Paul Whitehorn


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Nero light & Nero pro


Paul Whitehorn

Allegory and The Early Church

Natures Primer Using Platos allegory as a primer to decipher the hidden spiritual code, Hellenistic Christianity was able to make the scriptures whatever they desired.1 Once the first five Books of Moses, were set to Greek, Philo (30BC) began deciphering it using natures allegorical primer. Platos (200BC) ideas didn’t just come out of nowhere, Euclidena (300BC) geometry, proved parallel lines go on forever and never meet, this was evident in Gods natural creation (Ro. 9:20).2 As a result, wild allegorical interpretations of scripture, parallel physical and spiritual, blown around by all kinds of doctrine, negatively impacted the Church (Eph. 4:14). After two millennia, reformers have divined more fanciful creations than many allegorist combined: making enemies friends, and friends enemies (Rev. 17)— we do well to learn from both.

The Way The Church today may learn some valuable lessons, from our allegorical ancestors, which may prove useful when working in the right direction. Time working in the wrong direction on a problem, doesn't change it to the correct path. Even so, our allegory fathers attempted to make scriptures more relatable to their contemporary culture in the hopes that they might convey the nature of God, something Christians of all ages should aspire to.3 The Apostolic Fathers relied more on typology and literal fulfillment than allegory, but at times they do pinch a penny to stretch a mile (Matt 2:17; Jer 31:15).4

The Cave Plato helped the early church fathers grasp abstract ideas about concrete spiritual realities. Allegory attempts to expose the underlying ethereal message within scripture, in so doing, it removes the literal anchor from the text. An example, would be Augustines overinterpretation of the good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-37; Fig.1.1)5. This school of thought, extracted concrete scriptural passages and twisted them in very creative ways, but there is hermeneutical value. Allegory does have a place within Biblical interpretation today, just as it did with our early Church fathers. After all, if we wrote down every written word that is attributed to Jesus in the Bible, over 35 percent of it, was parables — many of them were allegories (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; Matt 13:24-30, 36-43).

Wealthy Allegory The apostolic tradition and early church fathers, have a wealth of spiritual knowledge, if not for their interpretive value towards scripture, at least as it relates to piety. Reformers believe that exegesis must stand on scriptural alone, and rightly so. Ego’s asside, to ignore fifteen hundred years of allegorical interpretation, even if that interpretation proves to be directionally wrong, may be a critical mistake in-and-of-itself. Reformed mores shouldn’t force us to reject all of their interpretations and insights, without fully hearing them out.6 In some cases, the concrete does have a double spiritual form, which transcends the physical reality.

  1. William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Third Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 76.

  2. Andrew Sutton. Ruler and Compass: Practical Geometric Constructions. (Broadway, NY:Bloomsbury, 2009), 6.

  3. William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Third Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 71.

  4. Ibid, 77-78

  5. Andrew D. Naselli. How to Understand and Apply The New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017), 26.

  6. E. R. Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders To Better Understand the Bible. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 32.