Should the Bible Be Read Literally?

Should the Bible read literally? In this video, Dr. Jerome Van Kuiken explains the difference between a literal reading and metaphorical reading of Scripture, arguing that the Bible should be read in the way it was intended to, according to its genre indicators. The genres present in the Bible are varied but include collections of history, prophecy, law, parables, apocalyptic, wisdom, epistles, and many more.

Each of these broader categories offer signals for when a text should be read literally vs. metaphorically, but sometimes they weave in and out of figurative language—as in parables shared by Jesus in history (or Gospel readings). Other times, genres blend together narrative history with prescriptive law codes, such as in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Prophetic and apocalyptic literature are particularly difficult to interpret because they include so much metaphoric language whose referents are challenging to determine, unless stated within the passage. The faithful reader who is attentive to God’s Word will both diligently study and respect the context of the Bible, as well as allow it to speak on its own terms.

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