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...It is, for example, crucial to note than an exclusively literal interpretation of the Bible is a recent development. Until the 19th century, very few people imagined that the first chapter of Genesis was a factual account of the origins of life. For centuries, Jews and Christians relished highly allegorical and inventive exegesis, insisting that a wholly literal reading of the bible was neither possible nor desireable.
-Karen Armstrong, "The Bible; A Biography."