Stumbling Block I: Literal Interpretations of the Bible
Today’s readings: Genesis 5:1 – 7:24, Psalms 3:1-8, Proverbs 1:10-19, and Matthew 3:7-4:11
I read the story of Noah today. You can find it beginning in Genesis 6; I can’t tell you where it ends, precisely, my Bible reading plan for today cuts off with them sailing the floodwaters at the end of chapter 7, but I think you probably know how it goes, whether you’re in church every Sunday or you laugh at the rest of us for believing what we believe.
Here’s the crux of my situation, or at least the part that I want to visit today: I don’t know if I believe everything that is written in the Bible in terms of how it is literally presented and how it happened.
I don’t think the Creation period was literally a six day setup, with God kicking back on some daisies on the seventh. I don’t see how Noah could round up all those animals – lions and tigers and bears – and put them on a boat while God closed all the windows and doors and turned on the faucet for 40 days. I don’t see how Methusaleh lived 969 years. I don’t think Jonah was swallowed whole by a whale and carried around in the world’s worst taxi for three days before being deposited on a beach to contritely tell his story.
When I read the Old Testament, and I’ve come across three stories already in the first seven chapters of Genesis that are at least referenced above, I feel like I need some 3D glasses and popcorn. I feel the same about a large part of the New Testament, as well. I don’t know how people read such passages and think to themselves, without fail, that such things happened to the dotted line of the words that appear. I have my theories – the primary one being that a large part of the Bible was written as an allegory more geared toward telling stories in a way that most of us can better understand the book than reporting things in 21st century English from 6,000 B.C. – and there is a broad camp of people who would tell you that I’m not a person of faith for believing the way I do, but those are my general beliefs at this time.
The question I have for self-professing Christians, and I understand if this is a deeply personal one and something you may rather not discuss in public forum, is this: Do you believe in an absolutely literal version of the Bible, or do you believe that it’s an inspired book of God? (…and the follow-up, and perhaps more difficult question in this piece, is this. If it’s “both,” where does one draw the line between That was a God-inspired story and That really happened? In my weaker moments of faith, there are times when I’m not sure we can.)
Tomorrow’s readings: Genesis 8:1 – 10:32, Matthew 4:12-25, Psalms 4:1-8, and Proverbs 1:20-23