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Author Topic:   Where does literalism end and interpretation begin?
Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 31 of 96 (293048)
03-07-2006 4:04 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by robinrohan
03-07-2006 2:07 PM


robin writes:

People interpret the parts of the US constitution differently too, but the US Constitution contains no parables as far as I know.


yes.. not sure what point you are trying to make here..

robin writes:

The literalist might say that if there is no indication that the passage was intended non-literally--or let's say non-historically-- then the passage is to be interpreted as historical fact.


I don't doubt that there are parts of the bible that are clearly parables, or clearly metaphors. But there are parts which read like fairly tales(Notably: genesis, jonah, Noah) without the explicit designation as parable or metaphor.

Does the absence of such an explicit designation imply that it is to be taken as historical truth?
Or is it explicitly designated as historical truth?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 27 by robinrohan, posted 03-07-2006 2:07 PM robinrohan has responded

Replies to this message:
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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 32 of 96 (293054)
03-07-2006 4:15 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Heathen
03-07-2006 4:04 PM


yes.. not sure what point you are trying to make here.

Let's look at the title of your topic: "Where does literalism end and interpretation begin?"

This suggests that one might read a text "literally" which is not the same thing as "interpreting" it.

But I would think that any reading, literal or not, is a form of interpretation. We can interpret a text literally or we can interpret it figuratively. But we also might be able to interpret it a way that can not be called exactly literal or figurative, only different.

For example, we can interpret it based on what we think the writer's intentions were. Or we can interpret a text based not on the writer's intentions but what we think the text means apart from the author's intentions. Maybe the author said something he did not intend. Nonetheless it's part of the text.

But there are parts which read like fairly tales(Notably: genesis . . .

I'm curious as to the features of Genesis that can be called fairy-tale-like.


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 Message 31 by Heathen, posted 03-07-2006 4:04 PM Heathen has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 33 by Heathen, posted 03-07-2006 5:14 PM robinrohan has responded

  
Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 33 of 96 (293074)
03-07-2006 5:14 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by robinrohan
03-07-2006 4:15 PM


robin writes:

But I would think that any reading, literal or not, is a form of interpretation.


You can ask a hundred different people to read something, and you will get the same result.
ask a hundred different people what the words mean to them, and you could get a hundred different answers. they will have different interpretations of the words they have read

robin writes:

For example, we can interpret it based on what we think the writer's intentions were. Or we can interpret a text based not on the writer's intentions but what we think the text means apart from the author's intentions. Maybe the author said something he did not intend. Nonetheless it's part of the text.

The basis on which you make an interpretation is not really what I'm getting at.
more the amount or level of interpretation applied.

robin writes:

I'm curious as to the features of Genesis that can be called fairy-tale-like


-the creation of the entire universe in 7 days
-man being created from dirt
-woman being created from man
-no death, no disease, no pain
-a talking snake

to name but a few.

< edit: This should not be dragged off course to a discussion about Genesis, if you want to dicuss that please open a new thread >

This message has been edited by Creavolution, 03-07-2006 05:15 PM


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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 22 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 34 of 96 (293127)
03-07-2006 11:23 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by ReverendDG
03-07-2006 12:40 AM


no more literalists?
I realize one thing, there are no literialists - the more we know about the human body, the world, and the universe, the less people can read the bible literially. Being that you have to willfully ignore things that show what the bible says is factually wrong. so instead you have to interpret it to mean something else or say its not really saying it

a. interpret (change the meaning)
b. say it's not really saying that (change the meaning)

you forgot:

c. just accept that it's wrong and get the hell over it.

see, there ARE literalists. i happen to be. i think the bible should be read literally, and that all good interpretion is based firmly on a literal understanding, not an attempt to correct what it literally says. i think there is more to the bible than just the literal, but that it's the place to start.

i think that the people who call themselves literalists, but have to distort the text for it to be literally true are also distorting the meaning of "literal."


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by ReverendDG, posted 03-07-2006 12:40 AM ReverendDG has responded

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ReverendDG
Member (Idle past 2154 days)
Posts: 1119
From: Topeka,kansas
Joined: 06-06-2005


Message 35 of 96 (293134)
03-08-2006 2:35 AM
Reply to: Message 34 by arachnophilia
03-07-2006 11:23 PM


Re: no more literalists?
true i did leave that out i didn't think of it :P
so does that mean you believe there was a flood?, or that its a story or what?
or do you mean such as if it says the snake was cursed by god to move on its belly then its about a snake and not satan?

i agree they are not literalists, they might be revisionists or something along that line


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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 36 of 96 (293158)
03-08-2006 6:31 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by Heathen
03-07-2006 5:14 PM


the creation of the entire universe in 7 days
-man being created from dirt
-woman being created from man
-no death, no disease, no pain
-a talking snake

I'll grant you the talking snake. Otherwise, there seems to be some question-begging here.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . ." is not the same kind of comment as, "Once upon a time there was this old and very powerful wizard who hankered for companionship . . ."

If you think it's the same sort of thing, you have begged the question by assuming the automatic falsehood of special creation ahead of time.


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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 37 of 96 (293175)
03-08-2006 8:18 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Heathen
03-06-2006 2:25 PM


Problems with the OP
There's a problem with the use of the term "interpret." Interpretation need not be figurative. Also, all texts have to be interpreted and that doesn't mean there are literal and figurative meanings necessarily. Let's take the word "STOP" found on the highway. What does this mean? Does it mean a dead full stop, or perhaps a pause? If a full stop, how long must we stop? A milli-second? 2 seconds? 5? One can never cover all one's bases with words.

There's a problem with designating what's literal and what's figurative. Why should the literal meaning of "heart" be a blood-pump? Why not a different but still literal meaning? (one's inner self)?

Take the word "window." Window--a hole in the side of a house. Another meaning is a spacetime window through which a spacecraft must pass to come to earth safely. Is one literal and the other figurative? Neither deal with abstractions.

I suppose one might argue that the original meaning of a word is its literal meaning while later meanings are figurative. What was the original meaning of the word "heart"? It might have been "the inner self, located in the chest." In that case, the later meaning of blood-pump would be figurative.


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 Message 1 by Heathen, posted 03-06-2006 2:25 PM Heathen has responded

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Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 38 of 96 (293226)
03-08-2006 10:18 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by robinrohan
03-08-2006 6:31 AM


robin writes:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . ." is not the same kind of comment as, "Once upon a time there was this old and very powerful wizard who hankered for companionship . . ."

If you think it's the same sort of thing, you have begged the question by assuming the automatic falsehood of special creation ahead of time.


well I honestly don't think there's that much difference between
there being a lonely God who wanted to share creation with
and there being a lonely wizard who hankered for companionship.

swap the words God and Wizard and there we go. Much in the same was other religions believe the universe sits on top of a turtles back.. you believe your wizard (God) picked up some dirt from the ground and created adam(why would he do this? why wouldn't he simply will some atoms into being and create Adam)

I haven't assumed falsehood, rather I have not assumed it to be truth.


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 Message 36 by robinrohan, posted 03-08-2006 6:31 AM robinrohan has responded

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 Message 39 by robinrohan, posted 03-08-2006 10:43 AM Heathen has responded

  
robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 39 of 96 (293242)
03-08-2006 10:43 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by Heathen
03-08-2006 10:18 AM


well I honestly don't think there's that much difference between
there being a lonely God who wanted to share creation with
and there being a lonely wizard who hankered for companionship.

The difference is that "God" designates the creator whereas "wizard" does not. So God is a different order of being entirely.

This message has been edited by robinrohan, 03-08-2006 09:43 AM


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Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 40 of 96 (293244)
03-08-2006 10:45 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by robinrohan
03-08-2006 8:18 AM


Re: Problems with the OP
I really didn't intend this to become a discussion on the meaning of 'interpret'. i would have thought my understanding of the word and the context in which I use it here was clear from the OP.

robin writes:

Let's take the word "STOP" found on the highway. What does this mean?


Uhm... it means "Stop" no confusion there.
You can of course read the highway code to find out what to do after you stop.. it's quite clear and unequivocal

robin writes:

Take the word "window." Window--a hole in the side of a house. Another meaning is a spacetime window through which a spacecraft must pass to come to earth safely. Is one literal and the other figurative? Neither deal with abstractions.


Indeed, and when we read such a word we make a decision to apply a specific meaning to that word. It is possible, depending on the context, that two people could indeed read two different meanings for this word. for instance:
"I looked through the window and saw far away stars"
How do you understand that sentance?

robin writes:

What was the original meaning of the word "heart"? It might have been "the inner self, located in the chest." In that case, the later meaning of blood-pump would be figurative.


So If the original meaning of Heart was "the inner self, located in the chest." It's wrong isn't it? your 'self' does not reside in the chest, the pump does. so when we read this we understand that it is not meant literally, and thus we make a judgement as to the meaning of the written word, so as it fits with our logic, our (greatly improved)understanding of physiology and the human body.
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Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 41 of 96 (293247)
03-08-2006 10:51 AM
Reply to: Message 39 by robinrohan
03-08-2006 10:43 AM


iano writes:

The difference is that "God" designates the creator whereas "wizard" does not

As you define them maybe..
what if we met another culture who believe that in the beginning there was nothing, then 'Wizard' said "Let there be Light"?

On the face of it we have two stories, one about a lonely God, the other about a lonely wizard. Both fantastical, both full of magic, Both very difficult to believe given our current understanding of the universe and its mechanisms.

again, this is heading Off Topic. I did not intend this thread to dicuss whether or not the bible is full of fairy stories. It is intended to discove the extent of Literalism.


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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 42 of 96 (293249)
03-08-2006 10:51 AM
Reply to: Message 40 by Heathen
03-08-2006 10:45 AM


Re: Problems with the OP
So If the original meaning of Heart was "the inner self, located in the chest." It's wrong isn't it? your 'self' does not reside in the chest, the pump does. so when we read this we understand that it is not meant literally

Not meant literally? By whom? Aren't we talking about the original author's intent? Maybe they meant it quite literally.

ABE Or maybe they meant "the inner self" without reference to location. Is that literal? No reason why not.

This message has been edited by robinrohan, 03-08-2006 09:53 AM


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Heathen
Member (Idle past 59 days)
Posts: 1042
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 43 of 96 (293258)
03-08-2006 11:07 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by robinrohan
03-08-2006 10:51 AM


Re: Problems with the OP
robin writes:

Maybe they meant it quite literally


You're not understanding me, your responses are exactly the reason I write this thread...

Maybe they meant it literally, maybe they did not. You choose to put whetever meaning you feel fits onto that word. that is your choice.

but it is a choice you make. and it is a choice that will affect the meaning of the word.

So maybe you can clear it up then?
Does a Biblical literalist read the bible 'literally' as per the meanings of the words in todays world?
Or does He/She read the bible 'literally' as per the meanings of the words at the time of writing?
(I would have though correct translation/transcription should have taken care of that dilemma)

Is it somewhere in between? where do you decide which meaning fits? and on what basis do you make this decision


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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 44 of 96 (293260)
03-08-2006 11:11 AM
Reply to: Message 43 by Heathen
03-08-2006 11:07 AM


Re: Problems with the OP
where do you decide which meaning fits?

In the case of "heart," you decide what best fits the context. What I'm trying to figure out is why you are suggesting that "heart" in the sense of "inner self" need be figurative. We can as well call it literal.

You seem to be suggesting that "interpretation" is always figurative.


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Faith
Inactive Member


Message 45 of 96 (293266)
03-08-2006 11:25 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by jar
03-07-2006 2:17 PM


Re: Clues in the Bible?
But there are clues in the Bible, particularly in Genesis, that it is not to be taken as a literal history. For example, two entirely different mutually exclusive stories of Creation are presented. In one story, GOD creates male and female at the same time using the same methods. In the other story GOD creates Man first and then at a later time creates woman and not, as in the other tale by an act of creation, but by cloning woman from man.

The first story gives the chronology of the total Creation. The second is not another creation story but a focusing in on a particular aspect of the creation story in order to make a point about the particular creation of humanity. The first story does NOT say He made them "using the same methods." It doesn't say HOW at all. What it says is

quote:
Gen 1:27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Period.

So in the case of the Creation myths found in Genesis, if you accept what the Bible says, it is obvision that the Creation myths are meant to teach lessons about man's relationship with GOD, GOD's relationship with what is created, why snakes don't have legs, why women suffer during childbirth, why we have a seven day week with a day off and why man has to till the soil and work for a living.

Funny how the deep many-layered meanings of the literal text are always so disappointingly reduced to something trite and boring by the anti-literalist.

It is not preconcieved notions that are involved here but the content of the Bible itself that says the Creation stories are not meant as history but rather explanations of the world around the authors.

The preconceived notion is that it's not God's word, so therefore you don't have to take any pains to understand what He meant, you are free to believe it means something as boringly trite as you apparently believe.


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