Covenant Lineage Allegorically Prefigured: “Which Things Are Written Allegorically” (Galatians 4:21-31) -- By: A. B. Caneday

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:3 (Fall 2010)
Article: Covenant Lineage Allegorically Prefigured: “Which Things Are Written Allegorically” (Galatians 4:21-31)
Author: A. B. Caneday


Covenant Lineage Allegorically Prefigured: “Which Things Are Written Allegorically” (Galatians 4:21-31)

A. B. Caneday

Introduction

Among Paul’s uses of the Old Testament, perhaps most complex, baffling, and elusive are his uses of Genesis and of Isaiah in Gal 4:21-31, with the claim, “these things are ἀλληγορούμενα.”1 What warrants his appeal to allegory? What in the Old Testament authorizes the apostle’s dual assertions: (1) “Now you, brothers, in keeping with Isaac, are children of promise” (4:28), and (2) “But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not receive an inheritance with the son of the free woman’” (4:30). The conundrum is ancient as Antiochene commentaries indicate.2 Likewise, the Reformers puzzle over Paul’s appeal to allegory, viewing it as out of character with his uses of the Old Testament.3

Contemporary exegetes tend to reflect the assessment of their Antiochene forebears that Paul really had in mind typology or perhaps a restrained allegory that fades into typology.4 Because scholars describe Paul’s statement, “these things are ἀλληγορούμενα,” as indicating that he engages either typological or allegorical interpretation,5 they tend to locate the origin of the allegory within Paul’s interpretive skillfulness rather than within the Genesis narrative itself.6

Contemporary discussions concerning Paul’s use of ἀλληγορούμενα exclude the third and middle option from purview. Exegetes fixate on two alternatives. They reason that Paul either (1) engages in typological/allegorical interpretation—the Genesis story is historical and he assigns symbolic spiritual representations to elements of the narrative, or he (2) reads the story as an allegory—the story is an

ahistorical account from which Paul draws symbolic spiritual aspects that contribute to his argument.7 Like the Antiochenes, exegetes reject the latter but also shortsightedly favor the former giving th...

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