* *
561 Guests, 0 Users

Author Topic: Consistent Literal Interpretation  (Read 1945 times)

Offline Quasar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Consistent Literal Interpretation
« on: May 21, 2011, 11:14:17 AM »

The First Foundation: Consistent Literal Interpretation
Consistent literal interpretation is essential to properly understanding what God is saying in the Bible. Yet some believe that consistent literal interpretation is either impossible or impractical. One critic believes it to be a "presumption" that "is unreasonable" and "an impossible ideal."1 In spite of false characterization, what do we mean by consistent literal interpretation?
 
A DEFINITION OF LITERAL INTERPRETATION
 
The dictionary defines literal as "belonging to letters." Further, it says literal interpretation involves an approach "based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning, . . . not going beyond the facts."2 "Literal interpretation of the Bible simply means to explain the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usages of its language."3 How is this done? It can only be accomplished through an interpretation of the written text which includes consideration of the grammatical (according to the rules of grammar), historical (consistent with the historical setting of the passage), contextual (in accord with its context) method of interpretation. This is what literalists mean by consistently literal interpretation.
 
GRAMMATICAL, HISTORICAL, CONTEXTUAL INTERPRETATION
 
Grammatical The grammatical aspect of literal interpretation considers the impact that grammar plays on a passage. This means that a student of the text should correctly analyze the grammatical relationships of words, phrases, and sentences to one another. Literal interpreter Dr. Roy Zuck writes,   When we speak of interpreting the Bible grammatically, we are referring to the process of seeking to determine its meaning by ascertaining four things: (a) the meaning of words (lexicology), (b) the form of words (morphology), (c) the function of words (parts of speech), and (d) the relationships of words (syntax).4   

Dr. Zuck has been teaching biblical interpretation for many years at Dallas Seminary and I believe his recent book Basic Bible Interpretation is the best place to start for anyone interested in learning how to interpret the Bible. Dr. Zuck gives further amplification of the four areas he noted above:   In the meaning of words (lexicology), we are concerned with (a) etymology-how words are derived and developed, (b) usage-how words are used by the same and other authors, (c) synonyms and antonyms-how similar and opposite words are used, and (d) context-how words are used in various contexts. 

In discussing the form of words (morphology) we are looking at how words are structured and how that affects their meaning. For example the word eat means something different from ate, though the same letters are used. The word part changes meaning when the letter s is added to it to make the word parts. The function of words (parts of speech) considers what the various forms do. These include attention to subjects, verbs, objects, nouns, and others, as will be discussed later. The relationships of words (syntax) are the way words are related or put together to form phrases, clauses, and sentences.5 The grammatical aspect of literal interpretation lets us know that any interpretation conflicting with grammar is invalid.

Historical 

Proper interpretation of the Bible means that the historical context must be taken into account. This aspect means that one must consider the historical setting and circumstances in which the books of the Bible were written. Dr. Paul Tan explains: The proper concept of the historical in Bible interpretation is to view the Scriptures as written during given ages and cultures. Applications may then be drawn which are relevant to our times. For instance, the subject of meat offered to idols can only be interpreted from the historical and cultural setting of New Testament times. Principles to be drawn are relevant to us today.6   
 
Contextual
 
"A passage taken out of context is a pretext." This slogan is certainly true! Yet, one of the most common mistakes made by those who are found to have misinterpreted a passage in the Bible is that of taking a verse out of its Divinely ordered context. Even though a sentence may be taken from the Bible, it is not the Word of God if it is placed into a context which changes the meaning from that which God intended in its original context.

Dr. Zuck says:   

The context in which a given Scripture passage is written influences how that passage is to be understood. Context includes several things: the verse(s) immediately before and after a passage the paragraph and book in which the verses occur the dispensation in which it was written the message of the entire Bible the historical-cultural environment of that time when it was written.7   A widely used example of a verse taken out of context is 2 Chronicles 7:14: "and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray . . .
 
" Usually this is quoted as an explanation for why America is in decline. Because "My people" are addressed, it is said that the success of a nation is dependent upon the obedience of Christians to the Lord. Thus God blesses or curses a nation in accordance with Christian obedience. Then 2 Chronicles 7:14 is cited as a formula for national restoration because the passage says to "humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 

 I believe that this is an illustration of a passage taken out of context because of the following contextual factors:   "My people" are said in 2 Chronicles 6:24 to be "Israel" as is also indicated by the flow of the historical context.   Solomon is preparing to dedicate the just completed Temple and 7:14 is God's renewal of the Mosaic Covenant under which Israel and only Israel operates. Since this passage involves Israel and not the church it is improper to speculatively relate it to present day American Christianity. Proper contextual interpretation would allow for the general observation that God delights in a humble and obedient people, but obedience and pray should be offered according to His plan for the church.

FIGURES OF SPEECH
 
Literal interpretation recognizes that a word or phrase can be used either plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative). As in our own conversations today, the Bible may use plain speech, such as "He died yesterday" (denotative use of language). Or the same thing may be said in a more colorful way, "He kicked the bucket yesterday" (connotative use of language). An important point to be noted is that even though we may use a figure of speech to refer to someone's death, we are using that figure to refer to an event that literally happened. Some interpreters are mistaken to think that just because a figure of speech may be used to describe an event (i.e., Jonah's experience in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 2), that the event was not literal. Such is not the case. A "Golden Rule of Interpretation" has been developed to help us discern whether or not a figure of speech was intended by an author:   

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.8   Literalists understand that a figure of speech is employed by Isaiah teaching that the Adamic curse upon nature will be reversed in the millennium when he says, "And all the trees of the field will clap their hands" (Isa. 55:12d). This figure is discerned by specific factors in the context in which it was written, all dealing with the removal of the curse upon nature at this future time. Even though figurative language is employed, it will literally happen in history.

LITERAL VERSES LITERAL
 
Dr. Elliott Johnson of Dallas Seminary has noted that much of the confusion over literal interpretation can be removed when one properly understands the two primary ways the term has been used down through church history: "(1) the clear, plain sense of a word or phrase as over against a figurative use, and (2) a system that views the text as providing the basis of the true interpretation."9 Thus, literalists, by and large, have used the term literal to refer to their system of interpretation (the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system; Johnson's #2), and once inside that system, literal refers to whether or not a specific word or phrase is used in its context in a figurative or literal sense (Johnson's #1).

Johnson's second use of literal (i.e., systematic literalism) is simply the grammatical-historical system consistently used. The grammatical-historical system was revived by the Reformers. It was set against the spiritual (spiritualized) or deeper meaning of the text that was a common approach during the Middle Ages.

The literal meaning was used simply as a springboard to a deeper ("spiritual") meaning, which was viewed as more desirable. A classic spiritualized interpretation would for example, see the four rivers of Genesis 2-the Pishon, Havilah, Tigris and Euphrates-as representing the human body, soul, spirit and mind. Coming from such a system, the Reformers saw the need to get back to the literal or textual meaning of the Bible. For instance, Martin Luther wanted to debate John Eck from the text of the Bible. 

 The system of literal interpretation is the grammatical-historical or textual approach to interpretation. Use of literalism in this sense could be called "macroliteralism." Within macroliteralism, the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system yields the interpretative conclusion, for example, that Israel always and only refers to national Israel. The church will not be substituted for Israel if the grammatical-historical system of interpretation is consistently used because there are no indicator in the text of Scripture that such is the case.

Therefore, one must bring an idea from outside the text by saying that the passage really means something that it does not actually say. This kind of replacement approach is a mild form of spiritualized, or allegorical, interpretation.
 So when speaking of those who do replace Israel with the church as not taking the Bible literally and spiritualizing the text, it is true, since such a belief is contrary to a macroliteral interpretation.   Consistently literal interpreters, within the framework of the grammatical-historical system, do discuss whether or not a word, phrase, or the literary genre of a biblical book is a figure of speech (connotative) or is to be taken literally/plainly (denotative).

This is Johnson's first use of literal which could be called "microliteralism." Thus, within microliteralism, there may be discussion by literalists as to whether or not a given word or phrase is being used as a figure of speech, based on the context of a given passage. Some passages are quite naturally clearer than others and a consensus among interpreters develops, whereas other passages may find literal interpreters divided as to whether or not they should be taken as a figure of speech. However, this is more a problem of application than of method.   

Reconstructionist Ken Gentry, in his attack on consistent literal interpretation, argues that "consistent literalism is unreasonable."10 One of the ways he attempts to prove his point is by arguing that, since literalists take some words and phrases as figures of speech, they are not consistently literal.11 He asserts that, "the dispensational claim to 'consistent literalism' is frustrating due to its inconsistent employment."12 Gentry seeks to discredit literalism by giving examples of literalists who interpret certain passages as containing figures of speech, citing this as inconsistent with the system of literal interpretation.

 According to Gentry, the literalist has to abandon literal interpretation when he realizes that Jesus refers figuratively to Himself as a door in John 10:9.13 Gentry is not defining literal interpretation the way literalists do. Therefore, his conclusions about literal interpretation are misguided because he commonly mixes the two senses described by Johnson. When speaking of the macroliteralism, he uses an example from microliteralism, and vice versa, therefore appearing to have shown an inconsistency in literal interpretation. In reality, the examples cited fall within the framework of how literalists have defined what they mean by literal interpretation.

 CONCLUSION
 
God's Word is to be understood through literal interpretation. It is an important foundation stone supporting the Pre-Trib Rapture, because when the Bible is consistently interpreted literally, from Genesis to Revelation, the Pre-Trib position is hard to avoid.

By: Thomas Ice, PhD. 


Endnotes
 
1 Kenneth Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, Tex.: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), pp. 148, 146. 2 Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second Edition, p. 1055. 3 Paul Lee Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy (Winona Lake, Ind.: Assurance Publishers, 1974), p. 29. 4 Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1991), p. 100. 5 Ibid., pp. 100-01. 6 Tan, Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 103. 7 Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 77. 8 David L. Cooper, The World's Greatest Library: Graphically Illustrated, (Los Angeles: Biblical Research Society, 1970), p. 11. 9 Elliott E. Johnson, Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 9. 10 Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 148. 11 For examples of his approach see Gentry, pp. 153-58. 12 Ibid., p. 153. 13 Ibid., p. 148.     


Quasar 
"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.

Offline Zaph

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 579
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
    • http://
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2011, 07:14:27 PM »
Are we really allowed to just copy and paste articles that other people wrote?

I could do that all day long to support my beliefs.

Seems like a waste of a good forum. When all the copy&pasted material is already out on the web asking to be read.

Offline Quasar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2011, 11:58:29 PM »
Sorry if I offended you.  It was to offset the allegorical spirituallizing the prophetic Scriptures posted by another member here, distorting and making a farce of the Scriptures.  Which are much lengthier than mine, and don't seem to bother you at all.

The article by Dr. Thomas was the best I have at my own website which I thought would be of interest to you here.


Quasar
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 12:00:16 AM by Quasar »
"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.

Offline Lysimachus

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
  • Gender: Male
  • Author of Vindicating the Historicist Hermeneutic
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2011, 09:57:31 AM »
Sorry if I offended you.  It was to offset the allegorical spirituallizing the prophetic Scriptures posted by another member here, distorting and making a farce of the Scriptures.  Which are much lengthier than mine, and don't seem to bother you at all.

The article by Dr. Thomas was the best I have at my own website which I thought would be of interest to you here.


Quasar

First off, allow me to say that what Zaph is saying has some sound merit. When you post lengthy articles as such, without much comment, you appear to be reaching out in a desperate attempt to defend a theology for which its foundations are falling apart at the seams.  90% of the articles you post are completely irrelevant to my views, and do not address the core of the Adventist-Historicist-Premillennialist eschatological framework.

My reason for delay in responding to you is 1. I'm still trying to figure out what you are trying to dismantle in my posts, and 2. I have been delayed by other priorities in life that have been rather absorbing as of late.

And just so you know, I do not, in any way shape or form, subscribe to allegorical spiritualization. That's the ammillennialists and preterists for you.  You on the other hand literalize everything.  You are the opposite extreme.   Adventist-Historicism finds a perfect balance.  It neither Spiritualizes the prophecies, neither does it Literalize them.  It rightly applies symbolism that is literally true.  Very few Futurists understand this, because all they can see is one other side: "spiritualization", not realizing that they are just as guilty for applying grotesque literalizations of Scripture.

Offline Quasar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2011, 04:24:33 PM »
1. First off, allow me to say that what Zaph is saying has some sound merit. When you post lengthy articles as such, without much comment, you appear to be reaching out in a desperate attempt to defend a theology for which its foundations are falling apart at the seams.  90% of the articles you post are completely irrelevant to my views, and do not address the core of the Adventist-Historicist-Premillennialist eschatological framework.

2. My reason for delay in responding to you is 1. I'm still trying to figure out what you are trying to dismantle in my posts, and 2. I have been delayed by other priorities in life that have been rather absorbing as of late.

3. And just so you know, I do not, in any way shape or form, subscribe to allegorical spiritualization. That's the ammillennialists and preterists for you.  You on the other hand literalize everything.  You are the opposite extreme.   Adventist-Historicism finds a perfect balance.  It neither Spiritualizes the prophecies, neither does it Literalize them.  It rightly applies symbolism that is literally true.  Very few Futurists understand this, because all they can see is one other side: "spiritualization", not realizing that they are just as guilty for applying grotesque literalizations of Scripture.



Q: 1. I have a data bank of eleven years participation on Christian website discussion forums from which I draw the best on subjects like yours that need to be addressed and debunked.  Zaph is entitled to his opinion which has nothing to do with the subject of interpreting the prophetic Scriptures.  You obviously don't have a clue as to why anyone in a discussion with someone else with opposing views defends their own views with support to validate it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You are the one who is is desperately attempting to sell your own faulty views with your own practice of cutting and pasting of material far more lengthy than mine.  Capiche!

2. You're not the only one who is absorbed in other things, up to the eyeballs, join the club!

3. Whether you subscribe to allegorical spiritualization or not, that is exactly how it was presented.  Frankly, I could care less what label you want to put on it, it was all straight out of la la land and completely non-Scriptural!  Don't try putting any of your labels on my posts as they come directly from what the Scriptures clearly reveal.  That is the only "side to see!"


Quasar   
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 04:27:19 PM by Quasar »
"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.

Offline Lysimachus

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
  • Gender: Male
  • Author of Vindicating the Historicist Hermeneutic
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2011, 05:56:44 PM »


Q: 1. I have a data bank of eleven years participation on Christian website discussion forums from which I draw the best on subjects like yours that need to be addressed and debunked.  Zaph is entitled to his opinion which has nothing to do with the subject of interpreting the prophetic Scriptures.  You obviously don't have a clue as to why anyone in a discussion with someone else with opposing views defends their own views with support to validate it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You are the one who is is desperately attempting to sell your own faulty views with your own practice of cutting and pasting of material far more lengthy than mine.  Capiche!

2. You're not the only one who is absorbed in other things, up to the eyeballs, join the club!

3. Whether you subscribe to allegorical spiritualization or not, that is exactly how it was presented.  Frankly, I could care less what label you want to put on it, it was all straight out of la la land and completely non-Scriptural!  Don't try putting any of your labels on my posts as they come directly from what the Scriptures clearly reveal.  That is the only "side to see!"


Quasar   

Cutting and pasting?  Sir, I WRITE my own articles!  I quote authors where necessary.

Offline John Oscar

  • Bondservant of the Lord
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4766
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
    • Whitehall Assembly
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2011, 05:58:34 PM »
I for one detest large cut and paste posts.  It takes away from a discussion and turns it into a one sided lecture. 

Quasar, why don't you actually talk to people instead of bombing them with huge amounts of information that no one has time to read.  While you are at it, please watch your tone.

Thanks
John O


Offline Quasar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2011, 08:23:59 AM »
I suggest you just delete the post, John, and I will post here no longer as it is clear I have been singled out as the bad guy.

Give my best regards to Stan who has done his best to keep me interested in posting here at his site.

Good bye.


Quasar
"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.

Offline Quasar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2011, 08:26:59 AM »
Cutting and pasting?  Sir, I WRITE my own articles!  I quote authors where necessary.


Q: What I cut and paste are mostly all my own compositions also, over an eleven year time frame.


Quasar
"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.

Offline John Oscar

  • Bondservant of the Lord
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4766
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
    • Whitehall Assembly
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2011, 11:30:24 PM »
You have been singled out because no one else in the history of this forum has posted as you do- cut and paste volumes of information instead of practicing brevity when possible.

You can throw a temper tantrum if you want and attempt a passive aggressive "Fine, I'll take my toys and go home" approach, or you can accept the rebuke and try to abide by what an admin is asking of you, and has asked before.
John O


Offline Lysimachus

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 101
  • Gender: Male
  • Author of Vindicating the Historicist Hermeneutic
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 08:30:56 AM »
John Oscar,

What can we do to get more people in this forum?  It seems pretty dead.  I see you have 4597 posts.  Whoah!  Where did those come from?  How were you able to make that many posts with so few people on here?

Offline John Oscar

  • Bondservant of the Lord
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4766
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Poke This Member
    • Whitehall Assembly
Re: Consistent Literal Interpretation
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 11:04:47 AM »
Most of my posts probably are from arguing Calvinism vs Arminianism with Tom and Me Again  ;D

Seriously, it used to be pretty active with people actually defending the scriptures as they understood them.  It's kind of degraded to a cut and paste arguement center.

Probably a number of factors contributed.  1st, the admins (myself included) ran out of time to police things, and people who signed up never got approved in a timely manner and lost interest.  The forums got to the point of "yeah...I want to argue that in a circle again" so people lost interest....

Several different factors played into it.
John O


 

ads

Recent

Shoutbox

Last 5 Shouts:

 

me again

October 09, 2014, 02:15:06 PM
Quote
Religious Lie: "God only paid for sins until the next time you sin."
Forgiveness is available until we get to eternity and then our eternal fate is sealed. Right now, people are free to sin and repent; but there is no forgiveness of sin for the damned in hell.
 

Stan

October 05, 2014, 10:24:53 AM
"If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
 

Stan

May 03, 2014, 01:12:35 PM
Lots of visitors..  easy to join,  easy to post...  come make some friends..  Play nice with others.
 

The Crusader

February 26, 2014, 04:30:18 PM
Religious Lie: "God only paid for sins until the next time you sin."
 

The Crusader

December 23, 2013, 09:38:53 AM
JUST A THINK ABOUT IT: Will you embrace the full meaning of Christmas? Jesus didn't die just so you could go to heaven. He came to give you life - His life; an abundant life free from guilt, condemnation, and slavery to both sins and religion. He came to bring a grace revolution to the world and tha

Show 50 latest

Our Amazon Store

Unique visitors since Dec 1, 2012

Flag Counter