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Is The Holy Bible to be read Literally? - Figuratively?




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Is the Bible to be read Literally? - Figuratively?



It has come to mind, in my old age that: When two sides to any question (or situation) have been going at it long enough that there has actually been sides taken by the persons involved... There is a real chance that they are both wrong ..... To which , here will be interjected a third possibility...




If you are someone that is unfamiliar with this concept of "Lateral Thinking"  yet willing to read all this gobbelty gook, It is strongly advise checking  it out on Wikipedia, but here is my homespun explanation and how it relates to Bible reading, interpretation, and putting those things into practice. 


As follows:

Lateral thinking is something we all do, at all times, to one extent or another. It is the ability to think figuratively while focusing on an absolute or literal item. Seeing it from different angles, while never forgetting that "it is" literal. 

This type of thinking would seem to be a facet of discernment, which aids in the choice of a method, we will put into action, to reach the core of the object or objective being considered. The more obscure the item of consideration,  the greater the need for lateral thinking will be.


Example ...

Have you ever had a teacher, perhaps in high school or college, that stated .."I am trying to get you to use the grey matter which is lodged between your ears".?

Of course we all know what was said,  is NOT that we have some unknown "grey colored substance" within our heads that is solely distinguished from the rest of the "red" stuff inside our body by its color.

The teacher is making an indirect physical reference to our brain and exhorting the class to "exercise that brain" that they may better understand the lesson they were about to be taught.....

Possibly because the lesson about to be taught will require some "reasoning" or the ability to perceive concepts from multiple angles in the effort to determine a satisfactory solution or that there may be more than one satisfactory solution.

In other words...and to quote a modern phrase or two......The teacher needs the class to "Think outside the Box" or they aren't going to "catch it". 


The use of this reference to the brain, as a "grey matter", ... is in itself  an attempt at jumpstarting the thought process of lateral thinking,

If the teacher had simply said "I want You to use your brain" .. many of the brains in the room may have stayed in neutral, but in referring to the brain as "grey matter"  (and regardless whether the body language of the teacher was humorous or condescending)  each student (that wasn't sleeping) needed to use their brain, via lateral thinking, to come to the conclusion that these words had a different meaning.


Is this type of thinking necessary or important to every day life? (well yes and no)


Every moment of every day we encounter situations which can be dealt with ...WITHOUT "Thinking outside the Box" ... In any given human lifetime, millions of things take place., to the point that most thoughts, and the actions those thoughts command our bodies to put into motion, are simply done and redone and re-redone without giving them another thought...(and we can seemingly get along just fine like that)

BUT if we apply ourselves and give some of these mundane actions a fresh look, they can suddenly become revitalized by perceiving them from the different angle and we find ourselves no longer bored or even complacent, but instead the lateral thinking allows a rebirth and an enjoyment of things that were neutral......


One area that comes to mind that had to be created strictly for pleasure and the exercise of lateral thinking is that of Humor: 


 Ooooh sure some things in this world are just flat out funny. (take a long hard look at a chicken and you can know God has a tremendous sense of Humor) ...For Human to Human Humor lateral thinking, is almost always required. Which is why we have a sense of "feeling foolish" when two or more are gathered together and for some lack of lateral thinking, we are the only one that "just didn't get it" ... Then when we need to have the "joke" explained we really get the :"Duh"Duh" feeling.

Often times laughing at ourselves for not understanding the punch line, is funnier than the joke, with the laughing  itself  becoming a lateral gesture at ourselves as a jester. 


Many of us take way too much pride in our ability to think laterally, in all areas of life, which makes us "think" we are smarter than others and that becomes a conspicuously stupid trait and not funny at all.

When humor really comes down to the basics:  ... and with the root word of "Humor" being "humus" (Seemingly Greek or Latin both of which are Greek to me, but do know that it means "Earth" Or "Soil" Or "Dirt") and being some of the other closest relatives of this base word  (in the word world) , are  "Human - Humility - Humble" we can easily see why it is the nature many of our fellowman to NOT see the humor in a prideful joke ... or what is commonly called a dirty joke....



Another area of life where Lateral thinking seems to be a process that enhances our worldly experience is LOVE :


Where human to human Love is concerned: Lateral thinking is a handy attribute for any person to have honed to the utmost of their capacity ..

IT will allow each to foresee the possibilities of hurting others by words that may be said ... or actions that may be taken.

By viewing negative situations from different angles prior to action ... it may allow for a deciding factor in a negative situation to never mature past thought ...thereby a continuation of harmony is maintained, at times this can be the essence of Love. 

Where positive situations are concerned, lateral thinking can add even more joy, humor, more new twists, and this joyful tool does aid in keeping love fresh. This would seem to be the "always something new" so many "head doctors" of our times exhort their clients to embrace in the effort to "save their marriage"

( Head doctors and marriage being another subject we will touch on someday if my Wife smiley.jpg will let me )  



Could this be why Our God has seemingly allowed Scripture to be recorded in a manner that requires so very much lateral type thinking, to be necessary, when "seeking" to fathom the depths of His Love??


Some would say that the Words of the Bible NEED to be taken Literally, and that they can Live it Literally and no other figurative or lateral thinking of it is allowed:

THAT would seem to be impossible, because the One True God that inspired Scripture is the OMNI-THINKER and has ordered us to attempt to think like Him.

Now we all know that we cannot think exactly like him because we are human and are dealing in a diminished capacity .... and even though the overall concept of His thinking is that of literal teachings it takes lateral thinking to learn them... the proof of this is in scripture..

The Lessons are often told in Stories ... (and here it is not meant to consider just the "Parables" often used by Jesus, although those small segments of the Bible are certainly a good example of a Teacher attempting to get Students to use their grey matter laterally. This was done by using  unforgettable anecdotes, thereby allowing the first 1500 years or so of common folks in Christianity, "that couldn't read" or prior to the advent of the printing press "didn't have ready access to scripture", more than a fighting chance of getting to know Him )



Let's also take a look at some different types of Scripture


1) Parables.

        1a). Obviously designed to inspire those that were told these stories at the time, as well as for all generations, into Spirit filled lateral thinking. Because they are accounts of situations, that from which, we are to draw insight that SHOULD aid us individually and collectively in the quest to understand how God Thinks.

Thereby freely choosing to follow the insights gained, bypassing the downfalls of the subordinate characters of these parables, while gaining the Virtues of the main characters, causing our thought processes and actions to become like onto Gods Own.

In other words Learning by Others mistakes and examples, which is one teaching method that is lateral teaching at its best. Allowing each, that will seek true answers, to obtain the benefit of being "delivered from evil" without being "lead into temptation".

Temptation being the starting point of where the process of falling into sin begins - Nextly, realization of the weakness (that gave into the temptation) and realization of a fall (or fallen status in Spirit) is needed. - Followed by remorse for the insult that has been perpetrated to God (or to the nature of the Goodness He has built into each Human). - Then asking for and receiving forgiveness, and thereby learning to stay away from temptation the next time it is encountered. All of which would seem to be the normal alternative to simply taking to heart the important lesson of a parable.

This leads me to a line of thinking where we could easily imagine Our Gracious God saying: We can do this easy (via My Sons Parables) Or We can do this ruff (via you Sinning against Our Covenant, Me Calling you back, Me Forgiving you, Me Cleaning up the mess you have made, AND THEN you Learn)  


2) Old Testament Historically Documented Writings

Truth's that actually happened to real people. (The Exodus - King David life and times )  Our Jewish Brothers and Sisters will attest to the accuracy of the record of many of these writings (stories) through genealogy as well as trustworthy verbal accounts of faith, pasted on through Generations of Love for G-d and His Laws.

Were they simply stories for the sake of stories?

The Old testament is story after story each with a meaning .... and a deeper meaning .... and after that several deeper meanings above those ones .... LATERALLY laid out in facts so deep in meaning that Lateral thinking is only the start ... we need to also think Longitude-ally ---Horizontally --- Vertically and from every other angle on the compass and even after that we will each still have the "Duh"Duh" feeling on that day He explains to us what we overlooked.....

These accounts each have meaning which overall relates to many levels of the human psyche, not only beckoning each individual to think Laterally as to how it pertains to them, but insisting that we do. For if we don't, we cannot "find our personal God" in Scripture of the Old Testament.

Granted that for we Christians, each of these Old Testament lessons are pointing at Jesus and the New Covenant of the New Testament but THAT ITSELF takes lateral thinking to discern.  


3) Old Testament Accounts such as that of Creation (which so many these days say weren't necessarily real people but only figurative)

(thanks to Mr Darwin and generations of scientists spending billions of our tax dollars which could have been feeding the, starved by Man Unkind, children of God, but instead have been feeding the minds of generations, via mass media, with theory)

This account is easy to believe as Literal (that is: literal with just enough Lateral to "scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart").  

For it would seem the more "we" discover about the methods the universe used to create itself and allow MAN to evolve from IT the more it looks exactly like the 6 days of work Our God tells us that HE DID to allow us such a wondrous place to live as well as wondrous bodies for our Spirits to take rest in while we are on this earth of His and governed by that finite commodity He Invented which we call "Time"...

Especially when we take into account the FACT that, those that recorded this Book of Genesis, (or actually re-recorded it into what we know as The Bible from much older Hebrew Writings) did it no later than (right around) the year 400AD and could have had no idea as to the accuracy of the progression of these "building blocks" of the world or of  mankind itself, NOR that it would be "ratified so closely by science" 1000 to 1500 years later...   


4) New Testament (The 4 Gospels)

There are times when Jesus Himself distinguished the literal from any figurative but certainly seems to invite the "lateral" to be used by future generations:  by saying "Tharly Tharly I say onto you" (and other translations say He Said " Amen Amen I say onto you" .. and yet another "I tell you the Truth") ....

We all seem to agree that: He was not saying that He was once again about to tell the truth,.. (as though at some other times He was  NOT telling the Truth and was now about too... for we all agree the HE IS TRUTH and all that he ever SAID IS TRUTH .. in one or MORE ways)  ..... ,but that, when He used those words, which He rarely used, prior to a dialog on any of the subjects in which He felt it necessary to do so .... He was FOR SURE at that time saying that "The Words you are about to hear and the lesson I AM about to teach, can be taken Literally"

Which in itself says that there is something to distinguish from, when considering the teaching methods of other lessons by This Same Teacher.

His speaking in parables is one obvious thing that needed to be distinguished from, this other direct type of teaching.

Whether parable or direct teachings (which were generally that of type and archetype) or His, just as famous, question and dialog style of teaching, all required those at the time and us of the future to enter into lateral thinking, in order to draw from Him, the lessons designed and needed to touch our individual heart. 


5) The Epistles

(These are letters written by the Apostles (including Paul)  to various communities (churches) and individuals to instruct - reprove - enlighten, guiding them (and us) in a unity, by explaining the ways of the Triune God)

These letters contain wording that is VERY straight forward and very literal, in the accounts of the life and times, that the authors experience, with Jesus Himself.

The Apostles themselves would have had no idea, at the time, of the writing, and we can be quite sure, didn't lay awake at night thinking: "someday this letter will be considered as THE WORD OF GOD HIMSELF".  In fact each (in their Humility) would have been appalled at the idea of anyone saying so..   Me thinks we all do agree that these letters were and are the Inspired Word of God, although unlike The 10 commandments which we are told was written "by" the hand of God ... these letters were written by the hand of Men ... whose thoughts were guided by the Holy Spirit.


Should these Epistles be read literally?

Why of course, they are literally letters instructing Christians on how to live and act in accordance with the teachings these men received from Jesus Himself and our Fathers of the Church (in around the year 400AD), whom we trust, declared them to have been Inspired by The Holy Spirit.


Should these Epistles be read figuratively?

Not if one wishes to actually follow first hand instructions on how to live, and live out the actions as one, that wishes to "obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus." (which seems to me to be a reference to both the Old and New Testaments)


Should these Epistles be read laterally?

It would seem to be a must if: One wishes both absorb the teaching of these men and get to know the Complete and Sacred Heart of the True Author, that set the example spoken of in the letters themselves, as well as inspired the thoughts of the men that took pen to paper.


6) The Book of Revelation (the apocalypse)

Our Dear Brother John has such a knack for lateral thinking which shows in all of his writings, as well as in those few things we are told about his demeanor in the Gospel accounts from other writers. (and I have a sneaky hunch he may be the One Apostle that Jesus did the most "Joking" with and this may be why He is always referred to as "The Disciple Jesus Loved")

While there are so many areas within This Book that point to literal situations, the style is so lateral in even those, that it has caused many (but especially those of prideful intent) to get into all sorts of trouble with literal interpretation, predicting everything from Our Lords Second Coming to the collapse of governments to exact day and time of space ship landings.

Most of the predictions having something to do with the immediate need of funds in order for the cosmic happening to take place or shelter the chosen ones from it.

One could easily envision Our Lord and John belly laughing at some of the predictions mortal man has articulated and attributed in our prideful self prophecies of what these well written verses mean. (none the less be assured each Word DOES have meaning)

As well as we can know that the shock and horror of the damage done to the souls of those that have followed such misreading of these verses, is little compared to the distain Our Lord has for the actions of those that continue to con others into believing such verbage as their botched interpretations'.                                                                    



7). The following is an attempt to simplify this concept of "Is lateral thinking allowed"? or "Is Literal Interpretation the only way to go"?, when learning from or preaching and teaching the overall concept of The Bible?  By asking two questions:


1). Does God speak to us through Words alone?


2). Does God speak to us through Actions as well as Words?


If the answer is "YES Words alone" ... there is little more to say ...

One then must read the words, but be careful when putting them into action that NONE of our natural lateral thinking should sway those actions from the EXACT meaning.

Although one may have to ask "Why did Our God actually go through action of :., The suffering and humiliation of DYING ON THE CROSS when He could have simply told us he is (was) willing to Die for us.. and we trusting in His Word could have then reaped the same benefit?


If the answer is "YES Words and Actions" .. It needs to be discerned as to: What is He saying by those actions?., as well as., How do those meaningful actions interact with the Words spoken, while bearing in mind that His Thoughts are further above our thoughts than our thoughts are above a dogs thoughts.

THIS discernment will require, thoughts inspired by the Holy Spirit,  which are truly lateral to our normal way of thinking, and realize that it is our quest to allow them to become literal to our normal way of Life.


When it comes to the "Literal" interpretation of Scripture .. We need to not only "attempt individually" to grasp the meanings of what has been written within Our Bible, but look toward those that have a good track record of greater insight then our own. (Our Priests - Ministers - Brothers - Sisters ) For in these others we will find that God is already at work and He wants to incite a meeting with Him through them.


We are invited by Our Lord to investigate deeper into literal living by reading the writings of other literal-lateral thinkers who themselves gave their lives as building blocks, laid upon The Cornerstone. Even though their writings didn't make it into the Bible, they were the writers of those letters and books which held the traditions of those that DID.

They can be found easily these days (via the internet) and it is suggested to, (after reading The Bible) get other writings as close as possible to the earthly time of Jesus, by reading the thoughts and teachings of such Church Fathers as Aquinas - Ignatius - Polycarp - Augustine..... These men are truly building blocks of all modern Christian thought ... without the stumbling blocks that many a modern literal - liberal - thinker has placed in the path of Godly Reasoning...

You may find yourself climbing Jacobs Ladder of Lateral thinking:  for with God all things are possible.


If you made it this far, you may wish to take a look at ( How does God speak to us? )




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