Posts Tagged ‘Literal’

Exposition of the Parables: More erroneous teaching has been given out through misapprehending the force of some of their details than is the case with anything else in the Word

Arthur Pink17. Exposition of the parables. This is another branch of our subject to which at least one whole chapter should be devoted, but the danger of overtaxing the patience of some of our readers renders it inadvisable. Because of the great simplicity of their nature and language, it is commonly supposed that the parables are more easily understood than any other form of scriptural instruction, when the fact is that probably more erroneous teaching has been given out through misapprehending the force of some of their details than is the case with anything else in the Word. Great care needs to be taken with them: especially is it important to ascertain and then keep in mind the scope or leading design of each one. But instead of so doing, only too often they are approached solely for the purpose of finding apparent support for some particular doctrine or idea which the preacher desires to prove. And in consequence, not a little in them has been wrested from its original purport, and made to signify what is flatly contradicted by other passages. Here, too, the Analogy of Faith must be held steadily in view, and our interpretation of each parable made to square therewith.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

How is the teacher to determine when the language is literal and when non-literal?

Arthur PinkIf all Scripture had been couched in highly figurative language and mysterious hieroglyphics, it had been quite unsuited to the common man. On the other hand, if all were as simple as the A B Cs there had been no need for God to provide teachers (Ephesians 4:11). But how is the teacher to determine when the language is literal and when non-literal? Generally, plain intimation is given, especially in the employment of metaphor, where one object is used to set forth another, as in “Judah is a lion’s whelp” (Genesis 49:9). More particularly.

First, when a literal interpretation would manifestly clash with the essential nature of the subject spoken of, as when physical members are ascribed to God, or when the disciple is required to “take up his cross” (live a life of self-sacrifice) in order to follow Christ.

Second, when a literal interpretation would involve an absurdity or a moral impropriety, as in

“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite” (Proverbs 23:1, 2): giving no quarter to your lusts; and heaping coals of fire on an enemy’s head (Romans 12:20).

Third, refer to other passages, and interpret such a verse as Psalm 26:6, by Genesis 35:1, 2, and Hebrews 10:22.

From all that has been said above it is evident that we must avoid a stark literalism when dealing with sensory or material representations of immaterial things, and when bodily terms are used of non-bodily ones.

“The sword shall devour” (Jeremiah 46:10): to devour is the property of a living creature with teeth, but here by a figure it is applied to the sword. “Let my right hand forget her cunning” (Psalm 137:5): here “forgetting,” which pertains to the mind, is applied to the hand signifying

“may it lose its power to direct aright.” “I turned to see the voice” (Revelation 1:12)

means Him that uttered it.

“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God”(Ecclesiastes 5:1)

may be taken in both a literal and a figurative sense. In the former, it would signify “let your gait be demure and your speed unhurried and reverent as you approach the place of worship”; in the latter, “pay attention to the motions of your mind and the affections of your heart, for they are to the soul what the feet are to the body.” It is unto the due ordering of our inward man that our attention should be chiefly directed.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Keen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture

October 4, 2016 2 comments

Arthur PinkKeen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture. That applies in the first place to the translator, as a few simple illustrations will show. He has to determine in each occurrence of the word kelayoth whether to render it literally “kidneys” or figuratively “reins”: our Authorized Version gives the former eighteen times, and the later thirteen. In such passages as Psalms 16:7; 26:2; 73:21, “reins” has reference to the inner man, particularly the mind and conscience: as the kidneys are for eliminating the impurities of the blood, so the mind and conscience are to deliver us from evil. The Hebrew word ruach literally means wind, and is so rendered ninety times in the Authorized Version; yet it is also used emblematically of the spirit, often of the Holy Spirit, and is so over 200 times. Much spiritual wisdom and discernment is required by the translator to discriminate. Lachash is rendered “earrings” in Isaiah 3:20, but “prayer” in Isaiah 26:16! The Greek word presbuteros literally means an aged person, and is so rendered in Acts 2:17, and Philemon 9, but in most cases it refers to “elders” or church officers.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

A Redemptive-Historical, Modified Idealist Approach to the Book of Revelation

June 30, 2014 1 comment

I was recently involved in symposium on the Book of Revelation sponsored by several churches in Reno, Nevada and held at Sierra Bible Church. Gary Demar defended a preterist, Jim Hamilton a futurist, and I an Idealist approach to the Book. The symposium consisted of three major presentations 55 minutes in length in the morning and three 20 minute responses and question and answer time in the afternoon. Here from my major presentation is my introduction a modified idealist approach to the Book of Revelation.

When I read Wikipedia’s description of the position I am supposed to be defending at this conference, I have to admit that it made me think twice. Here is a portion of Wikipedia’s description of Idealism:

Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols…. It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.1

Now I know that Wikipedia is not the final authority about anything, but this still made me wonder what I had let Brian get me into!



Read the entire article here.

Did Bible Authors Believe in a Literal Genesis?

December 17, 2013 2 comments

By Dr. Terry Mortenson-The New Answers Book 3-Chapter 8

Anyone who has read the Bible very much will recognize that there are different kinds of literature in the Old and New Testaments. There are parables, poetry, prophetic visions, dreams, epistles, proverbs, and historical narrative, with the majority being the latter. So, how should we interpret Genesis 1–11? Is it history? Is it mythology? Is it symbolic poetry? Is it allegory? Is it a parable? Is it a prophetic vision? Is it a mixture of these kinds of literature or some kind of unique genre? And does it really matter anyway?

We will come back to the last question later, but suffice it to say here that the correct conclusion on genre of literature is foundational to the question of the correct interpretation. If we interpret something literally that the author intended to be understood figuratively, then we will misunderstand the text. When Jesus said “I am the door” (John 10:9), He did not mean that He was made of wood with hinges attached to His side. Conversely, if we interpret something figuratively that the author intended to be taken literally, we will err. When Jesus said, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 17:22–23), He clearly meant it just as literally as if I said to my wife, “Margie, I’m going to fill up the gas tank with gas and will be back in a few minutes.”

There are many lines of evidence we could consider to determine the genre of Genesis 1–11, such as the internal evidence within the Book of Genesis and how the Church has viewed these chapters throughout church history. But in this chapter we want to answer the question, “How did the other biblical authors (besides Moses, who wrote Genesis1) and Jesus interpret them?” From my reading and experience it appears that most people who consider the question of how to interpret the early chapters of Genesis have never asked, much less answered, that question.


Read the entire article here.

Does an Independent Minister have a right to preach what he so desires? Pt 2

Last week I began a post discussing two Charismatic Pastors, of which I know personally. The first Charismatic I called ‘The Teacher’ and the second Pastor’s name is Otis Graves. Before I begin my post concerning these two individuals I want to lay down a few things concerning examining other ministers.

I realize that what I proclaim from this blog is not popular in today’s church world. Many think that it is condescending or critical to examine a Charismatic’s doctrines. They think that you are being unloving because you examine what Charismatics have preached from the pulpit. The reason that I know that these things are unpopular is because I can get almost a hundred views on these post and not one person will comment. If I were spreading the doctrines that the Charismatics do, then my comment section would fill up.

I want to say from the beginning that it is not unloving to examine what another minister states from the pulpit, over the radio, or through the television screen. I happen to believe that it is unloving to stay silent if you hear something that is unscriptural and do not speak out against it. Paul told the elders atEphesusin Acts 20:28-30 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed thechurchofGod, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.

The reason men like Harold Camping can gather disciples around him are because people have remained silent. They fear persecution and do not want to live a life of being shunned or spoken evil against. I am not going to be unloving when I examine other ministers’ doctrines, but I also will not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I will not shun being persecuted by remaining silent concerning the truth of God’s word. Therefore I will not be silent concerning the doctrines of the ‘Teacher’ nor Otis Graves.

One thing I will commend Otis Graves for is that he is not like the ‘Teacher’; he has refrained from putting his sermons on audio. This is because he contradicts himself so much that if someone went back and listened to his sermon from last week, then they would catch him saying something entirely different this week. Though he doesn’t record his sermons on to audio, nevertheless when I was under his ministry I wrote down some of the stuff he stated from the pulpit.

For instance, onAugust 31, 2008Otis Graves made the statement, “that whosoever Jesus sets free is free indeed, but not entirely. Once Jesus sets us free, then we must go on and set ourselves free from things that Jesus did not free us from.” Otis was actually saying that Jesus is not enough and we need something more. This teaching denies the Reformation principle of ‘soli Christo’ or Christ Alone. This teaching also is a distorted interpretation of John 8.  A more fitting interpretation would be: The Jews believed that they were not in bondage, but Jesus goes on to explain to them that if they commit sin (and we all do) then they are the servants of sin. In other words they are slaves to sin. Jesus tells them that if he makes them free, they shall be free. In other words if they become his disciples, then they will no longer be a slave to sin.

This leads me to my next point and that is that we have no right to twist or distort the scriptures to fit our doctrines. I am not going to defend the Roman Catholic Church, but to its credit I will say that they warned Luther against putting the scriptures into the hands of ignorant and unlearned men. They told Luther that if the scriptures were translated into the common language of the people that a flood gate of sin would come out of it. They told him that the church would begin to split and splinter into all kinds of different denominations. This is because that unlearned men will not take and interpret scripture according to the tradition of the Church. Luther responded by saying that he knew that if he put the scriptures in the hands of ignorant and unlearned men, that it would open a flood gate of iniquity, but nevertheless every person ought to have the scriptures to read for themselves.

So the Reformation opened the door for private interpretation. But just because we have the right to interpret scripture privately does not mean that we have the right to distort scripture. The Reformers taught what is known as the perspicuity of scripture or that the scriptures are so plain that even a child could understand it. This doctrine does not teach that scripture is plain in every place, but it teaches that the doctrines that are essential to salvation are so clear that even a child could find his was to Christ by reading them.

The main point I want to focus on today is the principles of a proper methodology. In other words, Mr. ‘Teacher’ and Mr. Otis Graves, it is unreasonable to expect that everyone will agree on the exact interpretation of every scripture, but we should agree on the fundamental approach to biblical interpretation. In other words we ought to be using the same methods on how to interpret scripture. There is a difference between an occasional misinterpretation and unacceptable methods of biblical interpretation. The former is common to us all and the latter no one should be guilty of holding to.

Had you two studied you would have realized that the church has developed a method of interpretation that makes everyone approach the scriptures the same way. The church developed a science of interpretation known as ‘hermeneutics.’ Hermeneutics is the science and art of interpretation. Holding to a proper hermeneutic will keep us from falling into much error when we interpret scripture. (I challenge both of you to go to my web site and click my Hermeneutics page link and study up on this principle.)

Many today claim to hold to a literal interpretation of scripture, but what they are talking about has nothing to do with proper interpretation. In other words they believe that if the Bible plainly says something, then we can take that something and use it anyway we want to. This is not literal interpretation. The word literal comes from the Latin word ‘literalis’ and means the literature in which it was written. In other words, to use the literal interpretation method means that we are to interpret scripture according to the literature in which it was written.

Scripture is written in many forms of literature, some of which are: poetry, proverbs, narrative, didactic, apocalyptic and so forth. We are never to take narrative scriptures and make doctrines out of them because they are giving us a story of what happened and not trying to teach us what we should or should not do. For instance Charismatics are big on using the book of Acts to build their doctrines on, but the book of Acts is recording events that happened within history and not trying to teach us doctrines. There may be doctrine within the book, but it is still a history record. We are to only use the didactic or the instructional material of scripture to build our doctrines on.

While the Bible is filled with many types of literature it also uses many forms of speech within that literature. The Bible uses hyperbole, simile, symbolic, irony, sarcasm, metaphor, parallelism, synonymous parallelism, metonymy, personification, anthropomorphisms, anthropopathisms, and many more. The Bible also uses types and shadows to convey its message. So without a properly working hermeneutic we all would misinterpret scripture all the time.

I want to say one more thing before I close this post. I want to tell the ‘Teacher’ and Mr. Otis Graves that there is only one interpretation to every scripture in the Bible. In other words the writer was writing to a specific audience of his day and meant a specific thing when he wrote what he did. Therefore we should try to understand the Bible in its grammatical-historical-redemptive setting. In other words we are to interpret a scripture according to the grammar it was written in, according to the historical setting of which it was written, and according to the redemptive plan of God in history.

No one reads a newspaper, magazine, book, or any other piece of literature any different than what I have described. If we ripped a sentence out of a newspaper article, then we could make it say whatever we wanted it to. We must understand it within the author’s original intent and within the context of what has been said around it. We are then to take it and apply it to today. Though there is only one true interpretation of every scripture, nevertheless there may be many applications to that scripture. In other words we may be able to apply that scripture to many of today’s problems and so forth, but we should only do that after we have understood that scripture within the author’s original meaning.

So I am calling on both of you to study the science of hermeneutics. We may misinterpret a scripture from time to time, but your methods of approaching scripture are unacceptable and lead to distortion.

I will close for now and come back later and finish some more on this article.


Hershel Lee Harvell Jr.