Why The Bible Should Be Read Literally

Yesterday I was listening to a sermon from SermonAudio defending the king James Bible. It was being preached by a man who was an Independent Baptist.

Something to be aware of, is that Independent Baptist is not a denomination. It’s more like a way of saying, “Unaffiliated Baptist”.

Yes, quite a few Independent Baptist churches are Fundamentalist. Quite a few are “quiver-full” if you know that phrase. As long time readers will note, I consider myself an Independent Baptist even though I am currently at a Southern Baptist church.

Sadly, one characteristic that you also find at some Independent Baptist churches usually is that it means “I never went to seminary.” There are some truly gifted Independent Baptist churches whose pastors were never trained nor ordained. My old church was indeed one, and you’d never know it! The pastor had an amazing grasp of preaching and the Bible.

What was startling about the sermon I listened to, was that the Pastor announced he was going to preach about the King James Bible – then began preaching expositorally from Acts 27. It took a little while (one thing you can count on from an Independent Baptist church that is fundamentalist, is long sermons. They don’t hang a clock on the wall, they hang a calendar). And finally it dawned on me – he’s preaching allegorically.

Allegorical interpretation of the Bible is a strong no-no. While I can honestly say that we had one class in Seminary completely dedicated to allegorical thought, it was touched on many times, and repeatedly. Think of it this way.

Allegorical thought is the complete opposite of literal interpretation.

9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. Acts 27:9-11 (KJV)

What is this passage referring to? Is it referring to the King James Bible?

Nope. It’s referring to the fact that on Paul’s ship, during the hurricane, Paul told them, “if they leave the ship, they’re going to die.”

I’m all for King James defense. But if you want to write a sermon on defending the King James, hey, great! Let’s use literal interpretation of the Bible.

“well, we were preaching our way through Acts, and…”

well, do a MacArthur, and deviate from your topic for a week. See, that’s what Sunday Nights are for! Or if you feel the need to preach this on a Sunday morning, then by all means, let everyone know “Today, we’re talking about something special…”

I personally have found that a congregation does very well with being told what’s going on. It makes life easier on everyone.

There are a lot of other passages you could have drawn on… Jeremiah reading from the Scroll and the king cutting off leaves and throwing them in the fire… Psalm 12… Psalm 119… the re-discovering of the scrolls of the Bible and King Josiah, hey, lots of passages!

The problem with allegorical interpretation is, that’s a Pandora’s box. If you say, “We accept Genesis 1:1-5 as literal, but we don’t accept verse 6…” it may start that way now… but believe you me, it’s going to be an issue ten years from now. Because it’s going to spread. Once you open that door, and bring in fanciful interpretations, I can spiritualize and allegorize away any verse in the New Testament.

Because if you accept all 52,280 verses as Scriptural except one… then you accept none of them. If you say, “We don’t accept Genesis 1:6 literally” then someone can argue John 3:3 is not to be taken literally. And you can’t argue against it.

Either every word in the Bible is true, or every word is parables, to be interpreted in whatever happy way you like.

How do I know it’s literal?

Because all the prophecies in the Bible were fulfilled literally. If they were fulfilled literally, then they were meant to be read literally.

There are a few parables in the Bible. We know certain hallmarks of what is a parable and what is not. Names are not mentioned in parables. By the way, Luke 16 is not a parable. It’s real. It really happened.

There are visions in the Bible. Literally, seven visions are in Revelation, and each one has meaning. There’s three distinct visions in Daniel. In almost every case, an Angel is standing by to give the explanation of the vision. Or the vision is one of those told to be sealed up until the time of the end.

Why? They help to serve as a barometer of how close we are to the Rapture. If you read the old commentaries, they had literally no understanding of what these passages mean, and offer a combination of allegorical thought and what amounts to a shrug. The earliest Christian communities understood a pre-trib rapture, taught it… but Rome allegorized it along with everything else, and so much of Christianity lost the understanding of the end times. When you read the writings of some Waldensians, Albigenses, the early Mennonites, they all believed in a pre-trib rapture. Why? Because it’s pretty clearly stated in the Bible.

But the vision passages were just completely incomprehensible. Why? they were sealed until the time of the end. As the age of grace began drawing into the Laodecean age, people began to understand, a little at a time, what the vision passages mean. I’ve seen more understanding come around since the 1990’s, literally. We’re now comfortable we understand the open doors in Revelation (two of them – hint – it’s proof of a pre-trib rapture), we understand more about Gog and Magog and its timing, we understand more about Petra…

We even now see how the initial attack against Israel is supposed to be between Arab states and Russian, and very possibly Germany (that one goes back and forth all the time). Three years ago, I had thought it meant we still had 20 years, because Russia would have to be rebuilt. Amazingly, it happened right in front of my eyes. We’re a lot closer than 20 years. The Rapture will probably be in my lifetime. I’m not going to say how close it is (because nobody on this planet has any idea) but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was today. I used to pray that I got a full-time pulpit before the Rapture. I’m starting to believe strongly the answer to that prayer has been “no”.

So, there you go – I dealt with the allegorist’s favorite objections. You have sealed visions that are understood in the end times (hint – Song of Solomon falls partly in that category), you have a very few parable passages (in every case identified as one) and explained (almost all of the parables have their own explanation given).

There’s no scriptural basis for allegorizing. If the Bible says it, it means it.


How to Study The Bible

I know, I write this one all the time. But hey, we could use one more really good article on how to study the Bible!

Till that one comes along, you’ll just have to settle for one I wrote.

Rule 1: Understand it literally

here’s where everyone gets it wrong! if you can’t understand it literally, what advantage does allegorical interpretation give? None! The Bible will TELL you when a passage is to be taken figuratively, and in almost every case, the Bible even tells you what that interpretation is! God takes ALL the guesswork out of it!

Rule 2: read it in context

Here’s the other area that people goof up. If you see a verse and don’t understand what it’s talking about, go back and read the context! That usually explains EVERYTHING!

Rule 3: get an understanding of simple rules of grammar

Know what a noun is, a verb, pronoun, and adjective is. When you see a word function as an adjective, obey the rules of grammar and understand it as an adjective! This is like a minor rule – it won’t ever change your doctrines if you’re doing it right. it just helps make it clearer. LIke cleaning off the lens of a camera before taking a picture, it just makes it clearer.

Rule 4: Get a King James Bible

I’m sure I’ll have to write on that series again this year, it’s been a while! But for now, get a good King James Bible. Yes, I know all about the litmus tests for if its a King James Bible or if its edited, but I’ll just say there’s at least ONCE the Pure Cambridge Edition makes a mistake in its work and does not capitalize the Spirit in Holy Spirit when it should!

I recommend the King James Study Bible, formerly the Liberty University Study Bible. It does have a couple of minor errors in the so-called litmus test, but for the most part, it passes all the other tests. For those unfamiliar with it, these tests ask questions like: Does it say shew or show? Really. That’s a question of spelling. Others do make a difference, such as throughly vs. thoroughly… they’re two different words. In all the litmus tests where its not questions of spelling, this Bible passes.

Next, get a set of Bible marking pens, and a white out pen. You’ll need the white out pen to remove a couple of the footnotes in the study Bible, where they question 1 John 5:7, and a couple of other spots where some heretic managed to get a footnote in questioning the inerrancy of the Bible. Those are easy to spot. Just white them out.

How to mark your Bible

My mother in Law (in the last two years of her life) began to write in pen the date of every time she studied her Bible. You’d look at a passage, and see the date she studied it. That’s a really good habit to get into!

Your aim, the first read through this year, is to make one highlight mark per study session. If you didn’t highlight a verse, then you zoned out and weren’t paying attention.

If you see a passage on the two open pages that connects to a passage elsewhere on those pages, draw a star on one of them, then a line with an arrow pointing to the other passage. Don’t block or obscure any words! You have to make your pen marks in the margins.

Important words in a passage, circle them with a pen.

The Bible highlighter sets have 4 colors. Identify colors in terms of importance, and try to stick to that scheme. It works that way in my Bible except for Psalms, where I’d had no scheme whatsoever, I was just highlighting. By the time I got to the halfway point, I’d chosen my scheme.

You might want to use the margins of your Bible to take notes on. I can walk into a pulpit, open my Bible at random, and find within a few pages some section I’d marked notes on, and can give a sermon based upon those points.

Let the Bible define its own points

6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (KJV)

I challenged my congregation to look for the common things in that verse, and gave them two minutes to look at it. Nobody spotted it.


see that? what is it? “a comma.”


There’s four points right there.

  • 6 Now we command you, brethren,
  • in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly,
  • and not after the tradition which he received of us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (KJV)

That was a throwaway comment in my seminary when the instructor just made a comment about using the commas to define the points in his sermons, and it was revolutionary. Wow! I can instantly take ANY verse and write a sermon out of it!

Care must be taken to read the chapter and make sure that what you’re reading fits with the context. Any text taken out of context is a pretext.

Let the Bible define its own words

Yup! The Bible is its own dictionary. Find the first time the word is used, and see how it is used in context. give it a try. You’ll be… well, not surprised. I have NOTHING new to tell you about the Bible. Anyone who does, fear them. Anyone who tells you things you’ve NEVER heard before, worry!

T words – singular – thee, thine thou

Y words – plural – Ye, You (not the same word) yours


Start learning when things happened. That sometimes makes for amazing reading! It also helps to avoid some doctrinal issues. How many people would be preterists if they looked in their timeline and saw Revelation written about 95 AD? Answer – none.

Bible Study Tools

Topical Bibles are indispensable – but remember they are written by fallible men. I remember complaining to someone that Orville Nave missed a lot of references in his topical Bible, and he had an ax to grind in that he did not believe in Hell. Unfortunately the man I was complaining to was a United Methodist minister, and it didn’t get a good reception, because apparently Orville Nave was a Methodist. Well, back when that meant something.

Torrey’s Topical is also recommended. Between the two of them, they help where the other misses, or has doctrinal objections. Look, if the Bible teaches there’s only once way to baptize, let’s not start quoting from Leviticus on circumcision!

Because of his Calvinism, I cannot recommend John MacArthur’s Topical Bible.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is also very good. consider it a bridge between a topical and a concordance. It kind of sits in the middle somewhere.

Concordance. Everyone’s got one. James Strong’s famous concordance is good, but WAAAY too many people try looking in the back pages to define the greek and Hebrew, with no knowledge of how to use it. I see the GROSSEST mistakes and errors all the TIME from people with no knowledge or training. Look under my pages on Messianic Judaism for an example. Those people spend more time looking in their Strong’s than in their Bibles!

I used to have a Young’s, and preferred that. Alas, I don’t have it any more. But with today’s Bible software, a Young’s now is only to make a pastor’s bookshelf look full.

Bible dictionary

the King James Bible dictionary is a free download for many Bible programs.

I also recommend Webster’s 1828. I suggested that Wordsearch add that as an add on module, and they added the 1916 dictionary. Duh. They’ve probably sold none of them because they didn’t listen to the reasons.

Normal Literal Dispensational Bible Interpretation

Yesterday, I drew out what had to be the most convoluted argument I could summon up. It was designed to trap traditional Calvinists who believe in double predestination and replacement theology, and show them the flaws in the way they see and interpret the Bible.

Emotionally, that can be very disturbing, to be shown that the way you’ve interpreted the Bible is completely flawed. Unfortunately, the only real way to get a hyper-Calvinist to see the truth is to trap them just as I did yesterday. I have to get them to acknowledge the meaning of Bible words, and then show them that one of their key arguments – the church replaces Israel – is heavily flawed.

Once they understand that, there’s a flailing around theologically for a few days. It’s upsetting to be told, “you’re interpreting the Bible incorrectly.” Because EVERYONE likes to be told “you’re doing good.”
Nobody likes to hear, “You’ve got it WRONG!”

Well, essentially, that’s what I said.

So – how to interpret the Bible correctly? I haven’t explained that in at least two months, so let’s go ahead and get that done.

Read the Bible, and take it literally, unless the text tells you specifically not to.

Wow. That was tough. It must be harder than that, right?

No. It’s as easy to understand as “peel foil back from the potatoes.”

So – how do you understand the parts the Bible tells you not to take those parts literally?

In those exceptionally rare cases, the Bible usually tells you shortly afterward – within a few verses – what the interpretation is.

The only real spots where the Bible TELLS you not to take it literally is dreams, visions and parables. By the way, Lazarus and the Rich Man is not a parable. Nobody is named in a parable. It is always “There was a certain man…” the use of the name “Lazarus” in Luke 16 tells you it was a real event the Lord was relating.

Okay, got it. Take the Bible literally. Normal means that God used the same words we use to communicate with us. When it says the stone was rolled away from the tomb, it means.. A stone had been blocking then tomb, and was rolled away from the tomb. It doesn’t mean anything about your problems.

Let’s go over the other short list of rules.

  • Read verses in their context. Context tells us the meaning of the verse. If you’re having trouble with a verse, read the entire passage. The usage defines meaning
  • The Bible is its own dictionary. The first usage of a word, read in it’s context, defines the word Biblically.
  • We do not define doctrine based upon a Hapax (a topic with only one verse to support it, or a single verse only) .
  • You must take all the verses on a topic together before defining doctrine.
  • Difficult passages must give way to easily understood passages.
  • We do not derive doctrines from Parables, as they are intended to conceal (and not reveal) knowledge.
  • We do not derive doctrine from Song of Solomon, Job or Ecclesiastes.

These rules seem strange, but once you think about them, you’ll understand them. Ecclesiastes is the search of a man for meaning. It literally is a hedonistic man attempting to find the meaning of life, and is full of wrong thinking in his pursuits. The end of the book sums it up… fear God. The entire book leads up to that.
Job is easy to explain. It’s full of men sitting around being wrong about God. If you want to derive doctrine from Bildad the Shuhite, go ahead and do so! He’s wrong. I’m betting that if you derive doctrine from someoone who’s wrong, your doctrine will be wrong too.
The one about parables shocked me in Seminary until I reasoned it out. Parables conceal knowledge. They are meant as a puzzle, if you aren’t given the key (which the Lord usually gives). The natural man would puzzle it out, think it through, and only if you turn to the Lord will it make sense.

Derive our doctrine only after reading all the verses on a subject. When you make this your habit, you’ll discover the puzzling passages are suddenly understandable, and they usually shed a little extra light on what was obvious.

Follow these simple and easily explainable steps. If you STILL cannot understand the Bible, this is plain and simple.

You’re not saved. If you cannot understand the Bible, you are not saved. Get saved.

And the Bible suddenly starts making sense.

7 Important Bible Chapters to Study!

When it comes to Bible study, many of us are clueless about where to start. Very often, we end up just using whatever current chapter we’re in in our devotional reading, That’s good – but if you slack off the habit, you may have missed the more important Bible chapters to really dig into!
I’ve tried to lessen that slightly by my lessons in Hebrews, and Galatians. However, essentially you have to read the Bible for yourself, read the words and apply the rules I’ve given you on it.
So, which chapters are the ones to ensure you have studied? There,s 1189 chapters to read in the whole Bible!

  1. John 3. Absolutely. Study this chapter in detail. We’re so used to hearing this chapter that often we miss out on the fact that this chapter teaches a LOT about Christianity we must really understand – and as you read on my blog the other day about how I just don’t recognize Evangelical Christianity any longer, you’re aware of my often repeated points that most of us not only don’t read the Bible, only a few actually understand what they’re reading!
  2. Ephesians 5. Important chapter about how to walk as a Christian.Try copying this passage into Evernote, and breaking it up into a checklist of do’s and don’ts. For those people who blather on and on about how you don’t want life to be a series of do’s and don’ts rules, I’ll give you a hint – you’re on the left hand side at the Great White Throne judgment -Go back and read John 3.
  3. Romans 6. Another essential chapter to study on how to walk as a Christian. I’ve got most of this chapter highlighted in my Logos.
  4. 1 Timothy 2. This chapter gives essential information to pastors on how their congregations should behave. Tim Laheye includes this chapter in his list of Bible chapters to study for a Christian.
  5. Romans 8. The New Life. This explains the reasons why Ephesians 5 and Romans 6 were written!
  6. 1 Thessalonians 4. It’s not just a Rapture chapter! It has information on how to live as Christians as well.
  7. Isaiah 53. Every detailed study of the Bible must at some point include a study of the person of Jesus Christ. There are many Christological patterns throughout the Bible – but Isaiah 53 is so clear cut that if you can get someone to read it and ask them who it’s talking about, you only get ONE answer. Study this!

These are just the starting point, and there’s many more for sure! But these seven mark important chapters and topics to study!

Highlighting Your Bible

This was an odd practice for me to get into. In Judaism, to mark anything on the Bible was considered a desecration! Christians on the other hand do it all the time. I don’t think God considers this a sin… rather, a tool for all of us to be involved in!
There are a million schemes for it – you just have to find what works the best!

Minimal: This is the most common one, you just underline something that means something to you.
Alternating: I used this one for my hardcover Bible. I had four markers, and the system was fairly simple. Green was anything bad, then I alternated the next three colors. That way it wasn’t one big blob of one color on a page.
Systematic: David Cloud writes of this manner. You just have to determine what’s important. For instance, circle the verse number for each of the ten plagues if egypt. Underline Generations throughout Genesis. Circle the words “Day” in Genesis 1-2. Pencil underline every time the author refers to himself in an epistle. Highlight the word Hell in the gospels in Red. Use different colors for different things in different books. This way you can use 66 different meanings for a circled verse number, and you’re not trapped into something that may not work, or be too complicated.

Margin notes. DON’T write down notes on the Pastor’s Sermon in the margins of your Bible. It takes a lot of whiteout to remove those later. Trust me! Instead, get a Bible cover that comes with a notepad in it, and use that to write down notes on the sermon.
DO write down cross references. I’ve taken my hard cover bible and made notes on answering Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve written down cross references to share the Gospel. I’ve written down other passages that seemed to me to be speaking on the same subject.

Find what works for you, and don’t feel trapped you have to choose one system!

The 5 Best Commentaries for the Fundamentalist!

Commentaries are important. But there’s two errors associated with them!

  • Depending on them too much and
  • not using them at all.

There are problems associated with all the Commentaries. It doesnt matter if a Baptist wrote it. it does’nt matter if john the Baptist wrote it! If a man wrote it, there’s errors. You just have to know what their problems are, and you can duck them. Here’s the list!

  1. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. By far the best, but with MAJOR problems! It is Evangelical to the core, the authors believe in a Universal Church, and are opposed to separation from error, despite repeated Biblical injunctions to do so. The biggest flaw to it is Walvoord’s decision to base it upon the NIV. Besides these major problems, the BKC remains the best commentary.
  2. Matthew Henry. Calvinist, Amillienialist, post-tribulation rapture, and a tendency to view many prophetic passages as allegorical. Not surprising, as the angel was told to seal up the vision until the time of the end. In Henry’s time, VERY few men understood dispensationalism, as the Bible epxlains in Daniel that was sealed until the time of the end… and we’re in those days. Unable to understand 20% of the Bible, Henry still does a very good job at interpreting the Bible. He has many points to make ini it that are quite good.
  3. John Gill. Many of the same problems. I went through a John Gill phase in Seminary, it lasted about 9 months. Gill’s big thing was to go through the Talmud and other Jewish writings to research what they had to say about Scripture. Interesting, but not your first choice of commentary.
  4. Summarized Bible. What it says! weakness – doesn’t really give MUCH insight into scripture. not to be used as your only Commentary, but in conjunction with others.
  5. Numerical Bible. More interesting than what the title says!
  6. Pulpit commentary. This one is for pastors. Valuable insights on how to preach something.

If you have to pick one, get the BKC. It’s pricy. $49.95 is what I paid for it. I’ve bought it twice, once for Wordsearch, once for logos, and it came with my Quickverse Platinum package. Buying the BKC unfortunately means your logos Basic package (free) now goes up to $60, because you need another $10 for the King James.

Psalm 22:16

They pierced my hands and feet. Kari כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י can be K’ari, “like a lion” or the Aramaic Kari, “they have pierced”. which is it? it’s clear from context that the Aramaic makes more sense (“Like a lion my hands and feet” lack the clear sense that “They have pierced” has) – but even if you’re a purist, okay! Let’s look at the Hebrew and ask a simple question – what does that mean? “They did to my hands and feet like a lion did… either claw and rend, or more likely, bite. Tigers shred, lions bite. Lions prefer to jump at you, dig their claws in only to keep you from getting away, then start biting. So, what would that mean, “they did to my hands and feet what a lion would do?”

It would mean… “they have pierced.”

Argument over.