"The historical-grammatical method is a Christian hermeneutical method that strives to discover the Biblical author's original intended meaning in the text. The aim of the historical-grammatical method is to discover the meaning of the passage as the original author would have intended and what the original hearers would have understood. The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense. As Milton S. Terry (A futurists) said: "A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture."
“Bible prophecy can be understood, but Futurist views have fallen far short for many reasons: their extreme physical/literalizing approach, their seeming inability to distinguish between figurative and literal language, and their failure to properly take into account the historical-grammatical-cultural context of the prophecies (specifically what they meant to their original audience). Even the most difficult prophetic passage comes alive when approached properly. It is time to look at some alternatives, and the Preterist view is a great place to start.” Ed Stevens preterist.org
This method of interpretation begins with identifying the language that is being used. The charge against “futurist” is that we have adopted the wooden literal interpretation and are unable to distinguish between the literal of figurative. NT Wright answers this unfounded charge.
“Nobody takes all the Bible literally, and nobody takes it all metaphorically, whatever they may say; we are none of us as wooden as our slogans suggest. In order to interpret any passage, particularly any passage of apocalyptic, the way of wisdom is to go through it one step at a time, deciding what is literal and what is metaphorical on the way. When Daniel says “I saw four beasts come up out of the sea” (Daniel 7.2 ), the “beasts” and the “sea” are metaphorical (the “beasts” are human empires, and the “sea” is the source of evil), but “four” is literal. When he says that “the little horn was making war on the holy ones and prevailed against them” (7.21), the “little horn” is metaphorical (referring to an actual human ruler), but the “war” is literal. And so on. This, of course, requires caution in serious Bible study, something that is not always much in evidence." N T Wright “Apocalypse Now”.
Literal and figurative language is a distinction within some fields of language analysis. Literal language refers to words that do not deviate from their defined meaning. A literal usage is the "normal" meanings of the words. It maintains a consistent meaning regardless of the context, with "the intended meaning corresponding exactly to the meaning" of the individual words, this is what creates the context.
Non-literal or figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that exaggerate or alter the usual meanings of the component words.
Figurative use of language is the use of words or phrases in a manner where the literal meaning of the words is not true or does not make sense, but "implies a non-literal meaning which does make sense or that could be true". Figurative words are used in place of the literal words and not applied over the literal if the author did not intend for the figurative identification and meaning of the words used. For example, “let the dead bury the dead”
“I sigh as I write it again: the word ‘metaphorical’ and its opposite literal’, refer to the way words refer to things, not to the sort of things that are being referred to. It is a simple mistake to suppose that ‘metaphorical’ means ‘abstract’ and that ‘literal’ means ‘concrete’. N T Wright Resurrecting Old Arguments: Responding to Four Essays
If figurative application destroys the meaning of the literal understanding of the context or subject being discussed through the interpretation process than the intended meaning of the literal words as used by the author, then it becomes a fabrication of story line by the reader. “Everything can’t mean the same thing!”
There is metaphor, allegorical, hyperbole, figurative, and apocalyptic language used throughout scripture. Specific language, words, and verses from the bible reveal these usages of parts of speech. The majority of all biblical metaphors are explained and confirmed by scripture.
“….I think you have a good start here. Of course, we all know there is much, much more in Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of John, which tells us it is not to be taken literally)”. -Preterist quote-
It is the painstaking work to go through each verse and determine then what parts are literal and which is figurative. Having the skills and understanding of being able to “recognize” the difference then becomes the art of language interpretation.
The defense then of many is to quote metaphorical scripture as if futurist accepts these forms of language as literal.
“He never said he would return physically or bodily. The misinterpretation of Acts 1:11 promote that idea. If what was meant was bodily, then we also have to say that he will be riding a horse. Do you believe he will also ride a physical horse riding a cloud seated on a throne? Why or why not? Which ones are literal and which ones are figurative?" (Preterist quote)
Again I point to NT Wright as I quoted above.
Charles Meeks wrote,
“If the Bible is true, it is internally consistent and harmonious throughout. This implies that we should not arbitrarily dismiss passages we do not understand. Yes, some passages are more challenging than others. But we should attempt to reconcile them with all other passages on the same subject.”
This system of reconciliation is what we call Systematic theology. This system allows for the understanding of what all is taught on a subject that comes to bear on a single verse. Don Preston stated,
“Different Elements– Or Omission of Elements / Words– Does Not Demand Different Times or Topics in Apocalyptic literature! - yet it can.
I made the remark that one cannot “screw down” apocalyptic language in the manner that Joel was doing, by claiming that the omission of words from text to text, or even the use of different words demands that different subjects are in view. This is true not only of apocalyptic literature, but of all literature. It is unreasonable in the extreme to demand that a writer mentions every word, every element, and every motif of a given subject in every text that he writes. You will not find such a “hermeneutic” in any class on hermeneutic or on journalism. It is specious.” Don Preston,
The obvious example of the principle is found in Math 5:18 - for truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away... not a iota or dot will pass from the law.. The preterists interprets this as saying the heaven and earth must pass away when the Law passes away in 70 AD. Yet in the parallel passage of Luke 16:17 from the exact story being talked about Luke states, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away.. So when we interpreted passage we can understand "heaven and earth passing way is an "idiom", not literal. BUT this error is repeated over and over again by underlings who have to parrot what their teachers spout with out thinking through on their own. We come to a verse of a particular subject we bring with it truth and information that was presented elsewhere and harmonize the meaning into a solid doctrine. The first step in interpretation is in understanding the meaning or definition of the words used as understood by the writer. The English language becomes the barrier for many as translations are made from the original Koine Greek.