. . . and their proper interpretation
from The Ascent of Mount Carmel
St. John of the Cross
[from Book II, Chapter 19]
For two reasons we have said that, although visions and locutions which come from God are true, and in themselves are always certain, they are not always so with respect to ourselves. One reason is the defective way in which we understand them; and the other, the variety of their causes. In the first place, it is clear that they are not always as they seem, nor do they turn out as they appear to our manner of thinking. The reason for this is that, since God is vast and boundless, He is wont, in His prophecies, locutions and revelations, to employ ways, concepts and methods of seeing things which differ greatly from such purpose and method as can normally be understood by ourselves; and these are the truer and the more certain the less they seem so to us. This we constantly see in the Scriptures. To many of the ancients many prophecies and locutions of God came not to pass as they expected, because they understood them after their own manner, in the wrong way, and quite literally. This will be clearly seen in these passages.
Guess this leaves the "Left Behinders" with rather short shrift. And well done, too. Literal reading of Biblical test is a never-ending morass of confusion and misunderstanding in many cases. One must, of course, understand the literal meaning of the words, but that does not mean that what is expressed on the face of it it what ultimately is intended by it. A simple example is when Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." We look neither for a wick, nor for a switch. We understand this to be said metaphorically. We all know this, but there are some pockets of Protestantism in particularly that insist on literal readings, most particularly of texts that were never written to be read literally. (The Apocalypse comes to mind.)
One must never attempt to understand what is being said in the Bible by leaping over the literal meaning to some cracked figurative meaning. But then neither should one stop at the literal meaning thinking that is all that is present. The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword.