Garden. Take away the snake, you take away the relationship; take away the relationship, you have no devil in the garden. Thus, take away the literal snake, and you have no devil in the garden of any kind. At least, none that had anything to do with Genesis 3.


Like you said, you need your “progressive revelation” to get the true picture, right? :wink:

Jac wrote:"Pig" is a known figure of speech for police officers. It is simply a derogatory term. If I were to hear your sentence in day to do life, I would expect there to be other word pictures or descriptions to go along with it. I would expect something like this:

"Joe talked a pig today. He was on his way to work and the idiot pulled him over, saying he was going too fast. Personally, I think he was just racist."


I don't get it… You don't think that Jesus was using a derogatory term when he called the Pharisees “snakes” in Matthew 23:33?

Jac wrote:"On the other had, tell me what YOU would think about a sentence like this:

Joe talked to a pig today. Pigs . . . I don't really like them. Their fat and smell funny and make noises. They're always in the mud making a mess. Little twisty tales . . . some people think they're cute. I don't. Did you know they don't even sweat?!?"


First of all, the text in Genesis 3 goes nowhere near the description you give of this pig…. This is an exaggeration at best..

Jac wrote:"Now, what does THIS sound like I'm talking about. Pretty clearly, it is a real pig. How can you tell? It's obvious, because there are no markers indicating that "pig" is being taken as a figure of speech. You would take this as "historical narrative."


Second, I could still say it was a police officer… Why? Because some are fat and smelly (sorry), make noises (sirens), make a mess in the mud (ghetto), have twisty tales (their walkie talkies), some people think they are cute (some really do), and don't even sweat (when they are not under any pressure). A real “historical” narrative… :wink:
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#47

Post by Jac3510 » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:56 pm

You are simply applying your own interpretation of that into the text
I didn't realize you were agreeing with me the whole time. My bad! I'm glad to know that you believe the snake was literal, although I might challenge your premise here that Satan wasn't involved anywhere. And I'm not sure where you got the Virgin Mary, but hey . . . whatever works for you!
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#48

Post by cslewislover » Fri May 30, 2008 9:02 pm

Well, this is a very interesting board and I'll have to read it in detail soon. I didn't answer the poll since much of the bible is literal, but much is not (symbolic, literary, etc.).

Anyway, I have a different story that bugs me when I try to take it literally, and that's the story of Samson. Maybe people would want to comment on this. What bothers me about Samson's story is that he finally tells his girlfriend what will make him weak, even though she's already tried to subdue him three times (I think it's three). The whole thing just seems so absurd on Samson's part. Is it possible he didn't realize that she was the one giving the info away? It doesn't seem reasonable that he wouldn't know. I could look up some commentaries on this, and perhaps I will shortly, but I wondered what others thought. The way the whole thing is written, it almost reads like a "tall tale;" it at least repeats things which seems like a literary device.
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#49

Post by Kurieuo » Fri May 30, 2008 9:22 pm

cslewislover wrote:Well, this is a very interesting board and I'll have to read it in detail soon. I didn't answer the poll since much of the bible is literal, but much is not (symbolic, literary, etc.).

Anyway, I have a different story that bugs me when I try to take it literally, and that's the story of Samson. Maybe people would want to comment on this. What bothers me about Samson's story is that he finally tells his girlfriend what will make him weak, even though she's already tried to subdue him three times (I think it's three). The whole thing just seems so absurd on Samson's part. Is it possible he didn't realize that she was the one giving the info away? It doesn't seem reasonable that he wouldn't know. I could look up some commentaries on this, and perhaps I will shortly, but I wondered what others thought. The way the whole thing is written, it almost reads like a "tall tale;" it at least repeats things which seems like a literary device.
Sounds quite plausible to me. Guys can be quite stupid when after a girl. Samson might have at the time thought it worth the moment pleasure.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#50

Post by zoegirl » Sat May 31, 2008 7:46 am

Haven't we all said at one time or another...."I can't believe he/she didn't see that coming...." when observing another relationship?

Remember, too, that we don't get the entire dialogue between them. Perhaps her manipulation was masterful and quite deceptive.

Also, people can be quite reasonable and common sense when it comes to other aspects of their lives and be entirely without common sense when it comes to relationsnhips.

I mean, why in the world do men and women stay in abusive relationships? They have to see the behavior for what it is, right? But in the end, staying in the relationhsip becuase at some level they either want to believe that he/she will change or they don't really see the abuse for what it is. They think they deserve it...etc

Or he could just be all brawn and no brain :esurprised: y:-?
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#51

Post by August » Sat May 31, 2008 9:30 am

Hi Jac, congrats on getting married. Hope it truly is a blessed union.

A few questions for both you and Gman:
Have you given any thought to the differences in hermeneutic that we use to interpret general vs special revelation? Are there any differences? If so, what are they, and how do they influence the discussion you are having? Also, not to complicate things too much, but do you guys think that a consistent objective hermeneutic is the only precondition for the interpretation of Scripture? If there are other preconditions, how do they play into this discussion?
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#52

Post by cslewislover » Sat May 31, 2008 11:49 am

[quote="Kurieuo] Sounds quite plausible to me. Guys can be quite stupid when after a girl. Samson might have at the time thought it worth the moment pleasure.[/quote]
zoegirl wrote: Or he could just be all brawn and no brain :esurprised: y:-?
Lol, OK. :lol:

Edit: I'm looking at the code trying to figure out why some of it is showing up, but it looks fine. So, sorry, but don't know what the problem is.
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#53

Post by Gman » Sat May 31, 2008 9:43 pm

August wrote:Hi Jac, congrats on getting married. Hope it truly is a blessed union.

A few questions for both you and Gman:
Have you given any thought to the differences in hermeneutic that we use to interpret general vs special revelation? Are there any differences? If so, what are they, and how do they influence the discussion you are having? Also, not to complicate things too much, but do you guys think that a consistent objective hermeneutic is the only precondition for the interpretation of Scripture? If there are other preconditions, how do they play into this discussion?
August,
I'm pretty torn over this so I dropped the subject. I really don't have a straight answer to your questions. I see Jac's point, and yet I still see some play for figures of speech here. But I could be wrong too..
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#54

Post by August » Sun Jun 01, 2008 6:53 am

GMan, it's a pretty tough issue, one which I'm sure most of us struggle with. And it is exactly the position I end up with in most discussions with YEC's as well. What does an objective hermeneutic look like, and how do other preconditions for interpretation of the text affect the result? I guess if we had agreement on that then we won't be having these types of discussions, everyone would come to the same conclusions.
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#55

Post by Byblos » Sun Jun 01, 2008 8:56 am

August wrote:GMan, it's a pretty tough issue, one which I'm sure most of us struggle with. And it is exactly the position I end up with in most discussions with YEC's as well. What does an objective hermeneutic look like, and how do other preconditions for interpretation of the text affect the result? I guess if we had agreement on that then we won't be having these types of discussions, everyone would come to the same conclusions.
In other words we'd all be Catholic 8-}2 .
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#56

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 8:58 am

August wrote:Hi Jac, congrats on getting married. Hope it truly is a blessed union.

A few questions for both you and Gman:
Have you given any thought to the differences in hermeneutic that we use to interpret general vs special revelation? Are there any differences? If so, what are they, and how do they influence the discussion you are having? Also, not to complicate things too much, but do you guys think that a consistent objective hermeneutic is the only precondition for the interpretation of Scripture? If there are other preconditions, how do they play into this discussion?
Thanks much, August. So long as we keep the Lord first, yes? :)

As far as your question goes, yes, I've given that quite a bit of thought. Actually, I've been something of obsessed with the concept of hermeneutics for the last two years now, with the past several months turning my attention directly to hermeneutics as it relates to general revelation. My thoughts, then, are still in process, but here's what I've come to so far.

There is a difference in the way we "interpret" general and special revelation, and this by their very natures. Special revelation is the self-revelation of an otherwise unknowable God. On this, Kai Neilsen has an outstanding argument that I don't think people have really understood. He argues that the word "God" doesn't have any inherent meaning, and thus, no matter how tight our arguments for His existence are, they are meaningless because the premises themselves turn out to be meaningless. If we take the Christian God at face value--His transcendence, infinity, and eternality--then Neilsen is exactly right. You can't define Him extra-lingustically, nor even intra-linguistically, because we can't, by definition encounter the transcendent.

Where he is wrong is with special revelation. Here, we can encounter Him to the degree that He has revealed Himself. Thus, I can define God as "the person of whom [insert biblical author] spoke," and then make further qualifications from there. My understanding of God, then, must begin with how I understand Scripture. Hermenutics, then, immediately come into play. It isn't just a matter of reading the Bible and "getting" God. I would argue this: there is only one way to properly understand God/Scripture, which is in the order of its progressive revelation. So I'm a huge proponent of "biblical theology" (as opposed to systematic or exegetical theology), that is, the tracing of the history of special revelation. You can't, then, just open Matthew, read it like a normal book, and expect to "get it," no matter how much you understand human language. Moreso, you must understand where you are in the course of special revelation.

This, though, is not at all the case with general revelation. Here, our hermeutic is more direct. We see, observe, and interpret based on what we directly experience. The only thing that can hinder our proper interpretations here are our own worldviews. Questions of objectivity in observation aside (I'm a Thomist here), the question is not what I'm seeing, but rather, what does what I am seeing imply? (IOW, am I being objective in my interpretation of g.r. ) I don't have to understand the progress of human knowledge to see that.

There is one more distinction worth bringing up: there are several areas of human knowledge. There is a difference in a scientific fact, a logical fact, a historical fact, a mathematical fact, etc. Here's a simple proof for that: give me a mathematical proof that George Washington was the first president of the US. You can't do it. You can, though, give me a historical proof. My interpretation of general revelation is made valid by how well I understand these categories, and how well my interpretation of any given observation lines up with observations and interpretations from other categories.

In short, the difference between g.r. hermeneutics and s.r. hermeneutics is this: g.r.h. is comparative, whereas s.r.h. is progressive. G.R.H. interpretations are subjected to tests of truth from other sources of knowledge, including Scripture (does this interpretation line up), whereas S.R.H. interpretations are subjected only to earlier established S.R. Truth. That is, I cannot invalidate a Scriptural truth by appealing to anything in G.R. (though I can offer corroborating evidence!), wheras I can invalidate a General truth by not only any given fact in G.R., but also by any given fact in S.R.

TL;DR - General revelation is interpreted directly and without reference to prior experience. It is subjected to tests of truth from other areas of human knowledge. Special revelation is interpreted progressively with complete reference to the a) the general context in which it was written and b) its place within the canon.

Thoughts?

fdit: all this, by the way, assumes a "literal" hermeneutic in both cases. Apples are apples, numbers are numbers, words are words, and figures of speech are figures of speech. Meaning can be properly discovered if meaning was invested in the thing observed.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#57

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 2:00 pm

BTW, August, looking at your last couple of posts with reference to hermeneutics, I think you would be very interested in Thomas Howe's Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation . Here's the link to it at Amazon (along with my review! ;)). It offers the most thorough discussion I've ever come across relating to the philosophical underpinnings of presuppositions, preunderstandings, objectivity, and interpretation. If you get it, let me know what you think.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#58

Post by August » Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:57 pm

Byblos wrote:
August wrote:GMan, it's a pretty tough issue, one which I'm sure most of us struggle with. And it is exactly the position I end up with in most discussions with YEC's as well. What does an objective hermeneutic look like, and how do other preconditions for interpretation of the text affect the result? I guess if we had agreement on that then we won't be having these types of discussions, everyone would come to the same conclusions.
In other words we'd all be Catholic 8-}2 .
Lol Byblos.

Now would that be Latin-rite local, Latin-rite catholic, Latin/Eastern-rite local, Latin/Eastern-rite catholic, Syro-Malabarese, Ukrainian, Romanian, Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Ruthenian, Hungarian, plural Oriental rites, Syro-Malankarese, Slovak or Coptic Catholic? y#-o y:-?
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#59

Post by August » Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:59 pm

Jac3510 wrote:BTW, August, looking at your last couple of posts with reference to hermeneutics, I think you would be very interested in Thomas Howe's Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation . Here's the link to it at Amazon (along with my review! ;)). It offers the most thorough discussion I've ever come across relating to the philosophical underpinnings of presuppositions, preunderstandings, objectivity, and interpretation. If you get it, let me know what you think.
Thanks Jac, will look into it. I also don't disagree vehemently with your longer piece above, in fact, I may want to add some comments and get your reaction.
Acts 17:24-25 (NIV)
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. [25] And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else."

//www.omnipotentgrace.org
//christianskepticism.blogspot.com

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#60

Post by Gman » Sun Jun 01, 2008 8:34 pm

August wrote:GMan, it's a pretty tough issue, one which I'm sure most of us struggle with. And it is exactly the position I end up with in most discussions with YEC's as well. What does an objective hermeneutic look like, and how do other preconditions for interpretation of the text affect the result? I guess if we had agreement on that then we won't be having these types of discussions, everyone would come to the same conclusions.
It is tricky so I don't have a clear answer. My guess would be how we interpret the Bible. It is nicely constructed into one book, but isn't it a series of books? Books within books constructed over a number of different generations with each generation putting their own flavor into it. Not to deny the author nor deny preceding information, I would probably have a hard time making it a black or white issue. It would be convenient to come up with an objective hermeneutic but I wouldn't think it would be that simple. In some cases I would even argue that we just don't know. Even in doing so I still wouldn't think that this is somehow degrading God's word or like how we interpret the word "yom". We can still agree that the events in the Bible were true events, it is still God breathed, it's just how those events occurred is what we can bring into question.
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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