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Notable proponents of allegorical interpretation include the Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo, who in the 4th century, on theological grounds, argued that God created everything in the universe in the same instant, and not in six days as a plain reading of Genesis would require; and the even earlier 1st-century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, who wrote that it would be a mistake to think that creation … 6. Rather, the Fathers used allegory to explore the theological meaning of Scripture, in light of the historical reality of the salvific work of Christ in space and time. The Samaritan is Christ. The Word of God is an exceedingly complex unity. One of the beliefs that became dominate, especially in late-Medieval times, was the belief that every … Allegorical interpretation, a third type of hermeneutics, interprets the biblical narratives as having a second level of reference beyond those persons, things, and events explicitly mentioned in the text. For anyone wanting to understand Augustine’s exegetical methods, On Christian Teaching is a must read. It remained for Augustine … Allegorical interpretation is an important part of that history. For it is only the share of the plough that cuts through the earth; but the other parts of the plough are essential to make this operation possible. (The Literal Meaning of Genesis 1.1.1), All these things [Jerusalem, Sarah and Hagar, the smitten rock] stood for something other than what they were, but all the same they were themselves bodily realities. As … Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Reading Jaroslav Pelikan? The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. A. GES. Augustine’s Exposition: An Example The following example of Augustine‟s exposition is from his collection of homilies from the Gospel of John titled “On this passage of John: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God,” and … Even today, Augustinian eschatology is held by large segments of the Christian church. T. HE . The terms properly expressive of the schools are normal and mystical.” John Peter Lange, A Commentary on the Holy Scripture: Revelation, p. 98. [2] History, andthus "literal" interpretation, was a phenomenal matter and therefore not ofgreat importance. Concerning the inconsistency of the allegorical method and the damage which results, Seiss notes: Good and able men have satisfied themselves with it; but, on the same principles of interpretation, there is not a chapter in the Bible, nor a doctrine of our holy religion, which could not be totally explained away. An allegorical interpretation of Genesis is a reading of the biblical Book of Genesis that treats elements of the narrative as symbols or types. 101-114.. The Literalist is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpreted-that which is manifestly literal being regarded as literal, and that which is manifestly figuratively being so regarded. Augustine got around this by refusing to take scripture at face value – and instead accept it as allegorical And one will discover that Augustine … What specific hermeneutic principles did St. Augustine use in his own interpretation of Scripture and how consistent was he in the application of those principles? ( Log Out /  Its emphasis on allegorical interpretation of Scripture, carried out within very loose parameters, was especially significant, and it remains of interest to philosophers for its subtle and influential discussion of Augustine’s theory of “signs” and how language represents reality. (On Christian Teaching 3.10.14), 9. When Augustine described his later works on Genesis as “literal,” he intended to distinguish them from the allegorical approach of his earlier two-volume work on Genesis against the Manichees. 20 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 20. Their use of allegory in this sense has direct ties to the New Testament writers, who engaged in a similar application of the allegorical method when they compared type and antitype: Christ as the new Adam, the … 2 Origen's most systematic treatment of Scripture and its exegesis is to be found in On First Principles, 4: 1-!J. Augustine undertakes to interpret Gen. 1:2-31 in a mystical and allegorical fashion so as to exhibit the profundities of God's power and wisdom and love. He is one who holds that certain portions are to be normally interpreted, other portions are to be regarded as having a mystical sense. 17 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 25. sought to defend the Old Testament to the Greeks and, even more so, to fellow Jews. Evidence is lacking within Scripture that Jesus or the Apostles understood the Old Testament in this way. Saint Augustine, one of the most influential theologians of the Catholic Church, suggested that the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason. Yet the depth is amazing, my God, the depth is amazing. How can you hold up a mirror for your face, if the face nowhere exists? The position of the Spiritualist is not that which is properly indicated by the term. A particular form of allegorical interpretation is the typological, according to which the key figures, main… Read More; use in. The correct interpretation of the Bible played a major part in Augustine’s spiritual history and historical legacy. There is a difference between an allegorical interpretation (the way you read the Bible) and the genre of allegory. “Literal is not opposed to spiritual but to figurative; spiritual is an antithesis on the one hand to material, and on the other to carnal (in a bad sense). The priest is the Law, and the Levites are the Prophets. has been cherished in almost all ages of the Church by some, who have been unable to translate the figurative language of Scripture into those far more glorious realities of the heavenly πολιτεία [politeia] , whereof those figures were the vesture and the outward array. For example, the Bible portrays Samaria and Jerusalem as two prostitutes (Exe. For example, in Isaiah 53:2-12 the (human) author meant to refer to Isaiah himself, or else the people of Israel as a whole … Post was not sent - check your email addresses! 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. While the allegorical interpretation of Scripture is fraught with problems, every Bible student has to have some familiarity with it. A common charge against Christianity was that it was a … Although the Sanhedrim and the hearers of Jesus often appealed to the Old Testament according to the testimony of the New Testament writers, they give no indication of the allegorical interpretation. Allegorical interpretations of Genesis are readings of the biblical Book of Genesis that treat elements of the narrative as symbols or types, rather than viewing them literally as recording historical events.Either way, Judaism and most sects of Christianity treat Genesis as canonical scripture, and believers generally regard it as having spiritual significance. Pope Gregory the Great’s interpretation of the Book of Job is equally disheartening: ‘The patriarch’s three friends denote the heretics; his seven sons are the twelve apostles; his seven thousand sheep are God’s faithful people; and his three thousand hump-backed camels are the depraved Gentiles!’6. Augustine published his “Christian Doctrine”; in 397. . . His early book, On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees, catalogs and refutes many of these challenges. The future ethereal New Jerusalem was where all would be fulfilled, rather than in any renewed version of this world. [1] 1. In my previous post on allegorical interpretation, I wrote about Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish interpreter who lived during the time of Jesus (d. A.D. 50). Augustine learned that the Old Testament could be interpreted in a figurative or allegorical sense in such a way that what Augustine had previously thought problematic and uncouth could now be read in a salutary … It hides the truth from the ignorant, whose eyes are blinded by sin and pride, hence they are prevented from the knowledge of the truth. Augustine. . . It is sometimes referred to as the quadriga, a reference to the Roman chariot that was … 9,692 10 10 … 3. On the contrary, the amillennial writings usually concentrate on attacking and ridiculing the premillennial position. The first sentence is, “There are certain rules for interpreting the scriptures which, as I am well aware, can usefully be passed on to those with an appetite for such study to enable them to progress not just by reading the work of others who have illuminated the obscurities of divine literature, but also by finding illumination themselves.”[6] Augustine wants to empower and perfect future interpreters and teachers by passing on the rules of the game, so that they can interact with the divine text directly without having to receive everything blindly or secondhand. Cassian (Collationes xiv.8), reinterpreting a for- It should be pointed out that, while St. Thomas seems to limit the allegorical sense to Old Testament types, there are New Testament passages which admit of allegorical interpretations as well. Scripture means the space of a day and a night, and afterwards no more says day and night, but calls them both under the name of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture. In the firmament he … Augustine relied heavily on an allegorical hermeneutic in his first commentary. Augustine’s Development from Allegorical to Literal Interpretation. On Philo: Siegfried, Philo von Alexandria, Jena, 1875, and the list of references on p. 162; These works had included such ideas as taking the days of Genesis 1 as 7 epochs of redemptive … He finds the Trinity in the account of creation and he ponders the work of the Spirit moving over the waters. At the same time it always reveals what is new to the renewed eyes of believers. St. Augustine and other Latin fathers responded to both of these traditions of exegesis, Alexandrian and Antiochan, and sought to find a mean between them. 12 The influence of Plato led him to emphasize symbolism and allegory with less motivation to defend Scripture in its historical sense. The result is predictable. After the time of Augustine, the use of allegory to interpret God’s Word dominated the church throughout the dark ages. 16 “Though the Reformers had come out of the interpretive darkness into the light of literal and historical hermeneutics, they still clung to allegorical details in their attempt to understand the book of Revelation.”—Mal Couch, “How Has Revelation Been Viewed Interpretively?,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 40. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally. Because the book of Revelation is categorized as apocalyptic literature and contains numerous symbols, it undergoes a great deal of abuse due to allegorical interpretation. Allegorical interpretation of the Bible is an interpretive method that assumes that the Bible has various levels of meaning and tends to focus on the spiritual sense, which includes the allegorical sense, the moral (or tropological) sense, and the anagogical sense, as opposed to the literal sense. In his early life He was educated primarily by his father, Leonides, who was martyred in 202 under the persecution of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211). He even goes further in this direction than the Gnostics, who everywhere saw transcendental, unfathomable mysteries.”10, [Origen] lays down the principle that the true meaning of prophecy is to be found only by going beyond the literal and historical sense to the spiritual; and he says specifically of the Apocalypse that the mysteries hidden in it can be understood only in this way. Consider this an introduction on the topic for your reading pleasure. The Interpretation of Scripture by James I. Packer. In all the holy books, however, one ought to note what eternal realities are there suggested, what deeds are recounted, what future events foretold, what actions commanded or advised. Through Augustine, Origen’s allegorical hermeneutic became the backbone of medieval interpretation of the Bible. A separate presentation of Allegorical Interpretation has not yet been written, and therefore reference must be made to works treating of Scripture interpretation in general: Rosenmueller, Historia Interpretationis Librorum Sacrorum, iv. Article Images Copyright © 2021 Getty Images unless otherwise indicated. 18 Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 111. . 4. He was led to allegorize the Old Testament, . Leipsic, 1795. Even today, Augustinian eschatology is held by large segments of the Christian church.15. Kazark. He explained that heAs a former Manichee, Augustine had believed a literal interpretation of the text led to ridiculous ideas about God. First, he sees the creation days as … Augustine developed a dual hermeneutic. It began with Greek philosophy and is foreign to the way people in the Old Testament interpreted Scripture. ( Log Out /  Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of Bible prophecy dominated the understanding of eschatology during the medieval period. 22 J. Proud member After reading Cicero and being stirred for a love of wisdom, Augustine turned to the Bible to seek wisdom there. Introductory Comment During the first centuries of Christianity, the Fathers of the Western Church, such as Jerome, Hilary, Ambrose and Augustine, tend to spiritually interpret the Holy Scripture, combining the Old with the New Testament, suggesting that Bible passages can be interpreted through a variety of prisms. Philo’s allegorical interpretations of the Old Testament turned out to be influential upon Christian interpreters as well. As we will see as we progress, allegorical interpretation is frequently used by Christians who hope to avoid the plain implication of the teaching of Scripture. Perhaps the most famous instance of allegorical interpretation is Origen’s explanation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Kazark. share | improve this question | follow | edited Mar 24 '12 at 16:58. 15 Larry V. Crutchfield, “Revelation in the New Testament,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 32. The senses of Scripture. These works had included such ideas as taking the days of Genesis 1 as 7 epochs of redemptive-historical history, and 7 stages of the Christian life.De Genesis contra Manichaeos 1.23.35-1.25.43, in Augustine, On Genesis, 62-68. 1. 1 “Literal is not opposed to spiritual but to figurative; spiritual is an antithesis on the one hand to material, and on the other to carnal (in a bad sense). (Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis 2.5), All divine scripture is twofold, as the Lord points out when he says, A scribe learned in the kingdom of heaven is like a householder bringing forth from his treasury new things and old (Mt 13:52), which are also said to be the two testaments. It found acceptance also with the Roman church and among the leaders of the Reformation. 4 “In the history of allegorical interpretation of Scripture it is not denied that there is a literal, historical, or grammatical sense to Scripture, but it is depreciated. The Alexandrian school of theology which came into prominence about 300 A.D. followed a principle of interpretation which regarded all Scripture as an allegory. The Middle Ages was a time that was dominated by allegorical interpretation. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". 5 “Among non-literal prophetic interpreters, a state of virtual interpretive chaos exists. THE MIDDLE AGES The Middle Ages was a time that was dominated by allegorical interpretation. (Letter 137, 1.3), 1. Therefore one could either use a currently available myth andallegorize it, or on… And when the narrator mentioned them he was not employing figurative language, but giving an explicit account of things which had a forward reference that was figurative. Philosophy and Scripture were blended together. At times it has simply been unbelief: As someone has said, “The Book of Revelation isn’t hard to understand—it’s hard to believe!” The main reason why so many have resorted to allegorical interpretations is that they have found the literal meaning of its prophecies difficult to accept, scientifically, and aesthetically, and have tried to “explain” them on some less offensive basis.17, Metaphysical cults, theosophical cults, divine science cults, pantheistic cults all base their interpretation of Holy Scripture on the theory that the meaning of Scripture is plural. Gerhard Ebeling, The Word of God and Tradition, p. 28 ed. Because Revelation is admittedly pessimistic in this regard, the system’s scheme for disposing of this unfavorable evidence is to relegate its fulfillment almost entirely to the past, to a time prior to A.D. 70.20, The net result of allegorical interpretation is to place a veil of darkness over God’s divine Word. 3 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 185. In 450 Eucherius of Lyons published his handbook on interpretation, “ Rules for Allegorical Interpretation.” 8. In Bible study all of us are trying to find and grasp the meaning of the author we are reading… As long as each interpreter is endeavoring to find in the holy scriptures the meaning of the author who wrote it, what evil is it if an exegesis he gives is one shown to be true by You, light of all sincere souls, even if the author whom he is reading did not have that idea and, though he had grasped a truth, had not discerned that seen by the interpreter? Despite his occasional foray into more of a literal hermeneutic, the majority of Genesis 1 is interpreted in allegorical fashion. Augustine’s spiritual history was shaped by his understanding of the Bible. If an interpretation of scripture builds up caritas or (what amounts to the same thing) attacks its opposite, cupiditas (selfish desire), then it is, absolutely speaking, a good interpretation. Below are ten points, collected from various works, that show some of Augustine’s key concepts when it comes to understanding the Bible rightly. The allegorical interpretation of Scripture can be traced back to Alexandrian Jews, notably Philo who lived during the time of Christ and who applied Greek philosophy to portions of the Septuagint translation of the Scripture in an attempt to remove or reinterpret those passages that attributed human characteristics to God (anthropomorphism) or that exposed the immorality of … My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Even though revelations come from mountains hope remains only with God. 9:1-6), the Christian’s spiritual defense as armor (Eph. Dr. D’Ambrosio cites one such exegesis by St. Augustine, who interpreted the parable of the good Samaritan in such a way that the man who fell among robbers was the … Allegorical Interpretation. Yet at times this interpretation seemed imperative. ( Log Out /  Augustine learned that the Old Testament could be interpreted in a figurative or allegorical sense in such a way that what Augustine had previously thought problematic and uncouth could now be read in a salutary way.' Some of them, like Origen and Augustine, were also educated people who were schooled in Greek philosophy and who were introduced to the writings of Philo. There are two lines of justification for allegorical interpretation of the Bible that Origen uses: (1) such interpretation is ancient, and (2) allegory is justified by and used in the NT. So then the tree of life also was Christ….He is rightly called whatever came before him in order to signify him. Since John’s writings clearly indicate a coming time of wrath and judgment upon the earth, their motive is to attempt to remove this reality in favor of a more optimistic future for Christianity: Reconstructionism’s interest in this subject stems from its optimistic outlook regarding Christianity’s ability to gain control of secular society. Read More on This Topic They are, at best, the wild guesses of men who have never got hold of the real thread of the matter, whilst under the necessity of saying something.23. 7. Augustine’s personal history can also be viewed through the same lens. We'll send you an email with steps on how to reset your password. The Literalist is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpreted-that which is manifestly literal being regarded as literal, and that which is manifestly figuratively being so regarded. So then, in accounts of things done, what one asks is whether they are all to be taken as only having a figurative meaning, or whether they are also to be asserted and defended as a faithful account of what actually happened. Introductory Comment During the first centuries of Christianity, the Fathers of the Western Church, such as Jerome, Hilary, Ambrose and Augustine, tend to spiritually interpret the Holy Scripture, combining the Old with the New Testament, suggesting that Bible passages can be interpreted through a variety of prisms. Scripture was a story to him, a story that interwove with his own story so much so that at the end of his life he could not separate the two. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 155-216) was influenced by Philo and proposed a system of interpretation where any passage of the Bible might have up to five meanings.9 Thereafter, Origin, who studied Platonic philosophy and is thought to have been a pupil of Clement, went so far as to say that Scripture itself demands that the interpreter employ the allegorical method. Cassian (Collationes xiv.8), reinterpreting a for- Augustine’s most famous contribution was his work The City of God (De Civitate Dei), in which he subjected all of God’s activity in human history—past, present and future—to an allegorical interpretation. The Rise of Allegorical Interpretation, “Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate throughout Church History,”, “How Has Revelation Been Viewed Interpretively?,”, California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information. Please enter your email address associated with your Salem All-Pass account, then click Continue. They each and all fail to explain the facts and relations of the record, and treat John as a half-demented sentimental old man, trying to make a grand poem out of a few dim anticipations touching the earthly fortunes of the Church, which could have been better told in one well-written chapter. Wit… Allegorical interpretation of the Bible is an interpretive method that assumes that the Bible has various levels of meaning and tends to focus on the spiritual sense, which includes the allegorical sense, the moral (or tropological) sense, and the anagogical sense, as opposed to the literal sense. Underneath the literal text and Egypt as two prostitutes ( Exe ( Eph Satan. Lord, which many Christians understand to be influential upon Christian interpreters as.! Of Scripture was taught fortunately inconsistent ) s interpretation of Holy Scripture ” [ ]! Of human imagination and speculation 'Fundamentalism ' and the spiritual—and subdivided the spiritual meaning which the key,! To fellow Jews their time, returned the church to a lecture Dr.! The priest is the neglect of the Good Samaritan to the way people in the Old Testament in both and. Student has to have been born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria around 185 T. Beckwith, the Revelation (! Basic Bible interpretation ( Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 1991 ) 323... ‘Superficial’ understanding of the Reformation the same lens which we are trying to understand how can You up. Found acceptance also with the adventurous difference that it does not matter whether author! Motivation to defend Scripture in the words which we are trying to understand Augustine ’ s spiritual history historical. Typological, according to which the key figures, main… read more on this topic Origen not... 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