Some once read the number of Abraham's servants - 318 (Gen. 14:14) - in such a way that it pointed to Christ. On the arbitrariness of this, we might think, most theological interpreters today could agree. What, then, about Rahab's scarlet cord? Does it point to the blood of Christ, as Clement of Rome suggested, and if so, how? Many critical scholars might assert that there is no connection at all between the two, for the Old Testament writer could not have had the later event in mind. By contrast, many precritical interpreters would find such an association clearly willed by the divine Author. Is the color of the cord really ingredient to the story in such a a way that we should connect it to Christ? If a mental association based on scarlet is arbitrary, merely symbolic in itself, does that mean that we cannot read the text in a way the prefigures Christ? Or might it point us toward a deeper narrative connection, coherence that is more inherent within the story? In that case, we might consider how the divinely appointed object served as the sign and means of God's deliverance, typifying how God rescues people and brings them into promised blessing (pp. 50-51).
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
The challenge of figurative interpretation: an example
Before I touch on this, I'd like to refer to the comment section of my last post on The "horizontal" and "vertical" nature of the Old Testament witness. Michael has responded with some excellent questions, to which I have responded in depth.
Now to the title of the post:
The challenge in question is the challenge the concept of "allegorical" or "figural interpretation" poses to the task of theological interpretation itself. As Daniel Treier points out, "Without the practice ... we cannot read Scripture religiously as a unified canon" (Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture, p. 50; my own review is forthcoming). Yet, there is still debate as to how one ought to go about doing it. Again, as Treier says: "How to handle the legitimacy of typological and/or allegorical interpretation becomes a major concern for theological interpretation of Scripture" (p. 50). He gives the following examples:
Tomorrow I will post Brevard Childs' thoughts on a multi-level reading of Scripture.