I think the answer to this question is found in another question:

Do you want people to take you literally?

It depends, right? Generally, you mean what you say, and you want people to believe you.

• If you say you are going to the store, that means you are going to the store.
• If you say you want a puppy, that means you want a puppy.

But we know that sometimes people take us too literally, which means they think we are saying something we are not. Like when you say, “just a minute”, and then someone starts counting down from 60. So annoying! Unless, of course, they are joking. Then you are the annoying one for taking them too literally.

The key here is intentions. We want to be heard in the way we intend to be heard. The same is true for God. When God is telling us history in the Bible, we should take it as history. When God is telling us a parable, we should take it as a parable.

How do you know which is which? The same way other people know what you mean: by listening. By paying attention to both what is said and the way it is said, we can learn how to read the Bible.

Figuring out what God intends might not always be easy, but it will get easier the more we get to know him and the better we get at listening.