The Fallacy of Literal Interpretation

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Ben Masada, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    THE FALLACY OF LITERAL INTERPRETATION

    Dear Ben,

    I would like to review my former beliefs about the Trinity but I need to understand that Genesis 1:26 means anything different from what so many Christians see as an evidence for the Trinity. Here's what it says: "Then, God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over... all other things." You got the idea. Would you be so kind as to share with me the Jewish view?

    I am more than happy to oblige. The fallacious literal interpretation of this text, not only mutilates Grammar but also introduces a contradiction into the Torah. But let us star with a simile. A Professor is delivering a lecture. Suddenly he says: "Every one on the left side of the room is supposed to stay, and every one else are supposed to leave." Where is he right and where is he wrong as far as Grammar is concerned? I hope you have chosen the first premise where he says, "Every one IS supposed to stay" as being the right one, and the second premise where he says, "Every one ARE supposed to leave" as the wrong one. The predicative has to agree with the subject to be grammatically correct. Now, let us return to the text in Genesis 1:26 above.

    Where is the grammatical mistake, isn't man here a reference to Mankind? Yes, "man" here is indeed a reference to Mankind, but "them," likewise, to be a reference to Mankind, it had to be "he" and not them. Why? Take Exodus 4:22,23 for instance. When God said to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son; so let My son go that he may serve Me," Israel was meant as the People. Nevertheless, the singular "son," and not sons, is used, as, likewise, the pronoun "he" and not they is used.

    Therefore, "man" is a reference to Mankind and "them" is a reference to God's attributes. Several of them which were granted to man so that God would execute dominion over the world through man. IWO, God would share with man the control of the world. Then, it is possible to speak of God and His attributes in the same line because in God, they are part of His essence, while in us, they are Divine grantings.

    Now, for the contradiction. The plurality of terms which, supposedly, many people refer them to God, as in, "Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness..." they are rather references to the attributes of God and not to God Himself, as God has neither an image nor likeness to anything we can imagine. (Deut. 4:15,16 and Isa. 46:5)

    Well, an explanation a little too long, I admit, but I hope that everything is clear now.

    Ben
     
  2. JakeH

    JakeH New Member

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    Dear Ben,
    I like to call it "literal misinterpretation". As many scholars understand that the various religious scriptures are allegorical in nature, what would be your interpretation of the Adam & Eve story in Genesis?
    Laus Deo,
    Jake
     
  3. Nephilim48

    Nephilim48 Interfaith Forums

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    I have to agree the bible was written at a time when the ancients did not really understand the world and how it worked. I found some interesting info on this. Check out the source foundation It shows how the bible got mixed up as did all organised large religion which had it's foundations in the old testament Judaism Islam and Christianity all based on misunderstanding of events at the time
     
  4. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    It is upsetting to get a letter like that. Something should be done, but what exactly. All you are called to do is to be an example, to do what is appropriate.

    There is always Bible literalness or literalness of some other kind. Every year or so, someone is going to get a letter from somebody about something similar to this. Perhaps you get one every day already. A letter like that is a way-point marking someone's journey, and that is all that it is. Like rain you can only take shelter from literalness. You cannot stop it.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Dear Ben —

    Ah ... well a bad place to start, really. Genesis 1:26 doesn't say anything about the Trinity. A polytheist will read it as evidence of a pantheon, or a 'just-one-of-the-guys' deity running an idea up the flagpole. A Theosophist view, aired often here, assumes an unnoticed spelling mistake ...

    So I suggest one would have to get one's views of 'Elohim' sorted before one is safe to assume that Genesis 1:26 signals the Triune God.

    Nor am I convinced the same set of rules governing modern English usage applies to ancient Hebrew. So I'm not even sure of your Jewish view, on which basis it seems to me yours is the 'fallacious literal interpretation of this text'.

    Why labour a point when I would have thought it's blatantly obvious to everyone?

    D'you think so? I don't, and I don't think anyone else does. You're introducing a third party: 'us' (God), 'him' (man, and in some Bibles, 'they', btw) and 'them'.
    To make sense, the text would have to say "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let us have dominion".

    Quite. And I would suggest a primary attribute of the Divine, indeed a 'necessary' one, for us, not for God, is 'unity', else how could there be a creation in the first place?

    What has any of this to do with your original question, re the Trinity? You seem a long way off the (traditional) Christian understanding of God, let alone a (traditional) Christian understanding of the Trinity.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I think the real fallacy lies with a modern approach to the text.

    It's obvious that the Ancients did not see the world as we do, but it's a fallacy to assume that they did not see the world at all.

    In fact the ancient scribe often sees far further and far deeper than modern eyes, which is why such texts are held in such high appreciation.

    I suggest they saw beyond the the surface and the superficial, and expected their audience to come to the text with a view to the same.

    I would suggest that the Bible, being a collection of many books, covering many genres, requires one to keep a genre pov in mind, and not assume a one-reading-fits-all interpretation. It's also fallacious to assume one can understand the text, without any knowledge of, or reference to, the commentaries of the tradition that produced it.

    Most fallacious at all is the assumption that because one can read it, a text will necessarily reveal itself in its entirely to the reader. Wiser voices speak of infinite depths and richness.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  7. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    BINGO, Thomas (he says as he points to nose, meaning you got it on the nose).

    Literalism is probably exactly wrong in almost every application. It is really egotistical to say that because we read it this way that must be what the author meant. In totality, I beleive the OT and NT to be on the order of the complexity of "Finnegan's Wake" (maybe worse because of the many-author and time-period problems). And no one alive would ever calim they understand it.
     
  8. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    Here is my interpretation of the Adam & Eve in the Genesis account of creation.

    THE DOUBLE ALLEGORY OF CREATION

    There are three stages for the account of Creation in Genesis: Two allegories and the Reality which the allegories point to: Man as the theme of Creation.

    The first allegory in the Genesis account of Creation is in the letter of the account, and here abide the masses of religious people for taking the account at its face value. I mean, Adam and Eve in the Garden being provided for by God with all their needs, being told what's allowed and forbidden in the Garden, being misled by the serpent into eating of a forbidden tree, and eventually being punished with different kinds of punishments respectively on all three of them, etc. Just literally as it is written.

    The second allegory has still the same elements and God is still figured anthropomorphically, but the meaning of the actions and behaviour depicts a more logical version of what happened in the Garden. And here abide those who can think more logically, abbeit not in the archtype level of Reality. In this phase of the account of Creation in Genesis, after God created Adam and Eve, He granted them with free will and expected to be served and sought after by them, but the thing was not working. God would have to search for them and that was not the right method. They would have to become proficient and leave the Garden in order to seek for God in terms of growing in knowledge out in the greater world.

    Then, among the many fruit trees in the Garden, God planted a most beautiful of all the trees with fruits much more alluring, and right in the middle of the Garden, so that it would easily call their attention. It was the tree of knowledge. But it was not working. Then, God told them that the fruit of that tree was forbidden under penalty of death, but just in the hope that the warning would make them curious and go for it. It was not working either.

    Next, God doubled in Eve the emotion of curiosity so that she would go for it and entice Adam into eating of that tree. However, God had underestimated Eve's emotion of love. She had fallen in love with her man and she would never risk loosing him for no stupid fruit even if it looked the most appetitizing of all. Obviously, it didn't work.

    The next step was to use the services of the serpent to persuade Eve that she had misunderstood the prohibition. That what would die in them was not themselves but their stupid innocence and naivete. Then, the serpent showed up on the very tree and somehow called for Eve's attention. As she approached, the dialogue started. To instigate the conversation, the serpent started with a question which surely would require an explanation. "Is it that you guys cannot eat from the trees in the Garden?" Bingo! Eve was locked in. The serpent got Eve to talk by explaining that only from the tree of knowledge, they were forbidden. "Why?" the serpent retortted. "Because we would die," she said. "Nonsense!" said the serpent. "You have misunderstood the whole thing. God meant to say that you two will become like gods, knowing good from evil."

    Now, imagine, Eve must have thought, her man like a god! Without much ado, Eve reached for the fruit, ate it and told Adam that it was okay. Adam thought for a second and came to the conclusion that even if it were not okay, he would rather die with her beloved who had just enjoyed half of a fruit. Then he ate the other half and went on eating more. The serpent was right. They did not die. And the first knowledge they acquired was of how much they did not know. I mean, that they were naked, completely destitute of knowledge.

    It didn't take too long for God to appear in the Garden to collect the fruit of His enterprise. It had finally happened what He wanted without His having to do anything against man's free will. Then, He formally defined some punishments to everyone according to their nature anyway, and got them out of the Garden into the greater world out there, so that they would grow in knowledge by seeking for God, which would be the right method.

    Now, the third phase or Reality, the account of Creation is supposed to point to. I mean, the Humanistic approach, which is the purpose of the double allegory. The riddle points to the three phases in the development of man: Childhood, adulthood, and old age. Here, only the enlightened with Philosophical training dwells. I mean, the Theist who is big enough not to let him or herself be intoxicated by blind faith. In this class we can find also Atheists and Agnostics but under the subclass of sarchasm for not being able to harmonize enlightenment with the conception of God free of anthropomorphism.

    Childhood is understood by that phase in the Garden when God would have to provide man with everything. That's the phase when we are dependent on our parents or on others for all our needs. That's the phase of walking on our four legs.

    Adulthood is applied to that time when man ate of the tree of knowledge and became conscious of himself. That's when we actually become an adult and responsible for our own actions. I mean, when we can stand on our own two legs, so to speak.

    Regarding the phase of old age, the allegory of Creation does not go into details, but it's when we become dependent again on others, especailly our children to take care of us. I mean, the phase of walking on two legs and a cane.

    Ben
     
  9. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    The whole of the Jewish Bible is just the Jewish way to talk about the history of man and his relation with God.

    Ben
     
  10. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    I take literalness as the method to interpret a text based on what one sees. Some thing like saying that 7 is found twice within 77. The inability to see beyond the eyes of the flesh.

    Ben
     
  11. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Thomas, what is scarier to you? That Ben has adults asking him for advice and insight on biblical texts or that I work with children promoting personal responsibility, compassion and reading and questioning various texts?
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Neither scare me at all.

    The quality of the advice and insight offered is another matter. :D

    The issue here is that Ben's insight into the Doctrine is faulty — the Informed orthodox teaching of Christianity does not claim Genesis 1:26-27 as proof of the Trinity. That some insist it does would 'scare' me, although scare is too emotive a word. The more usual response is "Oh dear ..." and a sigh.

    If the Doctrine of the Trinity was 'evidenced' enough in the Old Testament texts to be counted as 'proof', then no doubt the Jews would believe in the Triune God.

    They don't. I would be mightily surprised if the scholars of text, to a man, had failed to see a 'proof' about the nature of God staring them in the face.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Next time ask them to show you where in their doctrine it's stated. It's not in the Catholic Catechism, it's not in the Orthodox patriarchates. But I can't speak for every Christian doctrine. At least you'll know whether to set any store by what you're hearing.

    Don't have to — you said it. Where does it say Three in Genesis, and define the Three as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? It doesn't. Therefore Genesis 1 is not a proof of the Holy Trinity.

    A far stronger argument, it seems to me, would be Genesis 18:1-3:
    "And the Lord (Yĕhovah) appeared to him (Abraham) in the vale of Mambre as he was sitting at the door of his tent, in the very heat of the day. And when he had lifted up his eyes, there appeared to him three men standing near him: and as soon as he saw them he ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and adored down to the ground. And he said: Lord (Adonai), if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant"
    One God ... three men ... (my emphasis)? What's going on here, then?

    Rublev painted what is undoubtedly one of the most famous Christian icons, The Hospitality of Abraham which is regarded as an Icon of the Blessed Trinity.

    I would have thought they would have hit you with that one.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  15. JakeH

    JakeH New Member

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    Ben,
    Here's another, much simpler interpretation of the Adam and Eve story for your thoughts....When God put Adam (man) into a deep sleep, took the rib and made Eve, this symbolizes the separation of man's soul (mind) into the lower and higher (spiritual) self. The rest of the Bible is a series of allegories (repeated from different perspectives) of that separation and what we need to do to fix the problem. It culminates with the (Book of) Revelation (healing of the separation) and the resurrection. Of course, as stated in the Gospel of Philip, this all must occur within one's lifetime. By the way, after God put Adam into that deep sleep, I just can't seem to find a verse where He woke him up.
    Laus Deo
     
  16. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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  17. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    I hope you don't believe that the Genesis account of creation of man is literal. The whole thing is an allegory. God never put Adam to sleep in order to take a rib of his side and make Eve. The text was verbalized that way only to mean that the woman should be regarded equal with man, albeit not physically.

    Ben
     
  18. Nephilim48

    Nephilim48 Interfaith Forums

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    If you believe in literal Interpretation of the bible then you have to believe that the world was created in six days.That we know to be wrong, it has evolved over millions of years.Archaeology and Geology proves that. Some of the events mentioned in the bible also could make uncomfortable reading for those who believe in Jesus and the son of god. Many passages refer to the sons of god, plural plus the bible also records visits by what we know now to be aliens or ET's.
    Taking the bible literally is like closing your mind to the truth. The bible has been heavily censored to suit organised religion and many gospels that contradicted the message the church wanted to propagate have been left out.
    If the bible was a legally binding contract it would have to many loopholes to be enforceable
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    That's my point. The NT says it. The OT doesn't. Genesis 1:26 is not a proof of the Trinity.

    You don't have to be Hellenistic. A Christian might well assume the plural in Genesis 1:26 to infer the Trinity, as one might see the three beings at Mambre in the same light ... but neither text is a proof of the Trinity. Evidence, perhaps ... but not proof.

    Abraham was not a prophet.

    Was it? Everything? The whole content of the OT?

    Why? If God reveals Himself as three, I doubt that was a random decision.

    More than that, I would have thought.

    Still doesn't explain the three.

    But there you go. It's not a proof of the Trinity, any more than Gen 1:26 is.

    I'd hardly expect them to.

    And you thought well. They have hit me with that one too. But as I have done above, that's how I dodged the hit.[/QUOTE]
    OK. I'll bite. Why does God appear as three in the vision at Mambre?

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  20. Ben Masada

    Ben Masada New Member

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    This is not a reply to my thread, nor can it be addressed to me. I do not take the Bible literally. Perhaps, the historical part only. If you don't either, it means we are in perfect agreement with each other.

    Ben
     

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