A friend of mine said that his church takes the Bible literally, but that the Catholic Church doesn’t…is that true?
Actually, there is no truth to that, whatsoever. Catholics interpret the Bible in a “literal” sense, while many fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others interpret the Bible in a literalist sense.
The “literal” meaning of a passage of Scripture is the meaning that the author of that passage of Scripture intended to convey. The “literalist” interpretation of a passage of Scripture is: “that’s what it says, that’s what it means.”
Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference. If you were to read a passage in a book that said it was “raining cats and dogs outside”, how would you interpret that? As Americans, in the 21st Century, you would know that the author was intending to convey the idea that it was raining pretty doggone hard outside. That would be the “literal” interpretation…the interpretation the author intended to convey. On the other hand, what if you made a “literalist” interpretation of the phrase, “it’s raining cats and dogs”?
The “literalist” interpretation would be that, were you to walk outside, you would actually see cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain. No taking into account the popularly accepted meaning of this phrase. No taking into account the author’s intentions. The words say it was raining cats and dogs, so, by golly, it was raining cats and dogs! That is the literalist, or fundamentalist, way of interpretation.
If someone 2000 years in the future picked up that same book and read, “It was raining cats and dogs outside,” in order to properly understand that passage in the book, they would need a “literal” interpretation, not a “literalist” interpretation. Now, think about that in the context of interpreting the Bible 2000-3000 years after it was written.
Literal, or Catholic, interpretation vs. literalist, or fundamentalist, interpretation.
This two-minute apologetic question is courtesy of the Bible Christian Society.
- Does the Catholic Church discourage Bible reading? (catholicfiction.gadel.info)