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.


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!

8 Steps to Effective Bible Study

Here’s a way to do effective Bible study with Logos. As I’ve mentioned before, you can do a LOT with Logos 7 Basic. It’s free, and you can get the King James for only $10. Yes, they should offer it for free, but Logos has so many tools… Like many of you, I was opposed to Logos for many years (despite being a Logos user back in the 90’s), but yeah… once I tried it… I was sold on it. I don’t think I could go back to anything else. It’s funny though, I still find myself turning back to Quickverse out of nostalgia. This was how I started in Bible study with computers in 1994, Quickverse and Logos. I used to alternate between them every day. If Logos had offered the “How to use Logos” videos back then, I might not have used Quickverse as much.

So… how’s the first and easiest way to start Bible Study with Logos?

  1. Set up a one year reading plan… Twice through the New Testament in one year, once through the Old. this is the David Cloud reading plan. Go to Documents, start a new reading plan, choose Old Testament by pericope in the King James in one year by yourself (you can invite others as well…). Then do the same, but for the New Testament by pericope in the King James in six months by yourself. Go to the documents again, and COPY the NT reading plan, then open it and edit the copied one to have a July 1 start date.
  2. Start your Bible reading, by clicking on it from your home screen. Now, go to Layouts, and choose Bible Journaling.
  3. Open the TSK if you bought it or if you bought a package that has it. Keep it in your Bible window, not the Journaling one.
  4. highlight a single word in the verse, and choose “add note to Bible journal”. The entire verse will highlight by default, but in the context menu you still can choose the word if you just want to comment on a single word.
  5. Notate anything that is Law of First Reference (the first time it is mentioned in the Bible), if it is a contrast (today I’m reading Psalm 22, and David constantly and clearly contrasts his own situation with Christ’s), if it is a Hapax (something mentioned only once in Scripture). you don’t have to write commentary right now on the level of a John Walvoord here… you can just write “only time this word is mentioned” or “first mention of straw” or whatever.
  6. If you looked something up in Greek or did a word study on it, notate that. you’re trying to record your Bible study, and no, you WON’T remember what you just learned today!
  7. If you see in the TSK anything else in the Bible related to this verse or word, notate that as well.
  8. If you looked in a commentary and found anything of interest, HIGHLIGHT and DRAG that important part into your Bible Journaling window INTO the verse – otherwise, it ends up at the bottom. Logos is hard wired to have the right priority – Bible first, commentary second.

READING something in the Bible does not work. I attended schooling once where you were required after you got home to type up your notes that you took by hand. Why? It aided memorization.

you’ll find by USING these techniques, your understanding of the Bible will grow by leaps and bounds. But start TODAY, otherwise you’ll get the same results you got from your diet and exercise program… you’ll get very good at procrastinating and nothing else!

James 15

“For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” (James 3:7–12, KJV)

The central thought here is, “out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. This ought not to be.”

So, no cursing. By this, we do not mean “don’t use profanity.” See, it’s a contrast – bless/curse.

Bless others, Bless your enemies. don’t wish the worst for them. “I hate so and so. I hope he gets fired.” Yes, and he’ll go through economic hard times doing it.

A major, major theme in the Bible is that God is really concerned with how we treat one another. Bless people. do not curse them.

James 13

If you’ve just tuned in and didn’t know it – yes, this is a Fundamentalist blog!

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:2–6, KJV)

We had started out chapter three with an ijnunction that not every Christian should desire to be a pastor. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s almost a unique statement in the Bible, BECAUSE for one of the only times I can recall, it is the conditional statement (“because”) that is the dominant thought, and not the originating statement. Things are usually said the OTHER way by God.

Now, we carry on the conditional statement, and we make it clear – this is the tongue we talk about. THe issue of not everyone should be a pastor is now left behind. The original language reads “Gar” – for, because, not “De”, and, but.

Anyone who says a knowledge of Koine Greek is useless is only justifying their not learning it! It’s actually not that hard. Well, not for me, because apparently, I have a gift for learning languages. I easily pick up words and phrases. If you’re interested in learning, I have six months of lessons on my greek and hebrew blog. I still plan on adding to that, by the way, but right now – I’m a little busy. Actually a lot busy.

Around the time that this book was being written, there were two famous Rabbi’s, who were influential. One of them is Hillel, the other Shammai. Rabbi Shammai had a saying that was written down in Pirke Avos that reads, “There is nothing better for a man than silence.”

liberals will say that James was influenced by Shammai. That’s because for theological liberals, the thought that God wrote the Bible is intolerable. Yet, literally, that’s the facts. James may indeed have been influenced by Shammai, or may not. He may not even have cared! We don’t know.

Because God chose the words that James wrote down. Indeed, the very letters! So, whether James was influenced by Shammai or not, it’s irrelevant. James did not choose the words of his epistle – God did.

However, the fact remains… James is saying “curb your tongue.” How many people have been murdered over words? How many wars erupt over words?

Words offend in many ways. Tone of voice here is lumped in here, because often it’s not what we say, but how we say it.

Think before you speak! Is this helpful? Is this hurtful? Does it absolutely need to be said? Are you saying it to help… or to run someone else’s life?