Are metaphor and symbol “false” words?

   Words that demand to be branded as lies?


   Of course not.

   But how do we distinguish them from literal …… facts?


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   Abraham’s descendants shall be as numerous as “grains of sand on the sea shore” as the Bible declares?


   Consider Jesus’ Parable of the Marriage Feast:

   Says Jesus: The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king², who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. And again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.” ‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. But then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called and few are chosen.

–Mt. 23:2-14 (NASB)


   A surprising story–for many reasons which we will not discuss–except for one: This story cannot be “real,” taken into account the details that are presented or assumed, even in the region and time of the events when it was told.


   Here are a dozen of our observations:

   (1)  Who exactly would turn down an special invitation of an absolute monarch to a fantastic feast and celebration? (Still, humans are enabled with the right, and ability, to choose.)

   (2)  The food is all prepared, animals butchered, etc., and ready–and apparently remained that way for what had to be weeks of waiting for events described to all take place. (No refrigeration back then…)

   (3)  Two “wayward men” were described (a farmer and “businessman”), but what was the attitude and behavior of the others?

   (4)  No advanced announcement of such an exciting upcoming celebration is mentioned. So, the order is simply, “Stop everything and come immediately.”

   (5)  The bearers of invitation to this splendid party were not just ignored, but abruptly, it seems, were horribly mistreated and killed.

   (6)  As to payback, the king, with apparently great authority and power, quickly “gathers his armies, destroys the murderers, and sets their city on fire.” Presumably, the innocent die along with the offenders.

   (7)  The wedding preparations are still fresh and ready.

   (8)  Other slaves were sent to find unexpecting, and unlikely, folks to replace the expected folks and share, so to speak, in a free windfall gift (that is still fresh and ready).

   (9)  The hall is filled with such people (standing room only).

  (10)  All guests presumably had proper party clothes.

  (11)  Except one person did not…or didn’t know that such garments were required.

  (12)  That unprepared guest was suddenly thrown out and severely punished.


    A dozen observations show that this story is literally impossible. So another type of understanding is required. This means it should be considered a metaphor, in this case an unrealistic hypothetical event underlining something that matters, information to be understood as truth only by humans–the only living creatures created in the image of God.


   ¹ It’s not beyond the possibility of being literal, given the size of the now known physical universe, but to human Earthly understanding, it seems obvious that taking things here metaphorically makes the most sense.

   ² Obviously an absolute monarch.