“The Bible is Literal From Cover to Cover” – Really?

In John Hagee’s new book Four Blood Moons he says:

The Bible is literal from cover to cover:
·         God Almighty literally created the ‘heavens and the earth.’ (Genesis 1:1)
·         Jesus was literally born of a virgin named Mary. (Luke 1:34)
·         He was literally born in Bethlehem, Israel. (Matthew 2:1)
·         He literally healed the sick, diseased, the blind, the lame, and the leper instantly. (Matthew 4:23; Mark 10:52; Luke 7:22; John 5:8)
·         He literally died on the cross. (Mark 14:22-32; Matthew 27:33-44; Luke 23:33-43; John 19:17-24)
·         He literally was buried in a borrowed grave. (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)
·         He literally rose from the dead and was seen by five hundred plus people in thirteen different places. (John 21:14; Mark 16:14; Acts 1:1-13)
·         He literally sits at the right hand of God the Father. (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 3:22)
·         We are literally going to rise to meet Him in the air in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
·         He literally is coming back again with power and great glory, and ‘Every knee should bow … every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
·         We are literally going to walk on streets of gold. (Revelation 21:21)
·         We are literally going to wear a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

·         We are literally going to live forever and forever in God’s tomorrow. (Revelation 13:6) (84-85)

You don’t have to agree with Hagee but after this litany of literalisms I found it quite surprising to find him later in the book write this with reference to Matthew 24:28 (“wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together”). The hidden meaning refers to the two evil empires that tormented the Jewish people beyond any other nations of the earth: the Romans and the Nazi’s Third Reich. Both of these nations fought under the flag and symbol of the eagle. . . Again, this references the hidden meaning evidenced by the eagles on the carcass. The carcass speaks of death. The eagles, the translation of which can be ‘buzzards,’ represent all the nations who tormented Israel.” (159-61)

How is it that the eagles in Matthew 24:28 are not literal if the Bible is literal from cover to cover? Hagee says the “obvious meaning of Matthew 24:28 is revealed in Revelation19:17-21, when God Himself is going to invite the birds of the earth to eat the dead flesh of those who have attacked Israel.” (161) After all this I don’t know if we are talking about literal eagles, vultures, or nations. It can’t literally be all three. Matthew 24:28 is a difficult verse (consult any major commentator) and the connection to Revelation 19:17-21 is tenuous despite Hagee’s best efforts.

It is precisely this sort of thing that Christian Smith engages in his book The Bible Made Impossible. For all my disagreements with Smith I think he hits the nail on the head when he writes, “…biblicists very often engage in what we might call ‘uneven and capriciously selective literalism.’” (70)
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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “The Bible is Literal From Cover to Cover” – Really?

  1. Clay Knick says:

    You deserve a star in your crown for reading him.

    Like

  2. Laura says:

    I have a copy of “The Bible Made Impossible” which I have not read yet. Need to bump it up in my “to read” pile.

    Like

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