What is wrong with this explanation?


There is something wrong with this post, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I would greatly appreciate for someone to help me find any errors in this. I swear up and down that something is wrong, and that’s not just because this is a Pro-Protestant outlook on the Bible.


When the question is asked if we take the bible literal, most of us know that the answer isn’t just a yes or no. However, most people still don’t know why the answer is not just a yes or no, and need to have it explained.

If someone tells you, “I drove my sports car down the road at 90 miles per hour.” Would you take his statement literally? Unless you believe they are a liar, the correct way to understand his remark is to actually think they drove at 90 miles per hour. On the other hand, let’s suppose they say, “I was flying down the road!” Unless you believe his car actually left the ground, you do not take them literally. You do understand what they’re saying though. You know they were driving fast. They are telling you this by “speaking figuratively,” not literally. People who study language know that humans communicate verbally through words in more than one way. Sometimes they make literal statements, which should be taken literally, and sometimes they use “figurative language” which should be taken “figuratively.” Dictionaries tell us that figurative language is language used in a non-literal way in order to add emphasis. Several types of figurative expressions exist, such as the metaphor, simile, personification, and antithesis. While it’s not the most important thing in the world to know and understand the definitions of all figures of speech to understand everyday conversation, it can help. It is also important to know that the Bible uses many figures of speech. One study Bible, the Companion Bible, lists about 180 figures of speech in the Bible, and explains how each figure is to be understood.

Usually we see the difference between literal and figurative speech automatically, without even thinking about it. Often this is because a literal speech doesn’t make sense, so we switch to a figurative speech. When your friend said they were “flying down the road” in their car, you didn’t want to take literally because 1) You know cars don’t fly, and 2) you have heard others use the same expression as a synonym for “fast.” Another way to avoid misunderstanding and ensure you correctly understand someone’s statement is to ask for clarification. Of course, in the case of the Bible, the authors are all dead and cannot be questioned or give clarifications, so we must use other methods to help understand what they meant.What are those other methods? Are we free to pick whatever meaning we wish to believe, as the skeptic charges in regards to the Bible? Well, of course not. Everyone should know that in this type of situation you must study to learn what the writer or speaker meant. What everyone does not seem to know, especially Bible skeptics, is that a method exists to try to find the writer’s intended meaning, it’s called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics can be defined as, “The theory and methodology of understanding (of statements), especially of scriptural text” One essential principles of hermeneutics is that figures of speech are not just to insert whatever meaning one wants. They’re, instead, linguistic devices that are known and understood by linguists to express truth in a certain way once one has learned about them. Even with this, we should not think that everyone will agree on the exact meaning of every single statement the Bible makes. And they will all agree on the meaning of every single scripture. Even if they did agree on the meaning of every scripture, they would not agree on every single doctrine, because scriptures must often be combined to understand a single doctrine. But just because people will never agree on the correct understanding of every single statement made by another, or every single biblical statement, does not mean we are free to throw up our hands and make up whatever meaning we want. That would be nonsense, and it is seen by everyone to be nonsense Regarding non-biblical statements, ask yourself “Do I take whatever anyone says or writes literally?” The correct answer is "I take the literal statements literally, and the figurative statements figuratively. I use my common sense, my experience, and my knowledge of language and grammar to know the difference and to determine what the figures of speech mean.



What a question! Good one though.

I think the answer is pretty simple. If you need clarification you have the CCC to read. It is impossible to know what the author (s) really mean, but since all The Gospels are similar, not exact but close enough to make a summary and a “average” understanding. What we then don’t understand The Church do. So, what you don’t understand, look it up in your CCC, and use common sense, that is how I do it, well, I don’t understand much of what is written in the CCC but so far I have not made any large mistake. (I hope.)


To me, this would logically lead to the need for people to have instruction about what the bible is trying to convey.

But just because people will never agree on the correct understanding of every single statement made by another, or every single biblical statement, does not mean we are free to throw up our hands and make up whatever meaning we want. That would be nonsense, and it is seen by everyone to be nonsense

That section right there would seem to go against the protestant position. Not that they are all just making up whatever meaning they want, but since many denominations have changed their positions and interpretations of various passages in the bible to fit with the times, it would seem to hurt their credibility to being the Truth. Conversely, the Church has held her position on these interpretations, and simply shares her wisdom with us.

In fact, I dare say it says something about the Catholic faith. We do not interpret the bible in a way to make life easier for us or to alleviate our conscious when we fail to uphold virtue. Rather, we are asked to always seek that closer union with God by expanding our own virtue to fit His plan.


I think the article is correct, there are some things that are said literally and others that are figurative. What may be bothering you is that protestants (excepting fundamentalists of course) will use this reasoning to say that Jesus didn’t really mean for us to literally eat his body and drink his blood and that therefore the Eucharist is not the real presence. After all, he said he was a door and a vine and a shepherd and we know he was speaking figuratively. So when he said “my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed” obviously he was only speaking figuratively. As Catholics, we know he was being literal because when his followers became disgusted at what he said and left, he didn’t call them back and correct them.

I remember hearing (can’t remember who right now but I think it was Fr. Robert Barron) that we take the Bible literally, but not literalistically. The person used similar examples to the article you posted to show how we should interpret certain passages. The last sentence of the article is exactly how we should be reading the bible in our day to day lives.

I just found this article that might explain better what I’m talking about.


The article isn’t too far off from being on point. It is very accurate all the way until the last few sentences. What the author is missing (and his fundamental flaw) is that he refuses to recognize that Jesus left a Church with His authority to be able to guide us properly on what doctrines are, and so that we understand Scripture properly. He simply can’t see the fundamental flaw in his thinking b/c he is missing this critical and necessary component.

You can see it when he is talking about people reading Scripture to develop and declare doctrines. This is the role of the Church. Scripture supports this and testifies to the veracity and accuracy of the Church.


The Protestants base their theology on their interpretation of the Bible. Catholics interpret the Bible in light of Catholic teaching, which existed before the Bible did.

What the Protestants really don’t understand is that they also have a lot of unconscious biases which color their interpretation of the Bible, and which also affect their translations.

So… Catholics, understanding the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, know that John 6 is to be talen literally. Protestants “assume” the Catholc teaching is wrong, because it’s “impossible,” so see John 6 as figurative and their theology is that what they call “communion” is just symbolic.


I only read the first couple sentences of the "explanation." My mind blotted out the rest because my own preconception stopped me from absorbing the rest.

Literal is only one type of meaning in scripture, and you have to remember that there are different "genres" of writing there. A truth can be told in a non-literal or non-scientific way. I don't know if that goes far enough for you. I thought the answer was immediately obvious.


But of course Protestants don’t think that “Protestants” have the truth. They think that some Protestants have the truth – namely, the ones who read the Bible rightly. So they’re not vulnerable to the sort of criticism you’re proposing here.


I read the article and found it very good. I dont think reasonable minded people (reasonable caths and prods do exist) should have a problem with it.


[quote="Cyberseeker, post:9, topic:343476"]
I read the article and found it very good. I dont think reasonable minded people (reasonable caths and prods do exist) should have a problem with it.


My hermenueutics is Sacred Tradition, the ECFs, and the Magisterium. Not necessarily in that order. Anything else is window dressing.



I think there is a misunderstanding of what it means to speak literally. You can speak literally even when using metaphors. Metaphors are not the same as allegory, because allegory changes the whole image of a given point, whereas metaphors might “exagerate” a word or two but the meaning of the point is interpreted exactly the same at face value. Using the example of flying down the road, that is still meant as a literal event that meant you went from point A to point B really fast, wheras if you made it allegorical you might say that the road is life, the car is you, and that life is like a vapor that goes by so fast that its like driving down a road very fast.


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