'It's all red ink': The interpretation of biblical metaphor among Evangelical Christian YouTube users

Stephen Pihlaja*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among Evangelical Christians on the popular video-sharing site YouTube, the Bible is an important resource for justifying and challenging specific words and actions. Such justifications and challenges provide researchers with an opportunity to study how authoritative text is interpreted in social interaction. To that end, this article presents analysis of a single debate - an episode of what YouTube users call 'drama' - around one Evangelical Christian's controversial use of a passage from the Bible to justify calling others 'human garbage'. This analysis shows first, that conflicting interpretations and use of the Bible's moral authority led to the development of 'drama' because users evidenced differing beliefs about the development of biblical metaphorical language; and second, that users appropriated the Bible's words to their own discourse activity through exegesis and metaphor development. This article thus provides both an empirical case study in the interpretation of figurative language and a challenge to the common assumption that Evangelical Christians are committed to a 'literal' interpretation of the Bible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-117
Number of pages15
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number2
Early online date13 May 2013
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful for the funding provided by The Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology at The Open University which enabled me to complete this research.


  • Argument
  • Bible
  • computer-mediated communication
  • exegesis
  • interpretation
  • metaphor
  • YouTube


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