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or Allegorism Allegorical Interpretation

method, allegory, writers, alle and book

ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION, or ALLEGORISM, a method used in the in terpretation of the Scriptures. The method in brief is to take a plain statement and attach to it a symbolical meaning. Allegory has always been largely used. The Greek writers made use of it, especially Plato, Homer and Hera clitus. Sometimes the sacred writers them selves made use of it, thus explaining or clari fying a fact by means of a symbol or an alle gory. The Old Testament contains many allegories. Nathan, in his rebuke of David, uses the allegory of the poor man's pet lamb to enforce his lesson. The allegory of the vine in the 80th psalm is another example. The finest of them all is the allegory of old age contained in the last chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. Early Jewish writers in the In tertestamental period interpreted the Old Testa ment after this manner. The Jewish group of scholars in Alexandria under the leadership of Philo adopted this method to the exclusion of all others. This led of course to an abuse of the method and the production of interpreta tions as ridiculous as they were silly. The apocryphal 'Book of Wisdom' contains some instances. This method was in vogue in the days of Jesus Christ, and he frequently used it. The allegories of the sower, the vine and the branches, and the door are fine examples. Paul uses it several times in his Epistles. In Galatians iv, 21, he uses Hagar and Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael in an allegorical sense. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews shows the influence of the same method.

In post-apostolic times the method contin ued. It was made use of by Clement of Alex

andria. Its chief exponent, however, was Origen, the great allegoriser of all time. Pos sessed of a poetical temperament and a vivid imagination, he utilized every possible occasion for making an allegory. He largely influenced succeeding commentators. The method contin ued to be popular through the Middle Ages. Early English divines made use of it. Finally the method seemed to concentrate about the interpretation of the Old Testament types seeming to prefigure facts in the New. In 1682 Benjamin Keach published a large folio volume in which he explained the types alle gorically. Since then many have followed in his footsteps, including Samuel Mather of New England (1705). As late as 1847 Patrick Fair bairn published his 'Typology of the Scrip ture' in two volumes. It has since appeared in many subsequent editions. It is the latest book of any note on the subject. The his torical method which aims scientifically to get at the exact facts has now entirely superseded the allegorical.

By the allegorical method °history is not treated as an allegory, but converted into alle gory," which is not scientific nor in accord with modern methods of treating the Scrip tures. No scholar of any note in our time places much dependence upon it. Consult Far rar, F. W., 'The History of Interpretation' (1885); Gilbert, G. H., 'Interpretation of the Bible' (1908) ; and the article °Allegory* in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible.'