As I began this article, I read the reporting of an ABC News Rural event, 'From drought to flooding rains as farmers celebrate drenching in Queensland's west' (4 February 2019). It showed a photo of
residents in Cloncurry jump[ing] for joy after flooding rains drench the once parched area (ABC News: Krystal Gordon).
How should I interpret this event? Did it happen in time and space to be interpreted literally? Was there literal water or were the waters rising as a symbolic indication of moving from depression to elation?
Or should I interpret these flooding events allegorically? Are they speaking about the floods of spiritual blessings for farmers and others as an Easter blessing from God?
You'd have every reason to question my mental state if I interpreted the floods that way. The same applies to another event from history (floods are recent history) – Jesus' resurrection (ancient history).
1. We all use literal interpretation.
Am I being too emphatic with, 'we all'? This article is not about historical-critical methods some scholars use to deconstruct Jesus' passion-resurrection events.
Scholars, journalists and laity have made some confronting attacks against evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who interpret the Bible literally. Are the challengers heading down the correct path or are the evangelicals so fixated on literal interpretation that they can't throw away the mantle of rigidity?
From primary school to university, I learned that the way to interpret any document was literally. Berkeley Mickelsen's text on Interpreting the Bible gave this understanding:
"means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of "door" in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning" (Mickelsen 1963:33).
The Collins Dictionary (2019. s.v. literal) provides the adjectival meaning: 'You use literal to describe someone who uses or understands words in a plain and simple way'.
Therefore, 'by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions'. The contrasting meaning is that of figurative which means'the writer has in mind the representation of one concept in terms of another because the nature of the two things compared allows such an analogy to be drawn' (Mickelsen 1963:179).
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