Movies and Scriptural Interpretation

In fiction, a monster is never just a monster, and an alien is never just an alien. The monster or the alien exist on the literal level, of course. But the monster or the alien exist as a metaphor for something else. Take the movie District 9 which took place in South Africa. The movie typologically represents apartheid South Africa, with the aliens known to the humans as ‘prawns’ restricted to concentration camps known as ‘districts.’

Scripture is a lot like that. It exists at many levels. The literal level is the lowest level. This happened, then that happened, then another thing happened. But some of the things that happen are metaphors for something else. Many of the miracles ascribed to Moses are metaphors. Joshua leading the people of Israel into the promised land is both a literal event and a metaphor.

Some of the stories in the Old Testament make no sense on the literal level. For example, Joshua’s capture of Jericho. It makes no sense that the Israelites would parade around Jericho for six days, then on the seventh day parade around, blow their horns, and the walls fall down. It literally makes no sense; it has to be a metaphor.

Biblical literalists try to get around this by claiming the literal meaning is the only meaning, and then manufacturing something called the ‘figurative literal.’ This means that when the literal meaning makes no sense, the literal meaning is the figurative sense. Biblical literalists will often discuss how an OT event is an analogy or type of its NT counterpart. Biblical literalists will often describe the literal meaning of the text, and then describe its ‘application,’ by which is meant the moral of the story. This is literally nonsense.

You cannot say meaning exists on only the literal level and then conflate the figurative and moral levels of meaning into the literal. By doing so you alter the definition of literal to include the multiple levels of meaning.