From Dark Ages, Galileo speaks of literal interpretation of Scripture...
(Tim) It's central to our chronological conceit to reassure ourselves the Middle Ages were the Dark Ages crammed full of religious bloodshed, religious oppression of scientific progress, and the Plague. So we've all learned the lesson to keep church and state separate to the end that we won't have as many wars or as many people die in those wars.
Doing well are we? Paganism is the state religion almost everywhere and more people were sacrificed on the altars of paganism's idols (Communism, Zionism, Feminism, etc.) this past century than ever died from all the religious wars of the Medieval world combined.
But what of science? Our modern morality play smugly assures us the Enlightenment busted truth loose from the religious ignoramuses who had oppressed the great minds across many centuries. Finally we know it's not wrong to take the Pill, unborn babies aren't persons and can't feel the knives, the iPhone is cool, washing hands saves lives, you can make babies in the lab, you can end the war by blowing up the women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Earth isn't the center of the Universe.
"Poor Galileo! If only he'd lived today when every man finally knows religion has nothing to say to the state or the high priests of Science. The Bible's true when it talks about spiritual things--not political or sexual or scientific things. It's no history book or textbook on cosmology. It tells you how to feel--not what to think. Poor Galileo! He had it right and the church tried to shut him up. Stupid ignorant church. Stupid Dark Ages...Stupid priests. Stupid dead people. If only the Pope could have studied hermeneutics at Wheaton or Fuller! Then Galileo could have been free to do his work."
Like all morality plays, the Galileo one is fiction. In the latest New Criterion, Kevin D. Williamson calls it a "Manichean fairy tale." Nothing about Galileo and the conflict surrounding him bears any resemblance to anything you've ever heard about it.
Anyhow, I found this excerpt from a letter Galileo wrote to the Grand Duchess Christina helpful:
With regard to this argument, I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth--whenever its true meaning is understood. But I believe nobody will deny that it is often very abstruse, and may say things which are quite different from what its bare words signify. Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error. Not only contradictions and propositions far from true might thus be made to appear in the Bible, but even grave heresies and follies. Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands, and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred, and sometimes even the forgetting of things past and ignorance of those to come....
Hence I think that I may reasonably conclude that whenever the Bible has occasion to speak of any physical conclusion (especially those which are very abstruse and hard to understand), the rule has been observed of avoiding confusion in the minds of the common people which would render them contumacious toward the higher mysteries. Now the Bible, merely to condescened to popular capacity, has not hesitated to obscure some very important pronouncements, attributing to God Himself some qualities extremely remote from (and even contrary to) His essence. Who, then, would positively declare that this principle has been set aside, and the Bible has confined itself rigorously to the bare and restricted sense of its words, when speaking but casually of the earth, of water, of the sun, or of any other created thing?
When Dispensationalist eschatologists get on their high horse about "just taking the Bible literally," don't drink their moonshine. Every last pastor and preacher knows the "I'm just taking the Bible literally" line works wonders with the masses, but every last pastor and preacher also knows he's dishonest when he thinks that settles the argument. It's an argumentum ad populum although I myself use it when heretics tell me if we apply the latest heremeneutical formulas and exegetical equations to 1Timothy 2:13--"for it was Adam who was first created, then Eve"--we'll find out what the verse actually means is, "the plane left the gate, taxied to the runway, waited for clearance from the tower, and took off."