Talk:Biblical literalism

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Articles for deletion This article was nominated for deletion on 27 Sept 2006. The result of the discussion was no consensus.

Tag Removal[edit]

I removed the tags, there doesn't appear to be any major contention currently regarding the content of this article. --68.22.19.194 17:58, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I can support the tag removal. I haven't been looking at this much lately, but agree that the article is in much better shape than when they were first added. GRBerry 16:22, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
Yup, it's calming down and looking good. :)--69.244.153.46 22:39, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

eh?[edit]

I've done my best to improve various spelling and grammar issues, but this sentence has defeated me:-

These views however do not contend the literalistic values that parables, metaphors and allegory are not existent in the Bible [15][16] but rather relies on contextual interpretations based on the author's intention. [17]

What does 'values' mean in this context? Should 'relies' not be 'rely'? I can't figure the sentence out, so I'm not editing it as I'm reluctant to destroy any finer nuances of meaning. SheffieldSteel 17:53, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

how about, "These views do not contend that literalism excludes parable, metaphors and allegory but rather..." Bdcallaway (talk) 16:43, 17 November 2014 (UTC)

Criticisms[edit]

The Criticisms section needs to be significantly expanded because at this point there is far too literal information, and all of it decontextualized. At present, it seems more a series of unrelated quotes which need further explination as to why they are adequate or inadequate critques of the subject at hand. jackturner3 13:27, 30 March 2007 (UTC)


What I have found is that it is quite clear that EVERYONE "interprets" the bible in different ways, even those who claim that they take the "literal meaning" of the text. Some discussion rapidly demonstrates that it is often impossible for two people to agree on what the "literal meaning" of the text is, even if they claim otherwise. This is because:

  • whether Biblical literalists admit it or not, there are way too many versions of the bible that exist. For example, examining the known 5000+ versions of the new testament shows more variations than there are words in the new testament. The situation with the old testament is not much better. For example, is the number of the beast 666 or something else? Different versions of the text give different numbers.
  • there is too much controversy about the translations of the bible, particularly when there were no vowels in the written Hebrew at the time the old testament was written so it is ambiguous
  • there is too much controversy about what books are to be included in the canon. The Mormons, the Catholics, the Protestants, and the Orthodox all have a different canon for example. I have noticed that very few literalists are even aware of this.
  • the bible is inconsistent and self-contradictory in literally 10s of thousands of places, as has been well documented for centuries, so if one does believe it "literally", one is believing a pile of nonsense
  • the bible is replete with parables and allegory and figures of speech, not all of which we understand very well or interpret the same way
  • some of the bible was clearly written in a form of code (for example, "Revelations"), which we might or might not be able to understand
  • the bible is often written using illogical "nonpropositions" such as the Platonic "four footed idea" which are nonsensical and requires interpretation to make sense. These objects are so vague that any meaning can be asserted for them or imposed on them by the religious

In light of these reasons and others, I think anyone who says they take the bible literally is either deluded, deceitful, ignorant, or worse. It is prima facie evidence of someone who is unable or unwilling to use their God-given powers of reason and is basically spewing nonsense.--Filll 11:11, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Hi Fill, I think you're missing the point of the article. The term Biblical Literalist is used to point the finger and make fun of those who are deemed less scientific, kinda like you just did. No one actully believes that swords will come out of Jesus' mouth, that's an allegory. So this article is to define how the term "Biblical Literalist" is used, It's not to join in with arrogant liberal scholars by creating an article bashing conservative ones. If you read the article, you'll learn that not even the staunchest of conservative inerrentists believe in literal interpretation. Therefore your whole rant agiants those scholars who according to you are "unable or unwilling to use their God-given powers of reason" is moot, cause they don't exist.


Um.. by adding your opinion on "Biblical Literalists," you haven't achieved anything. The issue is that the "criticism" section adds nothing of substance, only a shopping list of points without substance. That entire section needs be turned into PARAGRAPHS, and the actual reasoning EXPLAINED!! "Why are "Biblical literalists" heretics?"

Yoda921 03:01, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Yoda


This is a work in progress. So it takes time and effort to achieve anything.--Filll 03:30, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
BTW, Fill, nice edits, thanks for cleaning this up a bit.


I somehow get the feeling that the Criticism section is just a list of quotes that isn't really a section. Perhaps someone could clean it up into a slightly more paragraphical version? Jenigmat429 14:49, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

As mentioned earlier,I am not really sure the sources cited for the criticism section are completely reliable. For example, for the bullet that states biblical literalism causes mental illnesses, the source is more of an opinion page that does not show any data / research to substantiate such a claim. I would edit this portion myself, but am relatively new and would like some input.Hoffungstod (talk) 09:30, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

After rereading the source and the others, I see where the editors got these quotes from. However, we should still look for better sources on the subject. As suggested, this could all be improved by doing away with the current format of a laundry list of quotes.

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 03:49, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

"Literalists reported views on sex" section[edit]

Why is this section here? It contains four external links, is placed above the section "Further reading", implying that it is different than these. How does this section contribute to this article? Or does it not contribute at all, which is my first take. From the history I see that Filll converted bare html links to wikified links in June, and that Home Computer added it in October 2006, a day before the article got protected for edit warring. But I can't see that anyone has done anything with it other than that. I think it adds nothing to the article and should come out. Does anyone have any reason for including it? GRBerry 17:25, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

  • Removed, as no feedback was received. GRBerry 19:27, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Arguments Against section[edit]

Earlier today, an IP editor removed the "Arguments Against" section from the page. It sure sticks out like a sore thumb as the worst part of the page, in that it is the least like a good encyclopedia article. It is just a string of quotes, without any narrative structure, any identification in the text of who said them, et. cetera. So I didn't object to pulling them out, but I see that someone else has reverted that IP edit.

This has been an issue before, see #Criticisms above, and to a lesser extent Talk:Biblical literalism/Archve 1#Redirect (when the whole article was in that format). What are we going to do about it? I suspect that complete removal is not the best solution, but the list of bullet points remains a negative feature of the article. GRBerry 17:33, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Removed Support section[edit]

Not sure if this helps make the article any better but there was an entire section devoted to labeling adherants of inerrency as biblical literalists. --Oi!oi!oi!010101 (talk) 23:08, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

To clarify churches that support a literal view on ceratin scriptures would not say they are "Biblical Literalists" nor would they fit the primary definition of it. They would claim biblical inerrency, a subtle but important difference. --Oi!oi!oi!010101 (talk) 23:11, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Main problem for consieration[edit]

I think part of the problem with this article is that there are two definitions used in the literature but the term is not actually scholarly term to begin with. Either your talking about the pejoritive term (finger pointing for being too literal and unintelligent) or you using the word as short hand for believing in inerrency and trying to determine author's intent. So.. this should really be two separate articles that in themselves aren't really notable. Good luck with this one guys. --Oi!oi!oi!010101 (talk) 23:08, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Possible solution[edit]

Since the term 'Biblical literalism' is primarily a perjorative aimed at at people who adhere to a literal interpretation by those who advocate a less literal approach (there is no movement calling themselves "Biblical literalists") this article should focus primarily on the term "Biblical literalism" and not deal with the beliefs of Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Biblical inerrantists, and other self-described groups, except to explain that the term is used by their opposition to refer to them.NZUlysses (talk) 23:08, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

I think the definition could use some clarification.[edit]

Literalism is generally associated with a belief in inerrancy, but does the definition of literalism necessarily imply inerrancy? In other words, is literalism the belief that the stories of the Bible are literally true, or merely that a literal interpretation was intended by the author? For example, suppose somebody says, "The world was not actually created in six days. However, the author of the first chapter of Genesis meant to say that it was. He did not intend it as an allegory." Is that a literalist statement? Capedia (talk) 07:20, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

The definition definitely needs some clarification. Obviously many many fundamentalists and evangelical Christians say that they like to interpret the Bible 'literally'. The scholarly approach mainly talks about 'inerrancy', not the 'literal truthfulness' of the Bible, leaving open the possibility that the Bible never errs but sometimes makes statements which are only allegoricallly or figuratively true. Some fundamentalists would probably disagree with this approach, but they'd be unlikely to describe themselves as "Biblical literalists" even though they espouse interpreting the Bible literally - this would be just one facet in their general adherence to Fundamentalism. NZUlysses (talk) 23:28, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

Pejorative[edit]

The term 'Biblical literalism' is listed in Wikipedia as a pejorative. Recently an editor who wishes to use the term in another article has removed from this article any reference to the fact that it is a pejorative term. This is POV editing, and clearly self-motivated. There is plenty of evidence that 'Biblical literalism' is widely considered and used as a pejorative:

  • Laurence Wood, 'Theology as History and Hermeneutics', (2005)
  • George Regas, 'Take Another Look At Your Good Book', Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2000
  • Dhyanchand Carr, 'Christian Council of Asia: Partnership in Mission, Conference on World Mission and the Role of Korean Churches, November 1995

Any number of Websites could also be provided demonstrating the common pejorative use of the term. Sufficient evidence was provided in the article to demonstrate that this term us commonly used as a pejorative. That evidence has now been removed without explanation. --Taiwan boi (talk) 04:26, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree - the article should mention that the term Biblical literalism' is often used as a pejorative.Lamorak (talk) 03:32, 19 January 2009 (UTC)
For what it's worth, there was a section on this in the article not all that long ago (see this version). It wasn't great, but it did have one example of pejorative use of the term, and an example criticizing such use. EastTN (talk) 22:59, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I think the whole section of "Modern Usage" should be placed back in the article.Lamorak (talk) 23:57, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
As there have been no objections, I've added back the section on the pejorative use from the version I mentioned above. I did not bring in the entire Modern Usage section, because it appears that some of the other text has been moved to other places. EastTN (talk) 14:56, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

The Principle of perspicuity[edit]

The section heading "principle of perspicuity" is technically correct, but is probably obscure to the average reader. I think it should be renamed "Clarity of Scripture." Comments?Lamorak (talk) 03:37, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Fine with me. --Taiwan boi (talk) 09:13, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Figurism[edit]

The opposite and contrary approach is called Figurism, there is an interesting article here (translation required) that talks about the movement's relationship to Jansenism. ADM (talk) 09:27, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Additions[edit]

I'm expanding upon the definition: adding letterism as referenced by several authors, plus explain usage of the term as found commonly and in academic writings. Later I will add the foundational concepts and a history section. Lamorak (talk) 06:55, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Propose renaming to scriptural literalism[edit]

The phrase biblical literalism suggests this article can cover only the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible, but not other religious texts (Qur'an, Avesta, ...), and that it can't compare/contrast with religions that explicitly reject scriptural literalism (e.g. Quakers).

Scriptural literalism is currently a redirect to this article. An alternative is to make that into a separate page that sends readers to more specific articles. The article Qur'anic literalism already exists separately, so this might be a good way to go. There's also a small bit at Higher criticism#Higher criticism of other religious texts, though that's not precisely the same thing. --Underpants 02:54, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

I support this change. I was hoping to add a wikilink to the term 'literalism' in another article, where a link to scriptural literalism would be fine, and a link to biblical literalism would be too narrow. Ben (talk) 20:06, 22 April 2009 (UTC)
I also support this change.Lamorak (talk) 04:09, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
I strongly support this change. Literalism isn't restricted to Christianity, or even Judaism and Christianity, but is found in at least one sect of every religion that has a scripture that I know of. St John Chrysostom view/my bias 19:51, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
NO WAY. :) All the citations are specifically about the Bible. Should you want a separate article about scriptiral literalism and have reliable sources, go ahead and make one! :) We can't just make up terms like we're the experts. 69.245.65.89 (talk) 00:07, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Can someone please check if this is an error?[edit]

This is from the main article (Clarity of scripture) ...

What the clarity of scripture does deny is that the Bible is not a code to decipher, or that it cannot be understood apart from....

Is this an incorrect double negative? Shouldn't it rather read what the clarity of scripture does deny is that the Bible is a code to decipher etc ? Otherwise it is a clumsy and confusing sentence construction, and means the opposite of what it intends 88.105.255.240 (talk) 21:08, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Historical revisionism[edit]

I happened upon this article while reading about Afrocentrism. An editor/administrator placed this article in the same category "historical revisionism," into which Afrocentrism certianly falls. Biblical literalism, however, does not fall into that cateogry. The article is informative, but it appears that some of the categories into which this article is lumped reflects a bias or in the very least an attempt to paint adherents to literal interpretation of the Christian Bible as persons who are historical revisionists or fringe groups. In the interest of being an enclyclopedia, I think the categories, which as all we who edit know can certainly skew and paint in a false light, should be less inflamatory. Being bold, I reverted what seems to be POV opinion and removed the category. Anyone else agree/disagree? Thanks,--75.3.157.0 (talk) 00:26, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

Agree. There are most certainly historical groups that take the Scriptures, by and large, literally. St John Chrysostom view/my bias 20:04, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Removal[edit]

I removed "On the other hand many passages in the scriptures reveal an understanding of natural laws that are surprising for its time. The shape of the earth, and how it is supported.(Isaiah 40:22,Job 26:7),life in the womb and DNA (Psalm 139:13-16)" Because, it doesn't belong under the heading pejorative use (since it seems to be a rebuttal to above mentioned professors and their opinions not a further example of pejorative use). Also the language is biased. The wording "in the scriptures" suggests that there is only one set of scriptures and "surprising for it's time" is subjective and unacademic. Finally the cited verses do not suggest the claims that are made. Isaiah 40:22 describes the Earth as a "circle" with god enthroned above it suggesting (if taking literally) that the earth is flat. Psalm 139:13-16 refers to a book with a fetus' future written in it, but this is way more likely to be a metaphor about destiny and implication that life is predetermined than a description of DNA. Certainly, the wording that "the scriptures reveal an understanding of natural laws" is unsupported. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.164.241.230 (talk) 18:02, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

Same as inerrency. MERGE?[edit]

There is no difference between the definition of inerrency and literalism. The article even cited the chicago convention on inerrency to define literalism. Can we merge? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 69.245.65.89 (talk) 00:02, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

No such word: "letterism"[edit]

This whole article is a mess, starting with the fact that the word letterism (from lettrism) is a French avant garde movement and nothing to do with "mechanical literalism". "There are two kinds of literal interpretation, letterism and the more common historical-grammatical method."

The article attempts to redefine the meaning of the word "literalism" just because the word "biblical" is in front of it. The basic problem is that the "historical-grammatical" method is a non-literal approach to Bible interpretation not a subcategory of literalism. Mcarans (talk) 13:25, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Neither of us may have heard of it before, but the word appears in several books on the Bible. Look at this search:[1]. Perhaps more importantly, it is used by the cited source [2]. Myrvin (talk) 15:53, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
It seems to me that the reason why the word "letterism" (which isn't in any dictionary) has been invented is because the word "literalism" has been redefined. However, "literalism" should not be redefined because it already has a clear meaning in the dictionary - essentially the meaning for which "letterism" has been used.
Imagine if we redefined "apple", deciding that a "Biblical apple" = a banana! Just because a few authors decide on a new definition, it doesn't mean that Wikipedia should then effectively legitimise the change by becoming its megaphone, making what would have remained an unknown definition accessible and hence familiar to everyone.
My preference would be that "Biblical literalism" be deleted. My second preference would be to redirect it to a new Wikipedia article on "letterism" making it clear that the term is currently only being used by a few authors writing about Bible interpretation who don't accept the dictionary definition of "literalism" (then give their definition of "literalism" which includes the "historical-grammatical" method in the "letterism" article). If both suggestions are too controversial (or perhaps as a first edit while consideration is taken of other options), then the "Biblical literalism" article could say that strictly, the term means ... and give the dictionary definition, but loosely it is taken by some Christian groups to include the "historical-grammatical" method. Mcarans (talk) 07:05, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with a new word being invented by technical authors - It happens all the time. Someone must have invented lettrism. I don't really understand what your objection to it is. Is there some sectarian divide of which I am not aware? - Those who use letterism and those who don't? It seems to make sense from the sources. As long as there are reliable sources that use the word, there is nothing wrong with the article reflecting that. In fact, it probably ought to. Myrvin (talk) 08:13, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
There is no article on "letterism" in Wikipedia that gives the same definition as used here. This is inconsistent.
More importantly, this article attempts to redefine the word "literalism" to include the non-literal "historical-grammatical" method. It is later explained that the term "Biblical literalism" is pejorative, but someone looking to understand Bible interpretation methods will get the impression that literalism means something else when applied to the Bible when it only does so for a small minority of people. Mcarans (talk) 10:44, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
However, checking the actual citation for this, I am now dubious about its meaning. The source actually says: "In other words literalism is not the same as letterism." However, letterism is used there. Eg. later on (p 118) it says: "The accusation so frequent in current theological literature that Fundamentalism is a literalism is not at all what we have in mind when we use the word “literal.” The word is ambiguous. To some scholars the word “literal” means “letterism” and this is really what they mean when they say Fundamentalists are literalists." Myrvin (talk) 17:57, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
By the way, see Biblical literalist chronology#Literal interpretation. Myrvin (talk) 18:36, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I think it would be a good idea for the article and the other you mention to highlight the ambiguity the author discusses because the way it is phrased at the moment implies that the definition is certain and well understood. Saying "there are two kinds of literal interpretation" suggests that letterism and the historical-grammatical method together = literal interpretation. They are alternative interpretation methods, with one group (the Fundamentalists and perhaps those wishing to use the term as a pejorative) claiming that the historical-grammatical method = literal interpretation (and that letterism = hyperliteralism from the book you quoted) and everyone else saying that letterism = literal interpretation. Mcarans (talk) 07:10, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree we need to say more about this in the text. We'll have to work something out. Myrvin (talk) 14:59, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

I propose making the text up to the end of the Background section as follows:

"Biblical literalism is a term used inconsistently by different authors. It can have one of two possible meanings. It can equate to the dictionary definition of literalism: "adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense", where literal means "in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical". This approach often obscures the literary aspects and consequently the primary meaning of the text.[6] Alternatively, the term can refer to the historical-grammatical method, a hermeneutic technique that strives to uncover the meaning of the text by taking into account not just the grammatical words, but also the syntactical aspects, the cultural and historical background, and the literary genre. It emphasizes the referential aspect of the words in the text without denying the relevance of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor).[5] It does not necessarily lead to complete agreement upon one single interpretation of any given passage. This fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to scripture is used extensively by fundamentalist Christians,[3] in contrast to the historical-critical method of liberal Christians.


Background

Fundamentalists and evangelicals sometimes refer to themselves as "literalists" or Biblical literalists. Sociologists also use the term in reference to conservative Christian beliefs which include not just literalism but also inerrancy. Often the term Biblical literalism is used as a pejorative to describe or ridicule the interpretative approaches of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.[7][8][9]A 2011 Gallup survey reports, "Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man."[10]" Mcarans (talk) 16:06, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

Looks mostly good. You can't say "used inconsistently by different authors", you probably mean "used differently by different authors", unless an individual authors are inconsistent. I know you don't like letterism, but the Ramm reference uses it:[3], and readers may be looking for it. Myrvin (talk) 19:45, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
Ok I edited the page including your helpful changes. Mcarans (talk) 04:56, 9 August 2014 (UTC)

Propose renaming to Biblical fundamentalism or Biblicism[edit]

I propose renaming the page to one of the alternatives given at the start where it says: "Biblical literalism (also called Biblicism or Biblical fundamentalism)" - rename it to Biblicism or Biblical fundamentalism as these are the main and I think correct terms not Biblical literalism. Biblical literalism can redirect to the renamed page. Mcarans (talk) 07:20, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

I strongly oppose that. Certainly not Biblical fundamentalism; it's not the same things at all. Biblicism is too obscure. Myrvin (talk) 08:04, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
If that is the case, why does the start of the article say: "Biblical literalism (also called Biblicism or Biblical fundamentalism)"? Mcarans (talk) 09:17, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I hadn't noticed that BF was there. I'm not sure I think it should be. Biblical fundamentalism seems to be a sort of Christian fundamentalism, with particular reference to the book. Literalism seems the most appropriate designation. Fundamentalism doesn't get t the literal part. Myrvin (talk) 15:31, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
I see several dictionaries with literalism or biblical literalism but not biblical fundamentalism. See [4]. Myrvin (talk) 15:41, 23 July 2014 (UTC)