How do you pick and choose which stories are of your holy book are to be taken literally?

I know modern people in some religions or sects of certain religions don't take their entire holy books as literal truth. An example would be some Christians not believing in the story of Noah as being completely true.

How do you decide which stories are to be taken literally and which should simply have some sort of moral meaning? If you don't take the whole book as truth, how can you be sure of the validity of any of it? How do you know anything about your God?

Thank you.

13 Answers

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Best Answer

    This is why I'm a Catholic and you aren't.

    Because you want to be your own Pope...but that is how we got in this mess to begin with.

    Just to show you how much you don't know, I quote the Catholic Catechism and the 2000 year tradition that says all Scripture is both figurative AND literal.


    The senses of Scripture

    115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

    116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83

    117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

    1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.84

    2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction".85

    3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86

    118 A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:

    The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;

    The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87



    To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."76

    111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."77

    The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.78

    112 1. Be especially attentive "to the content and unity of the whole Scripture". Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God's plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79

    The phrase "heart of Christ" can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80

    113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"81).

    114 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By "analogy of faith" we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

  • 9 years ago

    When you read fiction, realistic fiction, how do you know which parts are symbols the author is using, and which are reality that is the back drop to the fiction? Literary analysis is not that hard, we all do it all the the time.

    We may know that no Raven ever refused to get a Fox some Grapes from high atop the grape vine. And we may know that the Fox didn't wander off muttering "Well, those grapes were probably sour anyway." But we know that Ravens, Foxes and grapes are all real world items. And we know the truth of the matter that it is easy to disparage that which you cannot have. A truth so readily apparent, that "sour grapes" has become an idiom in several European languages, thanks to Aesop's fable.

    We know there is no Hogwart's, and no magic, as portrayed in Harry Potter. But we also know the descriptions of London, the descriptions of what kids away at boarding schools as they go through puberty, are real, and we relate to them.

    Why is this so mystifying to so many people? Have the biblical literalists so muddied the waters that we non-believers can't understand how believers who aren't literalists manage?

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Generally the pattern here for the cultists is.

    1. Whatever science disproves as a possibility or facts come to light to show what they claim is pure nonsense. = the cult says was only a metaphor. Didnt mean to suggest that it literally happened.

    2. Whatever is left over. = They can still claim is true and actually happened.

    Present day what the cultists are pretty much left with. Is that god is real ... until someone can 100% prove otherwise. Which leaves them safe to cling to their primitive dark age beliefs. As there's no doubt humanity will never be able to explore and turn over every rock in the universe. Even if they did ... and no god was produced. The diehard cultists would just say god is all things, or god is in another dimension doing something we cannot understand. etc.


  • 9 years ago

    If you were reading Scripture, you would know yourself, that in books that contain non literal stories, they are told to be such. Daniel's prophecy is described as a vision, Paul's in Revelation is likewise described. Additionally, further study will show you that these symbolic things are also explained to us, what they mean, that no one uses private interpretation. The rest are literal.

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  • This is very easy Anything in the Holy and Inerrant Word of God the Bible that is said to be True by God is Truth!

  • 9 years ago

    It makes no sense to take these scriptures as literal truth, because people just wrote them and put their own insecurities and weaknesses into them. they made them up completely and they only say that what they wrote is true because they were narcissistic ***holes. Religion is a made up phenomena. That's not to say that our lives don't have meaning...just that you won't find real meaning in stupid books written thousands of years ago by people who owned slaves, fought in bloody wars, and basically caused human misery wherever they could.

    Religious scriptures are from a dark age of humanity. people were trying to explain the world but they didn't have jack **** in terms of science so they couldn't actually study the world, so they just made up a bunch of stuff, made up corresponding rituals to reinforce their beliefs, and only did it for themselves, they liked the power they got from being a moral authority and having people fear them and follow them.

    save yourself a world of grief and burn any religious book you have in your house. they are all lies, terrible, terrible lies. If you want meaning (which everyone does), then just think about how strange it is to be alive, and how nobody owns you even though they might pretend like they do. then you'll feel free, and who knows, maybe the real God will show itself to you.

  • 9 years ago

    You use your brain. Clearly the visions of Daniel and of the Apostle John are not to be taken literally unless you expect wild beasts such as they mention to be seen roaming around the earth.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    ALL stories in the holy book are taken as meaningful. The ones described as "literal" are taken literally. The ones described as "jokes" are laughed at. The ones described as "stories of human nature" are considered as real as our human lives.

    Source(s): the holy book, john 3:16
  • 9 years ago

    You are supposed to take the entire Bible literally if you are a Christian. I know i do. If you are a Christian and say you don't believe the whole Bible then you are calling God a liar.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    I don't pick and choose any of them. I believe every word from Genesis 1:1 To Revelation 22:21.

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