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May 05, 2008

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codepoke

(I went kind of long with this comment, but only because I could not quite find the words. I look forward to this series, and enjoyed these first parts.)

And yet, the allegorical aspect of much of scripture seems undeniable and profitable. I've seen people go so far as to get scared when the Song Of Solomon is interpreted allegorically. If the Song is not allegorical, then why the God even give it? It's not like it breaks any ground in any of its non-allegorical content.

The meanings of gold (divinity), myrrh (suffering), silver (humanity), accacia wood (humanity), pearl (redeemed humanity), etc. in the progressive manifestations of the temple from Genesis to The Revelation are indulgently rich and certainly intended by God. It's a difficult line for me to see between calling something symbolic, and therefore allowed, versus allegorical, and therefore dodgy. What are we to make of an Ark of the Covenant built from accacia wood lined inside and out with gold? Was God not drawing a picture of His Messiah? how the One Who would come for Him would be human while both filled with and clothed in the Spirit?

As soon as someone makes sin #1, "Don't allegorize," then things get sticky for those of us with a God-given emotional attachment to things theological. The value of allegory is hamstrung even in the most obviously valuable of places. There is a confidence level to the temple allegory, in that God Himself says the temple is a picture of the heavenly temple which is in turn a picture of Himself, but even that obvious connection is made something on which to presumptively cast suspicion.

The underlying assumption of the Samaritan parable argument that Jesus always says things so people would understand needs to be discarded post haste. Jesus spoke in parables specifically so He would not be understood. By Jesus' own testimony, His objectives in using parables were to teach for eternity and that the Jews would not hear and would not be converted.

Jewish scriptural interpretation is a completely gnostic mess. They believe that everything is hiding something inside of something else locked in what can only be unravelled with recourse to a mystery. Their use of the scriptures is darker and more mystifying even than the Roman Catholic tricks of the medieval period, and I agree we don't want to go there today. But to say that allegory is a dangerous fiction, and that God never hid a deeper meaning in His word is tossing the baby.

God made all people, and He gave His word for all people. Some of us are intellectual and some are emotional. We both have things to add to the understanding of scripture, so discarding the artist's grasp of scripture must be a loss to the church. It is not only the logical souls among us who find true truth.

Throwing out allegory with rule #1 sure looks like a one-dimensional over-simplification.

Michael W. Kruse

Codepoke, I think you're misinterpreting what I wrote. Pay special attention to the last two paragraphs. I wrote:

"The key to symbolism is the audience and what they perceive. Items in the story have symbolic meaning only insofar as the teller and the hearers have a common shared symbolic understanding of the various facets of the story. Therefore, in order to understand a parable or metaphor, we must enter as closely as possible into the mind of the original people interacting with the story."

Metaphor, allegory, parables, etc., are all powerful and useful means of communication. However, we are not free to attribute any meaning we wish to such stories. The stories must be heard through the culture of the teller and the hearer.

Bailey is not saying all allegory is bad. Rather he is saying that one way to "sin" is to find allegorical meaning where there is none, or to impose our own allegorical categories on the story that neither the original author or hearers would have recognized.

codepoke

> Bailey is not saying all allegory is bad.

I did read the last two paragraphs before I commented, so take my comment as informed by those thoughts. I'm glad to hear Bailey thinks some allegory is good, but the point is not convincingly made to my ear.


> Having said this, not all symbolism is bad.

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

> The first sin is the allegorical method of interpretation.

And this is a statement of such force that a little equivocation at the end can hardly move it.


> But for symbols to work, they must signify realities that hearers instinctively identify.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I entertain the belief that the Jews had no idea why the Ark was built of acacia wood, and yet the allegory was there. I wonder how much of the Song was unfolded to its first readers. Did they know that love really could be more powerful than the grave? I doubt it.

Still, a wedding feast and a beaten man and seeds and leaven (used to portray either sin or righteousness in different places) are understandable types, so I agree with your point.

And then I have to flip over to the other side of the argument. The guy is tearing down allegorical interpretation, but when was the last time anyone accepted allegorical interpretation? Us emotional folk have been pretty much beaten down over the last few decades, and you can hardly find anyone to indulge in some heart-warming illumination of the pictures in scripture any more. Could he provide a single example of an allegorical fallacy from the latter half of the 20th century?

Of course, it's not your fault you pushed my button here.

I look back in history and see a place for emotional theologians, but there's no such place any more. There's intellectual versus more intellectual, and that's it. These days emotional folk have been left to fight over scraps of exhibitionism and or self-help dogma, and it's depressing to me (an appropriately emotional response ;-)).

Thank you, sir.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks codepoke.

You wrote:

“> The first sin is the allegorical method of interpretation.

And this is a statement of such force that a little equivocation at the end can hardly move it.”

I think you read this more emphatically than I intended it and went defensive on me from there. :) For instance, if I were writing about sins for drivers, I might say “driving fast” is one. Do I mean we should never drive on the interstate? No. I mean driving faster than is warranted in particular contexts. Similarly, just as we would expect to drive fast when on the interstate, so we would expect to interpret according to allegory when allegory is present. But what Bailey is writing about is the “sin” of seeing allegory in everything (even when it isn’t there) and infusing things with meaning that aren’t there. The rest of the post was intended clarify what was meant and not meant by “allegorical method of interpretation.” I wonder if you agree that Bailey’s two presentations of the Good Samaritan are invalid. Why or why not?

One of the things you need to know about Bailey is that he is a champion of Jesus as a metaphorical theologian. I noted in the post how the church to turned to Paul as "the theologian" while Jesus just told "nice stories." Bailey sees this as a huge mistake. His life work has been about helping people see that Jesus was the master theologian and it is precisely through his compelling metaphors/parables that he demonstrates this. Bailey would wholeheartedly agree with you that rationalistic intellectualism has sucked the life the Bible. You might want to check out an earlier post on Bailey Jesus as a Metaphorical Theologian.

codepoke

> I think you read this more emphatically than I intended it and went defensive on me from there. :)

It's possible. :-)

Ears still open.

Carol

codepoke said:

"And then I have to flip over to the other side of the argument. The guy is tearing down allegorical interpretation, but when was the last time anyone accepted allegorical interpretation? Us emotional folk have been pretty much beaten down over the last few decades, and you can hardly find anyone to indulge in some heart-warming illumination of the pictures in scripture any more. Could he provide a single example of an allegorical fallacy from the latter half of the 20th century?"

Yes, I can.

My brother David Harris wrote a book published by Destiny Image in which he allegorizes quite a lot. It's called: "Signs, Wonders, and Worship/Tools of the End-Time Harvest".

On pages 95-96 he says: "[1Kings 18:44 KJV] The sea here represents the world and this cloud is like a man's hand. Consider the hand of a man having five phalanges. This cloud that is like a man's hand is a metaphorical representation of the five spiritual offices of the Church; a picture of the restored five-fold Church. This restored Church will usher in the rains of the Spirit. For this little cloud that arises out of the sea prophesies of the latter rain of the Spirit that will pour forth through the reformed Church of Christ in the Day of the Lord."

His whole book is full of allegory and built upon the mistaken idea that "David's fallen tent" that the prophet Amos spoke about and from whom James quoted at the council of Jerusalem centuries later [Acts 15], is the tent David erected to house the ark and at which he stationed Levites to sing 24/7, whereas in reality David's fallen tent is his fallen dynasty which God will raise up in the last days, which God began to do when He sent Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God and to make atonement for us. It is NOT the tent David erected to put the ark of the covenant. It just gets worse with assigning numbers eschatological meanings, and including personal dreams and visions as valid revelation.

You can't take a historical narrative and assign allegorical meaning where none is present without going off into false teaching which will lead people astray.

Carol

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