I'm currently reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. At first I wasn't sure what to make it of, having recently been disappointed by his novel Putting Away Childish Things. But this book is a hundred times better than I expected. In fact, it brings up a good question: should the Bible be interpreted literally?
According to Borg, contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is mostly a human product; mankind wrote it in response to real experiences with God. However, that doesn't mean the Bible does not hold any spiritual significance. On the contrary, the Bible is a sacrament as much as the bread and wine. God uses the Bible to communicate with us.
So then how should we read the Bible? According to Borg, it should be read through a historical-metaphorical lens. The Biblical writers often used memories and metaphors to explain their experiences with God. For example, while God may not have literally parted the Red Sea, Borg believes that that passage shows how God liberates His people from oppression.
Since I wasn't there when the Bible was being written, I can't say how much of it was written by God and how much by man. But I will say this: I do believe we shouldn't stress out about whether or not certain events in the Bible really happened or not. Instead, I think the number one thing we should ask ourselves is, "What is this telling me about God?" For example, we all know about the endless creationism vs. evolution debate. There are those who swear up and down that God created heaven and earth less than 10,000 years ago and in six twenty-four hour periods just like it says in Genesis. Others say that the creation account in Genesis should be taken metaphorically. Me, since I wasn't there when the world began, I can't say who is wrong and who is right. Instead, I focus on the message of the first three chapters of Genesis: how God made the world, and how mankind rebelled against Him.
What do you think? Should the Bible be interpreted literally? Does it really matter?