Radio Show

What Should Be Taken Literally in the Bible?


Friend of the show and Scripture scholar, Dr. John Bergsma stops by the studio to discuss his new book, “Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic,” and assist Father Dave in answering questions of faith. A listener named Allan calls into the show and shares that he is a convert from Protestantism. “It seems like Protestants take everything literally — or not,” he says. “It’s hard to discern which is which. How do we know if Noah’s ark or any of the stories in the Bible are actual accounts or if they are just metaphorical?”

Dr. Bergsma explains, “It’s so wonderful that God doesn’t just drop us a book apart from a living community, but he also gives us the Church, which has been pondering, meditating, and praying on this book for centuries. The tradition of the Church guides us on which parts of the Bible to take literally and whatnot. If we need some clarity we have the magisterium of the Church which can clarify as necessary.”

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Dr. Bergsma goes on to discuss how the Church can help us to better understand Scripture. “On the instance of the creation accounts in Genesis, there’s a very helpful encyclical written in 1950 by Pope Pius XII,” Dr. Bergsma says. “He set some parameters up and explained that there could well be figurative language in describing the garden and the fruit. The question comes up, was it a literal tree or was it a metaphor? Even the Church fathers had a difference of opinions on this. Some take it more literally, and some more symbolic. But there are certain parameters; there are certain things that we do have to hold to. There are certain things Pius XII taught, like we do believe in a first human pair that fell into sin even though they were in relationship with God. That may not have happened by the eating of a literal apple. It could have been, but it might have been a metaphorical description of a different act. We also believe in the unity of the whole human race, and he laid out some other parameters as well. … There are certain guideposts that we need to stay within. The Church can guide us in reading the Scripture.” (Original Air 7-25-18)