Taking the Bible Literally
Some years ago, a co-worker expressed her frustration to me. I don’t know how we got on the topic, but she said she just wanted someone to tell her exactly what was in the bible and what it meant. I didn’t make a comment about this, as I wasn’t actively religious. I just remember thinking – isn’t that the point of continued church attendance and study? To find meaning for oneself?
It seems to me that this is part of the reason people spend their entire lives studying the bible (whichever version they study). When I worked at a bookstore chain, there was an entire row filled with different versions of bibles. The King James Version (the version the Utah LDS church uses), the New International Version and others. I knew (from seminary) that Joseph Smith had “started” his translation of the Bible, but I never knew he had finished it. I believe that the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) church uses this translation, and you can purchase it from them.
In this post, we were discussing gay (human) rights and what makes an organization a hate organization. While some of the bible verses taken individually may be clear about being gay, many other parts of the bible are difficult to relate to and understand in our current culture. I broke out the NIV and read Leviticus 18:22.
I would just like to point out the verse right before it, Leviticus 18:21 “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech…”
*What about the dietary restrictions? Some of those may have made sense over two thousand years ago, but do they make sense now? The previous chapter of Leviticus (Leviticus 17) appears to be about not eating blood – about draining the blood from animals before you eat them. It also has a good piece of advice, to not eat anything found dead or torn by wild animals. For example, eating shellfish like lobster or crab (Leviticus 11:10).
*Or teachings about killing witches/sorceresses (Exodus 22:18).
*Or teachings about slaves or slavery (Leviticus 25:44 – 46), (Colossians 3:22 – 25).
I thought one of the parables of Christ was when he went into the fields on a Sunday to get food. Wasn’t it recorded that he said that the law was made for man, not man for the law? (Luke 6:1-6. 6:9) (the exact quote is ‘which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’)
Many LDS do take parts of the bible literally.
I (personally) don’t understand how someone can take the book of “Revelations” literally, but I know some people do.
My reason for this post is to try and better understand why believers take some parts literally, but do not follow other parts. I think many Christians and believers understand that parts of the bible were not divinely inspired; while still believing other parts to be divinely inspired and true.
They may have been parts of the culture (like dietary restrictions) that just don’t have the same meaning in the twenty-first century. Some parts may even directly contradict themselves. There may have also been parts that were lost in translation.
The bible was translated from Hebrew to Greek and then English (right?) and the King James Version is notorious… Not only that, but in the second century, I thought the current version of the New Testament was put together by the early Christians, weeding out books like the book of Mary. I am not an early Christian scholar by any means, this is what I remember reading about.
So is this approach contradictory? Is this even possible?