William Jennings Bryan is reported to have said: “I believe the whale swallowed Jonah because the Bible said it, and if the Bible said that Jonah swallowed the whale I would have believed it simply because the Bible said so.”
Much more recently Peter LaRuffa, who is on the staff of Grace Fellowship Church, Northern Kentucky, said:-
Of course, statements such as these tend to incite mockery from those of us who suppose ourselves to be more enlightened. And, in the sense that the aforementioned gentlemen meant them to be taken it is difficult to justify such ‘blind faith’.
But hang on a minute. Is there not a danger of throwing the whatsit out with the proverbial? Are not the mockers as guilty of wooden literalism as the mocked?
Truth is, “the Bible says…” is a rather blunt instrument, both in the hands of many of its critics, as well as in the hands of its defenders. It leads us to defend Scripture as either being always (factually) right, or attacked as (often?) wrong.
But what if, asks Ian Paul, the Bible did say that 2+2=5?
Secondly, it could form a part of poetry. When the Beatles sang ‘Eight days a week/I lo-ooo-ove you’ no-one complained that they had their diaries wrong.
Or it could be a joke. Or in fact it could be any number of things—because we use language, including apparently mathematical language, in all sorts of ways, not just the mathematical.
Ian Paul notes that ‘progressives’ such as Peter Enns like to emphasise the humanness of the Bible. That’s fine, Says Paul:-
And, I would add, unless and until Enns and others tell us a bit more clearly what is left, in their theory, of the divine element in Scripture, then I shall continue to take that theory with a pinch of you-know-what.