At the web site that was referenced I found the following:
There is a law of scriptural interpretation that reads: "Literal if possible." This is not only a fundamental law when interpreting scripture, but when reading any other form of literature. Only when the literal is clearly impossible should we look for a figurative meaning.
The New Testament provides us with many examples of how the prophecies and types and stories in the Old Testament should be understood, and these examples offer little real support for the above quoted statement, but rather show that the opposite is true, especially for prophecy.
For example, in Acts 15:16, James interprets a prophecy about the tabernacle of David, from Amos 9:11, and applies it to the church.
Peter in Acts 2 said all the prophets gave witness to Christ. But in order to understand this, we have to interpret the Old Testament prophecies like the apostles did. The shepherd called David in Ezekiel 34:23 is symbolic of Christ, for example. Jesus declared that he himself is the "good shepherd" in John 10:11.
Similarly, in Ezekiel 37:24, we read, "David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd." Again, this can only refer to Christ.
Another example occurs in Paul's first letter to Timothy, 1 Timothy 4:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Paul attributes what he wrote above to the Spirit. It is therefore necessary to interpret the things he said, and indeed, they don't make sense taken literally. Paul says, referring to "meats" or foods, "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."
Taken literally, that would be obviously incorrect. There are many things one should not eat.
One fellow, who promotes Judaism, and campaigns against Paul, misinterpreted this. He quoted it, and then began to rail against Paul. He wrote,
I use to think that this "teaching of demons" was the Catholic Church but having opportunity to look from another vantage point, I understand Apostle Paul was speaking of the teachings of the Torah. He clearly says EVERY creature of YHWY is good and this goes totally against what the Torah teaches.
I responded, with an interpretation of some of Paul's comments in 1 Timothy 4:1-4.
Paul knew the scriptures of the Old Testament, and he would have been well aware of the story of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil stood in the midst of the garden of Eden, beside the tree of life (Gen. 2, 3). Adam and Eve were forbidden to take of the fruit which grew upon it.
He would also have been aware of numerous other plants that are unhealthy to eat. Here are some examples from:http://christiananswers.net/dictionary/plants.html
Tares - the bearded darnel, mentioned only in Matt. 13:25-30. It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.
(1.) Jonah's gourd (Jonah 4:6-10), bearing the Hebrew name kikayon (found only here), was probably the kiki of the Egyptians, the croton. This is the castor-oil plant, a species of ricinus, the palma Christi, so called from the palmate division of its leaves. Others with more probability regard it as the cucurbita the el-keroa of the Arabs, a kind of pumpkin peculiar to the East. "It is grown in great abundance on the alluvial banks of the Tigris and on the plain between the river and the ruins of Nineveh." At the present day it is trained to run over structures of mud and brush to form boots to protect the gardeners from the heat of the noon-day sun. It grows with extraordinary rapidity, and when cut or injured withers away also with great rapidity.
(2.) Wild gourds (2 Kings 4:38-40), Hebrew: pakkuoth, belong to the family of the cucumber-like plants, some of which are poisonous. The species here referred to is probably the colocynth (Cucumis colocynthus). The LXX. render the word by "wild pumpkin." It abounds in the desert parts of Syria, Egypt, and Arabia. There is, however, another species, called the Cucumis prophetarum, from the idea that it afforded the gourd which "the sons of the prophets" shred by mistake into their pottage.
(1.) Hebrew: rosh (Hos. 10:4; rendered "gall" in Deut. 29:18; 32:32; Ps. 69:21; Jer. 9:15; 23:15; "poison," Job 20:16; "venom," Deut. 32:33). "Rosh is the name of some poisonous plant which grows quickly and luxuriantly; of a bitter taste, and therefore coupled with wormwood (Deut. 29:18; Lam. 3:19). Hence it would seem to be not the hemlock cicuta, nor the colocynth or wild gourd, nor lolium darnel, but the poppy so called from its heads" (Gesenius, Lex.).
(2.) Hebrew: la'anah, generally rendered "wormwood" (q.v.), Deut. 29:18, Text 17; Prov. 5:4; Jer. 9:15; 23:15. Once it is rendered "hemlock" (Amos 6:12; R.V., "wormwood"). This Hebrew word is from a root meaning "to curse," hence the accursed.
The Artemisia absinthium of botanists
It is noted for its intense bitterness (Deut. 29:18; Prov. 5:4; Jer. 9:15; Amos 5:7). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering.
In Amos 6:12 this Hebrew word is rendered "hemlock" (R.V., "wormwood"). In the symbolical language of the Apocalypse (Rev. 8:10-11) a star is represented as falling on the waters of the earth, causing the third part of the water to turn wormwood.
The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means "undrinkable." The absinthe of France is distilled from a species of this plant. The "southernwood" or "old man," cultivated in cottage gardens on account of its fragrance, is another species of it.
Hemlock was well known as a poison in ancient times, as Socrates is supposed to have died by drinking it.
The word translated "meats" in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 (brwmatwn
) does not mean animal flesh, but simply "solid food." A person who abstains from solid food is limited to a liquid diet. That is the plain, literal meaning of the text, but it would make little sense, so there must be a deeper meaning intended here. Was the Spirit showing that false teachers would promote a simplistic, superficial form of the Gospel, that missed many of the deeper, underlying truths? Such a view would lead to a superficial, immature form of Christianity, one that had "a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof."
Taking the above verses of 1 Timothy 4 literally, one would think it was about people who would come, teaching about what foods can be eaten, and what must be avoided. There are vegetarians, for example, who avoid eating animal flesh. Paul goes on to say that the foods subject to censure were created by God, to be received with thanksgiving, by them that believe the truth. What does the truth of the Gospel have to do with our diet? The truth is, our food preferences are not particularly significant. Paul said:
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Was Paul saying that every sort of food is okay to eat? No! Apparently he was not telling us that these deadly things were okay to eat, but he meant something else. The teaching that we should abstain from "meats" or foods must be a metaphor, as arguments about foods and diet are of minor consequence.
If the false teachers that Paul referred to tell people to abstain from "solid food," they would have to limit themselves to a liquid diet, such as one would feed to babies; in other words, milk. "Milk" and "meat" (or solid food, victuals) are metaphors used elsewhere in the NT.
1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
The false teachers tell people to abstain from "solid food," they have to limit themselves to a liquid diet, such as one would feed to babies. They take superficial, strictly literal approach, and deny the deeper, hidden, spiritual one. The word of God includes both "milk" and "meat." The author of Hebrews said those who use only "milk" are babes.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Perhaps this explains what the prophecy in 1 Timothy 4:3 means. The false teachers influenced by seducing spirits command people to abstain from the figurative
or symbolic interpretations of prophetic scripture, and they say, "stick to the literal interpretation."
Isaiah said, that for one to be taught of God, he has to be "weaned from the milk."
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
The "milk" represents basic things about God's word, that are relatively easy to understand and believe. They are the essentials of the Gospel, and are thoroughly explained and understood by most Christians.
Solid food, or "strong meat" is for those who are more mature in the faith. Prophecy is often given in the form of parables, metaphors, and symbols, and many prophecies are also riddles. These take some figuring out. But the scripture is its own interpreter.
Those who insist on "abstaining from meats" treat the whole bible as "milk." They take it literally, as though it needs no interpretation. They give heed to "seducing spirits," who deceive many, and their victims are the stars cast down to the earth in Revelation 12:4, saints who are drawn by the "tail of the dragon."
Isaiah said the "tail" represents false prophets.
The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.