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The Bible literally
Is the Bible a document that should be taken literally? It depends on your belief.
May 17th, 2012
02:42 PM ET

The Bible literally

By Jim Roope, CNN

(CNN) – President Obama’s statement last week in support of same-sex marriage has many consulting their bibles, trying to prove him wrong.

“God designed marriage from day one between Adam and Eve, a man and a woman,” said pastor Tim Carns of Calvary Bible Church in Burbank, California. “He said for this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife, the two shall become one flesh.”

Carns, a fundamentalist Christian, believes the Bible should be interpreted literally, as done with the passages mentioned above from Genesis. However, there are laws written in the Old Testament that even fundamentalists say are subject to interpretation. Leviticus 19:22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.” But Deuteronomy 2:5 tells us that a woman who wears men’s clothing is also an abomination.

Rabbi Morley Feinstein of University Synagogue in Brentwood, California agrees, but goes one step further.
“We have to recognize first of all that the bible was written for a particular age and time,” said Feinstein.

The 732 laws meant for Israel are called the Mosaic Law. They dealt with everything from diet to death and was written, said Feinstein, for people in the ancient world who understood their world better than we understand the ancient world.

Dr. Don Barta, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Burbank, California disagrees with Feinstein. He says the words in the Bible are to be taken and interpreted as written. For example, he believes the world was created in six days; six 24-hour days. He believes it despite modern scientific evidence.

“Well, when you look at Scripture, there’s a direct eyewitness speaking and that’s God,” said Barta. “Scientists are going based on what they see. “They’re making theories based on what they observe and what they can prove. We look at the Scripture and we know it works in life and it’s proven itself true in so many other ways that we do believe what it says."

Dr. William Shaules, professor of Scripture at Loyola Marymount University, a private Catholic school, said it’s dangerous to take the Bible too literally.

“It creates a lot of skepticism especially among our young people who know better than to say that the world and the cosmos were literally created in six days,” said Shaules.

Shaules says, however, that doesn’t mean that Catholics and non-fundamentalist Protestants don’t believe in miracles. There are miracles in the Old Testament and with Jesus in the New Testament; things that science can’t explain. He adds, just because science can explain things, doesn’t mean God’s hand wasn’t in it.

“God created,” said Shaules. “And what God created is good. Does it really matter how it happened?”

Rabbi Feinstein said non-fundamentalist Jews and Christians of all denominations are in constant disagreement with fundamentalists.

“For example, such a simple thing as the rule that has been misunderstood for close to 2500 years about an eye-for-an-eye," said Feinstein, "was a fantastic leap forward.”

Because he explained, it wasn’t about ‘payback’ as many interpret it. It’s the establishment of a justice system.

“It meant that something had to be adjudicated by a third party and it had to be in some form of equivalency,” said Feinstein. “It ended up that the only way to do that was through a monetary compensation.”

Catholic scripture professor William Shaules said the Bible is an enormously powerful, ideological, religious communicator of ideas that must be taken seriously.

“If you have a chance to teach it or share about it, do so responsibly, charitably, with love,” Shaules said. “Too many people are using the bible as an ideological weapon instead of a way to bring us all together to understand better the light of the Gospel,” he said.

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