4 Facts About Figurative Language in Scripture

Is it Literal or Figurative? This short devotion offers 4 Facts about Figurative Language in Scripture. #Bible

Believing the Bible is the inerrant Word of God doesn't mean taking everything in it literally...

Every word of God is true, but not every word of God is meant to be taken literally. Sometimes God uses symbols, metaphors, and poetry to convey truth.

Some Islamic courts cut off the hands of people caught stealing. Christians don’t advocate such harsh punishments, but we would if we took Matthew 5:30 literally.

Scripture contains hyperbole, personification, metaphors and other figurative language. If we insist that every word is literal, we'll need to join the flat earth society.(1)

Four Guidelines for Understanding Figurative Language in Scripture:

1. It's true and accurate in the figurative sense.

2. It's divinely inspired.

3. Some parables are similes or analogies, presented as such: e.g. "the kingdom of heaven is like ...." (Matthew 13:24).

4. Stories and narratives are historical fact. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and God parted the Red Sea.

It's not hard to discern figurative language in Scripture, but it's important that we do.
(1) A number of passages talk about the four corners of the earth (e.g. Rev. 7:1). If we took those passages literally, then we would have to claim that despite satellite photography the earth is flat. By the way, Christianity never promoted a flat earth - see Flat Earth Lie.

To read more about the differences between figurative and literal language in Scripture, check out today's Bite Size Bible Study. Or check out these additional resources: 
How Can I Recognize and Understand Biblical Symbolism? 
The Figurative Language of Scripture

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Is it Literal or Figurative? This short devotion offers 4 Facts about Figurative Language in Scripture.

Is it Literal or Figurative? This short devotion offers 4 Facts about Figurative Language in Scripture. #Bible

Bible Love Notes


  1. "cut off", to disrupt. To be literally dismembered would contradict The 10 Commandments (Thou Shalt not murder) These were the first Of God's pure words. God is not a hypocrite or indifferent. Only oppressors deal in absolutes.

    1. Hi Unknown,
      I'm not sure what you are talking about. But if you are saying that God does not send people to hell, you are going to have to "cut off" large portions of Scripture that say otherwise. Scripture uses figurative language, but that doesn't mean all of Scripture is figurative language.

  2. Hi Gail, enjoy your posts immensely. The last link about distinguishing doesn't appear to be working, do have an alternative please?

    1. Thanks, Andi, for your encouragement and for letting me know about that link. I checked it an apparently they've removed that article from that site or they may have relocated it, but I wasn't able to find it. So I removed that link. Sorry about that.