Upon whom is the burden of proof when interpreting a given phrase: those who would interpret it literally, or those who would interpret it non-literally (e.g., metaphorically, etc.)? I have heard people say that our default interpretation should always be literal, and that we should only deviate from this understanding if we poitively have reason to believe that it was not intended literally. Does this presuppose that things are more often meant literally than non-literally? Or is it based on the thought that non-literal uses of phrases (e.g. metaphoric ones) are always developments of their literal uses, and that the literal sense is therefore somehow ‘primary’ in an interpretational as well as a chronological sense? Presumably the answer as to which should be the default position will also depend on the context of the phrase – for example, is it found in a poem, or in a pamphlet of technical instructions (in the former non-literal uses may be more prevalent than literal ones; and you’d be surprised how many metaphors are used even in technical, scientific and philosophical prose). What then, of ‘context-less’ writings – e.g., if we found an ancient manuscript, in a language we understood, but knowing hardly anything of the culture that produced it – we may not know if it is poetry or prose, or on their predilections for non-literal language use. In such a case, would we simply have to say that we have no way or prioritising literal and non-literal interpretations over one another, or is there an absolute priority of one? (This question arose for me in being told that the burden of proof lay on me for interpreting Biblical anthropomorphism in a manner that is not committed to the materiality of God, and that the default position is to take the anthropomorphisms as intended literally, therfore committing the author(s) of the Bible to the view that God is a material being much like a human being). - Sorry for such a long question - your thoughts would be much appreciated!