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How to interpert Genesis

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#1
As a book it covers a lot of ground historically, as well as pinpointing indivual stories in history. To some though, the book in part or as a whole is interpreted as a parable, an allegory, or a metaphor. To others (including myself) it is considered literal and read as such.

To anyone who holds Genisis (in part or as a whole) as a parable. Please explain which parts are a parable and what it is a parable about. Explain your reasoning.

To anyone who counts Genisis as a metaphor or an allegedly, please say which parts are metaphors or allegories. (Once we have a verse location we can go from there in discussing it.)

As for me. I hold that Genisis is literal for several reasons.

1). Parts of it are referred to throughout the bible, and and supported or backed up instead of corrected. This support a literal understanding of the text as well as drawing more from it spiritually.
2). Much of Genisis is detailed in a way that parables, metaphors and allegories are not. Giving specific locations, genologies, ages when people had children and ages when they died
3). The rest of Genisis does not change it's style of writing to note a change in it's meaning to be literal one chapter and allegory the next.

Because of these reasons I see no reason to count Genesis as anything outside of a literal history of events that are also good for our understanding and spiritual growth. The only arguable exception is whether the creation in chapter One refers to days in a loose sence of ages, or as 24 hour days as it's written. That exception can be argued both ways as literal, and as a day is like a thousand years. Please move on from this exception to any other portions of Genesis to call it a metaphor, allegedly, or a parable.

Again if there is any of it considered a parable explain how it is a parable and what it is a parable of. I think anyone who considers Genesis as a parable does not know what a parable actually is.
 
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#2
1). Parts of it are referred to throughout the bible, and and supported or backed up instead of corrected. This support a literal understanding of the text as well as drawing more from it spiritually.
Reference to a common literary history does not require that the literature be an accurate record of historical events. It only requires that the stories be universally known to the culture.
So, no, multiple references do not necessitate that the stories be literal history.
2). Much of Genesis is detailed in a way that parables, metaphors and allegories are not. Giving specific locations, genealogies, ages when people had children and ages when they died
Genealogies were used in the ancient literature of the near/middle east as transitions between stories and the genealogies were not required to be exhaustive or accurate. (For example, the genealogy which introduces the gospel according to Matthew lists three groups of fourteen ancestors. The "number" of David's name is 14, The genealogy has the purpose of showing that Jesus is the promised descendant of David who would sit on his throne.)
Genesis 1:1-2:3 is, in fact, the genealogy of the heavens and the earth which introduce the story of "the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens," (Gen 2:4)
That the genealogies are not exhaustive is demonstrated by the story of Cain.
When Cain is condemned to be a wanderer on the earth, he laments to the Lord that whoever finds him will kill him. Who are the "whoever" and where did they come from?
The story also relates that Cain settled in the land of Nod, East of Eden where he "knew" his wife and she bore him a son. No wife is mentioned before that time in any genealogy but there follows the line of Cain and the line of Seth and those two genealogies bring us to the story of Noah.

However, I do agree that a good part of Genesis is, indeed, historical beginning with the story of Abram. But, like all history, it is subject to omissions and literary motifs employed to communicate "the story of us."
3). The rest of Genisis does not change it's style of writing to note a change in it's meaning to be literal one chapter and allegory the next.
A significant change in style of writing occurs when one compares Gen 1:1-2:3 to Gen 2:4ff. Even the name of God changes from Elohiym (Gen 1:1-2:3) to Yahweh Elohiym (Gen 2:4ff)
The change in style reflects two different traditions which have been designated Elohist (or Priestly) and Yahwist. The two styles are woven together with exceptional skill, the most excellent example being the Noaic flood epic which interweaves both traditions seamlessly.

NOAH’S CHIASMUS*
A Noah (6:10a)
B - Shem Ham Japheth (6:10b)
C -- Ark to be built (6:14-16)
D --- Flood announced (6:17)
E ---- Covenant with Noah (6:18-20)
F ----- Food in the ark (6:21)
G ------ Command to enter ark (7:1-3)
H ------- 7 days waiting for flood (7:4-5)
I --------7days waiting for flood (7:7-10)
J --------- Entry to Ark (7:11-15)
K ---------- YHWH shuts Noah in (7:16b)
L ----------- 40 days of flood (7:17a)
M ------------- Waters increase (7:17b-18)
N ------------- Mountains covered (7:19-20)
O -------------- 150 days waters prevail (7:21-24)
P --------------- GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8:1)
O’ -------------- 150 days waters abate (8:3)
N’ ------------- Mountain tops visible (8:4-5)
M’ ------------ Waters abate (8:5)
L’ ----------- 40 days (end of) (8:6a)
K’ ---------- Noah opens window of ark (8:6b)
J’ --------- Raven and dove leave ark (8:7-9)
I’ -------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:10-11)
H’ ------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:12-13)
G’ ------ Command to leave ark (8:16-17)
F’ ----- Food outside ark (9:1-4)
E’ ---- Covenant with all flesh (9:8-10)
D’ --- No flood in future (9:11-17)
C’ -- Ark (9:18a)
B’ - Shem Ham and Japheth (9:18b)
A’ Noah (9:19)

* "Chiasmus" is the name for a literary structure which is similar to the Greek letter Chi (X) having a "crossover point in the center. and parallel events leading up to and away from that point. (Indicated by the letters and the letters with the prime ['] mark. Ex A and A') The point is the turning point of the story. ((Unfortunately, the software does not transfer the text accurately from MSWord to whatever this forum uses.)

Italics indicate the Yahwist tradition.

Normal script indicates Elohist (Priestly) tradition

Notes:
1. The Priestly flood lasts a (Hebrew) year.
The Yawist flood lasts for three weeks after the forty days of rain.
2. In the Priestly account, Elohim tells Noah to leave the ark.
In the Yawist account, Noah takes off the coverings from the ark and leaves.
 
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#3
Reference to a common literary history does not require that the literature be an accurate record of historical events. It only requires that the stories be universally known to the culture.
So, no, multiple references do not necessitate that the stories be literal history.

Genealogies were used in the ancient literature of the near/middle east as transitions between stories and the genealogies were not required to be exhaustive or accurate. (For example, the genealogy which introduces the gospel according to Matthew lists three groups of fourteen ancestors. The "number" of David's name is 14, The genealogy has the purpose of showing that Jesus is the promised descendant of David who would sit on his throne.)
Genesis 1:1-2:3 is, in fact, the genealogy of the heavens and the earth which introduce the story of "the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens," (Gen 2:4)
That the genealogies are not exhaustive is demonstrated by the story of Cain.
When Cain is condemned to be a wanderer on the earth, he laments to the Lord that whoever finds him will kill him. Who are the "whoever" and where did they come from?
The story also relates that Cain settled in the land of Nod, East of Eden where he "knew" his wife and she bore him a son. No wife is mentioned before that time in any genealogy but there follows the line of Cain and the line of Seth and those two genealogies bring us to the story of Noah.

However, I do agree that a good part of Genesis is, indeed, historical beginning with the story of Abram. But, like all history, it is subject to omissions and literary motifs employed to communicate "the story of us."

A significant change in style of writing occurs when one compares Gen 1:1-2:3 to Gen 2:4ff. Even the name of God changes from Elohiym (Gen 1:1-2:3) to Yahweh Elohiym (Gen 2:4ff)
The change in style reflects two different traditions which have been designated Elohist (or Priestly) and Yahwist. The two styles are woven together with exceptional skill, the most excellent example being the Noaic flood epic which interweaves both traditions seamlessly.

NOAH’S CHIASMUS*
A Noah (6:10a)
B - Shem Ham Japheth (6:10b)
C -- Ark to be built (6:14-16)
D --- Flood announced (6:17)
E ---- Covenant with Noah (6:18-20)
F ----- Food in the ark (6:21)
G ------ Command to enter ark (7:1-3)
H ------- 7 days waiting for flood (7:4-5)
I --------7days waiting for flood (7:7-10)
J --------- Entry to Ark (7:11-15)
K ---------- YHWH shuts Noah in (7:16b)
L ----------- 40 days of flood (7:17a)
M ------------- Waters increase (7:17b-18)
N ------------- Mountains covered (7:19-20)
O -------------- 150 days waters prevail (7:21-24)
P --------------- GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8:1)
O’ -------------- 150 days waters abate (8:3)
N’ ------------- Mountain tops visible (8:4-5)
M’ ------------ Waters abate (8:5)
L’ ----------- 40 days (end of) (8:6a)
K’ ---------- Noah opens window of ark (8:6b)
J’ --------- Raven and dove leave ark (8:7-9)
I’ -------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:10-11)
H’ ------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:12-13)
G’ ------ Command to leave ark (8:16-17)
F’ ----- Food outside ark (9:1-4)
E’ ---- Covenant with all flesh (9:8-10)
D’ --- No flood in future (9:11-17)
C’ -- Ark (9:18a)
B’ - Shem Ham and Japheth (9:18b)
A’ Noah (9:19)

* "Chiasmus" is the name for a literary structure which is similar to the Greek letter Chi (X) having a "crossover point in the center. and parallel events leading up to and away from that point. (Indicated by the letters and the letters with the prime ['] mark. Ex A and A') The point is the turning point of the story. ((Unfortunately, the software does not transfer the text accurately from MSWord to whatever this forum uses.)

Italics indicate the Yahwist tradition.

Normal script indicates Elohist (Priestly) tradition

Notes:
1. The Priestly flood lasts a (Hebrew) year.
The Yawist flood lasts for three weeks after the forty days of rain.
2. In the Priestly account, Elohim tells Noah to leave the ark.
In the Yawist account, Noah takes off the coverings from the ark and leaves.
Very interesting. So there is a lot of info there, but I am at a loss as to knowing if you believe the flood was a literal event as described?
 
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#4
Very interesting. So there is a lot of info there, but I am at a loss as to knowing if you believe the flood was a literal event as described?
Which description, Yawist or Elohist? There are two flood stories very skillfully interwoven in the Biblical epic.
The fact that there are flood epics in the ancient literature and lore of peoples all around the world, IMO, is significant support for the reality of a flood.
However, IMO, to read the Biblical flood story as simply the detailed report of an historical event results in the loss of much that was being communicated as does a strictly literal reading of the entirety of Genesis prior to the introduction of Abram.
 
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#5
Which description, Yawist or Elohist? There are two flood stories very skillfully interwoven in the Biblical epic.
The fact that there are flood epics in the ancient literature and lore of peoples all around the world, IMO, is significant support for the reality of a flood.
However, IMO, to read the Biblical flood story as simply the detailed report of an historical event results in the loss of much that was being communicated as does a strictly literal reading of the entirety of Genesis prior to the introduction of Abram.
I am just talking about the good ole KJV, NKJV, ESV, ASV, NASB, etc. Most of them all have the same events and story, they might change a word here and there.

I was just curious to know if you read it as a actual, literal, flood of physical water that covered the whole earth - and literally only 8 people survived.
 
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#6
NOAH’S CHIASMUS*
A Noah (6:10a)
B - Shem Ham Japheth (6:10b)
C -- Ark to be built (6:14-16)
D --- Flood announced (6:17)
E ---- Covenant with Noah (6:18-20)
F ----- Food in the ark (6:21)
G ------ Command to enter ark (7:1-3)
H ------- 7 days waiting for flood (7:4-5)
I --------7days waiting for flood (7:7-10)
J --------- Entry to Ark (7:11-15)
K ---------- YHWH shuts Noah in (7:16b)
L ----------- 40 days of flood (7:17a)
M ------------- Waters increase (7:17b-18)
N ------------- Mountains covered (7:19-20)
O -------------- 150 days waters prevail (7:21-24)
P --------------- GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8:1)
O’ -------------- 150 days waters abate (8:3)
N’ ------------- Mountain tops visible (8:4-5)
M’ ------------ Waters abate (8:5)
L’ ----------- 40 days (end of) (8:6a)
K’ ---------- Noah opens window of ark (8:6b)
J’ --------- Raven and dove leave ark (8:7-9)
I’ -------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:10-11)
H’ ------- 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:12-13)
G’ ------ Command to leave ark (8:16-17)
F’ ----- Food outside ark (9:1-4)
E’ ---- Covenant with all flesh (9:8-10)
D’ --- No flood in future (9:11-17)
C’ -- Ark (9:18a)
B’ - Shem Ham and Japheth (9:18b)
A’ Noah (9:19)

* "Chiasmus" is the name for a literary structure which is similar to the Greek letter Chi (X) having a "crossover point in the center. and parallel events leading up to and away from that point. (Indicated by the letters and the letters with the prime ['] mark. Ex A and A') The point is the turning point of the story. ((Unfortunately, the software does not transfer the text accurately from MSWord to whatever this forum uses.)

Italics indicate the Yahwist tradition.

Normal script indicates Elohist (Priestly) tradition

Notes:
1. The Priestly flood lasts a (Hebrew) year.
The Yawist flood lasts for three weeks after the forty days of rain.
2. In the Priestly account, Elohim tells Noah to leave the ark.
In the Yawist account, Noah takes off the coverings from the ark and leaves.
I am kinda curious as to who/what created this......cuz I ain't never seen it in scripture....
 
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#7
I am just talking about the good ole KJV, NKJV, ESV, ASV, NASB, etc.
Those are translations of the ancient texts.
Translations are a totally different subject.
So if that's what you are talking about then you are not talking about what I posted.
I was just curious to know if you read it as a actual, literal, flood of physical water that covered the whole earth - and literally only 8 people survived.
I believe Bible has faithfully and accurately recorded the ancient Hebrew rendition of the event.
 
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#8
I am kinda curious as to who/what created this......cuz I ain't never seen it in scripture....
Probably because you never read it in the ancient Hebrew.
Neither have I.
But I have had the opportunity to be shown what are the results of studies done by those whose life work is ancient near/middle eastern language, literature and culture.
It gave me a whole new appreciation of Genesis 1-11.

iakov the fool
 
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#9
Probably because you never read it in the ancient Hebrew.
Neither have I. But I have had the opportunity to be shown what is the results of the studies of those whose life work is ancient near/middle eastern language, literature and culture.
It gave me a whole new appreciation of Genesis 1-11.

iakov the fool
So it is not (obviously) in scripture then?
 
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#10
So it is not (obviously) in scripture then?
Of course it's in scripture. It IS the scripture.
It is a diagram of the literary structure of the scripture.
 
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#11
Of course it's in scripture. It IS the scripture.
It is a diagram of the literary structure of the scripture.
Where?.....chapter/verse please......
 
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#12
Where?.....chapter/verse please......
Gen 6:10 to 9:19 (Exactly as indicated on the diagram)
 
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#13
Those are translations of the ancient texts.
Translations are a totally different subject.
So if that's what you are talking about then you are not talking about what I posted.

I believe Bible has faithfully and accurately recorded the ancient Hebrew rendition of the event.
Yea, your post just made it sound like you did not believe it literally happened the way it was written - but that it was written that way in order to convey something else. That's what I got from it, so I was just wanting to check.

You use the word 'rendition' which seems to me that it's just one view of what happened, compared to other views that could be correct also. Did you mean it like that?

I know there are other writings that describe a 'flood' event, but none I know of use the same story as Genesis, which makes them false renditions - compared to the true reality of what happened. A coworker brought up one the other day but I cannot remember the name of it.
 
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#14
Yea, your post just made it sound like you did not believe it literally happened the way it was written - but that it was written that way in order to convey something else. That's what I got from it, so I was just wanting to check.
If the Noaic flood epic did not have something of value to teach then it would be much less valuable a bit of writing.
You use the word 'rendition' which seems to me that it's just one view of what happened, compared to other views that could be correct also. Did you mean it like that?
It is not the "view" of what happened but the "meaning" of what happened which is important IMO.
Other contemporary near/middle eastern cultures gleaned different meanings. The Noaic flood epic appears to correct their pagan understanding by presenting God's teaching.
I know there are other writings that describe a 'flood' event, but none I know of use the same story as Genesis, which makes them false renditions - compared to the true reality of what happened.
The other flood stories are actually older than the Genesis account and their being different simply reflects the traditions of the different cultures which recorded the flood and attempted to explain it based on their pagan views of the cosmos.
 
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#15
As a book it covers a lot of ground historically, as well as pinpointing indivual stories in history. To some though, the book in part or as a whole is interpreted as a parable, an allegory, or a metaphor. To others (including myself) it is considered literal and read as such.

To anyone who holds Genisis (in part or as a whole) as a parable. Please explain which parts are a parable and what it is a parable about. Explain your reasoning.

To anyone who counts Genisis as a metaphor or an allegedly, please say which parts are metaphors or allegories. (Once we have a verse location we can go from there in discussing it.)

As for me. I hold that Genisis is literal for several reasons.

1). Parts of it are referred to throughout the bible, and and supported or backed up instead of corrected. This support a literal understanding of the text as well as drawing more from it spiritually.
2). Much of Genisis is detailed in a way that parables, metaphors and allegories are not. Giving specific locations, genologies, ages when people had children and ages when they died
3). The rest of Genisis does not change it's style of writing to note a change in it's meaning to be literal one chapter and allegory the next.

Because of these reasons I see no reason to count Genesis as anything outside of a literal history of events that are also good for our understanding and spiritual growth. The only arguable exception is whether the creation in chapter One refers to days in a loose sence of ages, or as 24 hour days as it's written. That exception can be argued both ways as literal, and as a day is like a thousand years. Please move on from this exception to any other portions of Genesis to call it a metaphor, allegedly, or a parable.

Again if there is any of it considered a parable explain how it is a parable and what it is a parable of. I think anyone who considers Genesis as a parable does not know what a parable actually is.
Considering where we left things off in the other thread, I think it's worth pointing out that there are any number of different approaches to reading Scripture. We've got various theories of inspiration, different levels of hostility or acceptance of higher criticism, and so forth and so on. There's also the fact that not everyone agrees with Sola Scriptura--I'm pretty via media, so it's Scripture, Tradition, Reason for me.

It would be difficult for me to specify precisely what I view as literal and what I view as allegorical in Genesis; the better distinction would probably be between historical, non-historical, and history mythologized. I can't say that I view any of it as historical in the modern sense because history didn't actually exist yet. That's a 5th century B.C. Greek invention, so doesn't really apply. For me, everything is by default history that has been mythologized to some degree or another. Some of that mythologization, like blaming natural disasters on God, I find indistinguishable from the pagan approach to the gods. Other bits, like pride and knowledge destroying the relationship between God and Man (and then leading to one gender subjugating the other), I think is spot on.

For me, the question isn't whether a story is literal or allegorical, but rather, what is the story actually saying? I don't read Genesis 1 literally, but I look at it and I see an ancient people making a pretty huge departure from other creation myths and coming up with something that looks surprisingly close to what modern science says actually happened. If I insisted on a literal reading, I wouldn't be noticing that. I recently broke ranks with the skeptics, though, so focusing on the literal level makes no sense for my situation--the Bible can say that it's inspired all it wants, but I'm interested in the situations where it actually shows it.
 
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#16
If the Noaic flood epic did not have something of value to teach then it would be much less valuable a bit of writing.

It is not the "view" of what happened but the "meaning" of what happened which is important IMO.
Other contemporary near/middle eastern cultures gleaned different meanings. The Noaic flood epic appears to correct their pagan understanding by presenting God's teaching.

The other flood stories are actually older than the Genesis account and their being different simply reflects the traditions of the different cultures which recorded the flood and attempted to explain it based on their pagan views of the cosmos.
Maybe that's why people disagree about it so much. They each want to see either that it's literal, or a story which has meaning to it that we should learn. I think it's actually both. Scripture says that God declares the end from the beginning, and, Genesis was the beginning. So it is a history account, and absolutely accurate...but so it is that it does have meaning and an underlying lesson for us to learn also. God's just that good of an author.
 
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#17
Scripture says that God declares the end from the beginning, and, Genesis was the beginning. So it is a history account, and absolutely accurate...
sigh
The type of documentation which we mean when we say "history" today did not exist some 3500 years ago when the Pentateuch was being written. The modern, western, standards of accuracy in recording historical events were completely foreign to the ancient middle eastern writer.
Trying to apply the concept of absolute accuracy to the ancient middle eastern literature, of which the Bible is an example, would be like handing Abraham a cell phone.

iakov the fool
 
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#18
sigh
The type of documentation which we mean when we say "history" today did not exist some 3500 years ago when the Pentateuch was being written. The modern, western, standards of accuracy in recording historical events were completely foreign to the ancient middle eastern writer.
Trying to apply the concept of absolute accuracy to the ancient middle eastern literature, of which the Bible is an example, would be like handing Abraham a cell phone.

iakov the fool
Except the Scriptures were written by God. I figure He was there when it happened, and probably knows more details than people who were there.

Of course, one could say that the Scriptures were just inspired - but does that mean they have error?

If the Scriptures were good enough for my Savior to quote as literal, then they are good enough for me to believe as literal.
 
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#19
Except the Scriptures were written by God.
What do you mean by that?
Certainly God didn't take pen and paper, write them, and then hand them to men.
I figure He was there when it happened, and probably knows more details than people who were there.
Of course.
But how did God write them?
Of course, one could say that the Scriptures were just inspired - but does that mean they have error?
What do you mean by "error"?
Are you applying a modern, western, concept of historical reporting to ancient, middle eastern literature? Yes, you are. That's like having Peter talk about airplanes.
If the Scriptures were good enough for my Savior to quote as literal,
You are again inserting you modern, western, understanding of the concept "literal" into a society which would have no idea what you are talking about.
And, aside from His parables, (which the scriptures specifically identify as parables) there is not a single shred of evidence as to what Jesus did or did not consider "literal" and it is ludicrous to imagine that He would have inserted a concept from 2000 years in the future from a culture and language that did not yet exist, into his teaching.
 
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#20
What do you mean by that?
Certainly God didn't take pen and paper, write them, and then hand them to men.

Of course.
But how did God write them?

What do you mean by "error"?
Are you applying a modern, western, concept of historical reporting to ancient, middle eastern literature? Yes, you are. That's like having Peter talk about airplanes.

You are again inserting you modern, western, understanding of the concept "literal" into a society which would have no idea what you are talking about.
And, aside from His parables, (which the scriptures specifically identify as parables) there is not a single shred of evidence as to what Jesus did or did not consider "literal" and it is ludicrous to imagine that He would have inserted a concept from 2000 years in the future from a culture and language that did not yet exist, into his teaching.
I figure if I'm not God then I don't know how He did things, just that He did them 100% correct.

If Jesus used literal interpretations, then I figure it was literal.

I'm not going to put my pea brain knowledge up against Gods and consider that He meant something other than what He said.

There are no doubt some metaphoric language used, but there is some that is quoted as being literal in the NT.