Bible shouldn’t be taken literally, says leading scholar
Dr. Hugh Houghton of the University of Birmingham said the Bible should not be taken literally, after studying a copy of a fourth-century commentary by African-born Italian bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia, which reads the religious text as a series of allegories rather than literal history.
“There’s been an assumption that it’s a literal record of truth – a lot of the early scholars got very worried about inconsistencies between Matthew and Luke, for example,” Houghton said, according to the Telegraph.
“But for people teaching the Bible in the fourth century, it’s not the literal meaning which is important, it’s how it’s read allegorically.
“In contemporary Biblical scholarship a lot of the gospels are written with symbolism in mind.
“They are not setting out to be literal accounts but they are set out to be symbolic.”
He said the finding backs up assumptions that many early biblical scholars did not read the Bible as history, rather as a code of symbols.
The Birmingham professor said the Bible must be “understood in the context that the authors were working in.”
Houghton’s remarks go against the current of modern evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who claim the Bible is the literal word of God.
This fundamentalist approach is responsible for perpetrating the belief that the universe was created in just seven days.
It is also the underlying reason for modern archaeologists using the Bible as a means of collecting evidence on the life of Jesus.
Houghton has hailed the 100-page document as “extraordinary,” given it also predates mainstream interpretations by famous scholars including St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine.
He found out about the document after one of his friends read about it in a local newspaper.
Houghton picked it up after the University of Salzburg digitized the document, which had been tucked away in a manuscript at the Cologne Cathedral Library for 1,500 years.
The document is thought to be a copy from year 800 AD, written 400 years after the original.