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Allegorical Verses Literal Interpretation Of Scripture

Discussion in 'Bible Study' started by Major, Dec 15, 2011.

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  1. Having seen on this site over and over again a problem of confrontation and arguments over Scripture, I thought I would post something that hopefully would be of a help to all of us.

    If you are concerned about rightly dividing the Word of God, then you are involved with a subject biblical scholars call hermeneutics. So then, hermeneutics is simply interpretation — hopefully, correct interpretation. But in the matter of hermeneutics, there is one important question: Whose hermeneutics are to be used? More specifically, is there a system of hermeneutics that will legitimately interpret the Bible? Guidelines must be found that will bring the confident assurance that Scripture is not being violated.

    A few moments’ thought will bring to mind the paramount fact that everyone who enters into a system of ideas brings with him a body of assumptions. One’s thoughts and expectations are inevitably colored by a lifetime of experience, teaching and emotions.

    Having said that, there is really only two ways of understnading the Scriptures:
    1. Allagorical.
    2. Literal.

    The allegorical method of interpreting Scripture became an attempt to replace Israel with the church. Those early church theologians adopted God’s promises made to Israel and claimed them for the church, saying that the Jews were no longer the Chosen People. Such rendering of the Old Testament fuels anti-Semitic feelings. Today, some people have been led to doubt that the Jews are Jews. They claim that people of white European descent are the true Jews, and that the rebirth of the state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. Some even claim that Israel does not have a right to exist. But, I can tell you, that when Hitler looked for Jews to kill, he knew where they were!

    In the eyes of modern conservative interpreters, the real effect of these early commentators was to forever discredit the allegorical method of interpretation. It became a violation of hermeneutics to look beneath the surface of the Word for secondary or hidden narratives that have spiritual or prophetic significance. Most theologians shy away from using the very term “allegory,” but instead, refer to certain allegorical passages as “types and symbols.”

    The problem with the allegorical method, is that the literal meaning of the passage is usely disregarded in favor of the allegory. This is dangerous. It leads to fanciful interpretations that have no basis in fact. The interpretation then lies in the imagination and thoughts of the interpreter. All biblical passages must follow the guidelines set forth in the plain meaning of the Word. A type or symbol must ring true to the context of Scripture.

    LITERAL INTERPRETATION gives to each word the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking.

    In other words it is PLAIN.

    The literal meaning of sentences is the normal approach in all languages. It does many things but 3 of them are obvious.

    1. The literal meaning of sentences is the normal approach in all languages.
    2. All secondary meanings of documents, parables, types, allegories, and symbols, depend for their very existence on the previous literal meaning of the terms.
    3. The greater part of the Bible makes adequate sense when interpreted literally.

    The literalistic approach does not blindly rule out figures of speech, symbols, allegories, and types; but if the nature of the sentence so demands, it readily yields to the literal sense.

    And here is the one thing that it does the best:
    The literal method is the only sane and safe check on the imaginations of man.

    The literal method recognizes that types, symbols, metaphors and allegories are found throughout the Bible. However, these are used to expound upon and explain the literal message of Scripture.

    John 1:6 says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” That is literal.

    But John 1:29 shows John pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” That is figurative or symbolic.

    The literalist does not deny the existence of figurative language. The literalist does, however deny that such figures must be interpreted so as to destroy the literal truth intended through the employment of the figures.

    As with all things I post, all are welcome to disagree with it. I just hope some will read this and understand where some arguments tend to spring from. Uselly, it is because of this stated differance of how we grasp and understand the Scriptures.

    Have a good day and God bless.
    Intojoy likes this.
  2. Very well said.

    I would add that true discernment (God given wisdom) is absolutely necessary to understand many of the allegories to be found in scripture.
  3. Actually there are millions of ways to read the Bible.

    1. What the Lord Himself intended it to say (AKA correct teaching)

    2. any one of millions of what somebody ELSE claims/ thinks / interprets it to mean (AKA false teaching)

    If you truly UNDERSTAND the Bible you comprehend the meaning the LORD intended it to have (the definition of "understand" is to comprehend the meaning the WRITER intended it to have)

    Other wise you are just assigning you own or some other READERS interpretation of what THEY think it says with no way of knowing if it is true or not. Theologians have been complicating what is a simple thing for centuries. Usually they are more interested in making a name for themselves than giving the Glory and power of understanding to Jesus who said:-

    Mt 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

    Mt 21:16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

    Lu 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

    Man has complicated what the Lord intended to be simple.
  4. Thanks, it cleared some confusion I have when people say “literal”

    Although should the theology academia use another term for the word “literal" method ?

    It is really kinda confusing for those who do not know it yet : )
  5. Sorry Major,

    Had to finish my last post in a hurry, but wish to emphasise that it is not a condemnation of your post. What you say about literal versus allegorical is quite correct. My point was extending that to the next level. Having accepted that the correct way is to understand the Bible is literally (ie it means what it says and it says what it means) we must be careful to appreciate the difference between understanding and interpreting.

    The meaning of the word "understand" in the literary sense is to comprehend the meaning the WRITER intended it to have. However "interprete" means giving it the meaning the READER thinks or wants it to have. When it comes to the Bible of course what the reader thinks it means is not the issue. What the LORD intends it to mean is everything.

    It is important therefore not only to read the Bible literally but to also comprehend what it is that is written. That is, what the words themselves actually say, not what we interpret them to mean.

    Theologians throughout history have created complex methodologies for INTERPRETING the scriptures, usually to accord with predefined rationalisations of what the theologian, church, school of thought, etc. thinks they SHOULD say. They have created the illusion that you need all sorts of qualifications and degrees, or be guided by those who have, before you can properly understand the scriptures. They ignore the fact that the scriptures THEMSELVES say you don't. The scriptures declare that it is the Lord who gives understanding, not seminary colleges, etc. and that He gives it to WHOEVER He will. Even witholding it from the "wise and prudent" and revealing it to "babes" as I quoted in the previous post.

    As I said, not a refutation of your post which I largely agree with, rather an extension to it.
  6. Yes I think so too, by my personal opinion/premise: A true believer will admit to himself that he is a Christian.

    And, say a renowned or scholarly respected Agnostic Theologian may got the meaning correctly literally,
    but he will never… I think… will understand if he keeps on saying to himself he is an Agnostic rather than a Christian… if the said premise is true.
  7. It has been used to label the "LITERAL" type as being disfunctional. It is used as a slang more than anything else.

    It is much like the word..."Fundamentalist". Since we see news caster describe the Muslim terrorist who kill people as "fundamentalists", when it is used to describe a certain Christian it always comes across as BAD or NEGITIVE.

    A FUNDAMENATAL Christian is simple one who believes in the basic fundamentals of the faith.

    He believes the Bible when it says that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
    He believes the Bible when it says that God is the Creator.

    Those are basic fundamentals that can never change much the way that 2+2 = 4 can never change.
  8. Correct! The Bible is actually very logical and is written so that the common man can understand it.

    The problem comes when men begin to "allagorize" the meaning of the verse. Most of the time, when the Scriptures describe a ROCK, it is a ROCK. Same with HOT. Hot means HOT and COLD means COLD.

    Another fact to consider is that no matter what a man believes he is, atheist, agnostic or whatever, he will never ever understand the Word of God until he comes to Christ as his Savior.

  9. I am pleased to hear that.

    Inasmuch as God gave the Word of God as a revelation to men, it would be expected that His revelation would be given in such exact and specific terms that His thoughts would be corrected conveyed and understood when interpreted according to the laws of grammer & speech...would it not?

    The literal method does 3 more things I thought of.

    #1. It grounds interpretation in FACT. It seeks to establish itself in objective data----grammer, logic-etymology (had to look that one up)- history-geography-archaeology and of course theology,

    #2. It exercises a control over interpretation that experimentation does for the scientific method. "Justification" is the control on interpretation. All that do not add up to the canons of the literal-cultural-critical method are to be rejected or at leased put under closer consideration.

    #3. It has had the greatest success in opening up the Word of God. IMO, exergesis did not start in earnest until the church was 1500 years old. With the literalism of Luther and Calvin, the truth and light of God's Word caught on fire!
  10. Agreed!
  11. I summarise it by simply pointing out that the Lord says what He means and means what He says. That is, He does not say one thing but mean something else, nor does He mean one thing but say something else. His intention is to reveal the truth to those who believe, not obscure it.

    In another way, everything the Lord says cannot be true unless everything the Lord says is actually true.

    Not much into big words myself. Generally I find when I use them most people cannot understand what I am saying because they are not words most people use. When it comes to communication I usually find less is more and quite complex things are best conveyed in simple language. (Basically I'm not sure what most of this actually means unless I go and grab a dictionary. :))

    However there was just one thing I thought might be of interest to people. Both the Apostolic churches and the Byzantine Christian Empire they formed with the aid of Constantine the Great were quite literal in their approach to the scriptures and were also "sola Scriptura" in that they held the authority of what was WRITTEN above the authority of ANY man or church (even Constantine himself deferred to the authority of the written Word of God as being of greater authority than his own). It is only with the rise of the RC and Eastern Orthodox Churches who overthrew (by military force) the 1,000 year Byzantine Christian Empire that the idea the interpretations and traditions of the church and church leaders had greater authority than the written word of God took hold. The idea that only those with certain knowledge and special training could properly interpret the scriptures is very much from the teachings of the heretical Gnostic (one with knowledge) movement that eminated from Rome and constantly plagued the early Apostolic Churches.
  12. You said...........
    "The idea that only those with certain knowledge and special training could properly interpret the scriptures is very much from the teachings of the heretical Gnostic (one with knowledge) movement that eminated from Rome and constantly plagued the early Apostolic Churches. "

    I agree with you and in fact IMO it still plagues us today in many ways.
  13. Something else we can definitely agree on. (Man this is getting scary :))
  14. A strict allegorical method of interpreting the bible usually ends up with eisogesis and not sound exogesis. Hermenuetics is a tool which needs to be practised. The more one uses the sound methods of hermenuetics the more one understands what the scriptures mean.

    One thing one must always use in hermeneutics is the Christocentric rule - Christ is the absolute authority on all scripture. What He taught on cannot be refuted or debated. He taught plainly and soundly on most doctrinal issues.

    Always study the bible in context - never out of context, It is not a quassie magical spell book. I have met many a Christian who proclaim single scripture outloud as if it has some magical power of its own. Sadly many times what they say is out out context with the biblical text.

    Finally never be lazy in biblical interpretation - it takes time, prayer and dedication to open up the meaning in biblical studies. Everytime I think I get to the bottom of a section of scripture, I find a whole new deeper understanding of just how great and amazingly powerful our God is.
    mistmann and Major say Amen and like this.
  15. Absolutely! Well said my friend.
  16. Like what you said Kevin. The only thing I might add is that the "context" is the whole of the Bible. No part of the Bible can be understood in a way that renders another part to be untrue. Any understanding must render the WHOLE of God's word to be true.
  17. Quite correct, usually one of the final steps in interpretation is "does the interpretation agree with the whole Bible in context"?

    Anything out of context is pretext and should be regarded as such. There are some grey area's especially in terms of prophetic understanding but when it comes to doctrinal issues there is usually agreement. The area's of contention are usually regarding the doctrine of Soteriology but even in these area's everybody agrees that Jesus is the only way a man can be saved.

    I personally love the prophetic scripures but I hardly ever post my thoughts here because prophetic scripture always brings a firestorm of debate - probably because it deals with the future and we only have a glimpse of what that future holds.
  18. Know what you mean about firestorms :). Personally I find those who tend to declare exactly what is going to happen in the future are seldom in accordance with scripture but are speaking according to this or that particular theological "school of thought" or denominational teaching. The thing many miss in relation to prophecy are these passages and many like them:-

    The point of prophecy is not for US to predict the future, but to know what to expect and MORE IMPORTANTLY to recognise it when it comes to pass. Firstly as a builder of faith as we see the REALITY of our God in the world around us. But secondly as MILESTONES marking off our journey toward His return. Knowing that as each prophecy comes to pass we can SEE the time of His return drawing ever nearer.

    Therefore what is worse than trying to use prophecy as the basis of a detailed and exacting prediction of our future is a failure to recognise, or a deliberate denial of, the coming to pass of prophesy. For in denying it has come to pass you rob it of its two primary purposes. To build our faith and to properly prepare ourselves for His coming. The interesting thing I have often noted is that those who pretend to know exactly how the future is to pan out tend also to be those who ignore or deny the coming to pass of those prophecies that have already been fulfilled.

    But as you say such observations tend to start firestorms. But it is to be expected. Those who shine the light of reality dispel the darkness of illusion. Satan will always fight hard against those who dare to shine the very bright light of the Lord's reality on the illusions he (Satan) has so carefully created. The Lord warned us of what we face if we take up HIS cross. But there is no other way to follow Him except that we face the firestorms of HIS adversaries in HIS strength and by HIS guidance in a Christlike manner.
  19. Again, I agree with you.

    Unfortunity, some today approach prophecy with a closed mind. They have already determined what they believe to be true and of course since prophesy of the future and has not yet taken place, that leaves it in the mind of the person and there is the problem. Then they begin to "force" Scripture to match their thinking.
    They have missed the whole plan of God in which He used prophecy to begin with.
    The overall purpose of Bible prophecy is to encourage us to change our lives and help us see where the things we do ultimately lead.
    Remember the story of Jonah and his prophecy, which by the way did not take place becasue the city believed and repented. God was clearly serious. He sent His prophet on a mission, even performing a miracle to see that Jonah carried out that mission. He decreed that this evil city would be destroyed. But "when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened" (Johah 4: 10,; compare Jeremiah:18:7-8).

    This is the real purpose of prophecy. God wants us to see where our sins are leading so that we may turn from those sins!

    His message is heartfelt: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die ...?'" (Ezekiel:33:11).

    Some get so caught up in who is right, that they lose sight of the plan of God which is to get out the Word of God so that the lost will hear, believe and be saved.
  20. When it comes to Biblical interpretation & especially prophecy, key to understanding is the rule of literal or plain sense interpretation. That may sound like a no-brainer, but historically almost no prophecy researcher has stayed true to this rule. Instead of taking Bible prophecy to mean what it plainly says, they take an allegorical approach to interpreting the plain words of the Bible, something Jesus never did. (Note..., that when I say "literal interpretation", that does not mean that when the text indicates it's a parable, allegory or a figure of speech, that you ignore those indicators in slavishly literal fashion. It just means that you do not take license, or force some else you like to treat anything non-literally without those indicators present, just because you cannot make its plain sense work yet. So I use "literal interpretation" to mean a "primarily literal" plain sense and natural reading in contrast to the common "primarily symbolic" reading approach.)

    Ever notice how none of the so-called experts seem to agree on what Bible prophecy says and also are unconvinced when someone has a bible verse that contradicts their interpretation?

    It's because when anyone uses the allegorical approach of interpretation, they are free from the constraints of the strict plain meaning of Bible verses. Using explanations based on allegory, metaphor, typology, numerology such as Bible codes or other figurative methods, they can assign whatever meanings to a verse that fit their understanding. And then no matter what verse you may bring to their attention as plainly contradicting their understanding, they will not be able to see it because, to them, that verse always means something other than what it plainly says, something that instead agrees with what they think. (Have you ever been frustrated by that?)

    Assuming these teachers are all well-meaning good Christians, why would such an unreliable approach be used?
    It's exactly because they are good traditional Christians that it is used!
    Wait till you hear why—this is an amazing little-known historical fact...

    The allegorical approach arose out of a need to reconcile Biblical teaching to Greek Gnosticism as the Church was coming under criticism and persecution from Greek philosophers. The church fathers Clement and Origen advocated this approach two hundred years after Christ taught using the literal method—and the church has not been able to completely shake its negative influence ever since, especially in the field of eschatology (the study of end times).
    And if that's how you've come over time to perceive Bible prophecy, it's hard for you to see it any other way without help and courage to be different.
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