The Dangers of Misusing Allegorical Interpretation
The proper interpretation of Scripture is crucial to the Bible student if he wishes to correctly know and apply Biblical knowledge to his life. It is no different than attempting to read a road map with a distorted view or complete misunderstanding of which highways lead to the destination one needs. If the wrong highway is chosen, then the destination could be missed by blocks or by thousands of miles. In either case, the person fails to reach the destination. It doesn’t matter how much they trusted in the map because, although the information was placed there correctly by the original writer, misuse and ignorance of proper utilization by the map user negated the true facts and caused him to err in his travel. Such is a simple example of Biblical Interpretation. When one fails to use the Literal Interpretation of Scripture and trusts in Allegorical “suggestions”, there is no end to the number of destinations one will arrive at. One thing remains certain, however: among all the many directions Allegorical Interpretation can take the Bible student, it will never deliver them to the true destination of correct Biblical Exegesis of Scripture.
Allegorical Interpretation can be defined as “the method of interpreting a literary text that regards the literary sense as the vehicle for a secondary, more spiritual and more profound sense.” (Ramm, 1970) A simple paraphrase of this definition could be stated: “read between the lines”. Its belief is that the words are simply the method of delivery to the reader and its underlying tones and unwritten meaning must be gleaned by “experienced scholars” and delivered to the layman. This lie has been propagated for thousands of years by Roman Catholicism who have taught its people that only the “church” can truly read and understand what Holy Scripture says and therefore must be the “voice of God” and the only one to distribute “knowledge” to the people. This has created untold wars throughout history, but sadder is the fact that it has sent untold millions to an eternity of damnation.
The Bible student would do well to understand that, according to Pentecost, there are three real dangers associated with Allegorical Interpretation of Scripture. (Pentecost, 1974) These are not mere “grey areas” of argument and debate but are indeed core problems with the very root of this Interpretive System. The first danger associated with Allegorical Interpretation is that it does not interpret Scripture. This makes it very easy for the interpreter to make very broad and even abominable uses of God’s Word. It leaves the area of passage interpretation open to much speculation. An account such as the Creation Story found in Genesis 1 is held by true Bible Students of the Literal Interpretative method as the documentation of the actual events involving actual people in history past. Because of this, the student realizes the origin of sin in mankind, the reason for the depravity of man up until this time in history, and the future judgment as well as redemption that awaits different groups of people. Not so with the Allegorical approach. Much speculation and “fairy tale” characteristics are attributed to this account under that system. God’s powerful and mighty Word is reduced to nothing more than a “bedtime story” for children that speaks of “make believe” events that help the reader to understand good and evil on earth, thereby rendering the transforming power of the Word as “none effect” in the heart of the unregenerate.
The second danger seen in the Allegorical Interpretative approach to Scripture is that it moves the Authority of Scriptures from the Word itself to mankind. This is perhaps the most dangerous error of the three in that it takes God’s Sovereign and Omniscient power as Creator and delegates it to a product of His creation: man. There is the absence of the believer being “illuminated” by the Spirit as he reads the Scriptures in humble and authentic thirst for the Word and is replaced by total dependence upon a man and his view of the passage. Intense study and prayer in search of Biblical meaning has been replaced by “soaking up” another man’s unfounded beliefs and opinions. The student is easily led down the path of heresy because of the lack of personal diligence and labor in the pages of God’s Word. His sword is “dull” so to speak, and he is simply unable to rightly divide the Word of Truth in this setting. This has been seen throughout history with the endless number of Cults who have mislead countless numbers of people away from God’s true Word to that of manmade religion and idolatry.
The third danger of using Allegorical approach to Interpreting Scripture is simply that there is no way to test the conclusions of the Interpreter. Without solid Literal Interpretation and a clear “black and white” approach to the passage, there is no way for the Bible student to reproduce the same meaning or message of the text in question. It is opinion. Just as in Science, if there is no way to repeatedly glean the same meaning from the experiment, then there is no way to fully rest in the satisfaction and security of its contents. Allegorical Interpretation stands guilty of this practice time and time again. Once again, its unfounded beliefs and practices have been used throughout history to twist and pervert God’s Word offering alternate views of the Gospel and of even sin itself.
The Allegorical approach to Scripture is a very dangerous practice. Its conclusions are the attempts of man to create a Utopia on Earth and be “co-laborers” with God in the Redemptive process of mankind. Its teachings lead people in spiritual darkness and in the end can deliver their souls to an eternity of hell and damnation. The Allegorical approach to Scripture must at all costs be avoided by the Bible student seeking to know the truth.
Pentecost, D. J. (1974). Things To Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Ramm, B. (1970). Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cushing-Malloy, Inc.