“Is the Bible to be Taken Literally?” by Andrew J. Schatkin
For many people in secular society, the Bible is largely irrelevant and is seen rather as a series of fanciful stories. This approach to the Bible does not understand fully what the Bible wants to tell us. The Bible assumes God in another realm and the existence or the supernatural. The Bible informs us of God’s actions and interventions in human history from the beginning of the world to the gospel events, and the death and resurrection of Christ.
There are a number of ways that people see the Bible and understand it. Some do not see it at all and see it as largely irrelevant. They are a fairly happy group of people with their lives, their latest cars, and their current girlfriend. There is another group of people who may read the Bible as literature. They are a fairly small group. I think they approach the Bible from the wrong angle. The Bible was not meant to be read as literature but as a religious book.
I now come to the issue that I present here which is whether the Bible is to be taken literally. Quite frankly, I see no other way to understand it. The Bible is the most widely read book in the world and is in fairly constant demand. It has been read and reread of the past 3,000 years. If the Bible were not read and understood in its literal sense, it would have been discarded long ago.
Many people reject the Bible along with other old books and literature as simply not relevant or current. This group may not even see relevance in the Greek tragedies or Jane Austen, Plato, St. Augustine, or the Iliad. Their thought processes are fed by some process of absorption from the media and television. The Bible has quite a different approach and the approach has to be understood on its face. The Bible sees people as fallen from what they should be and sees them as failed and in need of restoration. Thus I read the Bible literally to find out what God has to say about humanity, human actions in history, the meaning of life, and the possible outcome of myself as a person. If the Bible is not read in its literal sense, there is no point in reading it at all. It would be the same as reading Shakespeare and not understanding what he is saying literally. In sum, this is true about any kind of book. Not to understand the literal sense of the book is not to understand the book at all. The Bible as taken literally will always and forever supersede any temporary fad or fashion. The Bible tells us the poor are blessed and advises us to give away our material goods. Either one takes this literally of chooses not to. In short, I am not embarrassed about believing the literal truth of the Bible since I am in the company of hundreds of millions of people for the last 3,000 years. In short, to read the Bible is to read it as what it says and nothing more. In reading it, we are given the choice of rejecting its content, ignoring it, being indifferent to it, or accepting it and applying it. For me, I see no other alternative.
To approach the Bible in an attempt to explain or read away its core or interpret away it contents is taking the wrong road. I realize people may disagree with me about this and I have no difficulty with this. But I have difficulty with any person who says that the literal sense of the Bible has no meaning since long after I am deceased there will be people all over the world reading the Bible until the end of time.
The issue of the literal understanding of the Bible is found within the Bible itself in Acts. In Acts chapter 10, Peter specifically states that that they were witnesses to all that Jesus did both in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem and that they were witnesses to his death and resurrection and that the apostles were chosen by God as witnesses who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection. These comments of Peter in the book of Acts are statements of history and the Apostles were witnesses to the events in the gospels. Again, in the Second Letter of St. Peter, chapter 1 verse 16, St. Peter states that the apostles did not follow cleverly-devised myths but were eyewitnesses of the majesty of Christ. These statements of St. Peter in the book of Acts and again in his own letter set to rest any doubt as to the historical and literal understanding to be attached to the biblical events.
I end with this note. Many of my more modern and faddish colleagues will see my understanding of the Bible in its literal sense and taking the events described as historical and literally true as backward. To them I say and answer that I prefer to place my faith in the authority of the biblical revelation and not in the New York Times; the New York Post; CNN, or Fox News. I lodge my faith in St Augustine; St. Thomas; Luther; Calvin; and the literary work of John Milton and John Bunyan, and not in People magazine and not in political correctness or the current ideology.