What was in Jesus’ hand? Lessons on why you can’t take the Bible literally word for word

by Randal Rauser

According to a 2007 Gallup survey “About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word.”

Now let’s think about this. Would you please open your Bibles to Revelation 1:14-16:


“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.”

“This is the word of the Lord”

“Thanks be to God.”

But wait. Is it the literal word of the Lord? Did Jesus really have a shock of white hair, seven stars in his hand, and a sword protruding from his mouth?

Actually, if we’re going to be serious about this we can’t talk about white hair, stars and swords. We have to talk about hair that is leukos and about aster and rhomphaia.

A first century Christian would have gestured to the pinpoints of light in the night sky and said “aster“. When we gesture to the same pinpoints of light we say “star”. In other words, the denotation is the same. But the connotation is radically different. Whatever the first century Christian thought when they said aster they didn’t think “hot ball of gas which shines by way of nuclear fusion…


What was in Jesus’ hand? Lessons on why you can’t take the Bible literally word for word | The Tentative Apologist

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:   The Literary Study Bible: ESV – English Standard Version / How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth / Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible / More Apologetics Resources >>>