the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
In the history of Biblical exegesis allegory represents a distinct type of interpretation, dating back to pre-Christian times, practiced particularly by the Alexandrian Jews, and adopted by the early Church Fathers and still practiced and defended by the Roman Catholic church. This method insists that the literal sense, particularly of historical passages, does not exhaust the divinely purposed meaning of such passages, but that these latter also include a deeper and higher spiritual and mystical sense. The fourfold sense ascribed to the Scriptures finds its expression in the well-known saying: Littera gesta docet; quid credas , allegorica; moralis , quid agas , quid speres , anagogica ("The letter shows things done; what you are to believe, the allegoric; what you are to do, the moral; what you are to hope, the anagogic"), according to which the allegorical is the hidden dogmatical meaning to be found in every passage. Cremer, in his Biblico-Theological New Testament Lexicon , shows that this method of finding a hidden thought behind the simple statement of a passage, although practiced so extensively on the Jewish side by Aristobulus and especially Philo, is not of Jewish origin, but was, particularly by the latter, taken from the Alexandrian Greeks (who before this had interpreted Greek mythology as the expression of higher religious conceptions) and applied to a deeper explanation of Old Testament historical data, together with its theophanies, anthropomorphisms, anthropopathies, and the like, which in their plain meaning were regarded as unworthy of a place in the Divine revelation of the Scriptures. Such allegorizing became the common custom of the early Christian church, although not practiced to the same extent in all sections, the Syrian church exhibiting the greatest degree of sobriety in this respect. In this only Jewish precedent was followed; the paraphrases commonly known as the Targum, the Midrash, and later in its most extreme form in the Kabbalah, all showed this mark of eisegesis instead of exegesis. This whole false hermeneutical principle and its application originated doubtless in an unhistorical conception of what the Scriptures are and how they originated. It is characteristic of the New Testament, and one of the evidences of its inspiration, that in the entire Biblical literature of that age, both Jewish and Christian, it is the only book that does not practice allegorizing but abides by the principle of the literal interpretation. Nor is Paul's exegesis in Galatians 4:21-31 an application of false allegorical methods. Here in Galatians 4:24 the term αλλεγορουμενα ,
In homiletics allegorizing is applied to the method which draws spiritual truths from common historical statements, as e.g. when the healing of a leper by Christ is made the basis of an exposition of the healing of the soul by the Saviour. Naturally this is not interpretation in the exegetical sense.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Allegory'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​a/allegory.html. 1915.