Monday, December 04, 2006

Deciding what is symbolic in scripture

Was Eve really made from Adam's rib? Did man really come from the dust of the earth? Did Satan really take the form of a serpent when tempting Eve? So often we see stories in scripture that seem difficult to believe. Sometimes people claim these are symbolic, sometimes not. That seems problematic to me, who is to say that the Adam's rib story is symbolic but the consumption of the fruit was real. How can we know what is symbolic and what is literal, and if we are trying to give a historical account of what happened, what is the need for symbolism. I have difficulty in believing most of the stories in the Bible. Ask the faithful whether God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh and most will say that the "6 days" represented 6 time periods or something to that degree. Ask them if the story of Noah and the Ark is real and most will say yes, even though the story is so preposterous that it seems hardly capable of being actual. Leaving aside the questions of scientific evidence of the existence of a flood, how would it be possible for a man and a few sons to build a boat so big that it held either two or seven of every kind of animal? How long would it take to search the earth for all of these animals? How do you return these animals to their natural habitat afterwards (the penguins to the south pole, the polar bear to the north pole, the koala to Australia)? Why isn't the Noah story considered symbolic? Biblical scholars date the flood at around 2400 BC, but Chinese and Egyptian cultures seem to date back longer than that, how did they survive? I have heard some people theorize that it was a localized flood, but isn't that changing the story to fit within the knowledge we now have? If we are suppose to take scripture as literal, why throw symbolism in, doesn't that just muddy up the waters? I don't have definitive answers to any of these questions, but I do have my beliefs, namely that they are simply stories created to tell us a lesson that over the course of time people began to take literal. That is just an opinion but it seems to make the most sense to me.


At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The leading historians and scientists in the world would disagree with you. It has nothing to do with symbolism. There are many secular books about it. The bible (from a secular stand point) is a collection of true stories written from a religious stand point by a people with a very limited world view. So though some of it my be exaggerated it mostly historical. There is even secular scientific evidence and argument that there is an origination point for human DNA. I'm not defending the old testament and personally I believe in evolution but faith seems an inherent part of evolution. The bible is witness to that. I am suggesting that there is much more to it than you give it credit. A good book is "The Bible as History" by Werner Keller.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Rob said...

I'm not sure what you are referring to, when you say they will disagree with me? About what, Noah and the flood specifically or symbolism in the bible? Are you saying that leading historians and scientists believe in the literal meaning of the bible, that woman came from Adam's rib for example? I have no issue with the Bible being a historical document, at least part of it, but the books of Moses are troublesome because it seems like we have these fantastic stories that have only one source. My problem lies in people today not understanding part of the bible, and then claiming that part as symbolic for something else, while in the same breath claiming some things as literal. That is a messy situation, what or who makes the final decision on what is symbolic and what is not. I have not read Keller's book but I have heard of it both pro and con, I might have to check it out.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger eskeptique said...

People a long time ago didn't use logic. So they took the stories more literally than most people do today (they actually thought God's made rain fall according to divine emotions and crap like that).

The beginning of rational thought is considered to be (by some) Thales predicting a solar eclipse on May 28, 585 BC.

And we're still trying to wrap our minds around reality rationally. It's never going to happen, but you seem to be stepping closer to reality than loads of people I know at BYU.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on how their are many fables that are taught as truth in the bible. Yet the church teaches it was real! Huh? It just doesn't make sense how they could be. Yes the bible has true history contained in parts. I recently came to the knowledge that just about EVERY god from the Greeks to the Aztecs was born of a virgin mother! I have done the research and it is overwhelming because Jesus fits in with the same stories as many of the other gods! Even miracle stories. Although Jesus was a real person (albeit his name was NOT as we know it to be though! And he images we have now of him are manmade images!) I don't believe one iota that Jesus was who the scriptures and churches teach him to be. And if people could only do their research and compare historical facts with facts then hopefully they will see the major contradictions and similarities with other pagan gods.
Thanks for your blog. It's insightful and I appreciate it!
(former devout LDS RM)


Post a Comment

<< Home

Online Degrees