Is The Bible Meant To Be Taken Literally

Is the Bible meant to be taken literally? It depends, as there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this age-old question. It is widely accepted that the Bible has many different levels and meanings, and that we have to approach it in its context. The Bible is an ancient collection of texts that includes history, mythology, and religious stories, as well as some wisdom sayings and advice.

The Bible does not have one single unified message, but many different perspectives. It was written over a long period of time and in different places, and due to the context in which it was written, those perspectives can vary significantly. As much of the Bible is most likely allegorical or figurative, the exact interpretations can change depending on our view of the world and culture.

As such, it is important to approach the Bible with an understanding of its context. What may have been seen as literal and true during the time of its writing may now be seen as allegorical or figurative. It is also important to remember that ancient societies did not necessarily apply the same scientific and logical thinking to their religious beliefs that we do today. Consequently, it is important to always consider what the original author was trying to communicate with their words, and to understand how those words may have been understood by the people of their time.

When it comes to whether the Bible should be taken literally or figuratively, many different opinions exist. According to theologian Dr. Carl Trueman, the Bible should be taken “literally unless there is good reason to take it figuratively.” He notes that, when a text is literal, it has a “fixed time and location, the characters are real, the events are factual and so on.” He argues that, if a literal interpretation is possible, it is more likely to be true than a figurative one.

However, according to New Testament scholar Dr. N.T. Wright, “to take the Bible as literally as possible would be a grave mistake.” He believes that some texts, such as apocalyptic passages and poetry, were clearly not meant to be taken literally. He argues that we must consider the genre and context of the text in order to understand what the original author was intending to communicate.

Theologian Dr. Bruce Waltke also believes that we should take the Bible seriously, but that it should not be read “woodenly.” He argues that, in order to get a full understanding of a passage, we must read it in its context and not just look for a simplistic, literal interpretation. He also notes that it is important to pay attention to the genre of the text, as different genres can imply different interpretations.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament, in particular, contains many passages that may not be taken literally. Depending on the context, some of these passages may be best interpreted as allegories or metaphors. For example, many passages regarding divine judgement may be interpreted as symbolic references to God’s power rather than literal prophecies of what will happen. Similarly, many passages about the nature of God may be interpreted differently depending on the context.

Of course, there are some passages that may be taken literally. But, in order to determine which passages are literal and which are figurative, we must understand their context and the intent of their authors. It is also important to remember that the Bible is a complex document, and that it can be interpreted in different ways, depending on our perspective.

New Testament

Much of the same is true for the New Testament. Although many of Jesus’ teachings may be taken literally, it is important to understand that they may also have been meant to be taken figuratively or allegorically. There are also passages that contain seemingly conflicting statements that may not be taken literally. For example, when Jesus says “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” it is not necessarily a literal instruction, but may instead be interpreted as an allegory for being obedient to civil authorities. Thus, in order to understand the New Testament fully, it is important to consider the context of the passages and to consider their different interpretations.


As a whole, it is important to consider the meaning of the books of Isaiah when discerning the Bible’s literal or figurative meaning. Many theologians believe that some passages in the book of Isaiah are meant to be taken literally, while others are meant to be taken figuratively. For example, some passages may be referring to real events in history, and some may be referring to events that have yet to dawn. Similarly, some passages may contain Gods’ judgement, while others may contain Gods’ mercy.

Overall, the book of Isaiah is an important source of insight into how we should interpret the Bible. It is important to consider both the literal and figurative meanings of its passages, as those meanings may differ depending on the context. Moreover, it is important to approach the Bible as an ancient document with multiple levels and interpretations, as opposed to just black and white rules.

Hebrew Bible

When considering how to approach the Bible, it is important to remember that the Hebrew Bible. This ancient collection of texts contains many of the same stories and themes as the Christian Bible. Therefore, it is important to consider the ways in which the Hebrew Bible was understood in its ancient context. This can help us to gain a better understanding of the original author’s intended message.

Similarly, when reading the Hebrew Bible, it is important to remember that it may have been intended to be taken figuratively in some cases. For example, some passages may use metaphors and symbols to communicate a broader message. Therefore, it is important to approach these passages not only with a literal interpretation, but with a figurative one as well.

Modern Context

When reading the Bible in the modern day, it is important to remember that our context and perspective on the world has changed significantly since the time it was written. As such, it is important to consider how the text may have been interpreted differently in its original context. Moreover, it is important to remember that our view of the world and culture may not be the same as that of the ancient authors.

It is also important to remember that, while some passages may still be applicable to the modern world, many passages were written in response to issues in the world of the authors’ time. Thus, it is important to consider the passage in its original context and time before applying it to our modern world.


When trying to determine whether a Bible passage should be taken literally or figuratively, it is important to use exegesis. Exegesis is the process of closely examining a text in order to draw out its intended meaning. This includes considering the text’s genre, its historical context, and its authorship. In turn, this can help us to better understand what the author was trying to convey with their words.

It is also important to understand that the Bible may not have a single, unified message. It is a complex document and may contain multiple levels and multiple interpretations. Therefore, it is important to approach it not with one narrow interpretation, but with an understanding of its complexity.

Ultimately, whether the Bible is meant to be taken literally or figuratively depends on the context and the intended message of the author. As such, it is important to approach the Bible with an understanding of its complexity, its history, and its genre. By doing so, we can gain a fuller understanding of the Bible’s many levels and meanings.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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