I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it, and as long as you give me credit.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, part 3

Here is an example of Biblical writing:

Psalm 114:1 When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of foreign language;
2 Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
3 The sea saw it, and fled.
The Jordan was driven back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams,
the little hills like lambs.
5 What was it, you sea, that you fled?
You Jordan, that you turned back?
6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams;
you little hills, like lambs?

The above is a poetic description of the passage through the Red Sea, in Exodus, and also of the passage across the Jordan River, decades later. Are we to suppose, from this, that the mountains and hills skipped like rams and lambs?  No. This is poetic exaggeration.

Apocalyptic literature is literature about end times, and/or that has an obscure meaning.

Ezekiel 1:26 Above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and on the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man on it above. 27 I saw as it were glowing metal, as the appearance of fire within it all around, from the appearance of his waist and upward; and from the appearance of his waist and downward I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 As the appearance of the rainbow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of Yahweh’s glory. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.

Ezekiel doesn’t seem to be able to find words to give a good description. “Likeness,” “appearance of,” and “as it were” occur a dozen times in these three verses of apocalyptic literature. It seems that Ezekiel saw things that he really couldn’t describe well, and he did his best to let us know that he had seen some wonderful things. These included something like a man (God the Son, perhaps? An angel?), and that’s about all we can say for sure.

The excerpt above shows two examples, perhaps extreme, but examples, nonetheless, illustrating that at least some of the poetic literature in the Bible was not meant to be taken literally, and that at least some of the apocalyptic literature in the Bible cannot be taken literally, because God is trying to obscure some aspect of it, because the person who wrote it doesn't grasp it fully, because the reader can't grasp it fully, or some combination of these three.

Thanks for reading! Here's the previous post in this series.

No comments: