Tag Archives: allegory

What is wrong with allegorical interpretation?


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this understanding make sense when you read the newspaper online, view the TV news, and read the Bible?

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.[1]

1. What is an allegory?

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of “allegory” is that it is “a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics.”[2] Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of the spiritual journey through life. St Augustine’s City of God is “an allegory of the triumph of Good over Evil.”[3] What we must remember is that for an allegory, there must be specific characters and events that are used to represent symbols. Biblical examples include: rock (Deut 32:4; 2 Sam 22:3); lamb (Gen 22:8; Ex 12:7); the cross (as in “The old rugged cross”), and

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/ICTHUS.gif = ICHTHYS | Christian symbols, Greek words and meanings, Christian fish

The Christian hymn (written by George Bennard in 1913), “The Old Rugged Cross,” was abounding in allegories:[4]

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame
    And I love that
    old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see
    For ’twas on that
    old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    There His glory forever I’ll share (allegories highlighted)

I led a Bible study in 2018 and the pastor of the church was present. We had just finished singing  “The Old Rugged Cross” when he declared there was false doctrine in the hymn. He said we don’t worship a cross. I jumped in: “Pastor, what do the first 2 lines teach? An old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame’. As I’ve highlighted above, allegories are found throughout this hymn. We don’t worship the cross but it reminds us of the one who suffered and experienced shame for sinners.”

2. Are there allegories in the Bible?

See examples in my article, What is literal interpretation?

Of course there are biblical examples of allegories. See illustrations in other sources:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K “Does the Bible contain allegory?” (Got Questions)

2tn_.jpg 1.0K  Allegory Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary

2tn_.jpg 1.0KAllegory” (Oxford Biblical Studies Online)

Let’s move from allegories in the Bible to allegorical interpretation. What’s the difference? Surely there is a need to understand biblical allegories. How can that be at variance with allegorical interpretation?

3. What is allegorical interpretation?

You will find some of my exposition on allegorical interpretation in this article: What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

There are many articles online explaining allegorical interpretation. I see no reason to repeat their content. I refer you to these articles:

Basically, when you interpret Scripture allegorically, you don’t allow the text to speak for itself in exegesis (obtaining meaning out of the text) but choose to impose another “deeper meaning” on the text – which we call eisegesis (reading something into the text).

3.1 Problems with allegorical preaching

David E Reid told of a sermon he heard from Genesis 24:63-64. It was supposed to be a “revival” sermon from the first book of the Bible. These verses state: “One evening he [Isaac] went out to the field to think.[5] He looked up and saw the camels coming from far away. Rebekah also looked and saw Isaac. Then she jumped down from the camel” (ERV).

Here is the crunch line of interpretation for this preacher:

Without elaborating on his interpretation, the preacher explained that Isaac symbolized Christ; Rebekah, the church; and the camel, whose physical characteristics would be the focus of his message, represented the grace of God. Then he delivered a seven-point exposition based on an allegorical interpretation as classic as any I’ve ever heard.

The camel’s nose, he said, can detect water from far away and lead its rider to drink. The spiritual lesson, he added, is that God’s grace can lead us to spiritual water. He similarly interpreted and applied six more of the camel’s characteristics, none of which was mentioned in the text….

As the preacher’s message illustrates, allegorical interpretation seeks some implicit, symbolic meaning hidden in the explicit, literal meaning of Scripture.

Allegorists consider this perceived “deeper” or “spiritual” meaning to be more profound and therefore more desirable than a text’s literal interpretation.[6]

David Reid gave his reasons for rejecting allegorical interpretation (and I endorse them):

clip_image008“Fundamentally, there is no reason to believe God regularly invests Scripture with more than one meaning.[7]

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.

For instance, nothing in Genesis 24 indicates Isaac, Rebekah or the camels represent anything other than themselves, so the narrative should be taken literally. On the other hand, in John 15:1, Jesus clearly was speaking metaphorically when He said, “I am the true vine …” and His words should be interpreted as such.

It is true that in Galatians 4:21ff. the Apostle Paul interpreted the Genesis account of Sarah and Hagar allegorically even though the Old Testament text nowhere indicates that story is allegorical. But Paul received his interpretation from the Holy Spirit as he wrote a New Testament letter. We don’t have his inspired prerogative.

Since the Bible never suggests it regularly has more than one meaning, additional interpretations should not be assumed.

clip_image008[1]The allegorical method obscures the true meaning and legitimate application of Scripture.

Allegorists generally see the literal meaning of a text only as a tool for unlocking the perceived allegory. Their pursuit of an illusion, then, causes them to ignore the truth which is there.

When interpreted literally, the Song of Solomon exalts the joy of sexual love in a marital relationship. However, generations of Christian allegorists have interpreted it as symbolic of the relationship of Christ to His bride, the church.

Embarrassed by the sexual nature of the text, they have obscured its meaning, even though nothing in the Song indicates an allegory. Their inhibitions have caused them to conceal what God and the author meant to praise.[8]

clip_image008[2]Allegorical interpretation is open to almost unlimited subjectivity.
The allegorist can make Scripture say whatever he wishes. Although his interpretation may seem reasonable and be consistent with what Scripture teaches elsewhere, who can know if it is the right one for a given passage?

3.2   St Augustine’s strange allegorical interpretation

Take this example from the eminent church father, St Augustine (354-430). Robert Kinney[10] made these observations for Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

In Augustine’s rendering, there is a man (Adam) traveling a road. Having been stripped (of immortality) and beaten (or persuaded to sin) by robbers (the devil), he is ignored by a priest (the Law) and a Levite (the Prophets) before being attended to by a Samaritan (Jesus Christ). The Samaritan takes him to the inn (or the Church) where two denarii (the promises of this life and the life to come) are paid to the innkeeper (the Apostle Paul), to take care of the man.[11]

It’s an intriguing example of allegorical interpretation. Yet for those committed to biblical exposition, this kind of interpretation is deeply problematic.[12]

Expositional preaching should be constrained by the biblical or any other author’s intent—and neither Jesus in his telling nor Luke in his recording could have meant much of what Augustine suggests.[13]

This is a longer version of Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 13-14; slightly abridged).

Another one of the “villains” promoting allegorical preaching was an early church father, the Alexandrian of northern Africa, Origen (185-254), known as the father of allegorical interpretation. Other church leaders preceded and followed him.

Take a read of his articles online and you’ll see how he does it. See HERE. This is one example of how he abandoned literal interpretation to impose his own view on Scripture:

Origen, in his Treatise on First Principles, recommended that the Old and New Testaments be interpreted allegorically at three levels, the first being the “flesh,” the second the “soul,” and the third the “spirit.” Many of the events recounted in the Scriptures, interpreted in the literal or fleshly sense, Origen claims, are impossible. Many of the laws, when interpreted literally, are impossible or nonsensical. To get at the meaning of these passages, it is necessary to interpret them allegorically. Some connected passages will contain parts that are literally true and parts that are literally impossible.

In this case, says Origen,

For as man is said to consist of body, and soul, and spirit, so also does sacred Scripture, which has been granted by the divine bounty for the salva­tion of man…. The reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all” (Bk 4, para 11, 20).

Clement of Alexandria - Wikipedia

(Clement of Alexandria – ca. 150 –215 –  Image courtesy Wikipedia)

The individual ought, then, to portray the ideas of holy Scripture in a threefold manner upon his own soul; in order that the simple man may be edified by the ‘flesh,’ as it were, of the Scripture. For so we name the obvious sense. While he who has ascended a certain way may be edified by the ‘soul,’ as it were. The perfect man, again, … may receive edification from the spiritual law…. For as man consists of body, and soul, and spirit, so in the same way does Scripture.

Origen’s predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, also supported the need for allegorical interpretation:

For many reasons, then, the Scriptures hide the sense. First, that we may become inquisitive, and be ever on the watch for the discovery of the words of salvation. Then it was not suitable for all to understand, so that they might not receive harm in consequence of taking in another sense the things declared for salvation by the Holy Spirit. Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in the parables— preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic (The Stromata – Miscellanies 6.15.para 15).

The fundamental error with allegorical interpretation is its adding to the text what is not there.

4. What is literal interpretation?

On 19 December 2020 in Australia, I watched test cricket on TV where Australia convincingly won the test by bowling out India for India’s lowest test score on record of 36 – their worst ever performance at test level. Did that happen? Is the plain meaning that it was literal cricket, a literal test match between Australia and India played at the Adelaide Oval, and there was a literal winner and a literal loser? Australia won by 8 wickets. Was that a literal fact or not?

Some symbolic language was used to describe this diabolical performance, “’Carnage… unbelievable… wait, what happened?‘” So symbolic language was used by a journalist to describe a literal event.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline of 19 December 2020 was, “COVID-19 concerns for inner-city; northern beaches in lockdown.” Was this an actual outbreak of Covid-19 or should we seek for a deeper meaning as we read the news?

You know that would be ridiculous but when it comes to the Bible there have been all kinds of reasons given, generally by liberal interpreters, to reject literal interpretation. These are but a few examples:

clip_image010John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims, “Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.”[14]

clip_image010[1]Crossan again: “The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is made to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong.”[15]

clip_image010[2]“The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul.”[16]

There are other biblical scholars who have ridiculed literal interpretation. German theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, was one of them. This is how he attacked the Christian faith:

People cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the case of illness, take advantage of modern medical and clinical means, and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the new testament. and whoever intends to do so must be aware that they can profess this as the attitude of christian faith only by making the christian proclamation unintelligible and impossible for the present.[17]


(Image courtesy Quotefancy)

clip_image010[3]This anti-supernaturalism continues with:

John Shelby Spong who had a stroke in 2016 and had 90% completed his last book. He can’t write now, so his wife transcribed the last 10%. In the book he stated:

The Incarnation, the virgin birth, resuscitation as the meaning of resurrection and the concept of the Holy Trinity—all are explanations that will never last. People hear the experience of Christ being challenged when it is only the explanation that is at stake. I wanted to make sure that people could understand that explanations have to die, but the experience remains eternal.[18]

clip_image014 There was a public forum at St Francis (Anglican) Theological College, Milton, Brisbane, on December 9, 1998, involving Dr Greg Jenks of the Jesus Seminar (of the Drayton Anglican parish, Toowoomba, Qld., Australia), and Dr Paul Barnett, Anglican bishop of North Sydney, defending the orthodox view. The Seminar was titled, “Behind and Beyond the Jesus Seminar: Implications for Christian Discipleship.”  Dr Paul Barnett[19] is author revised, Is the New Testament History?[20] As of 2012, Dr. Jenks was on the faculty of St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, but as of December 2020, he was: Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton NSW; Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University; Executive Director, History; Coin Curator, Bethsaida Excavations Project, Israel; Fellow, Westar Institute, Willamette University, Salem, OR.[21]

Please understand this anti-supernaturalism is associated with their naturalistic world-view. Naturalism dominates their presuppositions. There is no place in their theology for the supernatural Lord God almighty. People like Greg Jenks, John Dominic Cross, John Shelby Spong and others of similar belief are threats to those who don’t know their Bible.

4.1 Literal interpretation includes figures of speech[22]

Thomas Horne, British theologian and researcher (AD 1780–1862) wrote:

The Literal Sense of any place of Scripture is that which the words signify, or require, in their natural and proper acceptation, without any trope [a figure of speech], metaphor, or figure, and abstracted from mystic meaning…. The literal sense has been called the Historical Sense, as conveying the meaning of the words and phrases used by the writer at a certain time….

Interpreters now speak of the true sense of a passage, by calling it the Grammatico-Historical Sense…. The object in using this compound name is, to show that both grammatical and historical considerations are employed in making out the sense of a word or passage.[23]

When I was an MA student at Ashland Theological Seminary, I used A Berkeley Mickelsen’s (1963) text in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Mickelsen provided this definition:

Literal … means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of ‘door’ in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning.[24]

The nature of parables is that they are similitudes, i.e. extended similies.
Some examples may help to understand the differences.

clip_image016 A simile: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth’ (Acts 8:32 ESV, emphasis added). The eunuch is quoting from Isa 53:7 (ESV) but it is a figure of speech known as a simile.

clip_image016[1] A metaphor: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29 ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image016[2]We have an example of a similitude, i.e. parable, in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 (ESV), ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?’ (Luke 15:4 ESV) In this same context of Luke 15 (ESV) Luke tells us the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32 ESV).

clip_image016[3]There is an example of an allegory of the door for the sheep and the good shepherd in John 10:1-16 (ESV). ‘I am the door of the sheep…. I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:7 ESV; John 10:11 ESV). Like the sheep need a fence with a door to keep them safe and from wandering, Jesus is the door into the Kingdom of God.

All of these are examples of the literal sheep, lamb or shepherd but different figures of speech are used.

I take the Scriptures literally but this does not exempt understanding the use of figures of speech in that literal language. I speak of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, similitude/parable and allegory. When Jesus said, “I am the door” he used a metaphor and did not refer to a wooden door when speaking of himself. When he told Christians, “You are the salt of the earth” he did not refer to literal salt but to the metaphor of how Christians should penetrate the world’s systems with their world views and pervade the secular culture like salt permeates a prepared meal.

This is why it is important to explain what “literal interpretation” means. From the examples I’ve given here, it does not mean an acceptance of dead letterism that does not include figures of speech. Letterism

is a wooden, thin interpretation that fails to go beyond the standard meanings of words and expressions … or to discern the manner in which an author attends to these meanings…. Hence literalism short-circuits the literal sense insofar as it fails to appreciate the author’s intention to give his or her utterance a certain kind of force.[26]

Can you imagine reading your local newspaper or any information online with an allegorical interpretation? How would you ever know if the 9/11 disaster was real or only an allegory? How about Nero’s slaughter of people in the Roman Empire in the first century? Do we have to abandon literal interpretation for the alleged “deeper meaning”? How is my “deeper meaning” of a passage more legitimate than yours? If we use a diversity of meanings of the text it will create chaos in interpretation.

I urge you not to interpret this article using allegorical interpretation. This writing is meant to be read literally.

4.2 I do not use allegorical interpretation because:

clip_image018It destroys the meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It invalidates the plain meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It promotes eisegesis rather than exegesis of the text. It reads into the text an alleged “deeper meaning” that is not in the text. I wouldn’t do that when I read the daily newspaper and I don’t do it when reading Origen, Bultmann, Spong or Crossan. Promoters of allegorical interpretation wouldn’t dare ask us to use that methodology when reading their writings.

clip_image019[1]It is parallel to a contemporary postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation. See my article that explains the similarity: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

What does a postmodern deconstructionist hermeneutic do to the text? I had an interesting email discussion with New Zealand researcher, Dr Jeremy Koay, who supports the reader-response model because:

(1) Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience. He rejects the theory that meaning resides exclusively in the text. Why?

Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text.[27]

(2) We need to view reading “on an efferent-aesthetic continuum.” Efferent refers to the information taken away after reading, but aesthetic focusses on the readers’ thoughts and feelings during the reading. Both foci are needed, according to reader-response.[28]

I’m sure happy a judge doesn’t use that method of interpretation when making a judgment on the guilt or otherwise of someone who breaks into my house and steals valuables. I’ve had 5 open-heart, valve replacement surgeries. They left me with emotional and physical scars but I can’t deny the facts of where and when I had those surgeries.

I have no problem accepting that emotions can be stirred when reading some narratives. That happens with me, especially when I read of the persecution and martyrdom happening today through Voice of the Martyrs newsletters. No matter how much my emotions are stirred and I’m provoked to pray more for these persecuted saints, we cannot overlook the fact that these facts don’t go away:

  • IRAN: Imprisoned Christian Dangerously Depressed;
  • INDIA: Christian Pastor Beaten and Left to Die;
  • EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation;
  • PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih;

Is this an either/or situation when we read books, news, etc? No! However, we don’t act on the emotions, the aesthetics.

Here you’ll read some of the interaction I had with Dr Koay. While he emailed me, he refused to print my article on the website of Edumaxi. This is my article as a response: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Are the death and resurrection facts of history or feelings of aesthetic beauty?

4.3 Compare allegorical interpretation with postmodern reconstruction

See 4.2 (2) above.

Allegorical interpretation is another version of contemporary, reader-response deconstruction of a text: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts.

I consider that I would be cheating John Milton in Paradise Lost to use my culture, experience and world view to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical world view to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from Yahoo News, or to the Bible.

This is done by listening to the “plain meaning” of a text. I don’t use the language of “pure literal meaning,” so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing “pure literal meaning” when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

clip_image020HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland
by Samuel Atkins c. 1794 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison being elected by his cabinet as the new Prime Minister of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated “This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text.” Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation of the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or reading the Bible.

This is the major problem with allegorical interpretation and a postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response method of interpretation. I find it best to describe with an image. It wrecks the text of its plain meaning.


(Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

5. Conclusion

The major problems with allegorical interpretation and postmodern, reader-response interpretations is that they fly along parallel tracks of biblical interpretation. They add to what the text states. This is taboo and should be rejected outright.

While allegorical interpretation adds to the text, it must not be confused with application of a text. I don’t have to follow St Augustine’s interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 ERV). But the application to people in this century is:

  • Whenever we see a person in need and are able to help, act like the Good Samaritan and go out of your way to meet the practical need.
  • Be the one who helps your neighbour and other people in need.
  • A friend of mine works in aged care. She said many of the older folks are never visited by relatives. Could you check with a local retirement village to see if you can visit people in the village? Make sure you follow the Covid-19 safe procedures.

There are many practical reasons for Christian pastors to abandon allegorical interpretation and stick with the plain meaning of the text. Faithful Bible expositors remain with the text to try to discern what the intent of the author was for the original listeners. They don’t search for “deeper meanings” they invent behind the text.

6.  Works consulted

Barnett, Paul 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

Bultmann, Rudolf. “Theologie des Neuen Testaments.” ET: Theology of the New Testament.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Horne, T H 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son. This citation is available as part of a Google Book HERE  (Accessed 19 December 2020).

Koay, Jeremy 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Reid, David E 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Spong, J S 2018. Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. New York NY: HarperOne.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes

[1] David E Reid 2019. Preaching.com, “The problem with allegory in preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[2] Collins Dictionary (2020. s.v. allegory).

[3] Ibid.

[4] From Timeless Truths: Free Online Library, public domain. Available at: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Old_Rugged_Cross/ (Accessed 19 December2020).

[5] Or, “to go for a walk” (ERV footnote).

[6] David E Reid 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: https://www.preaching.com/articles/the-problem-with-allegory-in-preaching/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[7] David R Reid, “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Robert Kinney 2020. 9Marks.com, “Allegorical Interpretation: Finding the Line Before You Cross It”, 31 March. Available at: https://www.9marks.org/article/allegorical-interpretation-finding-the-line-before-you-cross-it/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[11] Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 118, 121 and 125, De Doctrina Christiana 1.30.31ff, Sermo 299.

[12] Without naming Augustine, John Calvin responds to this kind of interpretation in characteristically blunt fashion:

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation… I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.” See Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Gospels, Vol. 3 (trans. W. Pringle and J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 49. While Calvin’s comments indicate that he is strongly opposed to this kind of allegorical interpretation, he ironically engages in it with a striking frequency. For example, in his commentary on Exodus 28:X, he notes that the garments made for Aaron and his sons are meant to ‘conceal their faults’ and, instead, display virtue and, indeed, the ‘wondrous glory of Christ.’ The text, in Exod 28:2, simply states the garments are to be made “for glory and for beauty.” See Calvin’s commentary on Exodus 28:2 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Law, Vol. 2 (trans. J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 103.

[13] Mark Dever defines expositional preaching as

preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 44. David R. Helm defines it similarly as “empowered preaching that rightfully sub­mits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” David R. Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (Wheaton, Crossway, 2014), 13. D.A. Carson defines it similarly as “the unpacking of what is there.” He goes on to add: “it is unpacking what the biblical text or texts actually say. If we expect God to re-reveal himself by his own words, then our expositions must reflect as faithfully as possible what God actually said when the words were given to us in Scripture.” D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit” in Preach the Word: Essays in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (ed., L. Ryken, T. Wilson; Wheaton: Crossway: 2008), 176-177. Finally, Bryan Chapell offers this definition: “An expository sermon takes its topic, main points, and subpoints from a text.2 In an expository message, a preacher makes a commitment to explain what a particular text means by using the spiritual principles it supports as the points of the message.”Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 131.

[14] J D Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 184.

[15] Ibid., 180.

[16] Ibid., 208.

[17] Rudolf Bultmann, “neues testament und Mythologie,” 18.

[18] From J S Spong Unbelievable, in Insights magazine 2018, “Controversial Author Releases Final Book”, 19 January. Available at: https://www.insights.uca.org.au/controversial-author-releases-final-book/ (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[19] Paul Barnett 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Information available at Greg Jenks’ homepage: https://gregoryjenks.com/about/ (Accessed

21 December 2020).

[22] Some of the following material is taken from my article, What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

[23] T H Horne 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son, 357. This citation is available as part of a Google Book here.

[24] A B Mickelsen 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 33.

[25] These examples are taken from Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, 212-213.

[26] K J Vanhoozer 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press), 311.

[27] Jeremy Koay 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: https://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[28] Koay, “What is reader-response theory?”


Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 December 2020.