At 09:39 AM 11/7/2002, Jim cogently stated:

Seems to me that the contention in this discussion is mostly based on
semantic quibbling.

We're talking about written records of history.  Every incident and
story related in these records is entirely symbolic.  The words and
letters that comprise a written text or an oral narrative are symbols.
Thus it is entirely accurate to say that scriptures are "symbolic".

In this context, the argument between "literal" and "symbolic" or
"figurative" loses most of its edge.  It is academic that every bit of
information has to be processed and interpreted.  Scriptures are no
different.  Thus they might accurately be characterized as both
"symbolic" and "literal" at the same time.  This argument does nothing
to address the question of how we should approach the scriptural record.

I certainly believe that events written about in the Bible can be both actual literal events and yet symbolic at the same time. Why are we so hasty to assume that since there is no physical evidence that the walls of Jericho tumbled that the event didn't occur. The Twin Towers in New York also collapsed but today there is little evidence that the collapse took place. Are archeologists of the future going to claim that the twin towers collapse never really happened--that it was all symbolic, perhaps of America's corruption? The Apostle Paul apparently thought that events of the Bible could be both literal and symbolic:

(Galatians 4:22-26.)
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie also stated in reference to the above scripture that the family makeup and life of Abraham was both literal (actually occurred) and symbolic of the two covenants (The Law of Moses and the New and Everlasting Covenant):

Paul here uses the life of Abraham as an allegory to dramatize the superiority of the gospel over the law of Moses—a mode of teaching designed to drive his doctrine home anew each time his hearers think of Abraham and his life.

Hagar, the bondwoman, bore Ishmael; and Sarah, the free—woman, brought forth Isaac. Ishmael was born after the flesh, while Isaac, as a child of promise, came forth after the Spirit. Hagar is thus made to represent the old covenant, the law of Moses, the covenant under which men were subject to the bondage of sin; while Sarah symbolizes the new covenant, the gospel, the covenant under which men are made free, free from bondage and sin through Christ.

Mt. Sinai, from whence the law came, and Jerusalem, from whence it is now administered, symbolize the law, and their children are in bondage. But the spiritual Jerusalem, the heavenly city of which the saints shall be citizens, is symbolized by Sarah, and she is the mother of freemen. Sarah, who was so long barren, as our spiritual mother, has now made us all, like Isaac, heirs of promise.

But it is now, as it was then, those born after the flesh war against those born of the Spirit. And as God rejected Ishmael and accepted Isaac, so does he now reject those who cleave to the law of Moses and accept those who turn to Christ.

The two covenants: The first is the old covenant, the law of Moses, the law of carnal commandments, the preparatory gospel, the covenant God made with Israel, through Moses, to prepare them for the second. The second is the new covenant, the everlasting covenant, the fulness of the gospel, the covenant God offers to make with all men, through Christ, to prepare them for the fulness of his glory. The old covenant was the lesser law, the new is the higher law. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, standing between God and his people, pleading their cause, seeking to prepare them for the coming of their Messiah. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, standing between God and all men, pleading their cause, seeking to prepare them for that celestial inheritance reserved for the saints.
See Heb. 12:18-24.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 478.)

In fact you could say that the "history" of Jacob and Esau, as well as Isaac and Ishmael are symbolic of the clash and conflict between Christ and Satan. Just because an event actually happened doesn't mean it can't also be highly symbolic--and vice versa.

Steven Montgomery

Explore Freedom:

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