LLEGORIZATION OF THE
which goes back to Philo has often beenaccompanied by the assumption that wemust distinguish in Scripture a body and asoul, a literal sense and a spiritual sense. Theliteral sense is depreciated, the spiritual senseexalted.finds acceptance in the Church, forexample in the
Epistle of Barnabas
, and in Justin Martyr.Allegoric interpretation is based on thesupposition that Scripture intended toexpress some other meaning than what isliterally said. Extreme allegorization, or theexclusive nonliteral method of interpretingScriptures, particularly when adopting neo-Platonic methods of thinking, tends tocontrast the real which is heavenly andeternal with the apparent which is earthlyand temporary. By such a method biblicalhistory and laws were construed as being, inreality, mere imitations of the mysteries of faith. Over and above The allegorical methoddeveloped by Philo has its echoes in the
Epistle to the Hebrews
. By the middle of thesecond century, allegory, though notgenerally used by the New Testamentwriters,that, it was maintained that in the Biblethe spirit is concealed in the letter, that theimmediate and apparent meaning of the Bibleis but a shadow of the mystery, the“shadow” tending to obscure the mystery.Since the Hebrew Bible was but a fore-shadowing, and the New Testament a reality,it was possible to allegorize the Hebrew Biblewhile taking the words of the NewTestament literally. While Philo used themethod of allegorizing to derive from theHebrew Bible timeless truths of philosophy,the New Testament writers sought todemonstrate that the events of the present arefulfillments of predictions contained therein.Subsequently, Christian typological exegesissaw the events of the Hebrew Bible as theprefiguration of the events of the NewTestament. It saw in the facts of the HebrewBible something in preparation, somethingsketching itself out, of which the writersthemselves were not aware because it layquite beyond their purview.“The proper motive was the firm belief that the Old Testament was a churchdocument. For the church, the allegoricalmethod was its primary means of making theOld Testament a church document.”
Theallegorization of the Bible became therecognized method of dealing with theHebrew Scriptures within the Church. Thismethod enabled the exegetes to findintimations of the life of Jesus nearlyeverywhere. The two goats which arebrought into the Sanctuary on the Day of Atonement typified the two advents of Jesus. Jacob served Laban for sheep, so Jesusbecame a servant so that he might purchasehis flock. Moses holding up his hands duringthe battle with Amalek is a type of Jesus onthe cross.
There was also a tradition of more soberexegesis cultivated by Theodore in theAntiochene School. Epiphanius mentionedthat “Scripture does not need allegory; it is asit is. What it needs is contemplation andsensitive discernment.”
Luther insisted that the Word of God isimparted through Scripture and thatScripture is above the Church. Yet what hemeant by the Word was not the Bible itself but the divine offering itself to man. “TakeChrist out of the Scripture and what else willyou find in them? Understanding the Biblemeans finding Christ in it.”
It was modern scholarship that paved theway for the understanding of the literal andhistorical dimensions of the Bible that wenow consider indispensable for theologicalunder-standing.Few men today could accept the view thatthe mind of man created the universe as itcreated the principles of logic, that theuniverse is a form of the mind’s activityderiving its being from it, authentic andauthoritative only as possessed by the mindand authorized by it. It is rather difficult tocomprehend how a contemporary scholarcan appreciate the insight expressed in thefollowing statement: Jesus “created the
Protestant Biblical Interpretation
.Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956, p. 29.
Dialogue with Trypho
E. C. Blackman,
Biblical Interpretation: TheOld Difficulties and the New Opportunity
.London: Independent Press, 1957, p. 107.
., p. 125.