This is an attempt at rescoping this.

Given that an interpretive framework, whether it be a set of rules or a theological predisposition, guides the interpretation of scripture, what are the rules or doctrine in the literal hermeneutic which help the reader determine applicability?

The stagnant nature of this question may indicate that perhaps something to compare it to would help in clarifying the question.

In the method used here associated with Sensus Plenior, There are four voices associated with scripture: Prophet - teaches doctrine, Priest - teaches correction, Judge - rebukes, and King trains in righteousness. The first two voices are clearly doctrinal. The second two are application.

These correspond to the four things that scripture are useful for. 2Ti 3:16

What are the triggers using any kind of literal method, that indicate something is a behavior which is expected vs. a metaphor which teaches something else?

  • 2
    I haven't voted on this one way or another, but I wonder if this is on the line between on-topic and off (or perhaps a bit over it). I'm not convinced that a "literal hermeneutic" exists, but if it does, wouldn't the answer be that anything phrased as an imperative or command to the reader create such a demand? Jun 11, 2012 at 7:00
  • 1
    Certainly there are rules which apply if one is determined to read scriptures literally. That's why there are discussions concerning when to pull the allegory trigger if you are reading literally, or did he really mean to pluck out your eye. That's why there are discussions whether prophecy has double fulfillment, etc.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:48
  • @JonEricson I have heard the dispensationalist hermeneutic called "the literal hermeneutic". Of course it radically fails at its name.
    – Kazark
    Jun 13, 2012 at 23:23
  • If there is any doubt just google "dispensationalism literal"
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:16

1 Answer 1


I may have totally misunderstood your question but my exegesis of your words leads me to this conclusion.

I think what you are asking is very metaphysical, but cannot be considered off-topic for it delves into the deepest meaning of hermeneutics. I think the questions is actually saying, ‘How can anyone understand what another person is saying, and once defined how can we in the same way understand what the Bible is saying.’ It necessarily leads into dividing the literal from the figurative, for if we do not do that, we cannot understand anyone speaking about anything.

Without getting too philosophical, I think God made out minds to naturally tell the difference, but when reading from another culture or even a translation from another language we need some extra help, sometimes. This is where Biblical scholars help us.

From a basic standpoint, I think if we understand anyone to be saying something ridiculous, contradictory, illogical, or stylized in a weird way, we naturally start to try to logically connect things figuratively, until we have a logical ‘possible’ understanding.

Conclusion: God gave our minds the ability to interpret with an innate and largely indefinable set of rules. Reason under the Holy Spirit is highly effective at convincing men of the truth, and even overpowering those who are disposed to an extreme bias against it. There is a God given, Spirit involved, natural hermeneutic, that believers use to understand the Bible. Reason will also argue that disciplined study that includes some critical thinking, study of history and culture, etc. is sometimes required to fully gain a confident interpretation of any portion of the Bible.

What I am trying to say from a Biblical perspective is:

12“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:13)

Then by these means,once somthething is considered literal, as Jon suggested above, 'anything phrased as an imperative or command to the reader would create such a demand'. Also anything figurative that would imply an imperative or command would do the same.

  • +1 "I think what you are asking is very metaphysical, but cannot be considered off-topic for it delves into the deepest meaning of hermeneutics." However, everyday millions of people understand exactly what another means when he speaks figuratively. It's called the New York Times crossword puzzle. The clues are written in figurative language, and millions of people independently reproduce the meaning of the author by solving the puzzle. If they can do it at the NYT, how much more would we expect God to speak in a way that we could independently and reproducibly determine his meaning?
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:51
  • "that anything phrased as an imperative or command to the reader create such a demand?" Then how does one resolve apparent contradiction such as "Answer a fool..." Dispensationalism, built on a literal interpretation overrides earlier commands with later ones. So there is something more, isn't there?
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:57
  • @Bob, I am not sure I understand what you mean 'create a demand' I deciphered it from Jon's comment. Maybe with this clarified I will more fully appreciate what you are saying, as I do not yet see where we have a different opinion.
    – Mike
    Jun 13, 2012 at 13:57
  • "demand" = moral imperative. I am just asking to clarify how, in the literal, literal imperatives which are contradictory get resolved. There has to be more to it than 'anything phrased as an imperative or command to the reader would create such a demand'. Just a clarifying question.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 13, 2012 at 18:56

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