Rule #1: Read Intelligently

Rule #1: Read Intelligently. Interpret what you read literally unless it is obviously intended to be understood as figurative or symbolic.

Scripture, like all literature, is full of figures of speech, such a metaphors, hyperboles and anthropomorphisms. They should be taken as such.

A metaphor is a comparison of similarities between two basically dissimilar things. Scripture contains many metaphors. One can be found in Christ’s words during the Last Supper:

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28).

Did Jesus mean that the bread He gave His disciples was literally His body and that the wine they drank was literally His blood? Common sense tells us No. Scripture plainly says that it was bread and wine that Jesus gave them, and it says nothing about them changing, literally, into flesh and blood at any point in time. Neither Peter nor John, present at the Last Supper, ever reported such a thing in their epistles, and it is very unlikely that the disciples would have had an easy time of playing the part of cannibals!

Some argue, “But Jesus said that the bread and wine were His body and blood, and so I’m going to believe what Jesus said!”

Jesus also once said that He was the door (see John 10:9). Did He literally become a door with hinges and a doorknob? Jesus once said that He was the vine and that we are the branches (see John 15:5). Did Jesus literally become a grape vine? Have we literally become vine branches? Jesus once said that He was light of the world and the bread that came down out of heaven (see John 9:5; 6:41). Is Jesus also the sunlight and a loaf of bread?

Clearly, all of these expressions are figures of speech called metaphors, a comparison of two things that are basically dissimilar but which share some similarities. In some ways, Jesus was like a door and a grape vine. Jesus’ statements at the Last Supper are obvious metaphors as well. The wine was like His blood (in some ways). The bread was like His body (in some ways).