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Galatians 4:24 – Symbolic

31-08-2022 - Posted by Hans

Which is allegorizing, for these women are two covenants; one, indeed, from mount Sinai, generating into slavery, which is Hagar.

From the word here rendered “symbolic” (allegoreo) our word “allegory” is derived. Yet the meaning of this word in our language is not quite the same as Paul used it. In literature, something is an allegory when a story should not be taken literally but only symbolically. But that is certainly not the case with Paul. He refers very explicitly to true stories. To what has happened (=history): to historical figures in a concrete place and time (3:17).

The symbolic meaning does not replace the literal meaning, but complements it. A history is not only recorded as history, but above all also has a typological scope. Paul presupposes this symbolic meaning. In fact, he more or less resents his readers that they themselves had not yet noticed this symbolic meaning. It follows that “typology” (as this practice is commonly called) is a thoroughly Biblical practice. Beneath the surface of histories are types (images) that refer to the work that God performs in Christ. And so histories in the ‘Old Testament’ come to life. It turns out to be one big collection of illustrations of Divine truths! God’s picture book!

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