Bible stories literal or symbolic?

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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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Kurieuo
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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#106

Post by Kurieuo » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:32 pm

Jac3510 wrote:Yes, K, it can clarify and even expand meaning. As you note, there is one Author of Scripture, and with that, I obviously agree. But future revelation CANNOT change the meaning of earlier revelation. That is, future revelation cannot invalidate the meaning of earlier revelation. Or, put yet differently, Scripture cannot mean one thing at one time and then mean another thing at another time.
Several comments:

1) If the whole canon of books considered Scripture are taken as whole, then there is no future books. When Genesis was inked this would mean the whole of the God's message was at this time incomplete.
2) Who said future revelation changed the meaning? Revelation is just that, a revealing of something new or showing greater clarity.
3) A lot of meaning in Scripture is not even properly understood today and requires much theological thought and spiritual insight. There is a reason why the Bible is often referred to as the Living Word. New meaning can be seen where there previously looked like none. I am sure we both have experienced this. This is not to say the words changed, but rather just that we were previously ignorant to the meaning of them. I see no reason why people at a different time could have simply not been aware to the full intended meaning. Perhaps some wise and close to God would have been. Regarding the "snake" in Genesis, much of what Revelation sheds light on about the identity of the snake is already obvious in Genesis given the "snake" is no ordinary snake with the intelligence it shows.
Jac wrote:Furthermore, to assert that Scripture cannot be properly understood until future revelation clarifies it sufficiently is to declare Scripture untintelligable concerning the original audience, which flies in the face of what Scripture actually is. It is in that sense that I say we cannot interpret earlier revelation based on our understanding of future revelation. That is exactly backwards.
It is you assert that Scripture would not have been properly understood until future revelation. Some wise and close to God very well would have been able to put two and two together to realise this was no ordinary snake. Furthermore, just like today many do not fully understand words in Scripture until a revelation dawns (and I am sure I will get many more in Scripture before I die), I see no reason why many in a different time could have missed understanding specific details the Author (God) actually meant.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#107

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Jun 14, 2008 5:25 am

Sorry, K, I just disagree. Illumination and revelation are different things. There is no new revelation. The canon is closed. You have never experienced revelation in the sense of biblical/progressive revelation.

Likewise, there is a difference in having insight into a text and having the text itself be "comprehendable." If you argue that a text cannot be understood until future revelation gets around to revealing a required component, then Scripture becomes unintelligible until that future revelation comes. Such a view also fails to recognize that all Scripture is occasional in nature. That is, it was written to convey a specific meaning to a specific people at a specific time. If, then, that Scripture was unintelligible at the time it was given (for lack of a necessary component to be given in future revelation), then God failed in His purpose in that revelation.

As it relates to the snake, then: I'm not saying the snake and Satan had no relationship. Clearly they do, but we know that from later revelation. But that relationship is unstated; what you cannot do, above all, is use future revelation to go back and change the meaning of previous revelation, arguing that the snake in the garden was, in fact, no snake at all. That kind of hermeneutic has had disastrous results in Church history, the most obvious of which is the advent of replacement theology and all the errors that come along with it.

Revelation is progressive, not regressive. We cannot interpret Scripture without understanding where we are in the revelatory stages (in terms of the point in history we are studying, not where we, the readers, are).
Last edited by Jac3510 on Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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?

#108

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Jun 14, 2008 6:10 am

Ok I'm fine with that. This is good news actually... Since you are fluent in Hebrew, then please explain to the panel why the Gesenius's Lexicon is giving these usages for the noun "nachash." (Strong's H5175)

Outline of Biblical Usage

1) serpent, snake

a) serpent
b) image (of serpent)
c) fleeing serpent (mythological)

1) a serpent, so called from it hissing (see the root). Gen. 3:1, seq.; Ex. 4:3; 7:15; 2 Ki. 18:4. Used of the constellation of the serpent or dragon in the northern part of the sky. Job 26:13
...
Next, I want you to explain why the Gesenius's Lexicon is giving these usages for the verb or root "nachash." (Strong's H5172)

Outline of Biblical Usage

1) to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen.

a) (Piel)
1) to practice divination
2) to observe the signs or omens

1) unused in Kal, an onomatopoetic word, i.q. to hiss, to whisper, especially used of the whispering soothsayers.
The word nachash, from the root NCHSH, means "snake." Going back to the root, NCHSH is an onomatopoeia. If you pronounce this using "proper" Hebrew, it's easy to see what that is the case. Heiser's spelling this "nakash" makes it difficult to see this. The reason he did it, though, wasn't because he didn't know better. He was just trying to make it easier. Proper Hebrew transliteration is almost as impossible to read as straight Hebrew if you don't know the language. So he substituted "K" for "CH."

Actually, the "CH/K" letter here (heth) is pronounced like the ch in "loch ness." It is a hissing sound. Further, in all languages you have voiced and unvoiced consonants. Voiced consonants are those that produce a "tone" when you say them, like "b" or "v" or "l." Make the sounds of these letters out loud, and you will here your voice. Unvoiced letters, though, are those that produce no tone--no voice--when vocalized, but instead only the sound of passing air. In English, such letters would be "s" or "f" or "h." Again, make these sounds out loud, and you will find no voice to them.

In Hebrew, the N is voiced, but the CH and SH are unvoiced (unfortunately, though, a K is voiced, so if we pronounced this "naKash" we add a voice in the middle of the word that is not intended). Because of that, the Hebrews took that root, thinking it sounded like a whisper, and used it as an onomatopoeia for whispering. When used in the Qal ("Kal" in the lexicon you are citing) form, this whispering has the idea of hissing or whispering; in the Piel form, it has the idea of divination (because such practice would include a mystical "whispering." We've all seen that before. Or, there actually may be no direct connection with the Piel at all. It may actually be the NCHSH represents two different roots: "whisper" and "diviner").

Back, then, to nachash. Snakes hiss, so they took that root and made a word out of it to name snakes. This, then, does not say that snakes are not really nachashim (the plural form of nachash); nor does it mean that a nachash isn't really what we call of snake. It means that the thing that you and I refer to by employing the word "snake," the Hebrews referred to by employing the word "nachash." In linguistic terms, "nachash" is the sign and the snake itself is the referent. It doesn't really matter what the sign is. What we are after is the referent. Because God was speaking to a people who spoke Hebrew, He used the Hebrew sign, which is "nachash."

As an aside, this is why it is important not to put TOO much emphasis on roots, although they are certainly very important. Consider, again, the word "nechosheth." It has a root of NCHSH as well, but it has no idea of divination or whispering at all. It means brightness, and actually goes back to the idea of copper or brass. And this is where we start getting too detailed, because the root of Heiser's "nechosheth" isn't even NCHSH, but rather passes through two other changes: from NCHSH to NCHWSH (which means "bronze") to our word. Why, then, is this connection" Allow me to quote the TWOT:
R. Laird Harris wrote:Some scholars think the words are related because of a common color of snakes (cf. our "copperhead"), but others think that they are only coincidently similar. (TWOT, II:571)
The point here is that roots are important, but like anything else in etymology, they are not the end all of lexicography. Overemphasis on a words etymology can lead to improper interpretation.

This is why I keep emphasizing, "Nachash" and "Nechosheth" are two different words. If you want to follow Heiser and take the word in Genesis 3 as "Nechosheth," then fine by me. I have no argument with that. But if you do that, then you can't argue that the word "snake" is a figure of speech, precisely because there is no use of the word snake (in Hebrew) in the text--it is a mistranslation. Likewise, if you wish to take the word to be "Nachash," then you can drop the "bright one" argument, because the words are not related. You can't conflate the two. That is why I said we can't critique and thus accept or reject your argument until you give us one to work with.
Given the fact that I'm much older than you I think I could come up with a number of sarcastic remarks to this statement, but since I want to take the higher ground on this I won't.
No sarcasm was intended. I don't like to go into Hebrew/Greek grammar lessons in discussions like this, because I feel like it sounds condescending. Sometimes, it is unfortunately necessary, and when that is the case, I want you to be aware that we're not dealing with an advanced syntactical issue that scholars are debating about. This is just standard, first year stuff that absolutely everyone agrees on. Again, no offense intended, much less any sarcasm. I don't expect you've taken Hebrew, so you are using Strong's to get to the underlying words. Hey, glad for it. Strong's is great for what it is, but you have to understand it for what it is. It is a Greek/Hebrew tool for those who don't understand Greek and Hebrew. Things have to be simplified and glossed over. Most of the time, there's absolutely no problem with that. But other times, it can create unnecessary confusion.
Well, if you want to go that route, you cannot make a snake talk or walk either. You are confusing the literal with the symbolic. You simply cannot do that... Unless of course if you want to use animation...
Or I could say that snakes could walk and talk before the Fall. I do believe that they could walk. Talking? That, I don't know. The Bible doesn't explicitly say, so I posit some scenarios. Regardless, I take what the text says at face value. Sense I take NCHSH in Gen 3 to be a "nachash," I take it that a snake actually spoke. How? I don't know. Maybe it was just a simple as God let it. Maybe Adam and Eve could talk to all animals before the Fall. Maybe all animals could talk. Maybe only snakes could talk. Maybe Satan empowered this one snake to talk, and it didn't freak out Eve because there was no fear before the Fall. Maybe it did freak her out, but that's beside the point of the text. Maybe some of the conversation was left out. Maybe the conversation took place over the course of several days! Truncated conversations are common in Scripture.

All this is not to suggest THE answer. It is only to say that when God says to me, "Yup, Chris, that snake REALLY did talk," that I know that there are one of several possible solutions. Just because I don't know WHICH one doesn't mean that there is no such solution.

edit:
1) FYI, I'm not fluent in Hebrew. I've been through a year of it, and I have special interest in the subject as it is where I want to get my Ph.D.
2) With reference to the above, I just want you to tell me if you are taking NCHSH as "Nachash" or "Nechosheth" so that we can continue. :)
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?

#109

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Jun 14, 2008 6:48 am

And for the Hat-trick!
ttoews wrote:original meaning is not the same thing as original understanding. When the OT speaks of God, the ultimate Author knew what kind of God was being considered, however, the Jews would not have understood the OT God to be triune in nature....and God seems to have been OK with his people possessing a more "simple" less accurate understanding until further revelation disclosed his triune nature.
Yes, but a simple, and less accurate understanding is still accurate to some degree. That's why I keep saying that future revelation can't CHANGE the meaning of former revelation, for that would make the simple understanding totally inaccurate.
God is aware of the experience of his audience and (I believe) would take such experience into account when inspiring the text of scripture. The Jews would have been well aware of what snakes can and can't do...and so a story about a snake doing what only men and angels could do, would be cause for the Jews to understand that the text should not be taken literally.
I think you are just reading too much of a post-Enlightenment mentality into the text here. The people had just come out of Egypt where they had been for 400 years. Godlike animals, complete with the ability to talk, was not uncommon. There isn't any reason to assert that they would have some sort of modernistic mindset that would recoil at the thought of a snake talking.
so, should we, like the Roman Catholics, disregard our experience and hold that it is actually the body and blood of Jesus that is consumed at the Lord's Supper? Should we expect to see an earth with four corners? Or should we understand that when the words of scripture conflicts with what we actually see, it is likely that figures of speech or symbols (something not to be taken literally) is involved?
No, and I've never once asserted that a literal interpretation of Scripture does not allow for figures of speech. I've said just the opposite over and over. I don't mind clarifying misunderstandings, but it gets near offensive when the same old discredited arguments are used. If we are going to have a conversation, let's have a conversation and not play "gotcha."

AGAIN: a literal method of interpretation--better referred to as the "historical-grammatical-contextual method" takes figures of speech as figures of speech. Further, it takes literal statements as literal statements. When God said a snake spoke, then we believe a snake spoke. When God said Abraham would get that land forever, we believe that Abraham will get that land forever. God didn't come back 1800 years later and say, "Oh, remember that snake that I told you talked in the Garden. I tricked you. It wasn't really a snake. What I MEANT by that was a fallen angel. Haha. Silly people, thinking you take me at face value . . . what? No, I'm not being deceptive! It was a figure of speech! What? You say you had no way of knowing that it was? Oh . . . hmmm . . ." And, by the same principle, and more importantly, God didn't come back 2200 years later and say, "Oh, Abraham: that land I promised you. Yeah, I didn't REALLY mean you were getting THAT land. I was just using that to refer to Heaven. I just thought you should know first, because I'm about to go tell this guy Paul down there that I was being figurative without telling you. Yeah, I know lead you to believe something that wasn't true, but really, this is so much better. I mean . . . it's heaven. Why would you want some silly old land anyway when you get heaven? Because it was PROMISED to you? Abe! You missed the point. It was NOT promised to you. I was using words you understood one way intentionally to make you believe one thing when I really meant something else. But relax, I'm telling that to Paul now. Really, all Scripture is written by One Author--Me--and I knew what I meant. It doesn't matter that you didn't know."
so you think that these are not figures of speech?
Well they are certainly descriptive terms of snakes and doves. Jesus is certainly romanticizing certain character traits to make a point, but that IS the point. Those character traits exist in those animals. Snakes are crafty; doves are innocent. If they aren't then Jesus couldn't have said that they are. Not without being mistaken, of course.
likewise, from later revelation, we come to see that a non-literal interpretation is affirmed
No, we don't. From later revelation we see that the curse on the snake can also be, in some sense, taken to be a curse on Satan. That does not undermine the original, literal interpretation.
it is not just about possibilities...it is also about probability. We have clashed on this before. From over here, your approach seems to be to impose a literal interpretation if at all possible (disregarding probability in the process). I believe that I approach the text with an openess to both a literal or a non-literal interpretation/reading and adopt what appears to be the most probable.
And you know I disagree, so no need to go back down that road. I believe your hermeneutic subjects the Bible to human rationalism, making your reason superior to and the authority over Scripture. By that hermeneutic, we can easily interpret the resurrection narrative so that the resurrection never literally happened.
would you also disregard the culture of the audience when approaching a text?...or would you take that into account to arrive at the more probable understanding?
That is primarily what I would take into account. It is part of the historical-grammatical-contextual process of interpretation. But as I said before, you can't impose a post-Enlightenment mindset of 19th century BC Hebrews.
I have mentioned some things, but it is not just the snake, but the whole story that smacks of non-historical event. I don't approach it by isolating one character and analyzing whether that one character is to be understood in a literal or non-literal fashion....I approach the story as a whole
So you take the entire story non-literal. Fine. You are challenging the GENRE, then, which you are allowed to do. If you go back, you will see that is one of the ways I allowed Gman to take the snake as non-literal.
At the time that this passage was inspired the snake portrays a non-human, non-divine temptor....apparently it was unnecessary to expressly name the snake as Satan at that time...though the more astute may have made the connection anyhow
in light of the fact that you take the entire story as mythological, then you can say that. Those of us who take it as literal history can't.
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?

#110

Post by Gman » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:22 am

Jac3510 wrote:So you take the entire story non-literal. Fine. You are challenging the GENRE, then, which you are allowed to do. If you go back, you will see that is one of the ways I allowed Gman to take the snake as non-literal.
Oh, so you are "allowing" me to take the snake as non-literal? Sounds like you are "the" authority on scripture... I respond to your other comments later...
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?

#111

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:32 am

No, Gman, I'm not "allowing" you anything. It's rather silly of you to pick on one word and try to read something into it. You can obviously do whatever you want. You can believe that A can equal non-A if you like. It doesn't matter that if violates the law of non-contradiction. If, though, you want to keep the standard "rules" of logic, then, no, you aren't "allowed" to do that.

I was offering you a series of ways out of my objection. By the standard rules human interpretation, that which is historical narrative is historical. Individual components are only taken to be non-literal if they are being used as figures of speech. My problem with the hermeneutic you are employing is that you are taking a literal sign (the word "snake") and using it a non-litearl way without contextual backing. If you "allow" that into your "rule" base, then you allow that for ALL literal signs. And thus, the resurrection can likewise be taken figuratively (which is where you get into mode vs. meaning debates, which is where Crossan comes back into the picture).

You can avoid this chrage, though, by challening, as ttoews has done, the genre of the literature. If the entire account is non-historical, then we cannot read it as a historical narrative. The snake then can well be non-literal even if it is used in a literal sense in the story precisely because that is how non-literal accounts work.

An example:

Suppose your friend is telling you that she went to the store to buy bread and milk. During the story, she says she was running late, so she had to run like the wind to get back on time. Clearly, "run like the wind" is a figure of speech. You know that wind doesn't run, but you understand what she is literally saying. However, you cannot say that "bread" is non-literal. If, then, you allow the word "bread" to refer to "any type of food," then anything in the story can be non-literal, including the friend herself, and the entire story becomes meaningless.

Ah, you may argue, but the word "bread" doesn't refer to "any old food" in my experience, and therefore, I know that she meant it literally. To which I reply that "bread" DOES refer to "any old food" in your experience. Have you never heard anyone said, "I'm the breadwinner in the household," or "My job is to put the bread on the table."

So, are we to say that because the word "bread" has, in some clearly defined senses, a non-literal sense, that it must always be non-literal? Of course not. In the course of historical narrative (as in the story your friend told you), you take the signs as literal unless otherwise indicated. You are not "allowed" to take "bread" as non-literal in the story.

This isn't, then, a matter of me, personally, "allowing" you to do anything. This is just a matter of the way human communication works.
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?

#112

Post by Gman » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:05 am

Jac wrote:Revelation is progressive, not regressive. We cannot interpret Scripture without understanding where we are in the revelatory stages (in terms of the point in history we are studying, not where we, the readers, are).
Then you are stuck, because if you take the Genesis 3 snake to mean a literal snake then NOWHERE does it imply that it was the devil either. Plain and simple… You can't “progress” to say that it was a literal snake AND the devil together in Genesis 3. You will have to rely on other scripture to pull your hat tricks.. Sorry.
Jac wrote:What YOU have to decide is whether or not this WORD (not root) is Nachash or Nechosheth. If the former, it is translated "snake." If the latter, it is translated "bright one." You cannot, however, translate this "snake," and say, as Bullinger does, that this "snake" is a way to refer to a bright one.
I want to go back to this other statement of yours first. First off, Bullinger is a highly respected Biblical scholar endorsed by numerous Christians and other famous Biblical scholars. He is even backed by the Baker and Zondervan book publishing companies. If you are a Christian, I'm sure you have other books by these two companies as well. These are NOT cults nor are they Satanic and neither was Bullinger. So, that being said, if you want to lump Bullinger into this witch hunt as well, I'm sure I can find numerous other Christians who would disagree with what you are saying here.

That being said, I don't think we can “poof” away his argument in one sentence. Let's get back to what Bullinger said.

“The Hebrew word rendered "serpent" in Gen. 3:1 is Nachash (from the root Nachash, to shine), and means a shining one. Hence, in Chaldee it means brass or copper, because of its shining. Hence also, the word Nehushtan, a piece of brass, in 2Kings 18:4. In the same way Saraph, in Isa. 6:2, 6, means a burning one, and, because the serpents mentioned in Num. 21 were burning, in the poison of their bite, they were called Saraphim, or Saraphs.

But with the LORD said unto Moses, "Make thee a fiery serpent" (Num. 21:8), He said, "Make thee a Saraph", and , in obeying this command, we read in v. 9, "Moses made a Nachash of brass". Nachash is thus used as being interchangeable with Saraph. Now, if Saraph is used of a serpent because its bite was burning, and is also used of a celestial or spirit-being (a burning one), why should not Nachash be used of a serpent because its appearance was shining, and be also used of a celestial or spirit-being (a shining one)?” - Bullinger

As you can see it seems that Bullinger is saying that instead of using a literal translation of "nachash", you can also look at it “figuratively” using the root. He then gives an example of "nachash" used in Numbers 21:8. “Nachash” is thus used as being interchangeable with the noun Saraph which also means serpent, fiery serpent, seraphim (Strongs H8314). Verse nine is actually the kicker, it states “And Moses made a serpent of brass.” The exact same word “nachash" used to describe the serpent in Genesis 3 (Strongs H5175). He then asks, “why should not Nachash be used of a serpent because its appearance was shining, and be also used of a celestial or spirit-being (a shining one)?” I think it quite clear here that we can't fuse with word “nachash" into one literal understanding here from the root “nachash". That is my point with Bullinger. Can "nachash" be used as a literal snake? Absolutely. I've never said no to that. Ever... But could it also be used as a shining one? In this case it is a possibility, we really can't say no to that either.
Jac wrote:This is why I keep emphasizing, "Nachash" and "Nechosheth" are two different words. If you want to follow Heiser and take the word in Genesis 3 as "Nechosheth," then fine by me. I have no argument with that. But if you do that, then you can't argue that the word "snake" is a figure of speech, precisely because there is no use of the word snake (in Hebrew) in the text--it is a mistranslation. Likewise, if you wish to take the word to be "Nachash," then you can drop the "bright one" argument, because the words are not related. You can't conflate the two. That is why I said we can't critique and thus accept or reject your argument until you give us one to work with.
What on earth are you talking about? Who was ever said that "Nachash" and "Nechosheth" are the same words? This is what Heiser said,

“What is different about this approach is that I view the base word, nachash, as an adjective, not a noun. The NOUN spelled nachash in Hebrew can mean: snake / serpent or one who practices of divination. The adjective means “bright, brazen” and is itself the base word for other nouns in Hebrew, like “shining brass.”

He said the noun can mean snake / serpent or one who practices of divination and the adjective means “bright, brazen”. He doesn't even address "Nechosheth.”
Jac wrote:No sarcasm was intended. I don't like to go into Hebrew/Greek grammar lessons in discussions like this, because I feel like it sounds condescending. Sometimes, it is unfortunately necessary, and when that is the case, I want you to be aware that we're not dealing with an advanced syntactical issue that scholars are debating about. This is just standard, first year stuff that absolutely everyone agrees on. Again, no offense intended, much less any sarcasm. I don't expect you've taken Hebrew, so you are using Strong's to get to the underlying words. Hey, glad for it. Strong's is great for what it is, but you have to understand it for what it is. It is a Greek/Hebrew tool for those who don't understand Greek and Hebrew. Things have to be simplified and glossed over. Most of the time, there's absolutely no problem with that. But other times, it can create unnecessary confusion.
No I haven't taken any Hebrew. I do have a number of lexicons here plus a number of different commentaries at my disposal. I still don't know, your remarks are becoming increasing condescending. I hate to burst your bubble, but I know a number of other scholars who would disagree with you.
Jac wrote: Or I could say that snakes could walk and talk before the Fall. I do believe that they could walk.
How so? Where is your proof?
Jac wrote: Talking? That, I don't know. The Bible doesn't explicitly say, so I posit some scenarios. Regardless, I take what the text says at face value. Sense I take NCHSH in Gen 3 to be a "nachash," I take it that a snake actually spoke. How? I don't know. Maybe it was just a simple as God let it. Maybe Adam and Eve could talk to all animals before the Fall. Maybe all animals could talk. Maybe only snakes could talk. Maybe Satan empowered this one snake to talk, and it didn't freak out Eve because there was no fear before the Fall. Maybe it did freak her out, but that's beside the point of the text. Maybe some of the conversation was left out. Maybe the conversation took place over the course of several days! Truncated conversations are common in Scripture.
There is nothing in scripture that states that animals could talk or have an intellectual ability to converse with humans. If you want to start adding in words into the Bible to back up your argument, then you are guilty too of altering it...
Jac wrote: All this is not to suggest THE answer. It is only to say that when God says to me, "Yup, Chris, that snake REALLY did talk," that I know that there are one of several possible solutions. Just because I don't know WHICH one doesn't mean that there is no such solution.

edit:
1) FYI, I'm not fluent in Hebrew. I've been through a year of it, and I have special interest in the subject as it is where I want to get my Ph.D.
2) With reference to the above, I just want you to tell me if you are taking NCHSH as "Nachash" or "Nechosheth" so that we can continue.
I don't know what you are talking about. I said that "Nechosheth" is generally interpreted as brasen, brass and is a derivative of "nachash".
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?

#113

Post by Gman » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:20 am

Jac wrote:No, Gman, I'm not "allowing" you anything. It's rather silly of you to pick on one word and try to read something into it. You can obviously do whatever you want. You can believe that A can equal non-A if you like. It doesn't matter that if violates the law of non-contradiction. If, though, you want to keep the standard "rules" of logic, then, no, you aren't "allowed" to do that.
And it's rather silly of you to imply that snakes can walk and talk or sell fruit to people. Again, I have never said that the word "Nachash" can't mean a literal snake… So don't talk to me about rules of logic, because logic is not on your side either when it comes to a walking talking snake salesman... :wink:
Jac wrote:I was offering you a series of ways out of my objection. By the standard rules human interpretation, that which is historical narrative is historical. Individual components are only taken to be non-literal if they are being used as figures of speech. My problem with the hermeneutic you are employing is that you are taking a literal sign (the word "snake") and using it a non-litearl way without contextual backing. If you "allow" that into your "rule" base, then you allow that for ALL literal signs. And thus, the resurrection can likewise be taken figuratively (which is where you get into mode vs. meaning debates, which is where Crossan comes back into the picture).

You can avoid this chrage, though, by challening, as ttoews has done, the genre of the literature. If the entire account is non-historical, then we cannot read it as a historical narrative. The snake then can well be non-literal even if it is used in a literal sense in the story precisely because that is how non-literal accounts work.

An example:

Suppose your friend is telling you that she went to the store to buy bread and milk. During the story, she says she was running late, so she had to run like the wind to get back on time. Clearly, "run like the wind" is a figure of speech. You know that wind doesn't run, but you understand what she is literally saying. However, you cannot say that "bread" is non-literal. If, then, you allow the word "bread" to refer to "any type of food," then anything in the story can be non-literal, including the friend herself, and the entire story becomes meaningless.

Ah, you may argue, but the word "bread" doesn't refer to "any old food" in my experience, and therefore, I know that she meant it literally. To which I reply that "bread" DOES refer to "any old food" in your experience. Have you never heard anyone said, "I'm the breadwinner in the household," or "My job is to put the bread on the table."
Again, you are missing the point.... I'm not arguing that a snake (an actual live snake) can be taken as a literal (or symbolic for that matter) figure of the Bible. I understand what you are saying very clearly. It is a possibility… Or like I stated possibly not too… Ultimately, in certain cases, we just don't know. Other animals who are used to symbolize people include the fox, lion, eagles, fish, bull, deer, wolf, horse, and others.. People can also be referred to plants or even bread (Christ).

As an example, let's look at Matthew 15:13..

13But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

Does this passage imply people or plants? After all it says nothing about people, therefore under your understanding this passage implies literal plants since God created and planted all the plants too. I disagree....
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?

#114

Post by ttoews » Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:42 am

Jac3510 wrote:Yes, but a simple, and less accurate understanding is still accurate to some degree.
yes, and even your literal interpretation has accuracy...Adam and Eve were tempted, yielded to it and they were seperated from God as a result of their sin...it is just that Gen 3 doesn't describe how it literally happened

I think you are just reading too much of a post-Enlightenment mentality into the text here.
and I think you don't give the ancients enough credit
The people had just come out of Egypt where they had been for 400 years. Godlike animals, complete with the ability to talk, was not uncommon.
the idea of talking beasts might have been common within a religion that was to be utterly rejected...the actual existence of beasts that could talk of their own accord is something that the Israelites would not have experienced. But in any event, if they were to draw from their exposure to Egyptian "godlike animals" wouldn't they then conclude that the character in the story was a god and not a mere snake?
There isn't any reason to assert that they would have some sort of modernistic mindset that would recoil at the thought of a snake talking.
it doesn't require a modernistic mindset...the ancients weren't naive rubes who thought animals could talk by their own power
so, should we, like the Roman Catholics, disregard our experience and hold that it is actually the body and blood of Jesus that is consumed at the Lord's Supper? Should we expect to see an earth with four corners? Or should we understand that when the words of scripture conflicts with what we actually see, it is likely that figures of speech or symbols (something not to be taken literally) is involved?
No, and I've never once asserted that a literal interpretation of Scripture does not allow for figures of speech. I've said just the opposite over and over.
I know...no gotcha moment was intended here.
AGAIN: a literal method of interpretation--better referred to as the "historical-grammatical-contextual method" takes figures of speech as figures of speech. Further, it takes literal statements as literal statements.
and does it take myths as myths? The trick is to recognize which is which as opposed to requiring all to be understood literally unless it is absolutely impossible to do so
When God said a snake spoke, then we believe a snake spoke. When God said Abraham would get that land forever, we believe that Abraham will get that land forever.
and when God said that all his promises were fulfilled...you don't take it at face value...but we've been over that before.
God didn't come back 1800 years later and say, "Oh, remember that snake that I told you talked in the Garden. I tricked you. It wasn't really a snake. What I MEANT by that was a fallen angel. Haha. Silly people, thinking you take me at face value . . . what?
perhaps God could have said to the literalists, ""Oh, remember that snake that I told you talked in the Garden. Why in the world did you take that story literally? You're smart enough to know snakes can't actually talk...on that alone you should have known that it wasn't history. Stop complaining that I tricked you...you've fooled yourself by not using a little common sense..."
No, I'm not being deceptive! It was a figure of speech! What? You say you had no way of knowing that it was?
my point, in part, was that we have a means of knowing that the wine is not actually Jesus's blood...that means is experience. The ancients had the same means, namely experience, of knowing that snakes don't actually talk or reason...and so, they had a way of knowing that Gen 3 ain't history.
And you know I disagree, so no need to go back down that road. I believe your hermeneutic subjects the Bible to human rationalism, making your reason superior to and the authority over Scripture. By that hermeneutic, we can easily interpret the resurrection narrative so that the resurrection never literally happened.
You need to drop this "slippery slope" argument for a number of reasons:
1) perhaps you are prone to such extremes but not me, so "we" can not easily interpret the resurrection narrative so that the resurrection never literally happened. The contents and the manner in which the four gospels are presented, the contents of the epistles and the writings of the apostolic fathers (especially in opposition to the gnostics) all prevent me from doing so.
2) all approaches can be subject to abuse, including you "literal' approach, as I have shown with the literal understanding of the Lord's Supper; and
3) it is irrelevant. The issue is whether Gen 3 is historic or not. If you allow your distrust of my hermeneutic to affect your conclusion, then you are allowing something outside of scripture to determine (in whole or in part) your interpretation
would you also disregard the culture of the audience when approaching a text?...or would you take that into account to arrive at the more probable understanding?
That is primarily what I would take into account. It is part of the historical-grammatical-contextual process of interpretation. But as I said before, you can't impose a post-Enlightenment mindset of 19th century BC Hebrews.
so you do look at something outside of scripture...and their culture would have been one which would have been well aware of the limitations of snakes with respect to speech and argumentation.
So you take the entire story non-literal. Fine. You are challenging the GENRE, then, which you are allowed to do.
to be precise, I am challenging your claim wrt the genre.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#115

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:25 pm

ttoews:

I appreciate your comments, but our conversation is just going to go into things that we've been over before. Let me just ask you something straight: what do you take the genre of Genesis 1-11 to be?

Gman:

I'm still waiting on you to tell me if you take the word NCHSH to be nacham or nechosheth, and thus, how you think it should be translated.
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?

#116

Post by ttoews » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:52 pm

Jac3510 wrote:ttoews:

I appreciate your comments, but our conversation is just going to go into things that we've been over before. Let me just ask you something straight: what do you take the genre of Genesis 1-11 to be?
I suppose an allegorical story or something akin to it...same as i'd categorize Gen 3.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#117

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:25 am

Fair enough, and at what point do the stories become historical? Specifically, would you consider Cain/Abel, Seth, Noah, and/or the Tower of Babel stories to be allegorical/of the same nature as Genesis 3? I am, of course, assuming that you take Genesis 12ff to be historical narrative, but if you don't, please clarify.

Thanks
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?

#118

Post by Gman » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:02 pm

Jac3510 wrote:Gman:

I'm still waiting on you to tell me if you take the word NCHSH to be nacham or nechosheth, and thus, how you think it should be translated.
Again, it's not how it "should" be translated but how it "could" be translated.

G -
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?

#119

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:30 pm

Yes, I've already conceded that. I am asking if you think the word is nachash or if you think the word is nechosheth. These are two different words. Depending on which word you think it is will tell us how we CAN translate it. So, what word are we translating, Gman? Are we translating nachash OR are we translating nechosheth? More directly, is the Hebrew word in Genesis 3:1, 2, 4, 14 (all NCHSH) nachash or nechosheth?

Here is a quick link to the online Strong's concordance I assume you've been using (if not, I recommend, because it is easy); it'll open right to Genesis 3. Click the verses, look at the Hebrew, and please tell me which word you say we are dealing with.
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?

#120

Post by Gman » Mon Jun 16, 2008 10:11 pm

Jac3510 wrote:Yes, I've already conceded that. I am asking if you think the word is nachash or if you think the word is nechosheth. These are two different words. Depending on which word you think it is will tell us how we CAN translate it. So, what word are we translating, Gman? Are we translating nachash OR are we translating nechosheth? More directly, is the Hebrew word in Genesis 3:1, 2, 4, 14 (all NCHSH) nachash or nechosheth?

Here is a quick link to the online Strong's concordance I assume you've been using (if not, I recommend, because it is easy); it'll open right to Genesis 3. Click the verses, look at the Hebrew, and please tell me which word you say we are dealing with.
What's your beef with nechosheth? You keep bringing this word up, not me or the others. They look like two different words to me. Did I ever say nechosheth and nachash are the same words?

Read what I've written before.... I'm growing tired of this.
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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