Why The Bible Should Not Be Taken Literally: It’s All About The Ego!

by Joshua Tilghman on October 13, 2012

Funny Moses CartoonI recently had a conversation with a Christian I have respected for many years. Too make a long story short, we had a healthy disagreement about whether the Bible should be seen as literal history or not. He thought it should. All of it! Even talking snakes, a flood covering the highest mountains, and millions of Israelites wandering in the desert to get to the Promised Land. But he also agreed that the Bible’s greatest treasure was the spiritual interpretation usually hidden beneath the literal story. He finally asked me why I couldn’t see it both ways like he did.

I told him that I thought believing the Bible was literal leads to ego inflation. He seemed surprised. For him, being a Christian was about dropping the ego. So naturally he asked how I could make that statement.

I then told him that taking the Bible literally makes us think we are special. There is nothing wrong with believing that we’re special, because we are. But the fact of the matter is we are all special, and taking the Bible literally makes one feel more special than someone who doesn’t take the Bible literally. In other words, it makes us feel like we have been chosen over someone else who does not believe the same way. By default, that’s a judgment call. And judgment calls like that always come from the ego.

I then cut the small talk by introducing Deuteronomy 20:16:

“…the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shall save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites…”

The scripture above explains God’s command to kill every man, woman, child, infant, and animal of the Canaanite clans. The Book of Joshua shows this command fulfilled many times.

I could see the uneasy shift in my friend’s countenance. I expected this, because this scripture can’t be explained away by any theological gymnastics. This scripture is what it is; it lays bare the unmerciful Old Testament God that seems to contradict the father of Jesus. He countered with the statement that God only condoned such a thing because he knows that one bad apple can quickly spoil the entire bushel, and by letting any Canaanite live, the Israelites would have been influenced by them in the future.

I knew this was a silly comeback. Infants grow up believing whatever their taught to believe. Any spared Canaanite infant would have grown up learning the customs and laws of Yahweh; therefore they wouldn’t know any pagan Canaanite practices to influence the Israelites with later. He fumbled about for an answer, but to no avail. I then asked him why God wanted the animals owned by the Canaanites killed. How would they have influenced the Israelites? Still no answer, so I reiterated my firm belief that the scripture wasn’t meant to be taken literal.

Shifting about defensively, he asked me what I thought those scriptures meant.

I finally told him those scriptures were about crucifying and dissolving the ego, not anything that could potentially inflate an ego by making us feel superior.

He leaned closer. He was clearly interested, and for a brief second, I wondered if his own ego would take a back sit. I then proceeded to tell him that since all the Bible stories are about the human body and mind (our Holy Temple), then it makes perfect sense that God would tell the Israelites to kill every living male, female, and child in the camp. And yes, even the animals! Here’s why:

Scripturally speaking, the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites always represent our negative thoughts and emotions. These thoughts and emotions respectively comprise the ego, and the ego always keeps us from the Promised Land. In order to severe the life force of the ego, you must severe the negative thoughts and emotions that prop it up. Thus God’s command to kill them all!

Getting to the Promised Land is not about going to a literal place. The Promised Land is a state of mind, a state of being. The Israelites had to eradicate all of the Canaanite clans because they represented strongholds of the ego which keep us from our natural state of peace.

Wandering around in the wilderness for forty years wasn’t a literal event either. It’s about something we must do to deal with the ego. Even Jesus had to face his ego in the dessert for forty days and forty nights. See the article entitled, Jesus, Forty Days in the Desert, and the Ego to learn more about Jesus’ trial in the wilderness, as well as why the number forty is repeated many times in the Bible.

So who do the Israelites represent?

The Israelites represent you and me. They were held captive in Egypt. Our true selves are also held captive by Egypt since Egypt is always equated with the ego or the lower mind. Going from Egypt to the Promised Land is about a consciousness shift where our will is changed to the will of the Father’s. This is really just another way of saying we become ruled by our higher divine natures rather than our lower animal nature.

How to stop the madness

Wandering around in the desert for forty years is also symbolic of meditation. The way to kill the habit of being led by the lower mind is to meditate in no thought.

Most of us are aware that the Bible blatantly instructs us to meditate in a few places. For example, Psalms 46:10 states:

“Be still and know that I am God.” By stilling the mind chatter within us, we can begin to HEAR God.

But what about scriptures that aren’t so blatantly obvious? Consider that when we meditate, we enter the dark, secret place of our being. The scripture says God dwells there.

“He (God) made darkness his secret place…” (Psalm 18:11)

“I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places…” (Isaiah 45:3).

“…and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21).

Again, when you enter into meditation, it is the secret place of our hearts. Going within ourselves seems to be a dark place as well. However, when meditation is done right, and if you are truly ready to throw down your ego, this dark place will become light (literally), just as Paul saw Jesus (the Christ within) as he traveled to Damascus and was knocked off his horse by a bright light. See How Wrestling God Awakened Jacob’s Pineal gland for more info about this awesome experience! You see, meditating simply brings the Satan (ego) within us to be exposed to the light of pure consciousness.

Ultimately, we meet God in meditation, which is nothing less than going within. Jesus clearly taught that this is where the true kingdom of God resided. (Luke 17:21).

Why did God sometimes spare virgins?

Let’s discuss one more scripture:

“Now kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, who have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18).

That scripture describes the scene where Israel meets the Midianites. It is interesting that God says to kill everyone except for the virgins. Why? Again, it isn’t literal. Virgins are symbolic of pure awareness that is experienced in the higher levels of meditation. It is pure, unadulterated consciousness, where the ego truly begins to take a back seat. We could also say that the virgin represents the awareness of our minds in the absence of thought. It’s sort of like intuition. Intuition comes from divine influence. It is beyond our intellect and emotions. And although intuition is not based on logic, it always guides us best.

Back to my friend:

At the end of the conversation my friend admitted that a spiritual understanding seemed to make more sense in the above mentioned cases. But even though he was willing to admit this, he still couldn’t let go of the fact that the Bible was never meant to be taken literally.

Why my friend really couldn’t let go!

It’s obvious why my friend really couldn’t let go. His ego was the one in charge! When you believe something is true for many years, you hold onto it with every thought and emotion in you. Try arguing with someone who believes the Bible is literal. Their emotions will quickly get involved. But that’s how the ego works.

I cannot blame my friend. All thought patterns and beliefs that are established over many, many years become strongholds, just like the Canaanite clans in the Promised Land. These strongholds must be removed before we can truly live in a peace that surpasses understanding. It takes a lot to be set free from a stronghold because the thought pattern has become so ingrained that it is automatically (unconsciously) driving your life. Therefore my friend’s strong resistance was only natural. I have to admit that I was once there too, so I actually understand completely.

How can this knowledge help you?

Never get too rigid in your beliefs that you can never change them. This will stunt your soul’s growth 100% of the time. Not only that, but you waste valuable thought energy into something that’s not really productive.

It is also important to know that it takes an inquisitive mind to begin questioning our cultural upbringing, belief systems, and indoctrinations, which have been taught to us over many years. Many Christians believe to question God is a sin. Quite the opposite! It is the beginning to getting rid of limiting belief systems! It is also the beginning of weakening a strong ego.

Finally, try and imagine why the simple act of meditation is so important. True meditation doesn’t judge or label anything. It is the practice of just becoming aware of all the mind chatter that’s in you. When you become of aware of it—consciously—you bring it to the light of your conscious observation to be exposed for what it is: the fraud inside you, the ego! You also become aware of the truth that is within you. God can be said to judge the heart of a person and not the outer appearance because that is where he truly resides: your heart, or mind!

My friend in Afghanistan

Since this post is about not taking God’s command to kill literally (God would NEVER do such a thing), I thought this might be a good place to talk about what just happened to another dear friend and family member. Although the details are still vague, I recently learned that my friend was hit by an IED. I don’t have much knowledge of military terms, and I don’t know if he was in a vehicle or standing by a vehicle. He’s alive, but badly burned and his lungs have suffered damage from shrapnel. I only bring this up because this might not have happened if people learned to take the great religious books of the world and interpret them spiritually instead of literally (the way they were meant to be interpreted). Nobody wins a Holy War, because the ego can’t win against itself. My thoughts, prayers, and meditations are with you him! I ask that all my blog readers would remember him too.

My next blog post will focus on health and the Bible, but shortly thereafter I am going to explain how Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea is the first stage of meditation when we leave Egypt (our egos). Not all meditation is equal. There are more than a few stages and it is important that we learn them all.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury October 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Hi Josh,
I spoke to a typical church going christian about whether a merciful God that she has been indoctrinated to belief in will select and punish some souls that He created in His own image and likeness that does not go to church to hear his word and for that matter disobeys him and put them into a place called hell and burn them with fire and also select some other souls that goes to church sweep and clean pews and teach Sunday school class and bless them with a place called heaven. Her answer was that it was that same God that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah but throughout all you have said about the ego, you have not spoken about the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I will appreciate if you can raise our consciousness in that story. Thanks.

Gomorrah and i will appreciate if


Joshua Tilghman October 16, 2012 at 11:08 pm


I would love to do a post on Sodom and Gomorrah sometime. Can’t promise when I can get to it, but its definitely in the plan!


kathryn October 16, 2012 at 12:02 am

I second this request!!!!! Thank you!


Joshua Tilghman October 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm

You’re more than welcome, Kathryn.


Rory October 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Ach, it’s a tricky one this, Joshua. It could just as easily be said that the one who believes the Bible to be literal is simply taking things at face value, whereas the one who believes he has unlocked the hidden meaning of the scriptures is the one who might have a struggle with the Ego.

I think it would be hard to argue against the likelihood that the Israelites believed this to be their history. They were certainly trying to make sense of why ancient tribes had passed out of existence, and yet theirs was surviving. We are talking about the combined product of several writers over several centuries from various different religious backgrounds – yahwist, elohist, priest and prophet. It is quite possible that Jeremiah or Baruch penned Deuteronomy, and it is quite likely that they firmly believed Yahweh had instructed the Israelites to lay waste to the land of Canaan. The belief that they didn’t fulfill such an instruction to the letter was part of the reason some of them ended up back in Egypt…or so they were taught.

I find it fascinating that an esoteric interpretation can be put on the scriptures, but I am not convinced that this was the primary meaning determined by the Bible writers. I like to imagine that the yahwist who wrote parts of Genesis was a deeply thoughtful person who had his head correctly screwed on…but it’s also very likely that this was a compilation of the various myths and legends that the tribal people had been carrying around with them.

I’m thrilled by the notion that the number forty turns up as often as it does because it corresponds with the gestation period of a human baby, and that is probably because it was a significant period of time to many of the cultures back then.

Saying that the esoteric meaning is the primary understanding of the scriptures opens up a whole ‘nother field of questions, the primary one being, why is it buried in a historical account? If the writers thought they were compiling a history, who (or what) was making sure they wrote it in such a way as to hide an esoteric meaning? etc, etc.

I think resolutely holding on to a belief that the scriptures must be taken literally does betray a struggle with the ego, but I would agree more with your latter description of that struggle rather than the earlier one.


Christine Hoeflich October 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Thanks again for an informative post.

Re the sentence: “Our true selves are also held captive by Egypt since Egypt is always equated with the ego or the lower mind.” I would agree that this is true, but that it’s written from the human-level perspective.

In reality though, our collective higher selves (“God”) engineered / masterminded the illusion and the fall in consciousness for some very noble reasons: so that we would learn who we are and what we’re truly capable of, so that we would appreciate life more (than before the “Fall”), so that we would be capable of experiencing more joy than possible before the Fall, etc. Our higher selves made it appear that the ego / the devil was the culprit, when in reality it’s what the higher self wanted to experience, for the learning and the spiritual growth that was possible.

I pray that your friend in Afghanistan is doing better!


Adam January 12, 2013 at 4:41 am

Hey, thanks for another excellent blog post. I wanted to ask a couple questions to maybe stir up this thought provoking topic a little more. While I agree that the Bible’s true meaning is found in it’s allegorical structure, I was wondering what you thought about the many incidences of UFO sightings, haunted houses, and so called ,”demonic activity.” All is well when you put the bible into it’s allegorical structure, but it seems theyre is more than once way in which this cookie crumbles. Theyre has been so many documented cases of paranormal activity it would make any honest scientist atleast raise an eyebrow. I myself have witnessed paranormal activity when I was a young teenager. So this begs the questions. Is it possible that while the Bible is in fact an allegorical document shedding light unto our spiritual existance, that this internal conflict between lower and higher levels of conciousness is actually bieng carried out literally into an alternate universe that we will soon inhabit after we die?? Meaning this battle between ego and Christ conciousness is actually mirrored in an alternate or possible “real” reality that we are in fact the centerpiece of? It is based entirelly on us as an omnipresent and omnipotent extension of God. This so called Kingdom of Heaven is something that we are creating now and will soon inhabit this literall place in the next life??


Joshua Tilghman January 13, 2013 at 9:16 am


I 100% believe in UFO’s and spiritually activity. Some can see into the aspect of reality with intuitive and psychic abilities. It seems the more that people go with they develop these abilities. Anything is possible in the realm of consciousness! Although we inhabit physical bodies, other entities inhabit bodies that aren’t so concrete. And I do think different people experience a different afterlife before reincarnating. It’s possible that some are less conscious than others after death also. Some experiences are hellish and others heavenly. The one thing I am sure about is that nothing is permanent. There certainly isn’t a permanent heaven and hell that we experience after dying.

The Bible is allegorical in nature, but some of these allegories explain consciousness in this way. Look at the Book of Ezekiel. Is it possible that UFO activity is mentioned there? Absolutely. Some day I’ll get to discussing those topics. Thanks for bringing them up, Adam.


Donny January 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thanks. This is a great knowledge. It will help most of people to understand the meaning behind the myths in bible.


Joshua Tilghman January 21, 2013 at 11:53 am

Thank you Donny. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.


anny April 29, 2013 at 5:03 am

Hi Joshua,

I think there is a difference between believing the Bible is to be taken 100% literally and considering that there might be history in the Bible. Personally I think the second option is true. When I lived in Israel I visited quite some archeological sites where they had started digging on the basis of biblical information and found confirmation, also on written material. So I do believe that there is history in the Bible but I do not believe that the Bible is a historical account of that history, if you understand what I mean. It is like you yourself write somewhere in your blog that you do believe that Jesus was an actual person but not that the story about Jesus in the Bible is an accurate story about his life.

I also must say that I agree with Rory in his comment above where he says: ‘It could just as easily be said that the one who believes the Bible to be literal is simply taking things at face value, whereas the one who believes he has unlocked the hidden meaning of the scriptures is the one who might have a struggle with the Ego.’ In fact Robert and I were having a short discussion on that topic in our comments on John is your prana, Jesus your kundalini. Especially when you are feeling that everything is coming together and so much is becoming clear, there is always the temptation to start feeling superior. And as I wrote to Robert, I think that is exactly what Jesus also felt during his ’40 days in the desert’.

So I like to keep things open and follow your advice: Never get too rigid in your beliefs that you can never change them.


Christine Hoeflich April 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

Anny I totally agree with you. Thanks for your comment about the Bible and the history in it. The Bible not being taken literally doesn’t mean there isn’t any history in it.

Have you read the story of Schliemann who discovered the ancient city of Troy by reading the story of the Iliad? At least that’s what was taught in German class when I was studying German in Munich in the late 80s. It’s claimed he unearthed Troy by studying in detail the Iliad.



anny May 1, 2013 at 3:05 am

Hi Christine,

Yes, I read a book about that story when I was only a kid and got fascinated by it. Parts of the Iliad I read much later, as part of our Greek studies at school. I am afraid I had to focus more on the language then than on what it could possibly mean. I must confess that I considered those Greeks to have a great imagination with that mythology of theirs. I never tumbled to the fact that the stories in the Bible also are mythology. In both I think history is used as a garment for the deeper truths in life.

I like this principle of As above, so below. Of God manifesting and expressing in all forms and shapes and sizes and the principle of a thing also. If one thing is true it does not necessarily mean that another interpretation of it is not. And so I think there are many levels in the Bible too; the Jewish view already includes four at least. You might see it as different entrances from where to look at everything.

Did you grow up in Germany? I feel very much at home in that country and am endeavouring right now to get more fluent in German. We learned the language at school but only to read.




Joshua Tilghman May 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm


I do believe there is some history recorded in the Bible. Concrete events help give us the anchor for sticking around and contemplating the abstract spiritual principles we discern later with contemplation. But as you said, the Bible is not a history book. Interpreting it so causes us to miss so much!

And you are right about Rory’s comment. The ego could easily be involved when one thinks he has unlocked the secrets of the Bible. If these secrets don’t become the very thing that helps to humble us, we are in for trouble, possibly more so than believing the Bible is literal!


Christine Hoeflich May 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

Hi Anny,

No I did not grow up in Germany. Actually, I was born in Poland (lived there till I was 3.5 years old) and grew up in Buffalo, New York. I got a chance to go to Germany when I met a German guy at the first company I worked for after college. He had to return to finish his masters, so I moved to Germany, did an intensive German course, and found a job in the Experimental Physics dept. at the Univ in Munich, doing materials analysis.

I love to travel and hope to do a lot more one day.

What about you?

Love, Christine


Mike February 14, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Fistly, let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your wesibte. I’m currently in the unspecified category as far as ideology. I reside somewhere in the realm of Buddhism, monism, and agnosticism. I do believe, though, that an unusual paradox exists with Christianity. On the one hand, there are people who through the idea of Christ’s teachings, have gained a purpose and fufillment through christianity in an otherwise destructive and unhappy life. Same with most of all other ideologies. And on the other hand, there are those who become judgmental and cowardly, or even violent or irrational ( god hates f*gs comes to mind). I suppose my point is that the one thing about us that makes us beautiful (our diversity of personal psychology, experiences, and perception of the latter two) is also potentially problematic. For some, spirituality adds color, creativity, and innovation to one’s existence, and for others, paints their lives in a bleak shade of fear, anti-intellectualism, and a total waste of potential. What works for one won’t always work for the other. I do acknowledge that especially when it comes to Christianity, one has to ignore, or be ignoraant to a lot of the horrible things contained within the holy book, but I’m willing to play pragmatist on that one. If everyone abandoned religious dogma and simply lived by Capella’s commandments, this earth would be a pleasant place to reside indeed; but alas, I lack the optimism to see this as a forseeable reality. Peace be unto you.


Joshua Tilghman February 21, 2016 at 9:43 am

Mike, I agree. I think it was Gandhi that said something to the effect of, I like your Christ but not your Christians. I do know many Christians who are wonderful people inside and out. But I have also met the other kind you speak of.


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