Non-literalist hermeneutics


I think there are things in scripture a person must interpret literally to be a Christian. The most obvious is Jesus’ birth, death on the cross, and resurrection. There does seem to be, however, a wide range of views on interpreting portions of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

The fundamentalists/strict literalists hold that their hermeneutic is the only consistent one. They concede that some passages must be interpreted non-literally but that these passages are rare; the only time a passage should not be interpreted literally is when context makes it 100% clear that the Bible is speaking figuratively. Fundamentalists pejoratively describe non-fundamentalist hermeneutics as “picking and choosing” what to interpret literally.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul wrote that all scripture is God-breathed.

My questions are for non-fundamentalists…
-How do you conclude that a given text should not be interpreted literally?
-Miracles are inconsistent with scientific theories and presumably you believe they happened, (at the very least Jesus’), so why do you take a non-literal approach to other things described in scripture that are inconsistent with scientific theories?
-What does 2 Timothy 3:16 mean to you?


-How do you conclude that a given text should not be interpreted literally?

If you belong to the RC or EC church, they do that for you - or at least, guide you in the process. Same goes for Protestant bible study groups, speaking with ministers, etc. Let’s take a practical example. Do you take the descriptions of heaven and hell in the next testament literally or metaphorically? I take it metaphorically. Much depends on reading scripture myself, looking at professional commentary, etc.
-Miracles are inconsistent with scientific theories and presumably you believe they happened, (at the very least Jesus’), so why do you take a non-literal approach to other things described in scripture that are inconsistent with scientific theories?

The website God and Science, has many articles in reconciling science and Christianity. Miracles and science are not incompatible. In the video Native Healing, the Native American medicine man, describes using both modern medicine, along with the ancient native healing ceremonies and herbal medicines. Jesus healed a woman, after she visited many physicians. Luke say many miracles, but he never ceased to be a physician. So if a person has a medical emergency, send them to the emergency room. Then call the spiritual healers and prayer warriors - both Christian and non-Christian. I did that when my mom needed medical attention and she passed. And my mom passed when she was 92.5 years old. but was born with the gift of prophesy. But she never advertised or charged money and was a lifelong Protestant Christian. I have seen the miracles of my mom’s prophesy and of spiritual healers. But I also have degrees in psychology, math, computer science and physics. So I also believe in the scientific method.
What does 2 Timothy 3:16 mean to you?

The Protestant site Got Questions, takes a stab at it with What does it mean that the Bible is inspired?. I take infallibility over inerrancy . The bible gives us what we need for salvation. But I disagree that every word is a word per word structure - like the Muslims claim with the qu’ran in Arabic. If this were the case, then every church body (RC, EC, baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.), would be in accord with what it says and means. The same goes with Muslims and the qu’ran. But being a dabbler in multiple languages, there is a difference between having a thought and expressing it, in a different language. Or even in your native language


This is still, for me, the clearest-headed approach, and the most clearly put- part 1: I’d like to know what you think about it. (part 2 may not be of interest to you) … ianity.htm


Speaking of literal vs metaphorical understanding of scripture. This short video shows how someone may interpret a simple “literal” statement differently :exclamation: :smiley:


I read the headline and that was about it. My trinitarianism is pretty firm. Sorry if my reply comes off as brazen (not my intent), but I’m interested in learning specifically about non-literalist hermeneutics. I’d rather read about someone’s methods for interpreting scripture without having to sift through a case for unitarianism.


What do you guys think of Peter Enns? It sounds like his books might be helpful for me. Is he too liberal?


Qaz - you quit too soon - Part 1 has nothing to do with unitarianism, that’s why I stated that part 2 would probably not be of interest. Part 1 is ALL ABOUT interpretation, nothing else. I encourage you to read part 1. You won’t be sorry, and it is not a large investment of time.
I know the title throws people off, and that’s too bad.
Just scroll down to 1. Skip the introduction.
Or don’t - it’s up to you after all.



Peter Enns has a new book coming out called “The Sin Of Certainty”. I would recommend it. Here’s what it’s about:


Hey qaz… with regards to your PM on this matter I’d say have a look at these articles HERE, HERE and HERE.




Here’s the Wiki article on Peter Enns


Randy, have you read Enns’ books? What do you think of him?


No, i haven’t read his books. But according to the Wiki article on Peter Enns, he has made significant scholarly and academic contributions, to the field of theology. It did mention that one of this works was controversial. But that’s not necessary a bad thing. It means he’s getting people to think. He’s definitely worth reading, whether you agree with him or not.


A wise, old Mennonite once said, “If the literal sense makes sense, then there’s no sense in taking it in any other sense.”


This is true apart from the fact that we all have differing sensibilities… :mrgreen:


Personally I don’t (if you are referring to scriptural creationism and “scientific” evolutionism). I don’t think there’s anything scientific about evolution theory. Indeed, even if I were an atheist, I am sure I would disbelieve in evolution, especially the “evolution” of the universe. The “big bang” I consider ludicrous. To actually believe this immense universe resulted from the explosion of a minuscule particle? I think that much less likely than the existence of the Greek gods.


The reality is all modes of Christian thought does this… the difference simply being what that might be.

Jesus literally meant it when he said “ye must be born again” –– he just didn’t mean it literally.

Consequently Nicodemus’ religious literalism left him befuddled.


Davo, what do you think of Enns?


What I have read of Enns I like… in particular his thoughts on ‘Adam is Israel’.


I am working through Inspiration and incarnation by Enns. A thrilling ride for me.Kindle version $9.99.
Best book on O.T. interpretation I have come across in a long time.