How to Read the Bible: The Literal

When I was in 8th grade, I was placed in the advanced reading class, as I had been since the 2nd grade.  Yes, this is a brag.  But wait.  It’s all downhill from here.  One day we were learning vocabulary and the teacher asked for someone to give the definition of “literally.”  Since my mom used that word literally all the time, I confidently raised my hand.  I explained that it meant that whatever was being said could not be taken seriously, that it was exaggerated.  The second semester, I was transferred to the regular class.

As Yale Bible scholar Dale Martin points out, words mean what they mean to the people using them.  If my mom meant, as many, many people do, that the literally true was an exaggeration that couldn’t possibly be true, that’s what it means.  I claim victory, victory in post-modernism.

This week, we move properly into our discussion of the classical four senses of scripture, which begins with the literal sense.  In the classical understanding, this meant what we might call a “plain reading” of the text.  It says what it says.  Whatever facts the text reports can be trusted.  But as the tragic tale of my demotion to regular Reading classes illustrates, this is not always a simple matter.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we discuss the promise and the peril of simply reading “what the Bible says.”

Grace and Peace,

How to Read the Bible Schedule

We will be following the classical understanding of the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.  We will look at how each of these was originally understood, how that has changed, and how we might use them today.  There will be an introductory week, a week dedicated to each sense, and a “practicum” in the sixth week where we will try this out on a passage in small groups.

September 9 – Introduction
September 16 – Literal
September 23 – Allegorical
September 30 – Moral
October 7 – Anagogical
October 14 – Practicum

We hope you’ll join us.

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