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John D. Crossan Quote on Biblical Literalism

“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are dumb enough to take the literally.”

~John Dominic Crossan



Review & Commentary

  • Scott Pope

    Which would mean that God’s Word in scripture would be always subject to change and interpretation during any time and social environment. Anyone could interpret scripture according to their own situational ethics. The word itself says that it’s prophecies are not of any private interpretation. Situational ethics and interpretation are no anchor of the soul, but is more of the evolutional theory. It is however quit in line with “progressive” politics.

    • Radek Milik

      Evolving interpretation only adds strength to the Bible stories, unlike interpretations frozen in time, which make the Bible irrelevant.

      • Scott Pope

        What does that mean for the inerrancy of the Bible 2 Timothy 3:16?. Does the Holy Spirit change? Does Jesus change? (Heb.13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever? Does God change? (Malachi 3:6, I am the, Lord I do not change or James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning. From your comment about Bible as stories, I assume that you are not a literalist. No disrespect meant, but I think we are coming from different theological views. I never find the Bible irrelevant, in my life the Word is alive active and energized and fully relevant and makes me overcome in any situation or circumstances of my life.

        • Radek Milik

          Inerrancy is not a biblical concept. When 2 Timothy (a pseudo-Pauline epistle) was written, there was no NT, and the OT canon wasn’t even closed, so any “scriptures” referred to would have to be taken rather loosely. While Jesus does not change, interpretation of his life varies, even amongst gospel writers, so within only a generation or two. For instance, “Matthew’s” Jesus refuses to give signs, while “John’s” does hardly anything else (I used parenthesis, as all canonical gospels are actually anonymous). I am glad that you find the Bible as relevant as me, but we cannot be slaves to literalist interpretation, otherwise you will be stuck every time you come across contradictions in the Scriptures (of which there are many). To repeat the common saying, I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally. Biblical writers reflected their understanding of God, and finished writing 2,000 years ago. Our understanding has necessarily evolved since, hence the need for re-interpretation. Otherwise we would be like those who believe that God gave humans reason in order NOT to use it.

          • Isa

            Well spoken, Radek!

          • Scott Pope

            And yet just look at what the evolved re-interpretation has gotten us? Surly you cannot believe that we as a world society, have gotten anywhere close to evolving or being superior or better. Rather I would answer that when you look at the world situation, we are in chaos , turmoil, wars, perplexity of nations, famines, divisions just as Jesus prophesied 2000 years ago. It seems to me the more re-interpretation and evolving has only hastened that day. We seem to no longer want live in the christian doctrine that jesus laid down, but want to do it our our own humanistic way . Rather we want to go for inclusivity diversity and eucommunical views. Many call that narrow minded. Yet Jesus said that there is only way to the father and that is through Him. One is the broad way which leads to death, the other is the narrow straight that leads to eternal and that their will be few who find it. I hope this discussion leads you to think that I am in any way trying to change your belief, as I am fully aware of the implications that you expouse. I just respectfully disagree.

          • Scott Pope

            When you say that inerrancy is not a biblical concept you lose me. When you call 2 Timothy a pseudo-Pauline epistle, (which is your right to believe), You have completely confounded me. This is like like pilate when He said “what is the truth”. My only ground for discussion revolves around Jesus and His gospel as the only pillar and ground of truth. If we cannot agree on that then I see no further grounds for continued dialogue. Obviously you have your gospel, which is different than mine. With that gulf between us I find no way further to have a discussion. I do respect your right to have and hold any opinion you want, but I sadly have to disengage from further comment. Again, I mean no animosity or disparaging remarks. It is rather that with two such divergent opinions any attempt to dialogue would be a waste of both of our time and energy. Thank you for sharing!

          • Radek Milik

            Thanks, Scott, so what is your gospel? Biblical inerrancy is a concept invented by American fundamentalist protestants roughly 150 or so years ago, and until then unknown. I therefore assume (feel free to correct me) that you are a member of a denomination that originated in the USA around that period. My background is not dissimilar, but my fundamentalist church never held on to the inerrantist view for one reason – the Bible contains contradictions, so claiming that it does not have any “errors” just defies logic. Instead we were told to believe in infallibility, a view according to
            which the Bible could be relied on in important matters only. This is again different from a belief in inspiration, which comes in many shades of interpretation. Bottom line – the books of the Bible were not written (or even dictated) by God. They were written by people, revised by people, collected by people, copied and passed down generations by people. In the end, the canon of the Bible (and again, there is more than one, depending on your faith tradition) was decided by people. According to one of the gospels, Jesus is the
            word (logos) of God, not the Bible. I’m not trying to denigrate the Bible in any way, after all most of what we know about Jesus comes from the Scriptures. But I’m trying to put it where it belongs. We should approach it with an open mind, not on our knees. We should take biblical scholars seriously. We should try to understand what its authors meant when they wrote their texts. As for the “chaos, turmoil, wars, perplexity of nations, famines, divisions” – they existed
            throughout human history. We just have a much larger population and better communications to be made aware of them. And when you talk about “inclusivity diversity and eucommunical (sic!) views” – isn’t it exactly what Jesus taught us to do – eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, talking to Samaritans, helping the sick?


    William Lane Craig ripped the idiot to bits in their debate “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up”. Our John is an atheist “There was no God during the time of the dinosaurs” just like Dawkins and all.