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Created by Metro Jewish Resources, 2019 copyright

Allegorizing

ALLEGORY

A truth, or interpretation that is subjective to everyone else except the interpreter, or in case of art, the artist.

A great great detriment to the understanding of Scripture resulted in the Allegorical Interpretation of Scripture. An allegory is a work in which the characters and events represent other things and symbolically expresses a deeper often spiritual, moral, or political meaning. Allegories do exist in Scripture, but Scripture always interprets Scripture. It does not leave one in the world of subjectivity.

     Influential individuals like Origen, (185-254 AD) interpreted end-time prophecies through a hyper allegorizing method rooted in now biblical foundation. He obliterated the distinction between Israel and the Church, Israel and the covenant land, and the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people.  Although Origen was respected as a brilliant scholar, philosopher, and one whose faith was firm, his form of interpretation of symbols and spiritual meanings were far over reaching, taking the reader beyond the literal meaning of a text so that no one can prove his interpretation. This is the fundamental problem with allegorizing. Whose interpretation is correct ? Should one relay on the most notable conference speaker at the time? Should we heed the interpretations of the most outstanding and popular author? What about the most convincing intellectual or educated as Origen was? Perhaps it should be  a Eusebius type, who authored a large number of volumes of work.

 

How Did It Happen? 

He was influential. Origen gained stature and influence in the church due to his high intelligence and scholarly achievements. Yet, his ideas of biblical interpretation influenced theologians to regard the Hebrew Scriptures merely as a foreshadow of the New Testament, and Israel, in allegorical view, leaving the Jewish people without their covenantal inheritance. Unfortunately, as a germ needing a host, Institutional Christianity in its early periods became seeded with this  form of interpretation.  At the core of course of this theology was satan ( John 10:10). He robbed the early church of right Israelology, eschatology, and Gods plan in the eschaton.

     Throughout many years of ministry, I have witnessed pastors  comment when discussing Biblical texts about Israel and the Jewish people and state; I know there is something unique about the Jewish people and Israel, but I do not know what it is. The awkwardness and uncertainly in one trying to understand the text plainly when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people, is found in  this historical root presence of allegorizing because it is deeply rooted in Christian church interpretive reasoning. 

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING VOICES

     1.  Phillip Schaff: Truly, allegorizing was nothing short of a demonic plan that intruded upon the New Covenant body, and it succeeded! Philip Schaff, the nineteenth-century church historian notes of Origen:“Even heathens and heretics admired or feared his brilliant talent and vast learning. His knowledge embraced all departments of the philology, philosophy, and the- ology of his day.”2” “Origen’s desire is to harmonize the New Testament with the philosophy of Plato, his leaning to idealism, and His constant desire is to find a hidden mystic meaning. Though his allegorical interpretation is ingenious, it often runs away from the text and degenerates into the merest caprice.” 

   2. Coach Bill McCarthy of the Road to Jerusalem ministry found in recent surveys, that over 60% of churches in America hold to such views that allegorizing created, like replacement theology 4 (the New Testament Church is Israel, the gentile Christian is the Jew.)

   3. Hal Lindsey: According to Hal Lindsey in his book, The Road to Holocaust: “The man most responsible for changing the way the Church interpreted prophecy was Origen” A leading teacher of theology and philosophy at the influential catechetical school of Alexandria, Egypt at the beginning of the third century.

 

    4. A.H. Newman: Origen was the first to reduce the allegorical method of interpretation to a system.... His method of Scripture interpretation was soon adopted throughout the church, and prevailed throughout the middle Ages.

    5.  Joshua Heschel (1907-1972:) Considered to be one of the foremost Jewish theologians of the twentieth century wrote of allegorizing: The radical use of the method of allegorizing of the Hebrew Bible, the tendency to spiritualize the meaning of its works and to minimize its plain historical sense has made many Christians incapable of understanding or having empathy for what the Holy Land means to the Jewish people and to the authors of the Hebrew Bible, or what the people of Israel means in the flesh, not just as a symbol or as a construct of  theologians.

ONE LAST NOTE:

ALLEGORIZING VERSUS

JEWISH INTERPRETATION

Historically, Jewish interpretation maintained that a verse must not depart from its plain meaning; obviously contrary to the overreaching symbolisms and interpretations of allegorizing. Jewish understanding rather, sees the prophetic writings and accepts them on their literal basis. It takes the reader from one reality to the next. Moving amongst symbols and concrete things such as people, the early church employed abstractions and subjective considerations.  

    But certain streams of Judaism was not unaffected by allegorizing either. It was well known that a distinction developed between the Palestinian and Alexandrian schools of thought. Those who came from the Alexandrian schools followed the “allegorical” method of exegesis even though it was at great odds with the rulings of the Jewish law. The Talmud records in Aboth 9a, that an Alexandrian school degenerated so much from it that the literal sense of the commandments were rejected for the symbolic. This to the extent, circumcision, sacrifices, and holy days, were ignored, which produced a spirit of antinomianism, something that the body contends with today due to an unrestrained view of grace.