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Should we take the Bible literally or should we understand it as containing some good ideas from God?


This is a great question about how to understand the Holy Bible and whether it should be taken literally. Thank you for a great spiritual enquiry.

The Bible is God's revelation given to human authors. Jesus himself says, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17) and "man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4). They were not only inspired to correctly receive the revelation, they were inspired also to express it faithfully: men spoke from God as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (2 Peter 1:21). Christians have historically believed that God inspired in such ways people like Moses (who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament) and Paul (who wrote around half of the books in the New Testament).

Christians believe that all of the 66 different books of the Bible, written by around 40 different authors, are truly God's word.

The correct interpretation of the Bible requires us to take literally what is said literally, but there are, of course, other styles of writing which are not intended literally, such as the poetry of the Book of Psalms, or the remarkable symbolism and imagery of the Book of Revelation.

It is also important to realise that the people who wrote the Bible were inspired to write but not to become some kind of robots. For that reason, the various books are written in different styles according to who wrote them, as well as when, where, and why. They are human without being mistaken, and they are divine without ceasing to be human. This is important because the divine authority of the Bible makes it trustworthy while its human authorship makes it a trustworthy message - a word for people like you and me. The Bible itself says:

Every word of God proves true (Proverbs 30:5)

If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:19)

Jesus said that he was going to send the Spirit of Truth to guide his followers to speak directly about God. This can be seen in John 16:13. We should seek the Spirit of Truth so that we know how we can be guided when it comes to the bible.

Your question asks if the Bible is authoritative or only some good ideas from which we can choose what we want. This is an interesting question! It would be nice if we could ignore what we don't like and make up our own set of rules, but what then would be the point of God speaking at all? If each person can choose what to believe it really means that nothing in the Bible is definitely true.

It is a step of faith to believe that the Bible is from God and to be taken seriously. It is a bigger step of faith to be able to follow all of what God asks us to do. I encourage you to read the Bible and ask God to show you how amazing and loving His word is.

Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:

  • Proverbs 30:5
  • Revelation 22:19
  • John 16:13

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question

*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at

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