Humans, from way back when we started language as a communication tool, used metaphors as a linguistic mechanism to express otherwise abstract ideas into something concrete. Linguists have argued that metaphorical expressions are surface phenomena, organized and generated by mappings in people's mind, thus concluding that the reason why systematic and coherent metaphorical language exist is because people think metaphorically--- most of the time. Linguists has claimed, based on empirical evidence, that people think metaphorically even in the absence of metaphorical language
This conceptual-metaphor explanation suggests that we think of and understand abstract concepts like affection or morality by metaphorically mapping them onto more concrete conceptual realities ie affection as warmth, morality as cleanliness. In terms of utility, the conceptual-metaphor explanation is transformative because it allows us to communicate otherwise abstract ideas into concrete forms that are easily grasped and understood.
So how does this apply to biblical narratives. I have always maintained in multiple discussions with folks on HubPages, that these biblical stories, some if not most of them, could and should be interpreted metaphorically rather than literally to get at the TRUTH, in the same way I suppose that Jesus used parables to teach moral values.
It applies to Biblical narratives in that if you interpret everything metaphorically, then nothing is literally true, but merely symbolic.
It's one thing when Jesus sits down and tells people a parable which is clearly a metaphor but when this interpretative technique is taken out of context and applied to the Bible as a whole, it strips literal meaning.
Are you then implying that the truth we uncover metaphorically is much less important or valid or joyful than the one we uncover literally because it is nothing more than symbolism?
IMO truth is truth and truth can never be a symbol of anything except of itself. Now in the world where we materially/physically exist there are unknown truths but could become knowable be they by literal or metaphorical means. On the other hand there are unknown truths which could never be known by whatever mechanism until we are in front of it, not physically, but spiritually or transcendentally. If you believe in life after death, that's exactly the time when all truths are knowable.
I'm not implying anything. What I am literally saying is that if you search for and uphold metaphorical interpretation as the primary exegetical technique for extracting truth, the truth will very easily be diluted with subjectivism. People can extract divergent metaphors and thus disagree on the same original "truth."
Example: Exodus 20:17 says, "Don't covet." The literal interpretation is: "Don't covet." It's just that simple. If this command is taken as a metaphor, one could invent very creative meaning as to what this text "really means."
And because "truth is truth and truth can never be a symbol of anything except of itself" it is independent of how it makes you feel whether joyful, sad, or indifferent.
Can you give me examples of how you could interpret "Don't covet" metaphorically that could then lead to a lot of confusion and therefore truth is not uncovered because of that confusion?
I certainly can't and that's my point because there is no rational metaphorical interpretation of one commandment or the Decalogue. If a person did do that, it would amount to eisegesis by necessity.
To validate that point check this article by someone who did use metaphor: http://www.jpost.com/Blogs/Torah-Commen … 022-389363
Now "Do not covet" is magically transformed into "Do not be jealous of foreign religions."
The interpretation of anything obviously needs to be done or derived from whatever context the story or narrative or statement was made to begin with. And I'm not saying that metaphorical interpretation should be the primary method of looking for uncovered truths, but that if the story or narrative or statement is not amenable to literal interpretation because if it is done that way, the conclusion goes haywire I.e. beyond logic, reason, or empirical evidence, then metaphorical interpretation becomes a necessity.
Interpretation from context? Yes, and from the Biblical cannon as a whole. Ultimately what works best is when God is allowed to interpret His own words with His own other words (II Timothy 3:16). Therefore, when scripture interprets scripture, humans run less and less risk of telling God what in fact He really meant.
Why? Why is it a necessity? Why not simply accept that the story was wrong?
So do you have evidence that these biblical passages are wrong?
Much more than you have that they are right...unless you change the meaning by claiming it to be a metaphor for something else.
But you didn't answer the question: rather than changing the meaning, why not just accept that it is wrong? We've been wrong about nearly everything we thought to be true at one time or another - why not scripture?
In other words you don't have any evidence... otherwise you would be splattering them all over the place.
Now, just because you think those biblical passages are false, delusional, irrational, non-sensical when interpreted from a literalist perspective does not mean that they are. As the saying goes, "there are so many ways to skin a cat", so there must be some other ways to "skin" those narratives without being scratched back, by the cat I mean. If you failed to notice, I used the cat as a metaphor for biblical stories. As I said in another post, interpreting them metaphorically but then based in the context and background of why, how, where, when they were written, could lead us to uncover nuggets and nuggets of truth in those stories.
The point being, if literal interpretaion of those stories goes against the grain of what is logical, sensible and empirical, then metaphorical interpretation could and would be more productively instructive.
"The point being, if literal interpretaion of those stories goes against the grain of what is logical, sensible and empirical, then metaphorical interpretation could and would be more productively instructive."
To which I repeat - why not just accept that they are wrong instead of trying to come up with a metaphor that makes them right? You'd likely learn the greatest truth of all about scripture: that it is very often just plain wrong. Isn't that better than going into the whole exercise with a predetermination that scripture is truthful - that is just has to be "read correctly" (translation: we'll make up meanings to MAKE it right)?
Because the cat being skinned is the discovery of truth - not re-writing ancient stories to make them true and real.
And again I'd ask .....do you have any evidence aside from your preconceived notion that those stories are all hogwash? If none, then better become a biblical scholar...that way you'd have better credibility.
I'm not a biblical scholar... never pretended to be, but at least I have an open mind about being, able to understand these stories better with the view of becoming informed of issues that I have minimal knowledge of.
It is worth quoting a previous hubber here who only just said:
"It is truly baffling and entirely inexcusable for so called Biblical scholars (be they atheist of not) to forget the importance of metaphor and ancient expression. If a person fails to absorb this important point they are guilty of wilful ignorance and are merely trying to obfuscate".
Time to wise up old boy and accept your approach to Scriptural study is unscientific and has nothing to do with linguistics or anthropology.
They didn’t talk like us back then bro.
Absolutely agree that cultural and language differences play a huge part in understanding.
But I have an enormous problem when supernatural or impossible events are suddenly changed to normal, everyday happenings when proven they didn't happen...while the ones that can't be proven are left alone to show how great the gods are. Creation in 7 days became billions of years. A world wide flood destroying all life became a small, localized flood. Scattering humanity world wide after Babel becomes the normal migration of peoples everywhere over thousands of years.
While a walking 3 day dead zombie remains. The water splitting of the sea, leaving dry ground behind, absolutely happened. God chiseling stone tablets occurred.
How does this happen, outside of a demand that God does things that can't be shown to never have happened, while the stories proven untrue are suddenly only metaphors for something else? Why are only the events that didn't happen changed to be considered metaphors while others, just as impossible, remain absolute truth?
You're jumping the tracks into several other areas at once.
The subject here is the use of ancient metaphors in scripture. Did they use their own metaphors and language to express themselves? Yes and we have all for once agreed they did.
The other things you have mentioned are secondary/seperate to the use of ancient metaphors and need their own hub or discussion. In order to have a logical discussion about these secondary/seperate issues the idea of ancient figures of speech has to be kept in mind and not forgotten when it "suits to obscure logical thought."
I don't see them as separate issues - not when the topic is the use of metaphor's (stories) to describe an event. Sure, if the topic is the creation that would be separate from the topic of Noah's flood, but when the topic is when a story is to be considered a metaphor and when it is not the topic is much wider and includes ALL the biblical tales.
And the question becomes when to consider the stories as metaphors (or even just gross exaggerations) and when to take it at face value. It seems that the tales are (generally) considered metaphors only when the face value is found to be false - when we can't know then it is a true story. An attitude that doesn't seem to lead to anything but reinforcement of a belief system without any real concern with truth or reality.
We've been through this dozens of times. Various scriptures have different historical, narrative, metaphorical, poetic and literary devices.
Take the literary device of a "parable" which no doubt relate to ancient oral traditional grammatical structures that acted as mnemonic aids. Is the parable itself factually "true"? No, but it serves as a handy way to remember vast tracts of deep philosophy told in the form of a simple anecdote.
In this way each literary topic be it metaphorical or metaphysical or historical etc has to be studied seperately on its own merits. Hence the commonsense practical reason for other hubs on specific topics. Here's one. Enjoy!
http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy … Conspiracy
"....a belief system without any real concern with truth or reality", is a statement that could only come from the mouth of a close-minded folk whose only basis for truth or reality is the one that is inferred from or by his 5 physical senses.
To be honest... our 5 physical senses are but
one of the many ways we could come to the conclusion that a particular idea is truthful or real, so long as that idea is neither tempered by idealogy nor corrupted by ego. AN EXCELLENT example of that, is/are the idea/ideas narrated by Jesus,on his Sermon on the Mount.
If only Christians, of whatever permutation, could follow those precepts that Jesus enunciated in the sermon, without them coloring those precepts with their variagated ideology and ego, then there could never be another interpretation, but that those precepts are truthful and real.
And what about the non-Christians? What about their interpretation? If it is not based on an underlying demand that all scripture is true, what happens to those interpretations?
They don't count because they don't start with an unknown that is claimed to be known? Thrown out because they don't match the your personal belief?
Even if your claim, that if only all Christians followed the Sermon there would be only one interpretation (an extremely tenuous claim), is true that still leaves over half the people with differing interpretations.
Again... to emphasize my point...if those people who are trying to interpret the Sermon on the Mount,( whether they are Christians or not), do not color or worse, inundate the interpretation with their preconceived ideologies and deformative egos... then the truth or reality of the Sermon could and should never be questioned.
I may have misunderstood your post. Are you saying that the sermon itself is questioned as being metaphor? That it never actually happened?
Or that some of things in the sermon might be taken as metaphor?
Either way, though, it has nothing to do with what was being discussed; the many, many instances when we know the events described either did not happen or did not happen as it is told they did. Whereupon they are suddenly declared to be metaphors instead of being real, while those events that cannot be proven are left alone to taken as true as written.
What's wrong with trying to understand ancient narratives or stories that potentially has nuggets of truth in them. If we just willy-nilly wish them away as false, because they don't neatly jibe with what we humans in this century believe as factual ...then you are closing your mind ( brain in your lingo) to potential sources of knowledge and wisdom and ultimately understanding of the human condition and why our appearance on earth has more meaning and purpose than we give ourselves and whoever created us credit for.
There are numerous professors of theology who are atheists who don't use deliberate obfuscation.
An ancient metaphor is a metaphor, a parable device is a parable, an historical mention of a city is history etc etc.
I am suspicious of any atheist who can read Shakespeare and can easily appreciate various literary devices and actual historical references yet who can't do that when they read the New Testament. Why they switch off commonsense and science has to be due to emotive prejudices.
Odd how you still refuse to discuss the basic question: why is it that the large majority of scripture has been, for millenia, read as written...until it is proven false and then suddenly it must be a metaphor? Why isn't it simply taken as false - why is a new "interpretation" necessary just because it is false?
It's that kind of thing that makes it really difficult to think that a professor of theology who is also a theist actually tries to find truth, for they aren't interested in any truth that doesn't include scripture as real and true.
(Note that I speak mostly of the old testament, but there ARE items in the new testament as well that fall prey to this kind of thing.)
I have discussed at length metaphor, parable grammatical devices, historical references, poetry etc in the Bible. It's not just about metaphors.
As with the study of Shakespeare different eras interpret differently. For example when psychology was invented by Freud we get new slants on old themes.
Study Evolves. Study should evolve and grow. A medieval person obviously has different view points to a modern person.
It's basic stuff really to any honest researcher.
Andrew Parker, a scientist/empiricist of some renown, who has been an atheist all his adult scientific life has injected God into the empirical model. In his book "The Genesis Enigma" he posited that if the biblical account of the creation of the universe and the subsequent explosion of life (specifically on earth) is interpreted not literally but metaphorically, then it would neatly jibe with what we now scientifically theorize as "The Big Bang" and "Darwin's Evolution". He detailed exactly whence and where the congruence occurred, so the question now is: How did the ancient writers/detailers of Genesis know with certainty what they were writing about?. Was it pure luck or guesswork, or were they divinely inspired. Parker is of the opinion that luck had nothing to do with it.
There could in fact be other explanation(s) aside from luck and divine intervention. Knowledge is neither solely derived nor purely a product of scientific examination and divine intervention. A considerable amount of what we know and how we consequently act, is based upon intuition, instinct and imagination. The ancients must have had an abundance of these for them to have written a biblical narrative full of metaphorical inferences, since literal expediencies could not have produced stories full of wisdom.
How do you jump from your (or Parker's) interpretation of a passage now assumed to be metaphor to how astonishing that it fits facts? If indeed it is a metaphor, doesn't it make far more sense to assume that your interpretation, carefully designed to match reality, had nothing to do with what the writers actually meant? Particularly as they had zero idea of what the reality was?
You would seem to need a different interpretation of that metaphor. Perhaps comparing it to the growth of a watermelon, or the changes of a butterfly cocoon.
Andrew Parker opined that the reason Genesis I and II could and should be interpreted metaphorically was, as you said, that the ancient story tellers did not know the realistic underpinning and interpretation of what they were narrating about. Thus he suggested that these stories, metaphorical as they were..... were divinely inspired, because there was no other way that God would have given them the "reality" of those stories which we now think as the theoretical-empirical underpinning and interpretation of the creation of the universe and subsequently all living entities in it, be they sentient or non-sentient, ie Big Bang and Darwin's Evolutionary Theory.
So, Divine intervention is one way to fully understand the veracity and factuality of these narratives, IMO there were other factors involved ie these ancient story-tellers were also deriving their narrative from their instinctive, intuitive, and imaginative perception of the how and why they and the world around them exist.
Metaphor is only one of many literary devices. One can't simply say everything is a metaphor as scripture has some direct historical references, some poetry, some parables, some metaphysics etc etc.
The topic here is metaphor and even hard core atheists have agreed that sometimes metaphors are used in scripture.
End of story.
(unless certain nameless atheists want to continue to obfuscate)
We know of course that obfuscation, is the shield that folks use to protect themselves from being hit with a straight arrow that goes straight to the heart of their rather specious debating points.
As shield goes, obfuscation usually spells the death-knell of their arguments.
The question of the use of metaphor in the Bible has been settled in this discussion here. For once atheist and believer have agreed but certain unamed individuals keep banging on about unrelated matters.
There are other hubs for these other topics.
Look, everything is not a metaphor!
A parable is a parable, a metaphor is a metaphor, a poem is a poem an historical account of a place name is an historical account of a place name etc.
There are numerous grammatical devices other than just metaphors.
you are making very pertinent points here regarding the proper scientific study of ancient documents.
Of course metaphor has to be understood as a crucial concept.
Antiquated forms of speech and modes of thought HAD to be expressed via certain expressions and metaphors by the peoples of the past.
I often use the example of "the Son of" which was a frequent expression (still in use!) by ancient Middle Eastern peoples. For example the "Son of the Desert", "Son of Jackal", or "the Son of Man" etc.
It is truly baffling and entirely inexcusable for so called Biblical scholars (be they atheist of not) to forget the importance of metaphor and ancient expression. If a person fails to absorb this important point they are guilty of wilful ignorance and are merely trying to obfuscate.
I Love Metaphors!...but they can be dangerous if you don't think them through.Take the 'Casting wheat' metaphor in the bible(seeds in weeds,seeds on hard path,seeds in good earth, etc);We all remember that one right...?...but think it through.
What happens to a good healthy crop of wheat when it's harvested?It's ground up,cooked,eaten,and pooped out!!!EWE!!!
I don't want to end up as holy sh#t!...do you?
So think your metaphors through or you could get in trouble...just a tip from your uncle cheaptrick...or is it?
by Motown2Chitown3 years ago
I am often puzzled by the behavior of those of us who insist on an always literal interpretation of Holy Scriptures - especially the Bible among Christians. Why insist that Scripure must be interpreted literally...
by Alexander A. Villarasa2 years ago
Andrew Parker, in his book "The Genesis Enigma" posits that if the biblical account of the creation of the universe and the subsequent explosion of life (specifically on earth) IS interpreted not ...
by Alexander A. Villarasa19 months ago
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and God said, let there be light, and there was light..."I am not entirely certain that I am quoting or even paraphrasing the Genesis narration of...
by denden mangubat3 years ago
Some says that the" two witnesses" mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible are Enoch and Elijah.But according to thewarningsecondcoming.com, the two witnesses are the Christians and the House of Israel
by LINEOFPROGRESSION6 years ago
Luke 19:27 Jesus said, "But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence." Is it OK for Christians to kill non-believers? ...
by Julie Grimes5 years ago
Has these titles, which are often used to describe Christ's relationship with God, been taken out of context? Or do you honestly believe that Jesus Christ is God's son? I wonder, can a person still be a...
Copyright © 2016 HubPages Inc. and respective owners.
Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners.
HubPages® is a registered Service Mark of HubPages, Inc.
HubPages and Hubbers (authors) may earn revenue on this page based on affiliate relationships and advertisements with partners including Amazon, Google, and others.