Gallup: "three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God to be interpreted literally, word for word."

“A breakdown of the Gallup poll reveals that the majority of Americans believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, rather than the actual word of God or a book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.”

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"The poll finds 42 percent of Republicans, compared with 23 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats, say the Bible is literally true."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

ChrisC's picture

from the http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/Say-Bible-Literally.aspx ]gallup press release , the whole question is:

Quote:
Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man?
i would pick the second choice because i believe there are many passages that should not be understood in a literal sense. i think this question more reflects the jargon of churches people attend than their actual belief.

Mike Durning's picture

ChrisC wrote:
from the http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/Say-Bible-Literally.aspx ]gallup press release , the whole question is:
Quote:
Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man?
i would pick the second choice because i believe there are many passages that should not be understood in a literal sense. i think this question more reflects the jargon of churches people attend than their actual belief.

I agree with you Chris. It is a weird set of choices. It almost implies that "inspired" is in some sense not "actual". I checked the question's wording on the Gallup's site, and it is the same.

Even I, as an old-fashioned dispensationalist who reads the book of Revelations literally wouldn't say the WHOLE Bible is to be taken that way. When Jesus says "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." I assume that is to be taken figuratively.

I'm pretty sure your statement that the poll probably reflects the jargon of the churches people attend is accurate. If this was a phone poll, people surely did not have time to think through the wording as carefully as we are doing here.

Steve Newman's picture

What is the point of this? Is the point that the people don't believe in literal interpretation, or that they don't "take it literally", or believe it has something binding to say about how we live? Is the point to say some believe it is a "story book" and others believe it is a guide to faith and living? That is really what we want to know.
In the environment of today, the Bible is being rendered less and less as "something to live by" by those who would claim to be Christians. To me, that is the point.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Steve, I think you're right. And we've got a meaning-decay problem with the term "literally." People say "I literally laughed my head off" etc. And this has been going on concurrently with a general decline in language skills nationally for several decades. So who knows what people think they mean when they say "literally." For many it means "actually" or "really" and has nothing to do with symbolism, figures of speech etc. vs. flat, direct prose.

Add to the mix that you have schools of interpretation that find symbolic/non-literal meaning (at the expense of simple meaning) in the Bible (and other texts) on a large scale and pretty much randomly.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mike Durning's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Steve, I think you're right. And we've got a meaning-decay problem with the term "literally." People say "I literally laughed my head off" etc. And this has been going on concurrently with a general decline in language skills nationally for several decades. So who knows what people think they mean when they say "literally." For many it means "actually" or "really" and has nothing to do with symbolism, figures of speech etc. vs. flat, direct prose.

Add to the mix that you have schools of interpretation that find symbolic/non-literal meaning (at the expense of simple meaning) in the Bible (and other texts) on a large scale and pretty much randomly.

Let's not forget that language evolves. Those who refuse to communicate using the current meaning are doomed to not communicate. Smile
I was using "literally" to mean "factual" -- which I think is how it is taken today. I do understand the difference, but if 1 in 1000 who took that poll did, I'll eat my hat.

BTW, I own no hats.