Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What is the literal sense of the Bible?

Quick Answer:
The literal sense of the Bible is the actual words on th  This is the foundation of biblical interpretation.  The literal sense uses words to refer to things (we’ll see this change as we look at the other senses).  For example, when the Bible speaks of “the temple” in the literal sense it’s referring to the massive structure in Jerusalem where sacrifices are offered.

Longer Answer:
The catechism defines the literal sense of Scripture as “the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal” (CCC 116). 

The question to ask here is what do the words signify?  What is the human author, and more importantly the Divine Author, communicating with the words?  Getting at this requires a few steps.

First, have a reliable Bible translation.  Better yet, get several and compare them.  Some Bibles are overtly or accidently slanted in a particular way.  Some translate a particular Greek word as “teaching” when used in a positive light and as “tradition” when used in a negative light.  There’s a new Bible edition out translated to promote acceptance of homosexual relationships.  When selecting a Bible I suggest trying to minimize the amount of meddling and agendas the human translators bring.

 Second, use “sound interpretation”.  This doesn’t mean you need a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology but it does mean you need to think about what you’re reading.  I use a study Bible that has handy footnotes that expound on easy-to-misunderstand passages.  When you read something in Scripture that raises your eyebrows then start investigating.  Pray about why God choose those words, check what do other translations say, and consult faithful (to the Magisterium) commentators on the passage.

Finally, read the Bible instead of reading “about” the Bible!  Commentaries, blogs, and other sources of information are always a filtered view of Scripture.  If you want to know what the Bible says; read it.  There are plenty of Bible reading plans available, following the daily readings will get you through the Bible in three years, or just start with the Gospels and go from there.  The point is; the literal sense of Scripture is meaningless if you haven’t actually read the words.

1 comment:

RAnn said...

Welcome to the Catholic Blog Directory. I'd like to invite you to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. This week's host post is at http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2013/06/sunday-snippets-catholic-carnival_29.html