Many times I have been confronted by those who choose to take an alternative approach to Bible study. There are those who reject the Bible’s own clear imperatives, in favor of a critical method that tries to reinvent the scripture as a mythopoeic body of wisdom which lacks divine infallibility. There are those who approach it with the absurd intent of reading a gender specific defense into Bible. There are those who selectively literalize obscure passages while seeing clear imperatives as nothing more than a metaphor. However, the most destructive of all are those who see the whole scripture as a system of arcane allegories. These are the most dangerous because they rape the precious word of God of some of its most sacred and intensely beautiful language, in order to defend dogmas, behaviors and practices that are in direct rebellion against the very scripture they presume to represent.
These are they who are constantly rambling about this interpretation or that interpretation of a passage. When confronted by a clear imperative such as thou shalt not Steal, such a scholar will tend to respond, ‘that’s your interpretation, I have a different interpretation.’ Common sense would clearly dictate that such a passage is not allegorical, but these false teachers have long since left sense behind.
We see in Jesus the perfect exegesis (Critical explanation or analysis of a text) because the New Testament proclaims him as the representative, literal embodiment of the Holy Spirit (רוח אלהים). For this reason when we see him apply Midrash to old testament passages such as the Isaiah Immanuel texts, we see more than one thing. Yes we see King Y’Shuah, the cabinetmaker’s son, naming himself anointed rescuer of Israel. We see Jesus born to the Diaspora living in Syria naming himself King and Lord of his fellow Jews. And we see his friends and neighbors attempting to execute him as a blasphemer for what they perceive as hubris from the rich man’s bastard son. But we see more if we are a careful and honest student.
We also can see Jesus himself using and thereby validating, or as we say in Pentecostal circles consecrating, the use of a Midrashic exegetical method. While he does validate the body of work called the Midrash, he does make it a valid place to look for advice in Christian exegesis. Secondly we see him applying a particular form of Midrash that was peculiar to the Essenes and their sympathizers among the Sephardim or Pharisees. We see Jesus sitting in the presence of the congregation and stating that he is the fulfillment of the Son of God prophecies held so precious by the Essenes. In fact the book of John begins with a tract against kabala and proceeds to prove Jesus as the Anointed One of God, the Son of God and the Son of Man. For those who have some background in Mystery Religion, These terms can take on special significance and John repeatedly hits those buttons and demonstrates that the correct meaning and application is Jesus, rather that the allegorical applications that such men and women are prone to affect.
What we see in Jesus is a literal application of even the most obscure, predictive or apocalyptic foretelling in the Bible. We see a very literal application of imperative passages wherein God speaks to man through a prophet ordering behavior and practice. And lastly we see Jesus accepting idiomatic passages in the existing text as idiom rather than over literalizing these and, thereby losing the meaning and intent of the author.
In other words, Jesus clearly viewed the prophets and writers of the first covenant as being sane, rational men who had a rational body of information and knowledge to communicate, who spoke in an old-fashioned dialect, but who spoke the simple literal truth of their teachings. It boggles the mind that any honest student of Christ could decide to place his own understanding and enlightenment above that of our Lord and Savior.
Nothing I have referred to here has ruled out the legitimate use of allegory by writers of the first or second covenants. Jesus clearly used allegory when he spoke the parables; a parable is by definition allegorical. And similarly there are allegories in the old testament. But it is foolish to take major portions, for instance whole chapters of Genesis and attempt to claim the author was telling an allegory. Such thinking is in fact hubris. But most especially, it is ethnocentric discrimination.
To assume that only a post modern, University educated, exegetically liberal mind, engaging in eisegesis (forcing ones own image into the text) can possibly have real and authoritative knowledge of processes and systems that have never been witnessed by mortal man, is the same sin that Lucifer committed. This is to claim that you are more competent than the God you profess. Now I’ll grant you that there are those who are atheist and who never the less claim to be Biblical scholars, such people are saddest of all. As the Bible repeatedly points out in both covenants, one cannot begin to understand the import, intent or exegesis of the Bible until one is initiated into the service of God. That is to say, you can’t begin to understand the Bible until you have become a Jew according to the Biblical pattern, or have become a Christian according to the Biblical pattern.
In Zechariah (avahodesh or zecharijahu) chapter 4, the prophet refers to two trees giving forth sacred oil to fuel the menorot (candlesticks) that stand in the presence of almighty God the King of all creation. In revelation we again see there are two trees that stand for the two covenants between God and man. There is only one way to serve God and that is through honest childlike trust in his revealed word and acceptance of his love and most importantly his sovereignty. God has made two covenants with man, and as the Apostle Paul wrote, the gifts and callings of the Lord are never rescinded. Return to the simple Gospel; reject the overpowering and foolish philosophies and traditions of Men. God himself has plainly explained himself. Read his word. Trust his character. Only in God is there any hope for peace, joy, or understanding. Bless the Holy name of the Lord and bless his faithful believers.