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|Title||Are there accounts in the Old Testament that are more allegorical than literal?|
|Publication Type||Magazine Article|
|Year of Publication||1974|
|Authors||Sperry, Sidney B.|
|Date Published||July 1974|
|Keywords||Allegory; Jeremiah (Prophet); Shepherd|
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Are there accounts in the Old Testament that are more allegorical than literal?
Sidney B. Sperry, Professor emeritus of Old Testament language and literature, Brigham Young University: Let us first define and illustrate what is meant by an allegory. According to the dictionary, an allegory is “the veiled presentation,” in a figurative story, of a meaning metaphorically implied but not expressly stated. Allegory is prolonged metaphor, in which typically a series of actions are symbolic of other actions. An allegory is like a parable. Just as there are many parables in the New Testament, there are many allegories in the Old Testament.
In Jeremiah there is a good illustration of an allegory:
“My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6.)
Notice that Jeremiah does not tell us that his people are “like” or “as” sheep, nor is it necessary for him to explain that the mountains and hills are not literal mountains and hills. Excellent examples of longer allegories are “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:1–18), “The Vine” (John 15:1–8), and “The Tame and the Wild Olive Tree” in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5).
However, Biblical scholars are not always agreed on the type of literature a given scripture in the Old Testament represents.
Numerous books in the Old Testament contain stories. Genesis, Ruth, Samuel, and Kings are good examples. Some of these may also be used to teach a concept, but very few, if any, of these stories, in my opinion, can be regarded as being more allegorical than literal. On the other hand, the Book of Proverbs contains many allegories that are not historical.
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