John Ayre Thomas Hartwell Horne.

An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy ..., Volume 2 online

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of oar Sarionr, or who entertained erroneous notions ; an allegory is delirered by way of
reply, to correct the error, and at the same time to instruct the inquirer. In John Ti. 25—65.,
many things are announced relative to the eating of bread : these are to be understood of
•piritual food, the doctrines of Christ, which are to be received for the same purpose as wo
take food, namely, that we may be nourished and supported. The occasium. of this allegorical
mode of speaking is related in rerse 31. Our fathers, said the Jews, did eat mamna m the
desert, (U it it written. He gave them bread from heaven to eat. /, says Christ, can the Uvtng
bread, whtch cometh down from heaven. The meaning of the whole eridently is that by
eating the flesh of Christ we are to understand the same idea as is implied in eating bread,
namely, to derive support from iL The argument of our Lord, then, may be thus expressed :
** The manna which our fathers did eat in the wilderness could preserve only a mortal
life. That is the true bread of life which qualifies every one who eats it for everlasting
happiness. I call myself this bread, not only on account of my doctrine, which purifies
the soul, and fits it for a state of happiness, but also because I shall give my own life to
procure the life of the world."

S. As the context frequently indicates the meaning of an allegory^ so
likewise its scope and jvterpretatiov are frequentXy pmnted out by some
explanation that is subjoined.

In Luke v. 29., it is related that our Lord sat down to eat with publicans and sinners.
When questioned by the Pharisees for this conduct, he replied. They that are whole need not a
physician, but they tfutt are sich ; and added the following explanation : I am not come to
call the riahteous, those who arrogantly presume themselves to be such, but sinners to repent^
once. The scope, occasion, and explanation being severally known, the meaning of the
allegory becomes evident Sometimes, however, this explanation of an allegory is con-
reyed in a single word, as in 1 Thess. v. 8. Here we are commanded to put on a breast-
plate and helmet ; it is added, by way of exposition, the breast-plate of faith and love, and
the helmet of hope. The sense of the figure is : Prepare yourself for your spiritual war&re
with faith, love, and hope, lest you suffer loss.

4. Sometimes the allegory proposed is explained in its several parts by the
person speaking.

Thus, in £ph. vi. 1 1 — 19. , many things are said of the Christian's armour; and the girdle,
breast-plate, greaves, shield, and sword, are distinctly specified. That these terms are
ftllegoncal is evident Iri the tenth verse, the exhortation, to be strong in the Lord, and in,
the power of his might, precedes : in the eleventh and following verses the apostle explains
whi^ he intended to be understood, in its several parts : thus, the sword is the word of
God, the gh'dle is integrity, the shield is faith, &c In such passages as this, an expla-
nation is desirable; otherwise the allegory it contains could not be interpreted upon any
certain principle.

I Ou the investigation of the context, see pp. 256 — ^262. si^ro.

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Alkgories. 341

5. Sometimes also the context incidentally presents some proper word, by
which the meaning of the whole allegory may be discerned.

In John xiL 35^ our Lord says. Yet a littU wktU ia the light with you, A single proper
word is lUmofit immediateljr subjoined, believe in the light (verse 36.)* Hence it appears
that b/ light is meant himself, the divine teacher ; it is equally plain that to continue in
darkness means to continue in ignorance. Another instance occurs in Matt. y. 14., Ye
are the liyht of the world : a city that ia set on an hill cannot be hid, &c. It is afterwards
Sabjoined, that men may see your good works^ and ghri/y your Father which it in heaven.
From this expression, good works, which is the key to the whole passage, we perceive
that onr Lord's discourse treats of that example of a holy life and conversation, which it
is the duty of Christians to set before others.

IV. In the examination of an allegorical passage, historical circum*
STANCES should be consulted.

For it sometimes happens that history throws light on the passage.

[John xxl 18., Matt. xiii. 31 — 34., and Prov. v. 15—18., are alleged in proof of this role ;
bat the meaning in all these passages is sufficiently clear from the context.!

V. The nature of the thing spoken of is also to be considered in the
exposition of an allegory.

It is necessary that the nature of the thing should be considered, in
order ' that the tendency of every comparison may appear, and also the
literal meaning which is concealed under the figurative expressions.

1. Thus in Matt v. 13 , we read, Ye are tlie salt of the earth} but^ if the salt have lost his
savour, wherewith shall it be salted f It is thenceforw good for nothing but to be cast out, and
to be trodden underfoot of men. Now, what is the meaning of this admonition ? What is
the primary word ? Salt But with what proper word can it be interpreted? Here the
natnre of the thing is to be consulted, which shows that it is the property of salt to render
food savoury, as well as to correct the taste. [The salt, too, of Syria contains much snl-^
phate of lime ; and this would be the insipid residuum when the chloride of sodium (which
almost exclusively forms our salt) was dissolved by moisture.] Hence it is clear in what
sense the disciples are said to be the salt of the eartJi ; for they were teachers by whom
some were corrected and made better. The general meaning of the passage is, Te,
who embrace my religion, like salt shall puri^ the world ; but ye must first be pure

2. In Luke v. 36., the following passage occurs : No man putteth a piece of a new gar^
mentupon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent ; and the piece Aat was taken
out if the new agreeth not with the old. Nothing is adduced by way of explanation : in a
preceding verse the Pharisees had asked Christ why his disciples did not fast, but lived
more cheerfully than those of John. Our Saviour replied in the words above cited i
nothing, then, can lead ns to understand the passage but the nature of the subject Now,
in common life we know that no one voluntarily and readily acts indiscreetly, or in an
unbecoming manner. Therefore, says Christ, since no one in common life acts thus in-
discreetly, neither do I require my disciples to do so; since there is no need for them to
undergo such austerities. The time will come (verse 35.) when they will fare hardly
enongh ; then they will have sufficient trials. At present neither circumstauces, time, nor
place require it; things must be accommodated to circumstances. The passage bein^
thus considered, the meaning of the allegory becomes very evident

VI. Comparison is not to be extended to all the circumstances qf the

*< Thus, in the parable of the good Samaritan, the point to be illustrate
is the extent of the duty of beneficence. Most of the circumstances in th©
parable go to make up merely the verisimilitude of the narration, so that
it may give pleasure to him who hears or reads it. But hovr differently
does the whole appear, when it comes to be interpreted by an allegorizer
of the mystic schools I The man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is
Adam wandering in the wilderness of this world; the thieves, who robbed
and wounded him, are evil spirits; the priest, who passed by without
relieving him, is the Levitical law ; the Invite is good works ; the good

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342 Scripture Interpretation.

Samaritan is Christ ; the oil and wine are grace, &c. What maj not a
parable be made to mean, if imagination is to supply the place of reason
and philology." '

YII. We must not explain one part literally and another part

Thus, the whole of 1 Cor. iii. 9 — 15. is allegorical : a comparison is there
instituted between the office of a teacher of religion, and that of a builder.
Hence a Christian congregation is termed a building : its ministers are
the architects ; some of whom lay the foundation on which others build ;
some erect a superstructure of gold and silver ; others of wood, hay, and
stubble. The sense concealed under the allegory is apparent : a Christian
congregation is instructed by teachers ; some of whom communicate the
first principles ; others impart further knowledge ; some deliver good and
useful things {the truth) \ while others deliver useless things {erroneous
doctrines^ such as at that time prevailed in the Corinthian church). That
day (the great day of judgment) will declare what superstructure a man
has raised ; that is, whether what he has taught be good or bad. And, as
fire is the test of gold, silver, and precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, so
the great day will be the test of every man's work. Though the whole of
this passage is obviously allegorical, yet it is understood literally by the
church of Rome, who has erected upon it her doctrine of the fire of pur-
gatory. How contrary this doctrine is to every rule of right interpretation
IS too plain to require any exposition.^

[A better interpretation of this passage is to regard the gold, &c, as
meaning persons rather than doctrines. For it would be difficult to point
out any other place in Scripture where the setting forth of doctrines is
described in such terms. Tria genera enumerate qu<B ignem ferunt:
totidem, qwB comburuntur. Ilia denotant homines vere Jideles ; hiscy
hgpocritasy says Bengel, in loc. Believers are the stones of which the
spiritual temple, raised upon the foundation Christ, is composed, see Eph.
ii. 19 — 22. ; 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5. Such are the gold and gems which the faith-
ful teacher builds up, and for which he receives a reward, Dan. xii. 3. ;
Phil. iv. 1. ; 1 Thess. ii. 19, 20. Of any one not so successful, whose
converts were but wood and stubble, mere pretenders whom the fire of
persecution and judgment would convict and destroy, it is said, iijfXiufOifffeTaiy
according to Bengel's paraphrase, mercede excidety non salute. Though
preaching the truth, peradventure his zeal was cold and his labour care-
less ; therefore he had but little fruit — still he might be saved. If^ how-
ever, they were erroneous doctrines that he set forth, surely the personal
salvation of such a faithless teacher would be endangered. The ordinary
interpretation of this passage makes it very incongruous. The foundation
is Christ, a person : it is natural therefore to expect that the superstruc-
ture must be of persons too. The consistency of the whole would else
be destroyed.]

Before we proceed to other topics, we cannot but notice the
admirable allegorical delineation of old age by Solomon, EccL xii.
2 — 6. It is, perhaps, one of the finest allegories in the Old Testa-

' Professor Stuart, Elements of Interprctatioii, translated from the Latin of Emesti,
party, chap. y. pp. 116, 117. London, 1827.

« Bauer, Herm. Sacr. pp. 221—226. ; Emesti, List Interp. Noy. Test pp. 110, 111.;
Moms, Acroases in Emesti, torn, i pars i. sect ii. cap. iy. pp. 301 — 813. ; Olassins, PhiL
8ac. lib. ii. pp. 1294 — 1304.; Ramiresins de Prado, PentecontarYshus, c. 28. apud Fabricii
Obsenradonet Selects, pp. 173—179.; J. £. Ffeifier, Institotioiies Herm. Sacs. cap.
MuL pp. 740^753.

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Parables. 343

ment : the inconyeniences of inoreamng years^ the debility of mind
and body, the torpor of the senses, are expressed most learnedly and
elegantly indeed, but with some degree of obscurity, by different
images, derived from nature and common life ; for, by this enigma-
tical composition, Solomon, after the manner of the oriental sages,
mtended to put to trial the acuteness of his readers. It has on this
account afforded much exercise to the ingenuity of the learned ; many
of whom have differently, it is true, but with much learning and
penetration, explained the passage.

There is also in Isaiah (xxyiiu 23 — 29.) an allegory, which, with
no less elegance of imagery, is perhaps more simple and regular, as
well as more just and complete in the colouring, than any of those
above cited. In the passage referred to, the prophet is examining
the design and manner of the divine judgments, and is inculcating the
principle, that God adopts different modes of acting in the chastise-
ment of the wicked, but that the most perfect wisdom is conspicuous
in all ; that he will, as before urged, ^^ exact judgment by the line,
and righteousness by the plummet ; ^ that he ponders, with the most
minute attention, the distinctions of times, characters, and circimi-
stances, as well as every motive to lenity or severity. All this is
expressed in a continued allegory, the imagery of which is taken
from the employments of agriculture and threshing, and is admirably
adapted to the purpose.' [These two are examples rather of succes-
sive metaphors than of allegory.]



L Nature of a parable. — 11. Antiquity of this mode of instruction. - ^
in. Rules for the interpretation of parables, — IV. Parables^ why used
by Jesus Christ. — V. Remarks on the distinguishing excellences of Chris f$
parables^ compared vnth the most celebrated fables of antiqt^ity.

I. A PABABLB (irapa^oXri^ from TrapajSaXKew, to collate, compare to-
gether, assimilate ^) is a similitude taken from natural things in order
to instruct us in ^ngs spiritual. The word, however, is variously

> Lowth, Pnelectiones, No. x., or vol. i pp. 220, 221. of Dr Gregory's translation.

' A Tcrbo vapaSdWuv, quod signiiicat conferre^ comparare, aasimUare (cf. Marc iv. 30.)
dactum est nomen iropatfoA^s ; quod similitudinem, coUationem Quinctilianus (Inst. Or. lib. v.
c. 1 1. ; lib. viil c 3. pp. 298, 302, 470.) interpretatur, Seneca (£p. lix.) hnaginenu luque
coUatio, sive, ut Ciceronis (lib. i. de Invent, c 30.) definitione utamur, oraito, rem cwn re ex
nmUitudine am/eretu, Grseco nomiae parabola appellatur. £o sensn Christas (Marc, iiu
23.) ip 'irapa€o\eus locutus dicitur, quando per varias similitudines (yv. 24 — 27.) probavitse
non Satanse ope, sed altiore yirtute dsemonia ejicere. G. C Storr, De Parabolis Christi, in
Opusc. Academic. toI. i. p. 89. The whole disquisition, to which this section is largely
indebted, is well worthy of perusal See also Rambach, Institntiones Hermeneut. lib. ii.
cap. iv. pp. 186., &c; J. E. Pfeiffer, Instit. Hermeneut Sacr. cap xiii. pp. 768 — 773. i
and Chladenios, Institntiones Exegeticie, pp. 190., &c. [For yarions definitions of a
parable see Trench, Notes on the Parables of our Lord (2Qd edit), chap. L note 2. J

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344 Scripture Interpretation.

used in the Scriptures, to denote a proverb or short saying (Luke iv.
23.); ik famous or received saying (1 Sam. x. 12.*; Ezek. xviii. 2.); a
thing gravely spoken, and comprehending important matters in a few
words (Numb, xxiii. 7. 18.; xxiv. 3, 15.; Job xxvii. 1.; Psal. xlix. 4.
and Ixxviii. 2.) ; a thing darkly or figuratively expressed (Ezek. xx. 49.;
Matt xiii. 35.); a visible type or emblem^ representing something
different from and beyond itself (Heb. ix. 9., and xi. 19. 6r.); a
special instruction (Luke xiv. 7.); and a similitude or comparison
(Matt. xxiv. 32. ; Mark iii. 23.).*

According to Bishop Lowth, a parable is that kind of allegory
which consists of a continued narration of a fictitious event, applied
by way of simile to the illustration of some important truth. By the
Greeks, an allegory was called alvos or aivrj^ an apologue ^ and by the Ro-
mans/a&u2a, Vkfable^\ and the writings of the Phrygian sage, or those
composed in imitation of him, have acquired the greatest celebrity.
Nor did our Saviour himself disdain to adopt the same method of
instruction ; of whose parables it is doubtnil whether they excel
most in wisdom and utility, or in sweetness, elegance, and perspicuity.
As the appellation of pabable has been applied to his discourses of
this kind, the term is now restricted from its former extensive signi-
fication to a more confined sense.^ This species of composition also
occurs very frequently in the prophetic poetry, and particularly in
that of Ezekiel.

II, The use of parables is of very great antiquity. In the early
ages of the world, when the art of reasoning was little known, and
the minds of men were not accustomed to nice and curious specula-
tions, we find that the most ancient mode of instruction was by
{arable and fable : its advantages, indeed, are many and obvious,
t has been remarked by an acute observer of men and morals, that
** little reaches the understanding of the mass but through the
medium of the senses. Their minds are not fitted for the reception
of abstract truth. Dry ar^mentative instruction, therefore, is not
proportioned to their capacity : the faculty, by which a right conclu-
sion is drawn, is in them the most defective : they rather feel strongly
than judge accurately ; and their feelings are awakened by the im-
pression made on their senses."* Hence, instruction by way of
parable is naturally adapted to engage attention : it is easily com-
prehended, and suited to the meanest capacity ; and, while it opens

1 In this and the other references to the Old Testament in the above paragraph, the
original is 7^, a parable.

* Glassins, Phil. Sacr. lib. iL pp. 1304 — 1306., edit. Dathii; Farkhnrst and Schlensner in
TOce iropafoA^.

' Storr, Opusc. Acad. vol. I pp. 89., &c

* [Trench, Notes on the Parables of onr Lord (2nd edit). chap.i. p. 10., well distin-
guishes between the parable and kindred modes of speaking : ** The parable differs from
Uie fable, while it mores in a spiritual world, and never transgresses the actual order of
things natural — from the mythus, while in that there is an unconscious blending of the
deeper meaning with the outward symbol, the two being separate and separable in the
parable — from the proverb, while it is longer carried out, and, not merely accidentally and
occasionally, but necessarily, fif^urative from the allegory, while it compares one thing
with another, but does not transfer the properties and qualities of one to the other."]

* Birs. More, Christian Morals, vol i. p. 106.

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Parables. 845

the doctrine which it professes to conceal^ it gives no alarm to our
prejudices and passions, it communicates unwelcome truths in the
least disagreeable manner, points out mistakes, and insinuates reproof
with less offence and with greater efficacy than undisguised contra-
diction and open rebuke. Of this description, we may remark, are
the parables related by Nathan to David (2 Sam. xii. 1 — 4.), and by
the woman of Tekoah to the same monarch (2 Sam, xiv. 4 — 11.).
The New Testament abounds with similar examples. ** By laying
hold on the imagination, parable insinuates itself into the auctions ;
and, by the intercommunication of the faculties, the understanding is
made to apprehend the truth which was proposed to the fancy." ' In
a word, this kind of instruction seizes us by surprise, and carries
with it a force and conviction which are almost irresistible. It is no
wonder, therefore, that parables were made the vehicle of national in-
struction in the most early times; that the prophets, especially
£zekiel, availed themselves of the same impressive mode of convey-
ing instruction or reproof; and that our Lord also adopted it.

III. Although a parable has some things in common with an alle-
gory, so that the same rules which apply to the latter are in some
degree applicable to the former, yet, from its peculiar nature, it be-
comes necessary to consider the parable by itself, in order diat we
may understand and interpret it aright.

1. The first excellence of a parable is that it turns upon an image well
hnoum and applicable to the subject^ the meaning of which is clear and
definite; for this circumstance wul give it that perspicuity which is essential
to every species of allegory.

How clearly this rule applies to the parables of our Lord is obrious to every reader of
the New Testament. It may suffice to mention bis parable of the ten virgins (Matt xxv.
1 — 13.), which is a plain allusion to those things which were common at the Jewish
marriages in those days : the whole parable, indeed, is made up of the rites used by
the orientials,a8 well as by the Roman people, at their nuptials ; and all the particulars
related in it were such as were commonly known to the Jews, because they were every day
practised by some of them. In like manner, the parables of the lamp (Luke viiL 16.)t of
the sowtr and the seed, of the tore«, of the mustard' seed, of the leaven, of the net cast into
the sea, all of which are related in Matt xiii., as well as of the householder that planted a
vineyard and let it out to husbandmen (Matt xxi. 33 — 41.), are all representations of
usual and common occurrences, and such as the generality of our Saviour's hearers were
daily conversant with, and they were, therefore, selected by him as being the most in-
teresting and affecting.

The parables of the prophets will appear in general founded upon such imagery as is
freqoemly used, and similarly applied by way of metaphor and comparison in Hebrew
poetry. Examples of this kind occur in the deceitful vineyard (Isal v. 1 — 7.), and in the
pseless vine which is given to the fire (Esek. xv., and xix. 10^14.); for under this
imagery the ungrateful people of God are more than once described. Similar instances
of apposite comparison present themselves in the parable of the lion's whelps falling
into the pit (Ezek. xix. 1 — 9.), in which is displayed the captivity of the Jewish princes ;
and also in tiiat of the fair, lofty, and flourishing cedar of Lebanon (Ezek. xxxi. 3 — 18.),
which once raised its head to the clouds, at length cut down and neglected; thus ex-
hibiting,' for a warning to Pharaoh, the prosperity and the fall of the king of Assyria. To
these may be added one more example, namely, that in which the love of God towards
his people, and their pie^ and fidelity to him, are expressed by an allusion to the solemn
covenant of marriage. Ezekiel has pursued this image with uncommon freedom in two
parables (I^k. xvi. and xxiii.) ; and it has been alluded to by ahnost all the sacred

* Mrs. More, Christian Morab, voL i. p. 107.

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348 Scripture Interpretation.

2. TTie image, however, not only must be apt andfamiiiar^ but must also
be elegant and beautiful in itself, and all its parts must be perspictums and
pertinent; since it is the purpose of a parable, and espectalfy of a poetic
parable, not only to explain more perfectly some proposition, but frequently
to give it animation and splendour. It must also be consistent throughout ;
the literal not being confounded unth the figurative sense.

Of all these excellences there cannot be more perfect examples than the parables which
have just been specified . to which we may add the well-known parables of Jotham (Judg.
iz. 8 — 15.), of Nathan (2 Sam. xit 1—4.), and of the woman of Tekoah (2 Sam. xir.
4 — 11.). The admirably devised parable of Nathan is perhaps one of the finest specimens of
the genuine pathetic style that can be foand in the Old Testament ; and David's eager con-
demnation of the unsuspected offender at the same time displays a striking instance of the
delusion of sin and the blindness of self-love.

3. Every parable is composed of three parts : 1. The sensible, similitude^
which has yariouslj been termed the barh and the protasis, and consists
in its literal sense ; 2. The explanation or mystical sense, also termed
the apodosis and the sap or fruit, or the thing signified by the similitude
proposed. This is frequently not expressed ; for, though our Saviour
sometimes condescended to unveil the hidden sense, by disclosing the
moral meaning of his parables (as in Matt. xiii. 3 — 8, 18 — 23., compared
with Luke viiL 4 — 15., and Matt xiii. 24 — 30, 36 — 43.), yet he usually
left the application to those whom he designed to instruct by his doctrine.
Of this description are the parables of the grain of mustard-seed, of leaven,
of the hidden treasure, and the pearl of great price (Matt xiii. 31 — 33,
44 — 46.), between which and the kingdom of heaven a comparison is insti-
tuted, the mystical sense of which is to be sought in the similitudes them-
selves. 3. The third constituent part of a parable is the root or scope to

Online LibraryJohn Ayre Thomas Hartwell HorneAn introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 50 of 133)