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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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#136

Post by WWJnotD » Thu Jun 19, 2008 6:00 am

Gman wrote:Sorry, can't do that… You don't have Satan in the garden. All you have is a walking talking snake selling fruit to people. That is all you get IF you want to take a literal stance on it. Future revelation simply confirms that Adam and Eve were talking to the devil.
I haven't really thought much about it but it is interesting

I would say that it is a literal snake. But just from reading genesis 3 you don't have satan in the garden it never mentions his name. Satan was appearing as a serpent, possessing a serpent, or deceiving Adam and Eve into believing that it was the serpent who was talking to them. If this wasn't the case then for one i don't see the point in the writer naming the devil as a snake. Also it makes no sense atm for God to say all that he did in Gen3:14 and 15 if the devil at that time wasn't clothed as a snake. Adam and Eve assuming they heard God say it to satan would have been like WTF why would this angel be cursed above all the livetock when he isn't even part of the animal kingdom. Even if A and E didn't hear it it's a bit wierd cos the devil isn't curse and doesn't experience any of what God says in 14 and 15

in Rev12:9 and Rev20: 2 it also mentions satan being a serpent. Why if in the Garden the devil was just the devil speaking to A and E

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#137

Post by Jac3510 » Thu Jun 19, 2008 6:02 am

G, in all seriousness, I'm not going to walk you through a basic course in either hermeneutics on Hebrew grammar. You don't want that, I don't want to do it, and it wouldn't benefit the boards.

There is a LOT you are just misunderstanding, and that's fine. You certainly aren't going to receive that kind of instruction from me, and that's fine, too. I'm not offended in the least. That's what I get for not following Canuckster's wisdom in the little story of the Sun vs. the wind! Anyway, I would seriously recommend you go take some courses at a local Bible college. I've taken enough of these that I can recognize the genuine benefits of them as well as their limitations (just so you know, I have 18 hours in biblical languages and 12 (or 18, depending on how you count two other classes I took) hours in hermeneutics--not to brag, but just pointing out that I can at least tell you that the classes are worth taking). I have no doubt you would find them extremely interesting and very, very beneficial to your walk with the Lord. You can take extension courses, for example, through Tyndale Theological Seminary without trying to earn a degree. The classes are inexpensive and VERY good.

If you don't want to go that route--and that's fine. Some people just don't have time (or the interest). For good introductory stuff, let me make a few recommendations as far as reading material goes (the stuff you would be reading in Bible College/Seminary), in order of importance:

Hermeneutics:

1. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth , 2d ed. (NOT THIRD), by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
2. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard.
3. Basic Bible Interpretation, by Leroy and Roy Zuck
4. Living by the Book, by Howard Hendricks.
5. Protestant Biblical Interpretation, by Bernard Ramm.
6. Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, by Thomas Howe.

I'd also recommend picking up a copy of Things to Come by Dwight Pentecost and Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie and reading the opening chapters of each on hermeneutics. Pentecost's book has an excellent history of hermeneutics as well.

Regarding language, just a couple:

1. Basics of Biblical Greek, by William Mounce. There may be a third ed., out, I'm not sure.
2. Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics by Daniel Wallace. You need to read this one after you get through the former, but it has some GREAT discussions on syntax, figures of speech, etc. that will help you out a lot.
3. Biblical Hebrew: Step by Step, vol.1, by Menehem Mansoor.
4. Biblical Hebrew: Step by Step, vol.2, by Menehem Mansoor.

I'm not suggesting to you anything that I've not been through myself. On the language side, you may also want to consider the Hebrew and Greek Tutor (Bundle Back). They are excellent programs that I've used . . . they are older, so you may have to find an older machine to run them on to get get the full benefit.

Seriously, I appreciate what your arguments have been. I really do. You just have some fundamental misconceptions about historical-grammatical hermeneutics and about how biblical languages work on a grammatical level. That's the one really bad part about things like Strong's and Vine's. Take the classes or read through those books. I promise you'll find it VERY enriching. Even if you come out on the other end disagreeing with me, which is obviously totally possible, you'll have a firm understanding of how the issues have been parsed out.
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?

#138

Post by Gman » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:32 pm

Jac3510 wrote:G, in all seriousness, I'm not going to walk you through a basic course in either hermeneutics on Hebrew grammar. You don't want that, I don't want to do it, and it wouldn't benefit the boards.

There is a LOT you are just misunderstanding, and that's fine. You certainly aren't going to receive that kind of instruction from me, and that's fine, too. I'm not offended in the least. That's what I get for not following Canuckster's wisdom in the little story of the Sun vs. the wind! Anyway, I would seriously recommend you go take some courses at a local Bible college. I've taken enough of these that I can recognize the genuine benefits of them as well as their limitations (just so you know, I have 18 hours in biblical languages and 12 (or 18, depending on how you count two other classes I took) hours in hermeneutics--not to brag, but just pointing out that I can at least tell you that the classes are worth taking). I have no doubt you would find them extremely interesting and very, very beneficial to your walk with the Lord. You can take extension courses, for example, through Tyndale Theological Seminary without trying to earn a degree. The classes are inexpensive and VERY good.

If you don't want to go that route--and that's fine. Some people just don't have time (or the interest). For good introductory stuff, let me make a few recommendations as far as reading material goes (the stuff you would be reading in Bible College/Seminary), in order of importance:

Hermeneutics:

1. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth , 2d ed. (NOT THIRD), by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
2. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard.
3. Basic Bible Interpretation, by Leroy and Roy Zuck
4. Living by the Book, by Howard Hendricks.
5. Protestant Biblical Interpretation, by Bernard Ramm.
6. Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, by Thomas Howe.

I'd also recommend picking up a copy of Things to Come by Dwight Pentecost and Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie and reading the opening chapters of each on hermeneutics. Pentecost's book has an excellent history of hermeneutics as well.

Regarding language, just a couple:

1. Basics of Biblical Greek, by William Mounce. There may be a third ed., out, I'm not sure.
2. Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics by Daniel Wallace. You need to read this one after you get through the former, but it has some GREAT discussions on syntax, figures of speech, etc. that will help you out a lot.
3. Biblical Hebrew: Step by Step, vol.1, by Menehem Mansoor.
4. Biblical Hebrew: Step by Step, vol.2, by Menehem Mansoor.

I'm not suggesting to you anything that I've not been through myself. On the language side, you may also want to consider the Hebrew and Greek Tutor (Bundle Back). They are excellent programs that I've used . . . they are older, so you may have to find an older machine to run them on to get get the full benefit.

Seriously, I appreciate what your arguments have been. I really do. You just have some fundamental misconceptions about historical-grammatical hermeneutics and about how biblical languages work on a grammatical level. That's the one really bad part about things like Strong's and Vine's. Take the classes or read through those books. I promise you'll find it VERY enriching. Even if you come out on the other end disagreeing with me, which is obviously totally possible, you'll have a firm understanding of how the issues have been parsed out.
Jac, it's nothing against you personally.... I think you are ok... :wink: Let's just say we respectfully disagree with each other and be done with it. Perhaps we will never know the true meaning of Genesis 3... Sounds fair? Sorry if I came off a bit harsh there earlier... My bad.
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?

#139

Post by ttoews » Fri Jun 20, 2008 10:48 am

Jac3510 wrote:Let me start by saying that I have a good deal of respect for your position.
Thanks...and w/o intending in any way to sound patronizing and only intending to give you a compliment...I appreciate the maturity that you have demonstrated in your responses to me here.


Now, with that said, I want to understand how it could be applied consistently. Why would you say that Adam and Eve are probably historical? You also said you would take Noah to be historical and the very next line you said non-historical. I suspect a typo there . . . and what about the murdern of Cain/Abel? You take that to be historical, but how?....On the assumption that you hold to infallibility, I'm sure you've thought this through, so I'm curious as to how you would handle the problem.
It will take a few days more before I can respond as my life is a little more than hectic these days.

Cheers.

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#140

Post by ttoews » Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:29 pm

Jac3510 wrote:. Why would you say that Adam and Eve are probably historical?
b/c of the way in which they are referenced in the whole Bible.
You also said you would take Noah to be historical and the very next line you said non-historical. I suspect a typo there . . .
I wasn't clear enough...I am inclined to view the flood story as an allegory, but in so doing, I do not rule out the existence of a actual fellow named Noah who experienced a flood...and was saved by God's hand.
Put differently, what is the GENRE of Genesis 1-11? Allegory? If so, how can you say that some parts are historical and others aren't? And I'm especially interested in how Gen. 1-11 ties in with Gen. 12. I assume (please tell me if I'm wrong) that you take Abraham to be a historical person and the events of Gen 12-50 to be entirely historical in character.
I am inclined to view them (Gen 12-end) as being entirely historical, but am not adamant on the matter. Perhaps some non-literal has been mixed in with the historical...perhaps not. I believe that Moses is a possible candidate as the human author of Genesis...I have no other candidate to offer. If so, then in the process of inspiring Moses, God would have a) guided Moses in the matter of selecting and reducing oral tradition to writing, b) directly revealed to Moses things that were not known to his generation for Moses to record and/or c) guided Moses to select and compile existing inspired written works. If a) and c) were involved (and I believe such is a popular idea amongst those that hold to inerrancy) then Genesis would (likely) be a collection of existing stories composed by different people who were seperated by many centuries. The cultures of these story tellers would have been dramatically different from each other and dramatically different from Moses's culture(s) and our culture. As such, given the variation that was likely involved in the originators of, the times of, the audiences of and the cultures of the various stories that make up Genesis, I see it as no great difficulty believing that variations occurred in the genres of those various stories. Furthermore, our purest view of genres (ie. history must be history and nothing else) is a view that was developed over a considerable period of time and could have been a very foreign concept to the originators of the Genesis stories.
But Abraham's father was Terah, who is explicitly tied to Shem (and thus Noah) in the geneology of Gen. 11. So if the geneology is mythical, then how can we take the story on which it is based to be historical?
I don't know that I would say that the geneologies are "mythical"....That said, I see no problem with, (and I believe that the ancients shared this with me) having historical figures as the characters in an allegorical story or in a geneology that has an "allegorical" purpose... and in fact, the use of such historical figures can enhance the allegory.
It would seem to me that, if this were the case, then the Bible is not infallible, because it is asserting relationships between literal and non-literal people.
it depends on what you mean by infallible, doesn't it? If I told you a parable using Presidents Bush and Clinton as characters to teach the truth about how power can be abused, the story would not be infallible b/c I am not infallible, ...its infallibility wouldn't hinge on its historicity b/c it is not intended to teach history, but to teach a principle. The question is, then, would God refuse to use historical figures as characters in ancient allegorical (non-historical) stories (for the purpose of teaching theological truths) b/c it would offend certain modern sensibilities?
On the assumption that you hold to infallibility, I'm sure you've thought this through, so I'm curious as to how you would handle the problem.
hopefully the above gives some light

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#141

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:20 pm

Just so I understand you completely . . . are you saying that you are open to the idea that Genesis 1-11, and possibly 12-50, contains historical fiction? In using the term, I understand the connotations that come with the word "fiction," which is exactly why I use it. I am having trouble distinguishing your view from it, especially given your example of Presidents Bush and Clinton. It seems to me you are either proposing historical fiction as a valid understanding of Genesis, or that you haven't been clear, or that I'm simply having trouble understanding you (perhaps because I've simply not been exposed to your position before).
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?

#142

Post by ttoews » Sun Jun 29, 2008 11:05 am

Jac3510 wrote:Just so I understand you completely . . . are you saying that you are open to the idea that Genesis 1-11, and possibly 12-50, contains historical fiction?
I am reluctant to use the term "historical fiction" b/c that refers to a modern genre and Gen is not a modern work by any stretch of the imagination. Further, the (typical) purpose of historical fiction is to entertain, whereas the purpose of Gen 1-11 is to teach (and in my mind teach theological matters as opposed to history). Many view the story of the rich man and Lazarus (luke 16:19-31) as a parable, but it contains a role for an actual person, namely Abraham. If you too viewed that story as something that did not actually happen and if you believed that Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man in question all actually existed, would you think it should be called historical fiction?

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#143

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Jun 29, 2008 12:49 pm

Actually, I do take the "parable" of Lazarus and Abraham to be a real event, precisely because Abraham is in it., but what I believe doesn't have any bearing on what you believe.

OK, so you don't like the word "fiction," and I can understand why. If I may press the point, though, let me concede that literary genres like "historical fiction" come into existence by label until relatively recently. But, by the same token, diabetes didn't come into existence by label until relatively recently either. Just like people still got diabetes before they had a name for it, is it not possible that people still wrote "historical fiction" before they had a name for it?

The main characteristics of historical fiction are real people are found in real places doing real things that never really happened. It seems to me that you are saying this is exactly the case with much of the Bible. It has real people in real places doing things they never really did so as to make a theological point. If so, let me recast my question. Are you saying that you take much of the Bible to be of the same type of literature that we today call "historical fiction"?

Regardless of the label, let me ask you something else that directly relates. If all of the stories that mention an individual and his actions are taken to be myth or fiction or whatever word you want to use, on what basis do you take them to be real at all? Take Adam, for instance. If everything that deals with him is fictional in nature, then why should we not take Jesus', Paul's, or Matthew's references to him as an appeal to a known fictional character as well? And how can you determine what really happened and what didn't? That's the basic question I asked Gman dozens of times that he refused to answer.

On what basis do you determine what really happened and what didn'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?

#144

Post by Gman » Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:40 pm

Jac3510 wrote:That's the basic question I asked Gman dozens of times that he refused to answer.

On what basis do you determine what really happened and what didn't?
I have answered your question hundreds of times Jac.... Again..... I view Adam and the Garden of Eden as a historical narrative. Apparently YOU see it as a fable. I do not see the Garden of Eden as a fable... If you keep putting words in my mouth consider this a warning.
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?

#145

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Jun 29, 2008 5:19 pm

Gman wrote:
Jac3510 wrote:That's the basic question I asked Gman dozens of times that he refused to answer.

On what basis do you determine what really happened and what didn't?
I have answered your question hundreds of times Jac.... Again..... I view Adam and the Garden of Eden as a historical narrative. Apparently YOU see it as a fable. I do not see the Garden of Eden as a fable... If you keep putting words in my mouth consider this a warning.
A warning? I beg your pardon. First you accuse me of putting words in my mouth and then tell me that I (complete with emphasis) consider the story a fable, which is the complete opposite of the position I hold? Forgive me if that strikes me as being something of a doublestandard.

Now, at the polite intervention of a mod, allow me to express myself more clearly and, hopefully, more politely. If you do or ever did feel I was questioning your Christianity, accept my sincerest apologies. Your relationship with Christ is between you and Him. If you believe the Gospel, you are as saved as anyone else. I've not intended to question your salvation. I've intended to question the way you interpret Scripture (by that, I mean I want to understand it). I know that you consider Genesis to be historical narrative. I also know that you consider many elements within historical narratives to be non-literal. I asked you how you determined which elements were non-literal and which were not. It is that question you never answered. You gave instances of elements that you considered to be non-literal (i.e., Balaam's talking donkey and Lot's wife becoming a pillar of salt), but you never gave me any criteria by which you made those judgments. It is that criteria I was looking for.

ttoews and I have come to the same place in our discussion. He takes Gen. 1-12 to be somewhere between an allegory and what we might call today a "historical fiction," granted, of course, that we need a better term that "fiction" for several reasons. I happen to disagree with his classification. I take it as historical narrative. I think everything in Gen. 1-11 happened, in history, exactly like the text says it did. ttoews, however, has opted to challenge the genre of the passage, something I said was logically acceptable in your and my earliest discussions. I am, then, having a discussion with him on HIS premises, just as I was trying to do with you on yours.

On HIS premises, then, I want to know how HE distinguishes between historical characters/actions and non-historical characters/actions. I hope that would be a fair question. I expect him to give me an objective criteria by which these things can be known. ttoews and I go way back--back before, during, and after my own mod days. Back, in fact, to when this board was an Christian/Atheist debate forum. I have a tremendous level of respect for him because I know that he has taken the time to think through his positions. I've no doubt that he'll be able to answer my questions. I'm not playing "gotcha." I want to know how he interprets Scripture.

I wanted the same from you. From my perspective, I never got it. I never got an objective criteria by which you determined what was literal and what was non-literal. All I got was examples. The one common thread between those that I suggested--that which does not line up with human experience--you rejected without offering an alternative. Hey, that's fair. You don't have to answer any of my questions. But I'm sorry, you didn't answer me, which, again, is fine. We agreed to disagree.

Now, I would appreciate it if you wouldn't put words in my mouth and if you would lay off the threats. There's no reason not to be civil, and if I came across as anything less, accept my apologies.
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?

#146

Post by Gman » Sun Jun 29, 2008 7:01 pm

Jac3510 wrote:A warning? I beg your pardon. First you accuse me of putting words in my mouth and then tell me that I (complete with emphasis) consider the story a fable, which is the complete opposite of the position I hold? Forgive me if that strikes me as being something of a doublestandard.
Yes Jac... A warning. You repeating accuse me of following in the footsteps of John Domanic Crossan. Denying Christ's resurrection... You say that my interpretation of scripture does not allow for a historical narrative for which I have shown you numerous times that it does.... You then call Rich Deems pages as being weak and silly. Which leads us to a warning....
Jac3510 wrote:Now, at the polite intervention of a mod, allow me to express myself more clearly and, hopefully, more politely. If you do or ever did feel I was questioning your Christianity, accept my sincerest apologies. Your relationship with Christ is between you and Him. If you believe the Gospel, you are as saved as anyone else. I've not intended to question your salvation. I've intended to question the way you interpret Scripture (by that, I mean I want to understand it). I know that you consider Genesis to be historical narrative. I also know that you consider many elements within historical narratives to be non-literal. I asked you how you determined which elements were non-literal and which were not. It is that question you never answered. You gave instances of elements that you considered to be non-literal (i.e., Balaam's talking donkey and Lot's wife becoming a pillar of salt), but you never gave me any criteria by which you made those judgments. It is that criteria I was looking for.
Jac, I don't believe you... You have being questioning my Christianity or anyone else's Christianity if it doesn't align with YOUR Christianity... I have been answering every question you have proposed to me in the greatest detail. I have clearly shown you that the word "nachash" can either be taken as a figure of speech or other ways you can handle the word... Now you are just trying to bring up other arguments... Which brings the question. If you are so unhappy with this forum and Rich's pages, then why are you here?
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?

#147

Post by ttoews » Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:38 am

Jac3510 wrote:OK, so you don't like the word "fiction," ...
don't mind it that much...
..... is it not possible that people still wrote "historical fiction" before they had a name for it?
most certainly...my concern is with the modern understanding of what is the thing called "historical fiction". We have a great many labels for things and I suppose if we wanted to be more detailed, a tale involving a talking snake would be classified as fantasy vs. historical fiction. As stated, my main concern with the use of the term relates to the completely different purposes of modern historical fiction and ancient historical fiction (if such is the correct classification for bits of Gen)
The main characteristics of historical fiction are real people are found in real places doing real things that never really happened. It seems to me that you are saying this is exactly the case with much of the Bible.
...that should be "possibly the case with much (well less than half) of Gen."
Are you saying that you take much of the Bible to be of the same type of literature that we today call "historical fiction"?
the creation account => allegory
adam and eve in garden => allegory utilizing beings that actually existed (God, Adam, Eve and Satan...though the later unnamed)
Noah and the flood => inclined to view as allegory though also inclined to view it as based on an actual person
Babel => inclined to view as allegory
If all of the stories that mention an individual and his actions are taken to be myth or fiction or whatever word you want to use, on what basis do you take them to be real at all?
I am not sure why you would use "all". Allow me to rephrase your question to be: If a story that mentions an actual individual, but the story's events are taken to be as myth or fiction or whatever word you want to use, on what basis do you take the individual to be real at all? ...and then answer that question as it pertains to Adam.
Take Adam, for instance. If everything that deals with him is fictional in nature,....
I don't go with everything as fictional...I go with the story of the fall as allegory b/c that is what works best with the passge (IMHO).
In contrast, the story of Cain and Abel does not contain bits that cry out that it is an allegory (as per the fall). In creating man, God could have created a first couple or could have created a considerable population at once. Given what Gen and the rest of Scripture say, I believe that one of the truths that it teaches is that God went with the option of creating a first man and a first woman, namely Adam and Eve....and not with the greater population option.
... then why should we not take Jesus',
I take it you mean Jesus's reference to Abel?
... Paul's, or Matthew's references to him as an appeal to a known fictional character as well?
Paul appeals to the story that I recognize as allegorical...which is OK....lessons can be taught and truths drawn from allegories.
And how can you determine what really happened and what didn't?
I look at the text and draw the best conclusion that I can. For example, Luke, at the start of his gospel, clearly expresses his method and purpose...in contrast to the author(s) of Gen, who do not. In the case of the gospels it is extremely important that we can be assured that these things actually happened, and again, in contrast, I do not view it as being all that important for us to know how the fall actually occured....it is only important for us to know that a fall did occur.
On what basis do you determine what really happened and what didn't?
by guess and by golly ;) ...with a book like Luke, it is a rather easy thing to do....one can simply accept that Luke did what he purported to do. With Gen. we are not dealing with eyewitness accounts (unless one assumes that God dictated such an account to Moses). Instead we are dealing with ancient traditions. We don't know when the story of the fall reached the form that appears in the Bible (ie was it more detailed at one time?). We don't know if it was passed down orally or orally and then in written form before Moses(?) wrote it down as scripture. When did it acheive inerrancy? We don't know who first told the story and we don't know what that person's view was regarding use of a literal or non-literal genre. Given our ignorance I think it ill-advised to approach Gen with an assumption that it is to be taken literally or that it is to be taken allegorically or that the entire book is to be viewed as one type of genre. You seek objective criteria, but I don't think such can be offered (IIRC we have a different understanding wrt "objective" as well). I advocate a case by case approach utilizing all scriptural evidence available and am very opposed to the assumption of literalism (or to any other assumption, for that matter)

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#148

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Jun 30, 2008 5:14 pm

Ok, I see where you're coming from. I'm not going to press you much further . . . just one more question, I think, about that "objective" criteria. Obviously, the word itself is pretty nebulous, (I'm actually working my way through a 600 page work titled Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation) and it's amazing how many views on that simple word that there are. I don't mean anything too technical in the term. I'm pretty sure you know what I mean.

Anyway, all I want to know at this point is the relationship between a few of your statements:
I look at the text and draw the best conclusion that I can
.
.
.
by guess and by golly
On one hand, you don't think an objective criteria (whatever we mean by that) can be offered, so you opt for a case-by-case basis. I'm perfectly fine with that. But something tells me that you aren't arbitrarily labeling the creation account an allegory and the parting of the Red Sea as historical. Though we haven't discussed the Red Sea, I think I might see what your underlying basis for such classification is--that basis being the rough equivelant to what I am talking about in an "objective" criteria. In other words, I don't see you just guessing randomly at each of these assignments. You seem to take something of a form-critical approach. Luke is historical because he says as much, and the nature of the text is such that it demands a historical basis. Genesis, for you, is likely a collection of traditions passed down, compiled and amended by Moses under the inspiration of God, and thus may not require the same historicity by the nature of the form.

So, if I've understood you so far, then all I really have left to question you about is this:
I go with the story of the fall as allegory b/c that is what works best with the passge (IMHO). In contrast, the story of Cain and Abel does not contain bits that cry out that it is an allegory (as per the fall).
Obviously the bold is my addition. If I've understood you above, your primary emphasis is form and purpose. So how are you, in that context, making a case based on internal elements? I mean this: do the elements tell you something of the form, and, knowing the form, you understand how the entire story is to be interpreted, or does the form tell you something about the elements?

I ask because it gets back the question of criteria. Somewhere in your mind, you have a reason, even if on a case by case basis, for saying that this element "cries out that it is an allegory." I can't see you taking abnormal elements themselves as indicators of form alone, because that would mean that abnormal elements like Lazarus' resurrection would say something about the form of John's gospel. Likewise, Jesus' resurrection would say something about the form of Luke's gospel, and that would create an obvious contradiction. But if you say instead that you take the form first and, by that context, recognize allegorical elements, I'm not sure the lack of abnormal elements in Cain and Abel's account are any more informative than their presence in Adam's.

Outside of all that, I think your entire position is pretty coherent. Beyond this and we start getting into things like the composition of Genesis, the implications of inspiration/inerrancy, the nature of prophecy, etc. We don't need to go there in this thread. I mostly just wanted to see how you took Genesis 3 non-literally, and I think that you've pretty much answered that.

fakeedit: Yes, the passage I was talking about was the reference to Abel. That's what you get when you type before you think. :p
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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?

#149

Post by ttoews » Tue Jul 01, 2008 12:40 pm

Jac3510 wrote:Ok, I see where you're coming from. I'm not going to press you much further . .
by all means, press all you want
...by guess and by golly
twas just my way of saying it ain't physics...I can't produce an equation that gets me a irrefutable answer
But something tells me that you aren't arbitrarily labeling the creation account an allegory and the parting of the Red Sea as historical. Though we haven't discussed the Red Sea, I think I might see what your underlying basis for such classification is--that basis being the rough equivelant to what I am talking about in an "objective" criteria. In other words, I don't see you just guessing randomly at each of these assignments. You seem to take something of a form-critical approach. Luke is historical because he says as much, and the nature of the text is such that it demands a historical basis. Genesis, for you, is likely a collection of traditions passed down, compiled and amended by Moses under the inspiration of God, and thus may not require the same historicity by the nature of the form.
sounds like you've got a pretty good grasp of where I am coming from

. If I've understood you above, your primary emphasis is form and purpose. So how are you, in that context, making a case based on internal elements? I mean this: do the elements tell you something of the form, and, knowing the form, you understand how the entire story is to be interpreted, or does the form tell you something about the elements?
I think its a bit of both....and you are right, if I disected my decisions I could (on occasion) find something akin to objective criteria. When I look at a typical parable I note that Jesus provided enough detail to make the story coherent and to make his moral/theological/etc point...anything beyond that and the detail would probably be counterproductive wrt the teaching purpose. The Gen 1-11 stories (IMHO) do not provide the sort of extensive detail that cries out that this must be meant as an historical account (which is not to say all historical accounts must be detailed and that all allegories will be simple). So the simplicity of the story enables me to consider that the story may be allegorical. I have mentioned some elements that I have considered, but allow me to give you another. At verses 4-7 it reads:

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Now, if Eve did not possess a knowledge of good and evil at that time, the snake's remark would be similar to the snake telling a blind-from-birth Eve, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing red from blue." Her logical response would be, "What you talkin' about Willis? What is a red? What is a blue?" It is this sort of element that confirms the appropriateness of an allegorical understanding for the whole story. (I find that a literal approach raises as many questions as it answers...but that may just be my irregularity) Further, when one allows for the possiblity of such an interpretation I believe that one cannot help but note the way in which an allegorical interpretation works so well (as in eternal life coming from the fruit of a tree, Christ being said to have been killed by being hung on a tree {Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29 for example} and eternal life for all those who are saved coming from the fruit of Christ's work whilst hanging on that tree)...in other words, it seems to me that the allegorical interpretation does not have to be forced into the story, but is what works best. That in very brief summary is how I came to abandon a literal interpretation in favour of an allegorical one (wrt the story of the fall at least).

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Re: Bible stories literal or symbolic?

#150

Post by Gman » Fri Jul 04, 2008 8:01 am

I have moved part of this discussion on "nachash" to another section of the forum here. If you would like to join, please do so.
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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