How do we know that allegorization of Old Testament scripture is justified, and how can we convince a Jew or Mormon of this?
Do you know of an Old Testament scripture that alludes to us having the authority to use OT scripture as allegory for future events? I’m pondering, praying and studying with one of my best friends and former pastor John Wickes. He asked me what gives us the right or authority to use Old Testament scripture as allegory of future events, specifically- the Lord’s feasts in Deut. 16 as allegory to The Second Coming of the Lord?
I think it’s an important question because how does the Christian practice of taking OT scriptures as allegory for NT scriptures differ from what cults do? I mean, I know we have the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us and we basically feel we have the authority because our teachers-the disciples and our Master, Jesus Christ used this method! But for the unbeliever, how do we help them to understand this? Is there a specific scripture that comes to your mind from the OT that alludes to this? If we could use the NT it would be simple but Jews do not believe in it and Mormons don’t believe it’s been translated correctly!!
I’m spending time on this because it’s similar to a question my kids have asked me about the Mormons. How do the Mormons pick out scriptures from the Bible to support their claims when it appears it has nothing to do with the actual text? If you are busy, please disregard this. I don’t’ want to take up your time with this but if something comes to mind I’d appreciate it. Thank you and God bless, Kim
This is a very perceptive and wise question.Let me begin by working on a bit on terminology. I would distinguish a few terms. First there is historical prophecy. This is a prediction made by a prophet in the Old Testament concerning a matter of historical fact which was to occur in the future. We know from many passages that this was done in the Old Testament. Moses was told that a prophet is to be recognized by the fact that his predictions come true (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). The prophecy about the fate of those who rebuild Jericho was fulfilled in the Old Testament and the writer took note of this (1 Kings 16:34). God prophesied in Deuteronomy chapter 28 the captivity of Israel in excruciating detail. Jeremiah prophesied the seventy year captivity of the Jews in Babylon in Jeremiah 29 and Daniel recognized this in Daniel 9. There is an almost unlimited number of examples of Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in the Old Testament and of writers in the Old Testament noting this fact.A second important kind of foretelling is a prefigure or a foreshadow. There is a great number of examples of events, people, ceremonies and objects which are found in actual historical settings in the Old Testament being used in the New Testament as a "prophecy" of one of the realities in the New Testament. Many examples can be mentioned. Jesus said that he would fulfill the sign of Jonah by being raised on the third day. He also said that the snake lifted up in the desert was a symbolic representation of his being lifted up on the cross (John 3:14). Paul, in Galatians 4, said that the events surrounding Isaac, Ishmael, Sarah and Hagar are "symbols" of the spiritual reality in the New Testament. The greatest number of uses of types and prefigures from the Old Testament are found in Hebrews. The Hebrew writer says that the laws and ceremonies in the Mosaic law are shadows, of which the equivalent items in the New Testament are the realities. The Old Testament sacrifices were a symbol and forerunner of the sacrifice of Jesus. The items in the temple and tabernacle were pictures of the realities in the heavens. Hebrews chapters 8-10 is loaded with examples.A third term–the one you use–is allegory. I believe you are not using the correct word in the context of your question. To allegorize is to read into a historical narrative a spiritualized interpretation which is not obviously justified by the actual historical events. Many of the Jewish teachers taught the Old Testament as allegory. Most famous of these was Philo, a Jewish teacher of the first century. He tended to pull things out of the Old Testament which were clearly produced in his own mind. He was able to teach virtually anything he wanted by spiritualizing the Old Testament. Unfortunately, allegorization was a major influence in early Christian interpretation of the Old Testament as well. Such teachers as Clement of Alexandria and Origen committed rather blatant excesses in their spiritualizing/allegorization of the Old Testament. If you get a copy of my book, "From Shadow to Reality," there is an appendix on the distinction between historical foreshadows and prefigures, on the one hand, and allegorization of the scripture on the other hand. I offer some useful rules for deciding when finding a prefigure in the Old Testament is well justified. These principles include when a New Testament writer says that this is a foreshadow/prophecy, then we are justified in assuming it is. You will find dozens of very well supported examples of types, prefigures and foreshadows in the OT which are rather obviously prophecies of realities in the NT in this book.So, I want to suggest you consider rewording you question as something like, "When are we justified in finding historical prefigures or foreshadows in the Old Testament of events or teachings in the New Testament?" I say that we are rarely if ever justified in allegorizing the Old Testament. Such speculative reasoning is too subjective and should be completely avoided, but the use of types, prefigures and foreshadows is definitely legitimate of one is willing to be careful and to avoid speculative interpretation.There are two things I still have not done for you. First, I have not produced an example of an Old Testament writer using an historical event as a foreshadow of another Old Testament event. The reason is that the Old Testament prefigures were, in all or nearly all cases prefigures of things in the New Covenant. Types, prefigures and foreshadows are not used by OT teachers in the Old Testament. There are a couple of possible exceptions. For example, in Zechariah 14:18-19, the prophet seems to be using Egypt as a symbol of gentile nations in general. Egypt seems to have taken on symbolic meaning. Second, what about the specific example you mention–the use of Mosaic festivals as prefigures of realities in the New Testament. I would say that the evidence is extremely strong that such argumentation is supported by the facts. Jesus is our "Passover lamb." This is not just idle speculation. Jesus, like the Passover lamb, was killed on the evening before the Passover. He was sinless, as the lamb needed to be perfect. His bones were not broken (as prophesied more than once in the OT) as the bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken. His death and his blood brings about freedom from spiritual slavery and death, as the blood of the Passover and that plague did the same thing, spiritaully, for the Israelites. The parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb are truly extraordinarly. I have only mentioned a few: there are many more. At some point it becomes reasonable to conclude that we are not just making this up! Again, I refer you to my book From Shadow to Reality (www.ipibooks.com) as the entire book is on exactly this subject.
As for the Mormons, I would suggest you make these arguments, but do so using the King James Bible. They consider this Bible to be a perfect translation. Every single type, prefigure and foreshadow I discuss in my book works equally well in the KJV as any others. Just talk to Mormons on their own grounds (ie the KJV) and you will be OK. As for Mormon abuses of the scripture, these things, when carefully investigated for themselves, are clear. It takes time, but you should take each example one at a time. For example, they have the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15-17 being the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. All one has to do is go to this passage to see that this is a rather flimsy and indeed ridiculous misuse of the prophecy in Ezekiel. It is not even discussion two future books of revelation. This is a rather blatant example of taking a passage out of context to prove something which is believed, not because of the biblical evidence, but for other reasons. I am afraid this will be a bit hard to explain to a small child. Such arguments are too abstract for children, so you may just have to wait to give a good explanation to a child. Bottom line, bad Bible interpretation is bad Bible interpretation. I believe it speaks for itself. This certainly is the case with Mormon abuse of Old Testament scriptures as prophecies of the ministry of Joseph Smith!!!