John Dominic Crossan says: "“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”
I, on the other hand, say that the ancient Israelites were dumb enough to take the Bible stories literally -- which is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn't make them any dumber than the ancient Greeks with Homer or the ancient Germanic tribes with tales of Odin and Thor -- and that a lot of people today are dumb enough to take John Dominic Crossan, not to mention John Shelby Spong, seriously.
I'm sorry, I'm not going for it all all. A smaller percentage of Christians and practicing Jews are taking the Bible literally now than thousands of years ago, not a greater percentage. I do not believe that symbolic intent on the part of the Biblical authors would have been completely misunderstood for 2000 years until the late 20th century when then likes of Crossan could suddenly set everyone straight again. I do not believe that Biblical literalism was a completely Gentile thing, and that the Christians were simply too out of touch with the Jews, or that the Jews were simply too polite, for the misunderstanding to have been pointed out for 2000 years.
Crossan and Spong and other modern theologians don't want to let go of the privileged position of the Bible and other early Christian writings, and put them in the perspective of being just myths among other myths. And further, they don't what to admit that people thousands of years ago were more primitive in their beliefs than people generally are today. And so, since there is nothing actually in Biblical texts to justify seeing them as standing apart from other ancient myths, nothing to justify the way the Christians destroyed so many other religions, and since there is nothing in any ancient myths to justify denying that they are primitive and cruel and crude, Crossan and his ilk make things up like complex symbolic layers of meaning, and insist that those thoroughly modern things -- postmodern, actually -- actually are there in the ancient texts.
There's no reason to be ashamed of ancient texts. We've have thousands of years to learn since the Iliad and Genesis were written. We've built upon ancient texts in many large and small ways. They're wonderful things when seen for what they really are, they deserve a place of honor in the history of our society. (Just, not nearly as central a place as the Bible had in the European Middle Ages with its Inquisition torturing and killing everyone who didn't honor it enough.) They don't need to be gussied up by any of this modern theological bullshit. Hesiod's description of Achilles' shield doesn't contain myriad layers of symbolic meaning. It's just a vivid description of a wicked-cool shield.