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Taking the Bible "literally" - input from Augustine

A helpful article here. Quotable:

Augustine sees only trouble in committing Scripture to interpretations that supposedly provide information about the physical structure of the earth or the cosmos. Consider these two examples:

Let no one think that, because the Psalmist says, He established the earth above the uater, we must use this testimony of Holy Scripture against these people who engage in learned discussions about the weight of the elements. They are not bound by the authority of our Bible; and, ignorant of the sense of these words, they will more readily scorn our sacred books than disavow the knowledge they have acquired by unassailable arguments or proved by the evidence of experience. (pp. 47-48)

And:

But someone may ask: ‘Is not Scripture opposed to those who hold that heaven is spherical, when it says, who stretches out heaven like a skin?’ Let it be opposed indeed if their statement is false…. But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture about the skin is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions. (p. 59)

Augustine shows respect for scientific activity, and does not want to put Scripture in a situation of conflict with it.


One could wish more "biblical literalists" today would share Augustine's temper of mind on these matters. For all the problems that have been associated with his legacy, he was a man who wasn't afraid to give matters a second thought. Including his own earlier writings!