The literal meaning of a text is simply the first meaning which comes to mind for most people upon reading a text. The literal meaning is the unexamined, uncontemplated meaning of a text. The literal meaning is common sense, not deep memory and certainly not a complex labor of the imagination. The literal meaning is not the actual meaning, but the obvious meaning. “Obvious” means “commonly encountered.” The literal meaning is obvious in that it is the most common, the most democratic meaning of a text.
As such, it is a mistake to think of the literal meaning as the most stable meaning of a text, for the literal meaning is apt to change as often as a culture changes, or as often as a culture different from the author encounters a text. The eschatological meaning of a text is far more stable than the literal meaning, for the eschaton is revealed in the changeless motion of the stars, while the literal meaning is caught up in the shifting sands of culture and every wind of doctrine.