Friendly Figurative Language

The story begins with two chaps debating: one has atheistic tendencies, the other has theistic tendencies. For the sake of simplicity we will acknowledge the atheistic person as, “A” and the theistic person as, “T”. The following is an example of the type of conversation that may happen.

  • They begin to talk about their beliefs and T says that he follows the Bible. A decides to interject T and say that the Bible is filled with awful ideas. T quickly rejects this claim and says that A is taking the Bible too literally.

Generally, this is the way many theists escape from criticism. The usual route that A would take is arguing that it’s ridiculous to take some things literally and some things figuratively. But, it’s not. And I’ll grant T that there can be passages taken literally and passages that can be taken figuratively. That’s fine. However, when it comes to an overwhelming amount of passages, the switch to figurative does no better than interpreting it literally and in some cases makes it worse. Such as,

  • If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” – Leviticus 20:13

I know, I know, it’s from the Old Testament so it doesn’t count. But, it does. At least, Timothy, Peter and Luke think so:

  •  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – Timothy 3:16
  • “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” – Peter 20-21
  • But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.” – Luke 16:17

So, this refutation of the Old Testament is rendered invalid. Now, referring to the Leviticus quotation from earlier, the literal interpretation of it is that we kill homosexuals. “They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” I don’t think this is disputable. Nobody wants to own up to this claim though and so the blame falls on the person interpreting the quote as taking it “too literally.” Let’s interpret this quote figuratively, then!

  • If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” – Leviticus 20:13

We’ll break it down so it’s easier to follow.

  • “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”

Okay. So, figuratively (or, metaphorically) Leviticus is saying that if a man has sexual relations. Er, rather… we’ll just say that this passage means that if a man is very close, (but not actually having sex) just terribly intimate friends, then they’ve done an awful thing. We’ve avoided the claim that we’re against homosexuals, yeah!

  • “They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

This one seems tricky, but we can make it work. Instead of “put to death,” the Bible really only meant to say that they should be psychically alienated and scrutinized mentally to the point that they feel as though they’re dead, not physically dead. “Their blood will be on their own heads,” just means that they need to own up to their ugliness eventually.

Voila! The new, figurative passage would read something like this:

  • If a man has a terribly close friendship with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be psychically alienated and scrutinized mentally to the point that they feel as though they’re dead. Their feelings about themselves should be in accordance with this deranged mental state.” – Leviticus 20:13 (reworked, figuratively!)

Perfect! Instead of the Bible being against gay men and thinking that we should kill them, we should just think of every guy who is close friends with another guy as an oddity and treat them as such until they treat themselves the same way!

And, there are endless other passages that operate the same way. Switching the language of the Bible from literal to figurative doesn’t help its case. In fact, in this situation, I’d say it makes it worse: don’t kill someone, just make them live out their entire life mentally tortured and wish that they were dead. As one of my friends aptly put it, “It’s like those people who say, ‘I don’t mean to offend you, but you’re fucking stupid!'”

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