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    • This recent episode of CBC Ideas might be of interest to a few people here - @Shewmaker or @Jain perhaps. Not sure if you'll both AGREE with this point of view, but that's another matter, and I wouldn't mind hearing your take regardless.

      Armstrong's own belief is that scripture needs to be enfolded
      into the present, something capable of continued interpretation and
      discovery. She argues that by seeing spiritual texts as ever-present
      stories, we can return to a less literal — and therefore less
      dangerous — way of understanding them.

      "Too many believers and non-believers alike now read these sacred texts in a doggedly literal
      manner," she writes."[It] is quite different from the more inventive and
      mystical approach of premodern spirituality."

      So while sacred texts don't prescribe specific moral acts, they do call us to act
      morally, to reach for a better version of ourselves.

      As she writes in The Lost Art of Scripture:
      "We should all, perhaps, as a matter of urgency, reflect on the
      Prophet's last speech to the ummah, which ended with a quotation from
      the Quran in which God addresses the whole of humanity: 'O humankind, we
      have created you all from a single male and a single woman, and formed
      you into tribes and nations so that you may get to know one another'."

      Here's a link to a downloadble version of the episode:

    • Apocryphal,

      I believe that the figurative parts of scripture should be accepted as figurative and the literal parts as literal — and that I don't have a choice as to which is which.

      In Exodus 19:4 the text is quoting God and says:

      You have seen what I did to Mizrayim, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.

      Now there are two things figurative in that statement. First, they were not literally carried on the wings of eagles. Second, God is not confined to one location but rather had chosen a location in which to manifest His presence to Moses and to which He had later brought Israel in order to manifest His power to Israel and make a covenant with them.

      But the idea that we can make the text say what we want it to say is an attempt to revolt against God and against the idea that God is not transient but eternal.

      We don't make God in our own image nor fashiom him after our cravings but rather He has made us in His image and we must adapt and conform to His will.

    • "Too many believers and non-believers alike now read these sacred texts in a doggedly literal
      manner," she writes."[It] is quite different from the more inventive and
      mystical approach of premodern spirituality."

      Two stories.

      I grew up Catholic. When I went to university, I once attended a Christian Bible study that was non-Catholic. I remember giving my own interpretation of a passage and was told by someone who had a highlighted personal bible that it wasn’t open to interpretation. It wasn’t my scene, but I respected the clarity of their faith.

      A year later, I’m watching a cable news interview with the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch. The interviewer, who was Catholic, asked Koch about his faith. Koch, who was Jewish, remarked that Catholicism is a “cafeteria plan religion”: the pope makes his declarations and then everyone follows only the ones they want to (premarital sex and sex for procreation only are two examples of Catholic doctrine versus practice).

      Both religious outlooks have their appeal, but they are polar opposites. And I don’t think the Bible study group I attended many years ago would appreciate Ms. Armstrong’s views.

    • @StephenL

      Bible Allegory at the bottom of this comment may simplify the comment's intent.

      The Bible scholars of the day of Jesus also thought that they KNEW what the text meant but their certainty was called blindness by Jesus.

      Each Bible passage means only what God intended it to mean and everything God intended it to mean.

      Any of us may or may not perceive the meaning of a passage correctly but our perception of a passage is open to question.

      The problem with creeds, cathechisms, manuals of discipline, etc is that they are written by fallible men who try to set these up as the standard. If someone attempts to go back to the Bible text, they can be kicked out of any religious group that has an official creed book.

      In all my efforts to teach, I emphasize that I have discovered repeatedly that I have misunderstood what several Bible passages meant and have later discovered I was wrong. If I have been wrong in the past (and I have) then I may be wrong about a passage in the present. Therefore, I attempt to teach people how to study the Bible for themselves.

      But when I misunderstand a passage that does NOT mean that my perception is valid. Quite the opposite. The idea that every person's perception of a passage is equally valid is incorrect. The only valid meaning of a passage is the meaning which God intended that passage to have.


      In the Bible, the word of God is represented as a fountain or a spring. When people try to codify what God has caused to be written, this is represented as a water storage facility called a cistern.

      The following is God's attitude towards attempts by man to provide a codified explanation of His scriptures:

      For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

      Jeremiah 2:13 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition

      (For any reader that is unfamiliar with this translation, I chose to use it for Stephen's sake because he stated that he grew up Catholic.)

    • In all my efforts to teach, I emphasize that I have discovered repeatedly that I have misunderstood what several Bible passages meant and have later discovered I was wrong.

      I find that a fascinating share and can better understand why your Bible study is a life’s work.

      I also appreciate your sharing passages from a Bible translation more familiar to Catholics. I have a story to share that may be illuminating if you are unfamiliar with Catholic practice, at least from my sample of one. I never met anyone growing up who had their own Bible with passages highlighted until I went to a Christian Bible study at university. I remember going through classes to prepare to be confirmed, but once I was confirmed at 14, that was it. Sunday mass became a “Greatest Hits collection” where you heard the same passages year after year. I remember receiving a small New Testament Bible in high school and reading passages for a few weeks and being surprised at how much more was there, but it wasn’t the norm. How so? Well, that same university I attended had a Catholic ministry. And I spoke to the priest about starting a Catholic Bible study. He agreed and while there were plenty of starving students who attended the Sunday dinners after mass, the only people who showed up to the Bible study attempt was me and the priest. We only met a couple times before we admitted defeat. I do remember as a Senior learning from the priest that the apostle Paul had written Gospel while chained to a Roman soldier. Completely blew my mind that I had never learned that detail growing up. But that is more the norm as far as studying the Bible once you are confirmed.

      Again, I mean no disrespect in sharing the above. Others who are Catholic may have had very different experiences.

    • @StephenL

      My late wife grew up Lutheran. Many of the things that she told me about her childhood are parallel to what you wrote about growing up Catholic. They also had confirmation classes when young, which incidentally did not study the Bible but rather the Lutheran writings about the Bible. They also followed a liturgy that didn't discuss the whole Bible in their sermons.

      Cynthia, as an adult was very self-motivated when it came to Bible study and to developing her ability to teach. Another thing that was admirable about her approach to Bible Study is that she would ask other Bible teachers besides me about passages or topics that puzzled her rather than "taking my word for it."

      Because she did not just take my word for things, I was helped to get past things that were incorrect or somewhat distorted by being compelled to re-examine many subjects and passages. This was very helpful both for my own development and for my teaching work.

    • If you would be interested in a discussion of things that I found that I was wrong about and things that "went right over my head" (as well as other "connections" I would be glad to start a Cake conversation on this topic.

      One example

      At the end of Romans 1:17, there is the phrase "as it is written, the just shall live by faith" DR 1899 adds the word man after the word just.

      I thought and taught that this passage means — Those who are pleasing to God are to live lives which are based on faith. Now there are several places in the Bible that teach that and it is definitely in accordance with the rest of the Bible, but that is not what Paul meant. I was wrong about the meaning of that verse.

      You see the phrase "as it is written"? I've learned repeatedly that if I don't go back to the text that is being quoted that I will sometimes jump to the wrong conclusion.

      Paul is quoting a passage from the prophecy of Habakkuk. God told Habakkuk that the Chaldeans (aka Babylonians) were going to devastate Judah and slaughter many people. But God also told Habakkuk that those who were pleasing to God would survive the Babylonians because of their faith.

      (How this happened is explained elsewhere, but is not the subject of this explanation.)

      Paul is discussing the "Day of Judgement." There is going to be a day when many will be condemned but Paul is saying that those who are pleasing to God will survive the Judgement because of their faith.

    • If you would be interested in a discussion of things that I found that I was wrong about and things that "went right over my head" (as well as other "connections" I would be glad to start a Cake conversation on this topic.

      Actually I would, but I’d suggest waiting a few weeks before starting it: @Apocryphal started a really interesting religion conversation here and I want to see where this leads to before I commit to participating in a new one.

      Tagging @lidja @slamdunk406 and @Chris for their insights to @Apocryphal’s original question, on whether their religion agrees with modern reinterpretation.

      I was on vacation in Florida one time and the local Sunday priest told the story of the Loaves of Bread and Fishes as not a miracle but as everyone deciding to share what they brought instead of keeping it to themselves. Not an interpretation that matched my Sunday school education, but he wasn’t defrocked as far as I know.

    • @Apocryphal’s original question, on whether their religion agrees with modern reinterpretation.

      Very interesting question, since I just listened to a podcast that discussed Evangelicals’ and Mormons’ acceptance and loyalty to Trump.

      As I listened to this podcast, it reminded me of a time in my life when I was so desperate to understand the ways of God that I literally dissected scriptures word-by-word and studied the utterances of modern-day prophets (as Mormons understand that to mean) with an almost-insane commitment.

      I don’t do that anymore.

    • Beautifully said, Shewmaker. Once upon a time I filmed a documentary for Stanford that aired on PBS about earthquakes in the Holy Land. I went with a renowned geophysicist who had grown up Jewish in Israel and whose copy of the Old Testament was in Hebrew.

      We would do things like stand on the Mount of Olives and read Jeremiah:

      And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

      You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. 

      We would compare our understanding with each other and to the science (Jeremiah was correct about the direction of movement and the valley), and we’d learn a lot. Many times our views changed.

    • As a Christian, I believe scripture to be historical. For the most part anyways. Like, I’m not sure if Jonah is historical or a metaphor, for example. That said, I do think it’s good to try to apply scripture to our every day lives and search for those parallels. That helps to make it more meaningful.

    • Yeah, too many LDS people have equated being active in the church as being active in the Republican Party. As an active Latter-Day Saint who votes Democrat, I find it super annoying. LOL

    • If your question concerning Jonah is caused by his being swallowed then here are two points to consider:

      1. The great fish was not normal. The text states "YHVH had prepared a great fish" Jonah 1:7

      2. If Jonah was not inside a fish then why did Jesus state that Jonah was? If Jonah was not literally inside a great fish then that also calls in question the death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew 12:40

    • Stephen,

      For various reasons it is never possible to translate perfectly from one language to another a large body of written material except if the two languages are so close together that they have only recently been classified as separate languages. (Kind of like, if American English ever gets classified as a different language from British English.)

      Thus translating from Koine Greek into English produces "mistakes" in every translation. But some mistakes are more egregious than others. (I think the KJV translators deliberately mistranslated in a few places.)

      Today, I found a place in the 1899 translation (that I used recently in a previous post) in which the mistake is pretty bad.

      If you've studied languages, you may be familiar with the term "reflexive verb." There are a few in English but they are rare. "Sit" is a reflexive verb while set is a "non-reflexive" verb.

      There is a passage in which Paul uses a reflexive verb which means to look at oneself. He also uses a greek word for a reflective surface. Although today mirrors are made out of glass, in the first century, they were made by polishing metal. It took a lot of polishing to make the metal reflective enough to have a very clear image of oneself. While a person was polishing metal in order to make a mirror, they would be able to see thmselves dimly in the metal long before they were done polishing the metal.

      The British used to use the word "glass" to mean a mirror, as in a looking glass.

      Paul wrote "Now we see (reflexive verb) in a "mirror" dimly but then face to face." What he was saying is that this subject (at Paul's present time) was analogous to a situation in which the metal has been partly polished but the reflection is only dim at Paul's time. (In this post, I'm not going to get into a discussion of the difference between Paul's time and our time)

      The 1899 version makes it sound as if Paul is talking about looking through a window pane at something other than a reflection. "We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face."

      "Through a glass" is definitely not what the Greek says.

    • Fascinating. It’s amazing that evangelicals and Mormons could have such different views based on essentially the same core teachings.

      This is something that has always bothered me about scripture. No matter how simple they sound, there are always alternative interpretations. For example, I thought New Testament teachings on wealth were pretty clear but Paula White’s prosperity gospel has a whole different take, a take that reminds me of Mormon values of success and wealth.

    • No human (or group of humans) has a perfect perception of the text's meaning.

      But, "alternative interpretations" are like "alternative facts."

      The only legitimate interpretation is God's interpretation.

      If "alternative interpretations" were equally valid then it would be ludicrous for anyone to ever change their mind as to what the Bible means, because yesterday's "interpretation" is just as valid as "today's."

      The reason that I have changed my views so many times on what passages meant is because my previous view on a passage was demonstrated to have been INVALID.

      If someone holds the view "there is no such thing as truth," that is the intellectual equivalent of saying "everything that I say is false." Both of those concepts are self-incriminating.

    • No.

      I know a lot about koine Greek and Spanish and a little bit about Hebrew, but in spite of how much effort I have put into the study of languages, I still have not developed any degree of fluency in any language other than English. I have sat in on discussions in another language and was often able to understand enough to know what subject was currently being discussed but usually was not able to follow the logic

      I can usually read Bible passages in Spanish and I can recognize word families in Greek but things like verb tense and other nuances usually eludes me in Greek.

      For example:

      δικαιοσύνη γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται.

      I have little if any trouble recognizing the two dike family words in this text and the the three pistos words. Theou is also obvious, asd is auto, ek, and eis. For the resdt, I have to examine each word's meaning simultaneously.

      Prior to the web, two books by George Wigram were very helpful because they showed every place that a given word occurred in the text, making it possible to see the ways in which God used a word. These tools are now incorporated along with many other tools in places like and

      One offline book that I still rely very heavily on is by Spiros Zodhiates and is titled "New Testament Word dictionary. I also use Vine's Dictionary and Thayer's dictionary but those are now available online.

      In my teaching, I exhort people to use these tools to look up the meanings of words and their usages. On my projected charts, I will from time to time list a URL to one of these resources to help them analyze a passage.

      One situation in particular in which I exhort people to use a dictionary is when God lists several words one right after another. Examples would include Ephesians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, and Galatians 5:19-21. God doesn't just list off a bunch of words to "hear Himself talk."

      But, sometimes words have a meaning in the Bible that are unique to the Bible. For example, if someone wants to know the difference between pardon and justification, I ask people to explain how three men could become "unclean" through obedience to God in Numbers 19:1-10. It is not possible to become guilty through submission to God but it was possible to become unclean. From there, I discuss how pardon applies to our guilt, while justification applies to our unacceptability.

    • The only legitimate interpretation is God's interpretation.

      I hear Neil deGrasse Tyson say 'The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.' That always stops me in my tracks.

    • That’s an incredible amount of effort to ensure that you are translating a passage correctly. Major respect for your mastery level practice. I am curious about your training, or what some might call your teaching lineage: who your teachers were and what their training was. As an educator, I know that a student’s advancement and/or interest in a subject is buoyed by the excellence of their teacher. You mentioned your late wife’s religious education growing up was similar to my own. Is your level of commitment to Bible study the norm for your church?

      Feel free to ignore the above if I’m getting too personal or if you’re just not interested in replying.

    • I’m personally more inclined to believe Jonah was swallowed by a fish and that if anyone can create a fish by which a man could survive in, it’s God. That said, one could also say Jonah was written as an allegory describing Christ’s resurrection and that Christ was referencing that allegory. There are stories in the Apocrypha like the Book of Tobit that no one takes to be historical. Maybe Jonah is the same kinda deal?

    • I do think as a Christian, it’s better to err on the side of a story like Jonah being historical only because it helps to avoid the potential slippery slopes that you are bringing up.

    • @StephenL

      You used a word which I suspect you define in a manner that is quite different from the way that I define that word.

      That is the word "church."

      You asked "Is your level of commitment to Bible study the norm for your church."

      The problem is that you probably define that term as refering to an organization comprised of many congregations. Such as the "Roman Catholic church" or "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

      I do not.

      For me and for the many people who believe the way that I do, the term "church" has two meanings.

      1. Those individuals whose names are registered in heaven. (No human can know with any certainty whether another individual is or is not a member of that church except by things the other person says or does which are consistent with Christ's doctrine.)

      2. A local assembly. Membership in a local assembly does not put one into membership in the universal fellowship and if the members of a local assembly "withdraw" from someone who Christ accepts that one is not removed from the universal fellowship.

      I do not recognize any supra-congregational organization as biblical.

      Each of the local churches is completely autonomous and is not "answerable" to any other assembly. There is no such thing as fellowship on a corporate level between assemblies.

      For this reason, over the years many assemblies grow farther and farther apart from each other in what they teach and practice. Both my Dad and his "Best Man" at my parent's wedding later became preachers but they strongly disagreed with each other concerning several things which were deemed (at least by Dad) as doctrinally vital.

      Now as to your question. Among the congregations with which I am familiar, Bible study on an individual level has always been encouraged and discussions of differing views on passages has also. However, each individual's level of commitment to Bible study is self-determined. I have known many people who like my wife and myself tried to delve into the text but I've known many others who were lax in their study habits.

      Quite frankly, I do not devote nearly as much time and study to the text as many others do.

    • I believe that hundreds possibly thousands of stories in the Old Testament are foreshadows of Jesus. There are at least three stories that foreshadow the events in John 4:1-42. But I also believe that all those events occurred.

      I do believe that the narrative of Jonah is a foreshadow of Jesus, both in the way you mentioned and in at least one other way, but I also believed it happened.

      The first century Jews who did not believe that Jesus is God's anointed, did believe in the events of Jonah.

      I do not accept the book of Tobit as legitimate.