Watch this video clip with NT Wright and Peter Enns of the BioLogos Foundation discussing the meaning of literal in Genesis 1:
A summary of the video comes courtesy BioLogos Blog:
So when we ask if Genesis can be taken literally, that doesn’t settle the question of what it refers to. This should be an open question, Wright says, when we read any text: what does it refer to and how does it intend to refer to it? When it says in the Gospels, “Jesus was crucified,” the literal reading refers to a concrete event. But when Jesus tells a parable, the literal reading points to an abstraction or a metaphor—though it may have a concrete application.
Wright then considers what the writers of Genesis intended to do by the creation story and points out that in context, telling a story about someone who constructs something in six days is a temple story. It is about God making heavens and the Earth as the place he wants to dwell and placing humans into that construct as a way of reflecting his own love into the world and drawing out the praise and glory from the world back to himself. “That is the literal meaning of Genesis,” says Wright, “and the question of the formal structure has to sit around that as best it can.” (read more here)
I don’t always agree with NT Wright but here I think it gets at what is meant by literal.
HT: TC Robinson (though I know it has been up on other blogs too, e.g., Mark Stevens, etc).