Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Looking literally

In yesterday’s post, you were introduced to a new book, Broken Angel, by Sigmund Brouwer. Brouwer has created a futuristic world in his book, one where fundamentalists have pushed their literal interpretations to the forefront of politics, and now run things.

The topic is a thoughtful one. I have close friends who are fundamentalists, believing that a literal interpretation of the Bible is the proof of faith. They are committed and passionate in their faith and I will not belittle them.

However, I want to introduce you to a resource that may shed a little light on biblical texts. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (general editors are Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III) explores the images, motifs, symbols, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.

Once I said to my three-year-old nephew, “Oh, you’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?” And he looked solemnly at his leg and my leg before shaking his head. No.

I was using a figure of speech that he didn’t yet understand. Those are common in our literature today and were common in the writings of the Bible as well. Those who insist on a literal interpretation of texts often lose the very meaning of that text because they don’t examine possible images or figures of speech.

As Brouwer suggests, literal isn’t always best.

1 comment:

sbrouwer said...

Thanks for the comments on Broken Angel! And thanks for suggesting the non-fiction book; it's now on my TBR list.