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"inerrant" or "literal"

post #1 of 99
Thread Starter 
I would like to define these terms more closely. More specifically I would like people who use these terms to define their beliefs to share what they mean when they say that. I have been understanding them to be largely interchangeable but a comment on another thread has me questioning that.
post #2 of 99
my understanding of how people are generally using them...

literalist - someone who attempts to read nothing into the text but what is intended by the author.

inerrant - the scriptural words we have today are exactly as they were originally spoken/written.

there seem to be differing opinions on how literal/inerrant one can expect to be with translations.
post #3 of 99
Thread Starter 
See dado, I am pretty sure you are short of the mark on at least one if not both definitions. Many people who use one word or the other to explain their beliefs seem to mean not simply that they aren't reading anything into the text or that the text has not changed but that it is 100% true. That God molded us by hand out of a piece of the Earth. That it took 7 days to make the world. etc... on through the texts. It is one thing to say "I am going to read this text and try to really hear what the author is trying to say to me" and another to say "I will read this text and believe it to be 100% true."

I guess I am asking the believers in "100% true" which word means that to them when they use it or if they both do.
post #4 of 99
Quote:
See dado, I am pretty sure you are short of the mark on at least one if not both definitions.
oh, i don't doubt it for a moment, lol. maybe after a few more responses we can put up a verse and see how people put their definitions into action.

(yes, i have a candidate )
post #5 of 99
Candidate for verse, or for literalist believer?

Do people believe every word was written from the beginning exactly as we have the gospels today? I find it hard to understand how they could.

Yet, I heard Franklin Graham last night on Fox say all 4 gospels were written by eye-witnesses. Is it possible a world famous preacher/preacher's son has not heard of the synoptic issue?

The fact of the matter, tiny example, is one of the scraps of Mark we have from way back when differs from the Mark we have today.
post #6 of 99
as much as we all hate dictionary definitions, I figured I'd post them for argument

literal
· adj.
1 taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory. Ø free from distortion. Ø informal absolute.
2 (of a translation) representing the exact words of the original text.
3 lacking imagination.
4 of, in, or expressed by a letter of the alphabet.
· n. Brit. Printing a misprint of a letter.
– DERIVATIVES literality n. literalize (also literalise) v. literalness n.
– ORIGIN ME: from OFr., or from late L. litteralis, from L. littera (see letter).

inerrant
· adj. incapable of being wrong.
– DERIVATIVES inerrancy n. inerrantist n.

From Oxford Dictionary
post #7 of 99
Quote:
Originally posted by Nursing Mother
The Holy Spirit provides insights that permeate the mind and provides illumination to the heart in my opinion.
that sounds like a complicated way of saying you bring your beliefs to the text rather than deriving your beliefs from the text.

as for Franklin Graham...AFAIAC nobody who calls Islam a "very evil and wicked religion" has any credibility whatsoever on religious matters.

but back to the issue: i'm hearing you say you aren't, in fact, a literalist, except when the holy spirit illuminates you to be. is that a fair description?
post #8 of 99
My in-laws are, as per my def of the word, literalists. Not that I know they have even heard of the term. More likely they think of themselves as "Bible believers" or at the outside, fundamentalists.

They have a set of books in their guest room, one book to interpret each book(let) of the Bible. (Except for like, Jude or those other real short ones.)

The author of the set (which was originally a radio show) recommends the reader believe the Bible's words literally as possible, only going for metaphor when absolutely neccessary (as in NM's ex of a tree or root analogy).

His view just sucks all the juice out of it all, especially the true books of Paul. IMNSHO.

And BTW, he refused to discuss the "disgusting" rape of Lot by his daughters! He found it too repulsive.

Heh.
post #9 of 99
i'm just shaking my head at this. what your inlaw and NM have both said is "if you read the bible completely literally, it is errant". i believe NM actually used the word "ridiculous". and to decide what should and shouldn't be read literally, they turn to non-biblical sources.

the problem here should be obvious. in both cases, the meaning of the bible - the word of G-d - is being subjugated to non-biblical sources - the word of Man.
post #10 of 99
Quote:
Originally posted by Nursing Mother
Being a theological student I'm sure Franklin Graham has heard of the so-called "synoptic issue" of the Gospels. But there are explanations to all those questions and so-called contridictions. DaryLLL. ...I remember discussing this last year quite extensively.

Of course we came to a dead end.....
Since we may not refer to another thread on this one, I will leave this alone.

I will only say, there is a difference between scholarship and apology/gloss.

And I will say, my end is not dead.
post #11 of 99
Thread Starter 
Okay... here is my stumbling block with literalism/inerrancy (and we still haven't sorted those one from the other to my satisfaction, but... bygones, I guess!) NursingMother, you say God does not contradict himself (and I agree) but the Scripture does. For a start, and in some ways the simplest example, the creation stories. There are two, side by side in the first chapters of Genesis. They contradict each other on many points. Now, as a non-literalist this causes me no problems at all. But when I was trying to be a literalist it made my head throb something fierce. One of the rallying points of literalists tends to be a belief in strict creationism... but how does that work when the two stories don't even agree? I am honestly at a loss. Anyone who can explain to me how they reconcile the differences and still believe it verbatim will have done me a great service.
post #12 of 99
kama, i would enjoy that.

I guess you already know about the Elohist and Yahwist material in the Hebrew Scriptures? (Not to mention the Priestly. Is there one more category? Deuteronomist? I forget. )
post #13 of 99
Thread Starter 
Okay... I am in a huge time crunch right now so will be more specific (chapter and verse) later NM, but off the top of my head: The first account, beginning with Gen 1.1 has God creating the universe, the earth and then covering it with plants, animals, etc and then at the very end creating man and woman at the same time, both equally in His/Her image to be His companion and to enjoy the world He has made. (This is the story that uses the "day" motif) The second account which follows directly after the first starts with God creating man and then realising He needs a place to put the cute lil guy... and then creating the world. The animals are created as companions for man but are inadequate so there is the bit with the rib.

So: Contradiction in the order of creation. Man first or man last?
Cantradiction as to where women came from. In the image of God or a subsidiary of man?

daryll, yeah.. I am. I can never keep them straight in my head with footnotes constantly reminding me though! Do you know of a book where they are seperated out by source rather than shuffled together by chronology/tradition?
Oh, and to clarify Nursing Mother, i am not getting into evolution v creation, length of days, true or untrue... simply this: Many literalists say "I believe the Creation story, period." So I am just trying to understand: which story? How do you reconcile the discrepencies?
post #14 of 99
My understanding is, the first story is a later story. It was written by the Priestly class, to help Jews define Judaism once the first Temple was destroyed. The Jews needed something to identify with besides Temple worship. A 7 day week, including a Sabbath, was one example of tribal identity. So, viola! the priests came up with the story of the 6 work days, and one of rest.

The older story has a tribal god, YHWH, who was working on a tribe, his people, in a specific place, his own little garden. It was created to explain , in retrosepct, why women were subordinate to men, and to put down the Goddess' role (the snake being Her symbol) in Jewish life. BTW, it wasn't a rib, but a side.

Quote:
Do you know of a book where they are seperated out by source rather than shuffled together by chronology/tradition?
No, sorry. I learned about all of it in the Oxford Annotated.
post #15 of 99
kama - the first thing to realize is differences invisible in the english translation are quite visible in the original texts. they are distinct stories, written at different times, in different places. the second story is much much older than the first and it shows in the very nature of the Hebrew used in the writing. (ed - a major reason i don't think it makes any sense at all to claim "literalism" and NOT use the original texts.)

if you take them in context of Judaism as a whole - which can be viewed as a continuing journey away from unfettered superstition and towards a subtler understanding of G-d and our existence - the second story essentially de-mythologizes much of the creation. now there are specific explanations of how things happened. G-d is still omnipotent, and still the creator, but now we understand a little better where the boundaries between G-d and the physical world we interact with are drawn. plants don't pop into existence from nothing, they grow from seeds. we have a deeper understanding of how G-d's world works.

so now, instead of praying that crops appear magically on their own, we can gather seeds, and plant them, and pray that our seeds will grow for us the way we know they grew for G-d at the time of creation. the later story enables us to take more responsibility for our lives, to exercise more of the free will and curiosity G-d gave us.

the evolution of the stories in many ways parallels the evolution of our understanding of our place in the universe, and of our free will. forcing them into an ultra-literal framework is a way of forcing our own free will back into a box. by forcing them into an ultra-literal framework, you are saying "these stories cannot grow with my growth".

i cannot accept this would be G-d's intention.

at the time they originated, the stories were as "true" as they could be and - this is key - and still be understandable to the people of the time. as our understanding grew, the story could grow. in time, we had grown so much we needed a bigger, more complicated story. we were ready to take a step forward. if we were to write the story today, it would no doubt look different, again.

but even if on the surface it looked like it was contradicting earlier stories, it wouldn't be, not really, because it would be talking about things not known to the earlier authors and readers.

it's difficult to put this into words, i hope i'm at least close to being understandable.
post #16 of 99
My definition of inerrant (in the case of scriptures)is that the original texts were inspired by God and therefore His inerrant thoughts. However, translations are subject to human error, as is interpertation. I think this is where most Christians depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit to give them discernment. I'm sure that sounds like gobble-de-gook to those that do not believe. Therefore you can simply assume that Christians use their intellect to discern the meaning behind scriptures.

I believe that scripture is ment to be understood on many levels and that metaphors and analogies are just that and not to be taken as literal texts.

I do not claim "literalism" but I certianly agree that those who do ought to use the original texts. I guess some think they do when they make claims that the King James Version is the only acceptable one.
: (I'm sorry if that offended anyone. I simply don't see the logic, or the faith, in the hard line literalist view.)
post #17 of 99
Thread Starter 
Okay Barbara, so what you are saying is that by inerrant you do not neccesarily mean that (to continue with the same example) the Creation story/ies are factually, catagorically true, but that if you read them prayfully, with a heart open to the Holy Spirit you will see in them God's love for us and Her desire that we have love and companionship with each other, etc.. ??? Am I reading you right, for the most part?
post #18 of 99
Quote:
Originally posted by barbara
I think this is where most Christians depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit to give them discernment. I'm sure that sounds like gobble-de-gook to those that do not believe.
i don't think it's gobbleygook at all. what i'm hearing yoy say is your beliefs and meditations are helping your interpret the words, helping you decide what should be literal and what needs more interpretation. this makes complete sense to me.

Quote:
I guess some think they do when they make claims that the King James Version is the only acceptable one.
hey! no trolling!
post #19 of 99
Quote:
Okay Barbara, so what you are saying is that by inerrant you do not neccesarily mean that (to continue with the same example) the Creation story/ies are factually, catagorically true, but that if you read them prayfully, with a heart open to the Holy Spirit you will see in them God's love for us and Her desire that we have love and companionship with each other, etc.. ??? Am I reading you right, for the most part?
hmmm....I think that most Christians I know would say that, but I can not say that they are "factually, catagorically true." I don't rule out that possibility, but I'm not so sure the creation story is ment to be a literal story of the creation, as much as it is myth, allegory, and metaphor. As Daryl said somewhere else, (more eloquently than I) the fact that a story is myth does not negate it being true, at least in part.

Quote:
i don't think it's gobbleygook at all. what i'm hearing yoy say is your beliefs and meditations are helping your interpret the words, helping you decide what should be literal and what needs more interpretation. this makes complete sense to me.
post #20 of 99
deep breath...

No the words inerrant and literal are not interchangeable.

inerrant: "Without error, non-errant. In Christianity, inerrancy states that the Bible, in its original documents, is without error regarding facts, names, dates, and any other revealed information. Inerrancy does not extend to the copies of the biblical manuscripts." link

literal: "according with the letter of the scriptures; adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression; actual; free from exaggeration or embellishment (the literal truth); characterized by a concern mainly with facts (a very literal man); exact, verbatim-({word for word} a literal translation)" link

This sums up what I believe:
Quote:
However, classic Christianity rests on the assurance that the Bible is completely accurate. It may contain statements that are (1) figures of speech; (2) non-technical descriptions; or (3) difficult to understand. But actual errors would fall into a different kind of category. If there are any errors in Scripture, no matter how small, the book can no longer be our standard of truth. I become the standard of truth, as I determine which Bible statements are right and which are wrong. And if I can't trust God to get the facts straight on things like dates and measurements (where I can check on Him), why should I expect Him to be more accurate in areas like sin and salvation (where I can't check on Him)?

The Bible doesn't use the word "inerrant," but the idea is obvious.

Psalm 19:7-9 - "The law of the Lord is perfect ... the testimony of the Lord is sure ... the commandment of the Lord is pure ... the judgments of the Lord are true forever."
Psalm 119:43 - "the word of truth."
Psalm 119:142 - "Thy law is the truth."
Psalm 119:160 -"Thy word is true from the beginning."
John 17:17 - "Thy word is truth." link
Now as far as the creation story contradictions, I think the verses you are speaking about are Genesis 1:1-2:22. For the sake of space I will not quote the entire text on this post, but I will post this link and just pull passages as I reference them. Note: I am using the NIV translation.

1) Man first or man last?
Man last. 2:8-9 says: "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food."
The key word here is HAD. The garden of Eden was already created when God put Adam there and then he made the trees IN THE GARDEN grow for Adam to look at and eat from. Only the trees in the garden, not all of the trees. God created MORE trees in the garden for Adam.

2)The animals are created as companions
No, the animals are created before Adam and then brought to Adam in the garden. 2:19 says:"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name."
Again the key word is HAD. If God was creating the animals after Adam was already in the garden, why did he bring them to Adam? Wouldn't it make more sense to create them in the garden, have Adam name them (and try to find a companion among them) and then send them out?

3) creating man and woman at the same time, both equally in His/Her image to be His companion and to enjoy the world He has made. ...The animals are created as companions for man but are inadequate so there is the bit with the rib.

1:27 vs 2:21-22
In the first verse it says:"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
BUT the second verses say God created Eve after Adam. The first chapter is an overview of creation and then the second chapter goes into more deatil about the creation of man and woman. So, in the first chapter God is quickly telling us what he created and when and then He retells the same story of how man and woman were created completing the story. The first is looking at creation as a whole and the second focuses specifically on the creation of man and woman. Have you ever told a story quickly leaving out many of the specific details, being vague and then when given more time completed the story with all the details or just the details of one portion of the story? same thing.

4) Cantradiction as to where women came from.the image of God or a subsidiary of man?

Woman was created in the image of God using the rib (as the NIV states) of Adam. I am created in the image of God, but God used my father's sperm and my mother's egg to create me. I am not physically created in the image of God (or we would all look like God). I am physcially created using physcial matter (sperm and egg).

note: all bold faced and italicized type are my embellishments.
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