Can / Should we interpret the Bible literally?

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Answers to Bible Questions

Scriptures are from the KJV of the Bible

(Q)  Can / Should we interpret the Bible literally?


(A)  Yes most of the time, but no not all the time. We can and must take the Bible literally if we are to determine what God is really trying to communicate to us. Although we take the Bible literally, there are still figures of speech within it pages. So when reading the Bible, take literal statements literally, and the figurative statements figuratively, using common sense, experience, and knowledge of language and grammar to know the difference and to determine what the figures of speech mean.

In everyday conversation we know that being sick to death means severe frustration. Laughing your head off means that you laughed almost uncontrollably. A massacre on the football field means that the game is totally one sided and one team no longer has a chance of winning the game. We know this because we understand the intended meaning. This is also how we are to read the Bible: understand the intended meaning. We must however take the Bible literally whenever possible.

If God be the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all- loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense. The Scriptures, then,
cannot be regarded as an illustration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought.

The Bible must be interpreted literally which is the way language is normally and naturally understood. We recognize that the Bible writers frequently used figurative language which is a normal and picturesque way of portraying literal truth. The Bible must be understood in the light of the normal use of language, the usage of words, the historical and cultural background, the context of the passage and the overall teaching of the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). Most importantly, the believer must study the Bible in full
dependence upon the SPIRIT OF TRUTH whose ministry is to reveal Christ and illumine the minds and hearts of believers (John 5:39; 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-16). The natural, unregenerate man cannot understand or interpret correctly the Word of God. The things of God are foolishness to him, he cannot know them (l Cor. 2:14), and his mind is blinded (Rom. 3:11; 2 Cor. 4:3-4).

Spiritualizing the scriptures has also become very popular today in our churches because they don’t know how to properly divide the scriptures according to 11 Timothy 2: 15 which puts it this way: 15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. The Greek word for “Rightly dividing” is ORTHOTOMEO, and it means “to cut straight.” God’s word then needs to have straight cuts in it for proper understanding. This is where Dispensationalism comes into play. If you don’t understand “Dispensationalism,” you will never ever understand the Bible properly. (See my article in the FAQ section about Dispensationalism to find out more about this subject.)

When we don’t take the Bible literal, or when we spiritualize the scriptures, we make ourselves the final authority on interpreting the Bible, and we elevate ourselves above God. Who is to say then, that one person’s interpretation of a biblical event or truth is any more or less valid than another’s? The confusion and distortions that would inevitably result from such a system would essentially render the Scriptures null and void. The Bible is God’s Word to us and He meant it to be believed; literally and completely.

Before we continue, I want you to think about the following verse in Hebrews 11 which says: 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. God is not going to show Himself to you visibility at this time. In Romans 1: 20 God says that man has no excuse for not believing in Him because we can clearly see the things He has made in the World: 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: We must believe that God exist, and believe by faith what he reveals to us in His Word the Bible is truth, and to be taken literally whenever possible. God is not playing guessing games with mankind so that we have to figure out ourselves what He is telling us. God means what he says, and says what He means.

The reason people don’t take the Bible literally is because they believe the promises given to Israel have failed, and they also see what they believe to be contradictions in the Scriptures, and don’t know how to explain them properly. There are no, none, zip, zero contradictions in the Bible, and the promises to Israel have not failed. The answer to these problems is to know how to Rightly Divide them according to 11 Timothy 2: 15. The key to all Bible understanding is Rightly Dividing the Scriptures Dispensationally.

Now we are going to look at 11 Timothy 3: 14-16 where God says all Scripture was given by inspiration: 14But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness only if we take it literally. If man thinks he can put his own meaning on the Scriptures, then it becomes worthless!!

 So let’s look at some other verses and see what God tells us about the Scriptures that He inspired man to write down.

Exodus Chapter 4: 10-16,  10And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.  11And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?  12Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.  13And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.  14And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.  15And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.  16And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Deuteronomy Chapter 4: 2,  2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy Chapter 17: 18-20,  18And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:  19And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:  20That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

Deuteronomy Chapter 31: 24-26,  24And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,  25That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,  26Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

Psalms Chapter 12: 6-7, 6The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalms Chapter 100: 5,  5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Psalms Chapter 111: 7-8, 7The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. 8They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

Psalms Chapter 119: 89,  For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Psalms Chapter 119: 160, 160Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

Proverbs Chapter 30: 5-6,  5Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  6Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 14, 14I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

Isaiah Chapter 8: 16,  16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

Isaiah Chapter 40: 8, 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Isaiah Chapter 46: 9-11,  9Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,  10Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:  11Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

Jeremiah Chapter 36: 1-4,  And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  2Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.  3It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.  4Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

Matthew Chapter 5: 18, 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Matthew Chapter 24: 35,  35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Luke Chapter 12: 12,  12For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

Luke Chapter 16: 17, 17And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Luke Chapter 21: 15,  15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

Romans Chapter 16: 17-18,  17Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  18For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

1 Corinthians Chapter 2: 9-14,  9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

2 Corinthians Chapter 2: 17,  17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

2 Corinthians Chapter 4: 2,  2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

Galatians Chapter 1: 6-12,  6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:  7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.  11But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  12For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 2: 13,  13For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

2 Thessalonians Chapter 2: 1-3,  1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,  2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.  3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

2 Thessalonians Chapter 3: 6,  6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

2 Timothy Chapter 1: 13,  13Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy Chapter 3: 14,  14But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

2 Timothy Chapter 4: 3-4,  3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Titus Chapter 1: 9,  9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

1 Peter Chapter 1: 25, 25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

2 Peter Chapter 2: 1-2,  1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  2And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

2 Peter Chapter 3: 15-16,  15And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Revelation Chapter 22: 18-19,  18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Remember all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; so let’s review what God told us about His Words, in His Bible.

God’s Words are: As silver tried>>Purified seven times>>Kept>>Preserved>>Forever>>God’s truth endures to all generations>>God’s commandments are sure>> They shall stand fast>> They stand forever and ever>> God’s word is settled in heaven>>It is settled forever>>God’s testimonies are founded forever>>God’s righteous judgments endure>>Every one of His judgments endures forever>>God’s Word stands forever>>Nothing can be added to it>>Nothing can be taken from it>>The Word of the Lord stands forever>>God’s law will out-survive heaven and earth>>God’s law will be fulfilled>>This preservation and fulfillment apply even to the jot and tittle>>Heaven and earth pass away>>God’s Word will not pass away>>God’s Word is sound.

In conclusion, does God really mean what He says? Can we take Him at His Word? Or, are we going to let our theology force us to change the meaning of words that by themselves are very clear?

As for me, I say, let God be true, but ever man a liar>>Romans 3: 4

Thy Word is truth>>John 17: 17

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.>>11 Timothy 2: 15














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