Friday, September 16, 2011

A Little More on Literal vs. Literalist


Theophrastus said...

I must confess I found this video to be far too glib and unsatisfying.

The video has a bit of a triumphalist tone, explaining that "it is raining cats and dogs" is not to be understood from a "literalist" position (e.g., at face value) but from a "literal" position (e.g., understanding the author's intent.)

Now this approach has many problems -- not the least of which is that the video maker has redefined "literal" and "literalist" (just look them up in the dictionary.)

More to the point, the passages in the Bible that pose a question are not idioms like "raining cats and dogs" -- they are extended symbolic (or literal) passages.

Further, while we can easily determine the meaning of an idiom (even in an ancient language), we can safely say that no one fully understands the extreme mysticism of the creation story (why are there two stories? why do they differ? what do the symbols mean?)

Perhaps this is easier to understand by considering Ezekiel's vision in Ezekiel 1. Here, we have a highly complex symbolic vision, and we can safely say that no one fully understands it. While it is safe to say that relatively few people take this passage literally, we do not fully understand how to interpret it symbolically.

And the end of the day, the glib reassurance of the video is unsatisfying -- at best, it simply puts down one method of interpretation, without explaining how to do a different form of interpretation.

Ron said...

I agree with the previous comment. In addition, I came home to Rome because, in my Presbyterian church it became common to say about any difficult Bible passage, "what it really means is. . ." and then come up with whatever was the desired interpretation, usually contrary to what was clearly stated. It seems to me that the difficulty with saying a part of the Bible that plainly states a fact isn't literally true is, then what part is true. Where does it stop?

Timothy said...

I find the first 30 seconds to be a good start, but the 'raining cats and dog' example to be insufficient.