British scholar: ‘Don’t take the bible literally’ – Dr Hugh Houghton

Dr Hugh Houghton said the earliest Latin interpretation of the Gospels tells readers not to take the Bible too literally Shutterstock

A British academic has said that the earliest Latin interpretation of the Gospels tells readers not to take the Bible too literally.

Dr Hugh Houghton, of the University of Birmingham, said “it’s not the literal meaning which is important, it’s how it’s read allegorically,” according to the Telegraph.

The scholar translated the fourth-century analysis of the Gospels by African-born Italian bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia.

The find supports the idea that early biblical scholars saw the Bible as a series of coded messages representing the principles of Christianity, rather than a historical account.

“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,” said Dr Houghton.

Biblical literalism, which interprets the Bible as the word of God, forms the basis for beliefs of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. It also contributes to ideas that the earth was created in seven days and is only 6,000 years old.

Dr Houghton added: “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.”

The document Dr Houghton translated was hidden for 1,500 years within an anonymous manuscript in Cologne Cathedral Library.

It analyses the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John in 100 pages.

Dr Houghton said the book was an “extraordinary find.” His translation of the Latin text will be published this week. 

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