I take the Bible literally and here's how I discern. First understand the premise that Jesus cannot lie.
Ezekiel 17:2 NIV
“Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell it to the Israelites as a
Allegory is a theoretical representation of a spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms.
Jesus is not lying in His parables, he's simply giving us a hypothetical. Jesus has also told hypotheticals through the prophets.
I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables
Parables are the equivalent to a hypothetical story, told by Jesus and His prophets.
So strike any of those as such, not to be taken literally. The one instance that Jesus gives a parable that I do not believe to be hypothetical is the rich man in the lake of fire and lazarus in paradise. Because Jesus chose to use a specific name, I believe He was telling us the truth.
Is truth the situation or the statement?
Here's another area of discernment that you need to look for. But first, another premise: The Bible is the inerrant and/or inspired word of God.
This discernment deals with testimonies of individuals. Lets take the three gospels that discuss Christ on the cross. We have three accounts, each of which give us a different interpretation of the sign above Jesus.
So what is true about this? Is the fact that the disciples stated what they saw, true, or is what they stated true?
God is all about leaving witnesses and their testimonies about Him untouched. God would have no reason to modify a witnesses testimony. Therefore it can be concluded that what is true about these gospels, is that each disciple witnessed the events and testified to what they saw and remembered.
The fact that Mathew said the sign says X is true, but the sign actually saying X may not be true.
So how do we take this? Well, just like we take the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. The fact that She lied about Joseph was true, but what she said was not true.
So when reading the bible, pay close attention to who is talking and decide whether or not you can trust that person.
Some additional things to keep in mind.
- Inerrancy allows for a 'wait and see' approach.
- Inerrancy allows for the ordinary language of everyday speech.
- Inerrancy allows for loose or free quotations.
- Inerrancy allows for variety in details in explaining the same event.