Have a quick look at this, and then read on:
An idea... We could speak about different "domains" of reality. Some of these domains are readily accessible to our senses, and some are not. Let D be a domain of reality. Then in the world of the Hebrew Scriptures, we could have one of the following:
- D is readily accessible to our senses, so It is appropriate to speak about D in simple language to describe how it actually is.
- D is not readily accessible to our senses, so It is appropriate to speak about D only in terms of images and metaphors.
My suggestion is this. In two parts.
1. It is (or should be) obvious that when the Scriptures speak about God having body parts, it is using images and metaphors. And the reason it is (or should be) obvious is not because of the genre of the passage, but because the nature of God is a domain of reality about which it is appropriate to speak only in terms of images and metaphors.
2. What other domains of reality might fit into the same category? Could it be that the process of the creation of the cosmos fits into the same category? In other words, that whenever the Scriptures speak about the process by which God created everything, it is (or should be) obvious that it is speaking in images and metaphors, whatever the genre of the passage?
Taking the two categories above, my guess (and it's a complete guess, with no supporting evidence—yet!) is that we could have the following:
- Domains of reality that can be described in simple "this-is-how-it-really-is" language: historical events, ordinary things that can be seen.
- Domains of reality that can be described only in images and metaphors: the nature of God himself, the process of creation, the structure of those parts of the world and cosmos inaccessible to ordinary observation, the inner workings of a person (heart, soul, mind, "bowels", etc.).
It's just a guess. And it's a guess based on which bits of the Bible I want to take "literally" and which bits I don't. Some people might not like that approach! But the idea makes a bit of sense to me, and I think it's worth trying out...