Spent this evening reading at a few of my favorite web sites and wanted to share one excellent teaching I came upon written by Hershel Lee Harvell Jr.
I believe that the reading of Old Testament passages in a literalistic way is the result of a wrong hermeneutic. To be sure, one must be literal in their approach to the Bible, but not literalistic. To read scripture in a literal way is to read it in the genre of which it was written.
For example, the Bible is written in many genres, such as: narrative, poetry, proverbs, didactic, apocalyptic, etc…., but just as no one reads a comic book the way they do a newspaper, even so apocalyptic literature should not be read as narrative or didactic scripture should. For example: The book of Proverbs contain many truths, but are not to be taken as absolutes. For instance, Proverbs 22:6 states that we are to train up a child in the way he should go and when he gets old he will not depart from it. Yet we have known many a child that was brought up in the Christian faith, who never followed it as an adult. This is because, though the Proverb is a good principle to live by, nevertheless it is not an absolute. Election belongs to the Lord and unless God regenerates that child, then it will be lost forever. Therefore, Proverbs should not be read as didactic scripture.
The book of Revelation is not to be read in a literalistic way, but in a literal way. If we take everything in Revelation, in a literalistic way, then the beast in Revelation 13 would be a Godzilla type creature. Instead, however, we recognize that the book of Revelation is apocalyptic and is expressing an idea rather than a series of literal, actual events. It is replete with symbolism and figurative language.
The didactic or instructional passages, such as Paul’s epistles, are to interpret the rest of scripture. This is because the Apostles have the greater light. They have been given the mysteries and revelations and are unfolding these things through their writings. Therefore, the scriptures that instruct are the scriptures that should interpret all else, while using the method known as ‘the analogy of faith.’ This method is the method of interpreting scripture with scripture.
My purpose in stating all this is to show that the Bible is to be read literally, but not in a literalistic way. We interpret scripture in the genre in which it was written. Old Testament Jews did not follow this approach. They missed Christ and his kingdom because they were reading scripture in a literalistic way. This is why the apostles were having a hard time understanding Christ’s death, resurrection, and kingdom. This is why they asked whether the kingdom would now be restored to Israel. Christ certainly restored it and did so above and beyond what they expected. For instance, many today are looking for the restoration of the fallen tabernacle of David, but Peter is plain that God is restoring it within the Church age. Let’s read Acts 15:14-17.
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