Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It's an Allegory

There is a danger in trying to make things into an allegory. Granted, there are works that are allegories and are meant to be. But to read allegories in where none are indicated is dubious. Further, it is particularly questionable to read in an allegory containing ideas that are foreign to the original work. A work means what its author intended it to mean. And when legitimately asking if it is an allegory, we need to ask if its author could have originally meant it to one. If not, there is no possible way that this could be a legitimate meaning of that book. And it is unfair to the author to read it in. Also, if the new meaning is something foreign to the author's own way of thinking, it is totally implausible. How could an author be writing about something foreign to his own thought? This is even more problematic when the philosophy that is read in is from an era later than the author. How could the author be writing about an idea that did not exist yet?

It is possible by allegorizing to read any idea into any work. It destroys all possibility of finding the real meaning of the work. Now symbolism is quite common in various kinds of literature. And sometimes it can be difficult to know what an author meant by the symbol. But all symbols should be interpreted in the context of the original work and the context of the original author. Reading in symbolism that is contrary to the work again opens it up to be changed into anything, however contrary this may be to the author's thought. There is a strong temptation to want to find some deep, hidden meaning no one has ever seen before in a work. But we need to realize that the reason no one has ever seen it before is most likely because it is not there. There may be layers of meaning in a book. But we need to ask if this is the author's meaning or something we have read in.

So far I have not even mentioned Scripture. It is my contention that it is not only that Scripture should not be treated this way, but no book should be treated this way. I do not think we should use such a procedure on Homer's Odyssey. Now I know that there are broad differences of opinion about the presence of typology in Scripture. I am dubious on much of it, but I do not object when it is used in the context of the clear statements of Scripture. There is, after all, some Scriptural warrant for it (Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 7:1-3; 11:17-19). But we must be careful of being too dogmatic about these things. And reading in meanings that are foreign to the text is baseless.        

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