Index by Subject

“Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions

I recently read an interesting short article on the use of the term “literally” that I want to share with you, then comment upon.

Two Misuses of “Literally”

“He literally knocked his head off.”  No.  If he had, the head would have rolled across the floor, separated from the body.  “Literally,” in that case, is mistakenly used to intensify a figure of speech, but “literally” does not intensify the figure.  It says “knocked his head off” is not a figure of speech but a true description of what he did.

Another misuse of “literally” has to do with word meaning.  Someone says, “proskuneo ‘literally’ means ‘kiss the ground toward.’”  No, proskuneo literally means “worship.”  “Kiss the ground toward” is its etymology, how the word was formed.  It is also an archaic meaning; as ancient Persians did literally fall on their faces and kiss the feet or hem of the robe of their deified kings.  Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.  The New Testament frequently says, “They fell down and worshipped him”  (Matthew 2:11; e.g.).  “Fell down” is from a different original word, “worshipped” is proskuneo.

“Literally” does not intensify a figure.  A word’s etymological meaning is not its “literal” meaning.

Cecil May
Preacher Talk (Vol. 27, No. 2—April 2012)

The first misuse of the term “literally” is typical in casual conversation.  While irritating to those who are sensitive to the mangling of the English language, it is innocuous.  However, defining biblical terms by their etymology, (or even their assigned dictionary definitions), without considering context, is extremely troubling as we seek to interpret God’s word.

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Consequences of New Hermeneutics

Creation VS Evolution

What Happens When We Mythologize Part of Genesis?

I attended a Lord I Believe Seminar back in the spring of 1996, and came away with decidedly mixed feelings. Much of the program was highly commendable. Brother Hill Roberts did a superb job of using statistical probability to show that it was impossible for life to have originated by chance. Yet, there were several aspects of the presentation that trouble me. In particular, I am concerned about Hill’s approach to the book of Genesis, especially as it relates to the issue of time and the age of the earth. Continue reading » Consequences of New Hermeneutics

Age of the Earth

Creation VS Evolution

Are There Biblical Parameters?

IntroductionThose who would attempt to harmonize the Bible and the theory of modern evolution must fit 15 billion years into the book of Genesis. They also must stretch the Genesis genealogies to accommodate an old earth demanded by evolutionists. Proponents of this viewpoint would argue that the Mid-eastern concept of time is vastly different from our western mindset. In fact, when attending a Lord I Believe Seminar back in 1996, I remember Rod Summers forcefully arguing this very point.

Yet, it is false to say the Jews had no rational concept of time. People in Biblical times were at least as intelligent as modern man, and therefore, had the ability to comprehend time in a meaningful way. From the beginning, man has been governed by time: God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Gen 1:14). Therefore, as we reflect upon the issue of the age of the earth, let us examine various Scriptures that clearly indicate that the Jews could tell time. Continue reading » Age of the Earth

The Genesis Account and Ancient Myth

Creation VS Evolution
Does Genesis 1-2 represent the vestiges of a primeval myth of the origin of the world? Comparative features are the most potent ally of the liberal scholar.

Some people are satisfied with such an explanation. But what are the consequences of such a view? They would certainly be that all of the Bible is suspect on the same ground. That is sufficient for some people; but not the apostle Peter: we have not followed “cleverly devised fables” (muthois; “myths” 2 Pet. 1:16). The Bible is not a dependable revelation of the mind of God for man if it is subject to the false notions of the time or if mythological thinking helped to create the final product of the biblical writers in any way. Continue reading » The Genesis Account and Ancient Myth

Literal or Figurative: How Can We Determine?

Creation VS Evolution

To the Ephesians Paul wrote: “Be not foolish, but know the will of the Lord,” (Eph. 5:17). The passage identifies two alternatives: Be foolish or understand the will of the Lord. He further wrote, “How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ,” (Eph. 3:3-4). The word “mystery” simply means something not heretofore made known., (v. 5).

He declares that God chose the word method of revealing His mind to man. Whatever is characteristic of this type of communication is true of the Scriptures. Whatever strength or weakness that is inherent in this type of communication is inherent in Scripture as well. A word is simply a symbol of an idea, a vehicle of thought. Words are arranged into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and etc.The student of the Bible will endeavor to determine the meaning of a statement at the time it was written and how it was understood by those addressed. This is true of any document. To properly understand, one must be able to determine if a word or a passage is being used in a literal sense or in a figurative sense. Continue reading » Literal or Figurative: How Can We Determine?

The Simple Gospel: A Literal and Narrow Interpretation

From time to time I will read through journals from years gone by to glean benefits of mature and experienced brethren. Often in the writings of yesteryear, one can find excellent examples of men fighting for truth during times of controversy. And, inasmuch as the arguments are the same with only the surface elements changing, one will find “jewels” that can be applied to current controversies. Note the following gem, spoken in 1966 by brother David Edwin Harrell, Jr.

    …I believe in a literal and narrow interpretation of the Bible as the Word of God. My aim is the exact restoration of the ancient order of things…the Bible should be, can be, and is literally understandable and …it should lead all men to the same conclusions. “Any man who believes that he can find literal truth in the Scriptures must also believe that those who do not find the same truth are wrong. What follows is that such people are sinful. The next logical conclusion is that they will go to hell. The most onerous charge leveled against those who are members of the Churches of Christ is that they are bigots. It is frequently assumed that they believe that all who do not accept the truths which they find in the Bible will be lost. All members of the Churches of Christ do not have such an attitude, but I do.” (Robert O. Fife, David Edwin Harrell, Jr., Ronald E. Osborn, Disciples and The Church Universal, pp. 34-35 [ as quoted in Truth Magazine, Nov. 21, 1974 p. 4–emp. mine, sfd]). Continue reading » The Simple Gospel: A Literal and Narrow Interpretation

Confusion on the Covenants: Covenant and New Hermeneutics

In December, 1988, there was an exchange, in Nashville, between conservative and liberal thinking brethren. Some of the liberal thinkers turned out to be ultra-liberal and advocated what has been called “new hermeneutics.” They said that the canon of the N.T. was not decided until the fourth century and therefore the teaching of the apostles could not have been looked upon as a pattern. One speaker said “precept, example and necessary inference is Greek to me.” Instead of appealing to pattern authority, they said we should study the life of Jesus and do what we feel He would do in the circumstances. After the first speaker, I asked one who was to speak later on the liberal side (though he was much more conservative than that speaker), the source of that doctrine. He said: “Frank, that is rank modernism,” and it is!

Since I wrote a review of the “One Covenant” theory, I have been corresponding with two men who are trying to defend the theory. Some brethren have started traveling this road when they do not know its destination! One of the writers, a chief advocate of the theory, has made the same statement to me that the ultra-liberal speaker made in Nashville. I will quote that later, but first notice the argument that the the priesthood has not changed and Christ gave no new covenant. Continue reading » Confusion on the Covenants: Covenant and New Hermeneutics