the last chapter I used the word “allegory” in specific reference to
symbolizing an Old Testament historical event to create a New Testament
teaching. I said that Biblical
writers could do this but we shouldn’t.
to Webster’s Dictionary the simplest definition of an allegory is a
"symbolic representation of something".
Also according to Webster’s an analogy can be used to represent
something else if there are at least two or more similarities between the
analogy and the thing being considered.
An allegory and an analogy are often used as if they mean the same
thing. They are similar in
meaning, but not exactly the same.
Nevertheless, for this chapter I will use these two words
interchangeably, since I believe many people do.
we allegorize an Old Testament event to create a New Testament teaching,
we create a teaching out of a symbol.
That’s what we shouldn’t do.
Yet we can take a New Testament teaching and explain it with an
allegory or an analogy. In
this case we start with the teaching and end with the symbol, instead of
starting with the symbol and ending with the teaching.
These are two different concepts altogether.
In this use of allegory we’re not deriving our teaching from the
symbol. We’re using the symbol to help explain the teaching.
uses allegories, or analogies to explain a point. He speaks of our life
with Jesus as being a marathon. By using the analogy of "running a
race”, he helps explain that we need to persist in our faith to the very
end, as runners do in a long race. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
The teaching is on persistence.
The analogy is the race.
there is a proper use of symbols, yet even as I say this, analogies have
their limitations. At some
point an analogy breaks down and at that point some might make the analogy
explain more than the teaching states.
Some have gotten carried away in their analogies at this point and
have changed the meaning of the teaching by making too much out of the
analogy. The analogy thus
becomes the basis for a new teaching and becomes no different than
allegorizing an Old Testament event.
example of a bad use of an analogy to explain a teaching is this.
Let’s use the marathon analogy to explain Paul’s teaching on
endurance. If we say that
we’re competing with other runners, which one does in a race, and if we
then say that these runners are our brothers in Christ, then that’s an
abuse of the analogy. We are
in a race, but we’re not in competition with our brothers.
This explanation goes beyond the scope of Paul’s teaching of
persistence. Paul did not have competition with our brothers in mind when
he used his analogy, or when he taught on persistence.
An analogy should only explain the teaching without adding any new
idea to the teaching.
Paul, we can use allegory in this way because we aren’t inventing a new
Biblical teaching. We’re
only explaining the Biblical teaching that already exists, or at least
that is what we should be doing.