reply to post by moocowman
I can think of three considerations you may wish to weigh.
When it comes to literalism, the first question you may wish to ask is "Does it matter?" Does a story in the Bible lose its instructional value if
it contains biases or fabrications?
You will miss out on the instructive lesson of the story if you say, "that whole story seems fishy to me...no way it happened." If you went to law
school, you would have read a case called Palsgraaf
. As the story of the Paalsgraaf case goes, a railroad conductor was helping a man
carrying a parcel board a train. The railroad conductor accidentally knocked the parcel out of the man's trains as he helped the man get onto the
train. The parcel happened to contain dynamite. The dynamite exploded, causing an anvil that was a hundred feet or so away to fall on a woman's
A law school student could read the first page of the Palsgraaf case and say, "You got to be kidding! There is no way that
happened!" They could shut their casebook and not read the case. Yet, the Paalsgraaf case is one of the most celebrated cases in the law and its
decision is the basis of much of the modern law of torts.
You are saying, "This story seems silly! There are no talking invisible men! There are no fairies!" Your statement may very well be correct from
a scientific or historical perspective. From a moral perspective, however, you are closing your mind to a valuable learning exercise.
Second, once you have determined whether it is important that the text be literally, perhaps you should ask yourself whether a literal interpretation
would make more sense than a loose interpretation?
In order to do this, you may need to know the context in which the rule was made. You should keep in mind that the people of the Biblical era lived
in a very different world.
For starters, life was very tough. People were often malnourished and worked very hard. Many people were slaves. People also had to worry about
marauders. If the Bible were to create some sort of penal system that was based on deterrence, severe punishments were necessary because the average
person lived a very tough life.
In modern times, cutting off a limb for a petty offense does not make sense because prison or fine may be enough of a deterrent. In ancient times,
you could not fine people who had no cash. Prison would not be much of a deterrent because many people already had limited freedom due to slavery.
Prison, as we know it, does not seem like such a bad place to somebody who is already malnourished, has few possessions, and lives a hard life anyway.
Third, you may also look to the Bible itself to see if a statement or rule has any caveats or exceptions. The Bible has many instances where
characters are granted mercy or forgiveness. Perhaps a rule you read to mean, "Always do this" or "Never do that" really means "Always do this,
unless..." or "Never do that, unless...."