Do you take Bible literally?

It seems like I came across number of people on this forum and in real life who proclaim that many events described in the Bible is just a story that has either never occured(and its just a fairly tale sort of a thing) or has allegorical meaning. So what about about Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead and turning water into wine? Curious to know everyone’s opinion but I would think you can’t pick and choose and believe that Jesus turned water into wine and raised the dead but not for example that Eziekiel go to heaven or that he saw angels, etc. Right?

It is complicated. Not all of the books of the Bible are written historically. Some of them were written in a Apocalyptic style, some prophetic, and some historical. Most of the New Testament was written historically. When you get into the Gospels, the allegory mostly rests in the parables where Jesus would say things like “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…”

A lot of the more allegorical things can be spotted in the writing styles and the historical documents of the time. The creation story, for example, happens twice in the Bible. Both can not be true, because they contradict themselves. Read Genesis 1:1-2:4 and then read Genesis 2:5-25. If you read them closely, they contradict. You can also look at the fact that stories like Noah’s Arc already exist in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Outside of Genesis there are other stories that are more prophetic/allegorical like in Daniel.

Sorry I can’t go too much into depth, it is a very involved matter.

I have yet to see a person who claims to take everything in the Bible literally and have one of their eyes or hands missing. :shrug:

[BIBLEDRB]Mark 9: 43-47[/BIBLEDRB]

I believe everything in the bible and take it literally because that is how God wrote it.

Can you explain what you mean by “God wrote it?”

God wrote it through his people.

The Bible isn’t a Book. It’s a collection of Books, and these Books employ a variety of literary styles: some are historical, some aren’t. For example, the entire Book of Song of Songs is an extended metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the Church. Taking it at face value, it would be a pretty weird candidate to include in the canon.

Nobody takes every part of the Bible literally. William Lane Craig gives the example of Psalm 98:8, “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” Presumably, no sane person thinks that the Psalmist is literally suggesting that the rivers have hands that they clap. He’s using an image to suggest that Creation rightly gives praise to God, the Creator.

Likewise, the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32) is understood by Christians to be an allegory. This is true, even though Jesus begins: “There was a man who had two sons” (Lk. 15:11). We don’t take that literally, because the context suggests it’s a parable told for its message, rather than its historicity.

In fact, in at least one instance, people go wrong by taking Jesus overly literally: look at John 2:19-21 and Mt. 26:60-63. On the other hand, taking the historical parts as simple allegory is dangerous, too: look at what St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:12-19.

So it’s important to understand which parts of Scripture are meant to be understood for their historicity, and which are using non-literal styles. All of the Bible is true, but there are ways of expressing truth through parables, poetry, and the like, rather than simply straightforward history.

The Bible is inspirational to me. It doesn’t seem like God truly wants us to cut off our hands feet when they scandalize us- it is an allegory. It is a code of life, telling you how you should do everything from raise children to wage war to certain private activities- which is why I respect the word of the Bible so much- it gets down and dirty with us and doesn’t pretend there aren’t some unsavoury things in the world. But I don’t take some bits the Bible literally- rather, I don’t take the parts of the Old Testament literally. As important as it is, there are some things that I think aren’t meant to be taken literally- for example, the constant reference to sacrificing animals sounds repulsive to me- why would a creator want us to offer dead things to him? I think it’s about taking the characteristic of that animal- a dove, perhaps representing care and/or purity, and bringing it to the fore. That’s just one thing though. However, I do take the gospels as historical fact-minus Jesus’ legendary parables- and the letters from Paul to various communities very seriously, and I believe that Revelations and its signal of hope to be true- if perhaps also allegorical. But I am unwavering in my belief that it is through the Bible we will find completeness with God.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The senses of Scripture
115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83
117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

  1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.84
  2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.85
  3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86
    118 A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:
    The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
    The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87

119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgment. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88
But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.89

The Bible is a collection of writings, not a single book written in only one style and with only one purpose. Each author conveyed something about God to us, but each in his own way and to certain persons and for various reasons. This is why the Bible needs an inspired interpreter, which is what Jesus gave us in the Church when he commissioned the Apostles to teach and preach in his name. For instance, the NT is the written accounts of Jesus’ life and mission, a brief history of the very early Church, the instructions and admonitions of the Apostles, with the singular visionary work of St. John in Revelation. We can see the imprint of each author’s personality, mission, charism, etc. in what he wrote.

But, in a nutshell, the Catholic Church holds that the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit and so reliable in all it tells us about God and the human condition.

It’s history is trustworthy and it cannot be written off as mere fairy tales, which is very different from writing in the mythological form. Mythology, as it is truly understood, tells us eternal truths using the language of symbolism. However, most of the Bible is not written in the mythological style, but as plain history, poetry, biography (told not for biographical information only or necessarily as we moderns would write it), prose, etc. The Bible is a rich cultural and historical book, but it’s much more, as well.

We Catholics embrace all that the Bible is, and do not employ it to prove anything for it is a witness to the work of God among men not a proof-text for doctrines/dogmas, although all that the Church teaches is upheld in Scripture or finds its origins in it. I hope that helps. :slight_smile:

I agree with this completely!

thanks for the post, i think you explained it rather well. :thumbsup:

You’re welcome. It’s hard to cover such a subject in a few words. I hope you find it hepful as you learn more about the Church. :smiley:

I keep searching and asking for explict not allusions in regards to scripture on purgatory

It is not explicit.


Nor does it need to be. That’s the important point. The Bible is NOT a proof text for doctrine/dogmas. It is one part of Sacred Tradition, which is what our faith is derived from. The Bible is NOT the sum total of the faith nor was it ever meant to be. Our Protestant brethren think so, but there is no evidence for believing it in the Bible itself or the Early Church Fathers.

Amen! When the rubber hits the road, it’s all symbolic. Hell will apparently need no disabled parking spaces.

It’s not a book. And it’s not about picking and choosing. It’s the Canon of Scripture and all the different writings from across a 1000 yrs of culture comprise all kinds of writings. So, we don’t look at accounts of the actions of people like the Gospels or Acts the same way we look at the Songs or stories or Laws or Prophetic writings.

It’s only been very recently that technology allowed all these writings to be easily gathered together under one cover and distributed. It’s not a book to be read from cover to cover like a big fat Book of the Faith. It’s a collection. A library. People aren’t picking and choosing, they are just aware of the differences between the works.

Wrong thread, dude! You know that the Trinity is not explicit. Are you not Trinitarian?

The Catholic Church interprets scripture literally - but in the sense of the literal intention of the inspired author.

Good book in this sense: Making Senses out of Scripture, again by Mark Shea.

More reading, study and prayer, and less insistence on explicitness will lead to understanding.

Please explain your take on Matthew 12:32.

Please explain your take on 1 Corinthians 3:11-14.

I do not ask about 2 Maccabees 12, since your abridged bible does not have that book.

You have already admitted that the bible does not require explicitness.

Then how do you explain how light could have been created on the first day “Let there be light.”] when the sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until the fourth day?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit