Category Archives: Literal Interpretation

What is wrong with allegorical interpretation?


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Does this understanding make sense when you read the newspaper online, view the TV news, and read the Bible?

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.[1]

1. What is an allegory?

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of “allegory” is that it is “a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics.”[2] Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of the spiritual journey through life. St Augustine’s City of God is “an allegory of the triumph of Good over Evil.”[3] What we must remember is that for an allegory, there must be specific characters and events that are used to represent symbols. Biblical examples include: rock (Deut 32:4; 2 Sam 22:3); lamb (Gen 22:8; Ex 12:7); the cross (as in “The old rugged cross”), and = ICHTHYS | Christian symbols, Greek words and meanings, Christian fish

The Christian hymn (written by George Bennard in 1913), “The Old Rugged Cross,” was abounding in allegories:[4]

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame
    And I love that
    old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain
    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see
    For ’twas on that
    old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    There His glory forever I’ll share (allegories highlighted)

I led a Bible study in 2018 and the pastor of the church was present. We had just finished singing  “The Old Rugged Cross” when he declared there was false doctrine in the hymn. He said we don’t worship a cross. I jumped in: “Pastor, what do the first 2 lines teach? An old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame’. As I’ve highlighted above, allegories are found throughout this hymn. We don’t worship the cross but it reminds us of the one who suffered and experienced shame for sinners.”

2. Are there allegories in the Bible?

See examples in my article, What is literal interpretation?

Of course there are biblical examples of allegories. See illustrations in other sources:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K “Does the Bible contain allegory?” (Got Questions)

2tn_.jpg 1.0K  Allegory Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary

2tn_.jpg 1.0KAllegory” (Oxford Biblical Studies Online)

Let’s move from allegories in the Bible to allegorical interpretation. What’s the difference? Surely there is a need to understand biblical allegories. How can that be at variance with allegorical interpretation?

3. What is allegorical interpretation?

You will find some of my exposition on allegorical interpretation in this article: What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

There are many articles online explaining allegorical interpretation. I see no reason to repeat their content. I refer you to these articles:

Basically, when you interpret Scripture allegorically, you don’t allow the text to speak for itself in exegesis (obtaining meaning out of the text) but choose to impose another “deeper meaning” on the text – which we call eisegesis (reading something into the text).

3.1 Problems with allegorical preaching

David E Reid told of a sermon he heard from Genesis 24:63-64. It was supposed to be a “revival” sermon from the first book of the Bible. These verses state: “One evening he [Isaac] went out to the field to think.[5] He looked up and saw the camels coming from far away. Rebekah also looked and saw Isaac. Then she jumped down from the camel” (ERV).

Here is the crunch line of interpretation for this preacher:

Without elaborating on his interpretation, the preacher explained that Isaac symbolized Christ; Rebekah, the church; and the camel, whose physical characteristics would be the focus of his message, represented the grace of God. Then he delivered a seven-point exposition based on an allegorical interpretation as classic as any I’ve ever heard.

The camel’s nose, he said, can detect water from far away and lead its rider to drink. The spiritual lesson, he added, is that God’s grace can lead us to spiritual water. He similarly interpreted and applied six more of the camel’s characteristics, none of which was mentioned in the text….

As the preacher’s message illustrates, allegorical interpretation seeks some implicit, symbolic meaning hidden in the explicit, literal meaning of Scripture.

Allegorists consider this perceived “deeper” or “spiritual” meaning to be more profound and therefore more desirable than a text’s literal interpretation.[6]

David Reid gave his reasons for rejecting allegorical interpretation (and I endorse them):

clip_image008“Fundamentally, there is no reason to believe God regularly invests Scripture with more than one meaning.[7]

The normal interpretation of literature is inherently literal. If we can’t trust words to mean what they say, then writing ceases to be a useful means of communication. Only when Scripture itself indicates a text is other than literal should we interpret it non-literally.

For instance, nothing in Genesis 24 indicates Isaac, Rebekah or the camels represent anything other than themselves, so the narrative should be taken literally. On the other hand, in John 15:1, Jesus clearly was speaking metaphorically when He said, “I am the true vine …” and His words should be interpreted as such.

It is true that in Galatians 4:21ff. the Apostle Paul interpreted the Genesis account of Sarah and Hagar allegorically even though the Old Testament text nowhere indicates that story is allegorical. But Paul received his interpretation from the Holy Spirit as he wrote a New Testament letter. We don’t have his inspired prerogative.

Since the Bible never suggests it regularly has more than one meaning, additional interpretations should not be assumed.

clip_image008[1]The allegorical method obscures the true meaning and legitimate application of Scripture.

Allegorists generally see the literal meaning of a text only as a tool for unlocking the perceived allegory. Their pursuit of an illusion, then, causes them to ignore the truth which is there.

When interpreted literally, the Song of Solomon exalts the joy of sexual love in a marital relationship. However, generations of Christian allegorists have interpreted it as symbolic of the relationship of Christ to His bride, the church.

Embarrassed by the sexual nature of the text, they have obscured its meaning, even though nothing in the Song indicates an allegory. Their inhibitions have caused them to conceal what God and the author meant to praise.[8]

clip_image008[2]Allegorical interpretation is open to almost unlimited subjectivity.
The allegorist can make Scripture say whatever he wishes. Although his interpretation may seem reasonable and be consistent with what Scripture teaches elsewhere, who can know if it is the right one for a given passage?

3.2   St Augustine’s strange allegorical interpretation

Take this example from the eminent church father, St Augustine (354-430). Robert Kinney[10] made these observations for Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

In Augustine’s rendering, there is a man (Adam) traveling a road. Having been stripped (of immortality) and beaten (or persuaded to sin) by robbers (the devil), he is ignored by a priest (the Law) and a Levite (the Prophets) before being attended to by a Samaritan (Jesus Christ). The Samaritan takes him to the inn (or the Church) where two denarii (the promises of this life and the life to come) are paid to the innkeeper (the Apostle Paul), to take care of the man.[11]

It’s an intriguing example of allegorical interpretation. Yet for those committed to biblical exposition, this kind of interpretation is deeply problematic.[12]

Expositional preaching should be constrained by the biblical or any other author’s intent—and neither Jesus in his telling nor Luke in his recording could have meant much of what Augustine suggests.[13]

This is a longer version of Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 13-14; slightly abridged).

Another one of the “villains” promoting allegorical preaching was an early church father, the Alexandrian of northern Africa, Origen (185-254), known as the father of allegorical interpretation. Other church leaders preceded and followed him.

Take a read of his articles online and you’ll see how he does it. See HERE. This is one example of how he abandoned literal interpretation to impose his own view on Scripture:

Origen, in his Treatise on First Principles, recommended that the Old and New Testaments be interpreted allegorically at three levels, the first being the “flesh,” the second the “soul,” and the third the “spirit.” Many of the events recounted in the Scriptures, interpreted in the literal or fleshly sense, Origen claims, are impossible. Many of the laws, when interpreted literally, are impossible or nonsensical. To get at the meaning of these passages, it is necessary to interpret them allegorically. Some connected passages will contain parts that are literally true and parts that are literally impossible.

In this case, says Origen,

For as man is said to consist of body, and soul, and spirit, so also does sacred Scripture, which has been granted by the divine bounty for the salva­tion of man…. The reader must endeavor to grasp the entire meaning, connecting by an intellectual process the account of what is literally impossible with the parts that are not impossible but historically true, these being interpreted allegorically in common with the part which, so far as the letter goes, did not happen at all” (Bk 4, para 11, 20).

Clement of Alexandria - Wikipedia

(Clement of Alexandria – ca. 150 –215 –  Image courtesy Wikipedia)

The individual ought, then, to portray the ideas of holy Scripture in a threefold manner upon his own soul; in order that the simple man may be edified by the ‘flesh,’ as it were, of the Scripture. For so we name the obvious sense. While he who has ascended a certain way may be edified by the ‘soul,’ as it were. The perfect man, again, … may receive edification from the spiritual law…. For as man consists of body, and soul, and spirit, so in the same way does Scripture.

Origen’s predecessor, Clement of Alexandria, also supported the need for allegorical interpretation:

For many reasons, then, the Scriptures hide the sense. First, that we may become inquisitive, and be ever on the watch for the discovery of the words of salvation. Then it was not suitable for all to understand, so that they might not receive harm in consequence of taking in another sense the things declared for salvation by the Holy Spirit. Wherefore the holy mysteries of the prophecies are veiled in the parables— preserved for chosen men, selected to knowledge in consequence of their faith; for the style of the Scriptures is parabolic (The Stromata – Miscellanies 6.15.para 15).

The fundamental error with allegorical interpretation is its adding to the text what is not there.

4. What is literal interpretation?

On 19 December 2020 in Australia, I watched test cricket on TV where Australia convincingly won the test by bowling out India for India’s lowest test score on record of 36 – their worst ever performance at test level. Did that happen? Is the plain meaning that it was literal cricket, a literal test match between Australia and India played at the Adelaide Oval, and there was a literal winner and a literal loser? Australia won by 8 wickets. Was that a literal fact or not?

Some symbolic language was used to describe this diabolical performance, “’Carnage… unbelievable… wait, what happened?‘” So symbolic language was used by a journalist to describe a literal event.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline of 19 December 2020 was, “COVID-19 concerns for inner-city; northern beaches in lockdown.” Was this an actual outbreak of Covid-19 or should we seek for a deeper meaning as we read the news?

You know that would be ridiculous but when it comes to the Bible there have been all kinds of reasons given, generally by liberal interpreters, to reject literal interpretation. These are but a few examples:

clip_image010John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims, “Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.”[14]

clip_image010[1]Crossan again: “The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is made to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong.”[15]

clip_image010[2]“The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul.”[16]

There are other biblical scholars who have ridiculed literal interpretation. German theologian, Rudolph Bultmann, was one of them. This is how he attacked the Christian faith:

People cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the case of illness, take advantage of modern medical and clinical means, and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the new testament. and whoever intends to do so must be aware that they can profess this as the attitude of christian faith only by making the christian proclamation unintelligible and impossible for the present.[17]


(Image courtesy Quotefancy)

clip_image010[3]This anti-supernaturalism continues with:

John Shelby Spong who had a stroke in 2016 and had 90% completed his last book. He can’t write now, so his wife transcribed the last 10%. In the book he stated:

The Incarnation, the virgin birth, resuscitation as the meaning of resurrection and the concept of the Holy Trinity—all are explanations that will never last. People hear the experience of Christ being challenged when it is only the explanation that is at stake. I wanted to make sure that people could understand that explanations have to die, but the experience remains eternal.[18]

clip_image014 There was a public forum at St Francis (Anglican) Theological College, Milton, Brisbane, on December 9, 1998, involving Dr Greg Jenks of the Jesus Seminar (of the Drayton Anglican parish, Toowoomba, Qld., Australia), and Dr Paul Barnett, Anglican bishop of North Sydney, defending the orthodox view. The Seminar was titled, “Behind and Beyond the Jesus Seminar: Implications for Christian Discipleship.”  Dr Paul Barnett[19] is author revised, Is the New Testament History?[20] As of 2012, Dr. Jenks was on the faculty of St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, but as of December 2020, he was: Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton NSW; Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University; Executive Director, History; Coin Curator, Bethsaida Excavations Project, Israel; Fellow, Westar Institute, Willamette University, Salem, OR.[21]

Please understand this anti-supernaturalism is associated with their naturalistic world-view. Naturalism dominates their presuppositions. There is no place in their theology for the supernatural Lord God almighty. People like Greg Jenks, John Dominic Cross, John Shelby Spong and others of similar belief are threats to those who don’t know their Bible.

4.1 Literal interpretation includes figures of speech[22]

Thomas Horne, British theologian and researcher (AD 1780–1862) wrote:

The Literal Sense of any place of Scripture is that which the words signify, or require, in their natural and proper acceptation, without any trope [a figure of speech], metaphor, or figure, and abstracted from mystic meaning…. The literal sense has been called the Historical Sense, as conveying the meaning of the words and phrases used by the writer at a certain time….

Interpreters now speak of the true sense of a passage, by calling it the Grammatico-Historical Sense…. The object in using this compound name is, to show that both grammatical and historical considerations are employed in making out the sense of a word or passage.[23]

When I was an MA student at Ashland Theological Seminary, I used A Berkeley Mickelsen’s (1963) text in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Mickelsen provided this definition:

Literal … means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of ‘door’ in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning.[24]

The nature of parables is that they are similitudes, i.e. extended similies.
Some examples may help to understand the differences.

clip_image016 A simile: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth’ (Acts 8:32 ESV, emphasis added). The eunuch is quoting from Isa 53:7 (ESV) but it is a figure of speech known as a simile.

clip_image016[1] A metaphor: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29 ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image016[2]We have an example of a similitude, i.e. parable, in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7 (ESV), ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?’ (Luke 15:4 ESV) In this same context of Luke 15 (ESV) Luke tells us the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32 ESV).

clip_image016[3]There is an example of an allegory of the door for the sheep and the good shepherd in John 10:1-16 (ESV). ‘I am the door of the sheep…. I am the good shepherd’ (John 10:7 ESV; John 10:11 ESV). Like the sheep need a fence with a door to keep them safe and from wandering, Jesus is the door into the Kingdom of God.

All of these are examples of the literal sheep, lamb or shepherd but different figures of speech are used.

I take the Scriptures literally but this does not exempt understanding the use of figures of speech in that literal language. I speak of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, similitude/parable and allegory. When Jesus said, “I am the door” he used a metaphor and did not refer to a wooden door when speaking of himself. When he told Christians, “You are the salt of the earth” he did not refer to literal salt but to the metaphor of how Christians should penetrate the world’s systems with their world views and pervade the secular culture like salt permeates a prepared meal.

This is why it is important to explain what “literal interpretation” means. From the examples I’ve given here, it does not mean an acceptance of dead letterism that does not include figures of speech. Letterism

is a wooden, thin interpretation that fails to go beyond the standard meanings of words and expressions … or to discern the manner in which an author attends to these meanings…. Hence literalism short-circuits the literal sense insofar as it fails to appreciate the author’s intention to give his or her utterance a certain kind of force.[26]

Can you imagine reading your local newspaper or any information online with an allegorical interpretation? How would you ever know if the 9/11 disaster was real or only an allegory? How about Nero’s slaughter of people in the Roman Empire in the first century? Do we have to abandon literal interpretation for the alleged “deeper meaning”? How is my “deeper meaning” of a passage more legitimate than yours? If we use a diversity of meanings of the text it will create chaos in interpretation.

I urge you not to interpret this article using allegorical interpretation. This writing is meant to be read literally.

4.2 I do not use allegorical interpretation because:

clip_image018It destroys the meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It invalidates the plain meaning of the text.

clip_image018[1]It promotes eisegesis rather than exegesis of the text. It reads into the text an alleged “deeper meaning” that is not in the text. I wouldn’t do that when I read the daily newspaper and I don’t do it when reading Origen, Bultmann, Spong or Crossan. Promoters of allegorical interpretation wouldn’t dare ask us to use that methodology when reading their writings.

clip_image019[1]It is parallel to a contemporary postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation. See my article that explains the similarity: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

What does a postmodern deconstructionist hermeneutic do to the text? I had an interesting email discussion with New Zealand researcher, Dr Jeremy Koay, who supports the reader-response model because:

(1) Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience. He rejects the theory that meaning resides exclusively in the text. Why?

Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text.[27]

(2) We need to view reading “on an efferent-aesthetic continuum.” Efferent refers to the information taken away after reading, but aesthetic focusses on the readers’ thoughts and feelings during the reading. Both foci are needed, according to reader-response.[28]

I’m sure happy a judge doesn’t use that method of interpretation when making a judgment on the guilt or otherwise of someone who breaks into my house and steals valuables. I’ve had 5 open-heart, valve replacement surgeries. They left me with emotional and physical scars but I can’t deny the facts of where and when I had those surgeries.

I have no problem accepting that emotions can be stirred when reading some narratives. That happens with me, especially when I read of the persecution and martyrdom happening today through Voice of the Martyrs newsletters. No matter how much my emotions are stirred and I’m provoked to pray more for these persecuted saints, we cannot overlook the fact that these facts don’t go away:

  • IRAN: Imprisoned Christian Dangerously Depressed;
  • INDIA: Christian Pastor Beaten and Left to Die;
  • EGYPT: Riots Follow Blasphemy Accusation;
  • PAKISTAN: Court Acquits Imran Ghafur Masih;

Is this an either/or situation when we read books, news, etc? No! However, we don’t act on the emotions, the aesthetics.

Here you’ll read some of the interaction I had with Dr Koay. While he emailed me, he refused to print my article on the website of Edumaxi. This is my article as a response: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Are the death and resurrection facts of history or feelings of aesthetic beauty?

4.3 Compare allegorical interpretation with postmodern reconstruction

See 4.2 (2) above.

Allegorical interpretation is another version of contemporary, reader-response deconstruction of a text: Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts.

I consider that I would be cheating John Milton in Paradise Lost to use my culture, experience and world view to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical world view to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from Yahoo News, or to the Bible.

This is done by listening to the “plain meaning” of a text. I don’t use the language of “pure literal meaning,” so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing “pure literal meaning” when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

clip_image020HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland
by Samuel Atkins c. 1794 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison being elected by his cabinet as the new Prime Minister of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated “This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text.” Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation of the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or reading the Bible.

This is the major problem with allegorical interpretation and a postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response method of interpretation. I find it best to describe with an image. It wrecks the text of its plain meaning.


(Image courtesy

5. Conclusion

The major problems with allegorical interpretation and postmodern, reader-response interpretations is that they fly along parallel tracks of biblical interpretation. They add to what the text states. This is taboo and should be rejected outright.

While allegorical interpretation adds to the text, it must not be confused with application of a text. I don’t have to follow St Augustine’s interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 ERV). But the application to people in this century is:

  • Whenever we see a person in need and are able to help, act like the Good Samaritan and go out of your way to meet the practical need.
  • Be the one who helps your neighbour and other people in need.
  • A friend of mine works in aged care. She said many of the older folks are never visited by relatives. Could you check with a local retirement village to see if you can visit people in the village? Make sure you follow the Covid-19 safe procedures.

There are many practical reasons for Christian pastors to abandon allegorical interpretation and stick with the plain meaning of the text. Faithful Bible expositors remain with the text to try to discern what the intent of the author was for the original listeners. They don’t search for “deeper meanings” they invent behind the text.

6.  Works consulted

Barnett, Paul 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

Bultmann, Rudolf. “Theologie des Neuen Testaments.” ET: Theology of the New Testament.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Horne, T H 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son. This citation is available as part of a Google Book HERE  (Accessed 19 December 2020).

Koay, Jeremy 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Reid, David E 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: (Accessed 21 December 2020).

Spong, J S 2018. Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. New York NY: HarperOne.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes

[1] David E Reid 2019., “The problem with allegory in preaching.” Available at: (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[2] Collins Dictionary (2020. s.v. allegory).

[3] Ibid.

[4] From Timeless Truths: Free Online Library, public domain. Available at: (Accessed 19 December2020).

[5] Or, “to go for a walk” (ERV footnote).

[6] David E Reid 2019. Preaching. “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.” Available at: (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[7] David R Reid, “The Problem with Allegory in Preaching.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Robert Kinney 2020., “Allegorical Interpretation: Finding the Line Before You Cross It”, 31 March. Available at: (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[11] Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 118, 121 and 125, De Doctrina Christiana 1.30.31ff, Sermo 299.

[12] Without naming Augustine, John Calvin responds to this kind of interpretation in characteristically blunt fashion:

The allegory which is here contrived by the advocates of free will is too absurd to deserve refutation… I acknowledge that I have no liking for any of these interpretations; but we ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning. And, indeed, any one may see that the curiosity of certain men has led them to contrive these speculations, contrary to the intention of Christ.” See Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-37 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Gospels, Vol. 3 (trans. W. Pringle and J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 49. While Calvin’s comments indicate that he is strongly opposed to this kind of allegorical interpretation, he ironically engages in it with a striking frequency. For example, in his commentary on Exodus 28:X, he notes that the garments made for Aaron and his sons are meant to ‘conceal their faults’ and, instead, display virtue and, indeed, the ‘wondrous glory of Christ.’ The text, in Exod 28:2, simply states the garments are to be made “for glory and for beauty.” See Calvin’s commentary on Exodus 28:2 in John Calvin, The Harmony of the Law, Vol. 2 (trans. J. King; Altenmünster: Jazzybee, 2012), 103.

[13] Mark Dever defines expositional preaching as

preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 44. David R. Helm defines it similarly as “empowered preaching that rightfully sub­mits the shape and emphasis of the sermon to the shape and emphasis of a biblical text.” David R. Helm, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (Wheaton, Crossway, 2014), 13. D.A. Carson defines it similarly as “the unpacking of what is there.” He goes on to add: “it is unpacking what the biblical text or texts actually say. If we expect God to re-reveal himself by his own words, then our expositions must reflect as faithfully as possible what God actually said when the words were given to us in Scripture.” D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit” in Preach the Word: Essays in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (ed., L. Ryken, T. Wilson; Wheaton: Crossway: 2008), 176-177. Finally, Bryan Chapell offers this definition: “An expository sermon takes its topic, main points, and subpoints from a text.2 In an expository message, a preacher makes a commitment to explain what a particular text means by using the spiritual principles it supports as the points of the message.”Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 131.

[14] J D Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 184.

[15] Ibid., 180.

[16] Ibid., 208.

[17] Rudolf Bultmann, “neues testament und Mythologie,” 18.

[18] From J S Spong Unbelievable, in Insights magazine 2018, “Controversial Author Releases Final Book”, 19 January. Available at: (Accessed 20 December 2020).

[19] Paul Barnett 2003, Is the New Testament History? (rev.), Aquila Press, Sydney South, Australia.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Information available at Greg Jenks’ homepage: (Accessed

21 December 2020).

[22] Some of the following material is taken from my article, What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

[23] T H Horne 1841. An introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (online), 8th edn, vol 1. Philadelphia: J Whetham & Son, 357. This citation is available as part of a Google Book here.

[24] A B Mickelsen 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 33.

[25] These examples are taken from Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, 212-213.

[26] K J Vanhoozer 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press), 311.

[27] Jeremy Koay 2018. Edumaxi, “What is reader-response theory?” Available at: (Accessed 21 December 2020).

[28] Koay, “What is reader-response theory?”


Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 December 2020.

Fourteen Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

A Note to Dr Robyn J Whitaker

margaret Robyn J Whitaker

Rev. Dr. Margaret Court (photo courtesy| Dr Robyn J Whitaker (photo

Victory Life International, Perth, WA) | courtesy University of Divinity)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A shorter edition of this article was published in On Line Opinion, 7 November 2018, Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

What would cause many in the tennis community, mass media and social media to get up in arms about world champion tennis player, Margaret Court’s, support for heterosexuality. She has boycotted flying with Qantas because it supports homosexual marriage. Some in the Christian community oppose Dr Court’s stand against homosexual marriage.

This is one example of a Christian who took Dr Margaret Court AO MBE to task. It is my response to ‘Note to Margaret Court: the Bible isn’t meant to be read that literally’, by Robyn J Whitaker, Trinity College, 2 June 2017 (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld)

What are the holes in Whitaker’s arguments against Court and Court’s support for heterosexual marriage over Whitaker’s backing of modern Christian families that include gay couples? Here is what I found (In some places, I’ll address Dr Whitaker as ‘you’ and ‘your’).

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 1: It starts with Whitaker’s title that the Bible is not meant to be understood as literally as Margaret Court reads it.

Then she does exactly what she told Margaret not to do. She literally accept the fact that there are 66 books in the Bible; Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife.

Her literal interpretation continued: She accepted that David and Solomon had entire palaces full of wives and concubines and that polygamy was common.  Slaves were used for concubines. There was no hint in her article that these were supposed to be interpreted metaphorically or symbolically.

Whitaker made self-defeating statements with her examples. She failed to meet her own standard of the Bible being read too literally. The article cannot live up to the criteria she set in the title.

So her self-refuting statements are of necessity false. She violated the law of non-contradiction. This states that A and non-A cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. This promoted a contradiction when she accused Margaret Court of reading the Bible “that literally” when she did exactly the same with your reading of the Bible.

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 2: What is literal interpretation? She assumed we knew. When I was in high school in Qld, I learned that to understand a document literally meant to accept the plain meaning of the text. This includes the use of figures of speech and symbols.

My seminary text for biblical interpretation was Berkeley Mickelsen’s , Interpreting the Bible. He wrote that “literal” means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this evident meaning is included in the literal interpretation.

Therefore, “by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions” (Mickelsen 1963:17). So when I read Whitaker’s article online, I assumed that figures of speech were included in the literal meaning. That’s how I understood her  statement that David’s and Solomon’s wives and concubines “served as symbols of their power and status”.

The Cambridge Dictionary (2018. s.v. literal) states the adjectival meaning of literal is, ‘having exactly the same meaning as the basic or original meaning of a word or expression’. e.g. a literal interpretation of the Australian Constitution.

Iain Provan summarised his view of ‘literal’. It harmonises with The Cambridge Dictionary definition: Literally means that Scripture is read with “its apparent communicative intentions as a collection of texts from the past, whether in respect to smaller or larger sections of text”.

This means readers “take full account of the nature of the language in which these intentions are embedded and revealed as components of Scripture’s unfolding covenantal Story – doing justice to such realities as literary convention, idiom, metaphor, and typology or figuration”.

To read Scripture (or any literature) literally is to try to understand “what Scripture is saying to us in just the ways in which we seek to understand what other people are saying to us – taking into account … their age, culture, customs, and language, as well as the verbal context within which individuals words and sentences are located. This is what it means to read “literally,” in pursuit of the communicative intent of God – in search of what to believe, how to live, and what to hope for” (Provan 2017:105).

I would be in strife if I didn’t read Whitaker’s “Note to Margaret Court” literally. Or, should I put a postmodern or allegorical spin on it and make it mean whatever I, the reader, determine?

Related image Hole 3: You claim that Margaret Court was wrong in her open letter to Qantas and on Channel Ten’s “The Project” because she stated that the Bible confirms that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.

Which standard did you use to judge that Mrs Court’s analysis was wrong and yours was correct? Your article concluded that the Bible describes family life that is ancient, different, reflecting patriarchal structures or arranged marriages in early Christianity and is not for today.

In addition, you seem to have brought into your new concept of marriage something that you oppose – “culturally bound ideology”. For you, it includes gay couples and “Christian values of love, justice and inclusion found throughout the Bible and is why so many Christians support marriage equality”.

It is you who has promoted that last statement in your politically correct support of homosexual marriage. Again you make a self-defeating statement. You oppose the “culturally bound ideology” of the Bible’s structure of family life, but you promote your own culturally bound contemporary ideology of marriage equality and modern Christian families including gay couples.

If you were to agree with the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, you would have the same opinion as he had regarding marriage: “’A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

Jesus was an enthusiastic supporter of heterosexual marriage. He did not state that a man should leave his parents and be joined with his male partner and become one flesh with him.

Margaret Court’s conclusion agrees with that of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t harmonise with your belief that progressives do not offend contemporary political sensibilities, including sexual orientation.

Therefore, your view is contrary to that of Jesus. Margaret Court’s stance on marriage agrees with that of the Saviour and yours is the one at odds with the Bible and the Master.

Related imageHole 4: You have committed an historian’s fallacy in your claims against Margaret Court. This is how you promoted this fallacy:

1. Mrs Court claimed that in the Bible in the past, marriage was a union between a man and a woman.

2. Mrs Court, who makes this claim, did not take into consideration marriage equality that was not taught in biblical times.

3. Therefore, Margaret Court is wrong to claim that the Bible supports heterosexual marriage.

One of the problems with this erroneous reasoning is that it does not deal with the issues at hand, issues such as these:

  • The foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview is based on Old and New Testament Scriptures.
  • God decided who should be joined together in the beginning of time: ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Heterosexuality was God’s design.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed this position (Matthew 19:5),
  • As did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31).

Your support of marriage equality over heterosexual marriage is a politically correct line of reasoning and is fallacious because it doesn’t deal with a range of issues biblically, including the Scripture’s perspective on homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and the Bible’s support of heterosexual marriage in both Old and New Testaments. It also has been called a political correctness fallacy.

Related image Hole 5: Margaret Court “is even more wrong” to suggest she is being persecuted for her views, you stated. The situation is more serious. She has been bullied. To bully is to “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something” (Oxford Dictionary online 2017. s v bully). Mrs Court has been bullied and intimidated by the threat of tennis players to boycott Margaret Court Arena at the 2018 Australian Open Grand Slam tournament.

Girls Being Mean ClipartShe has been bullied by the threat that the arena named in her honour at Melbourne Park should be changed for the 2018 Australian Open.

(image courtesy clipartxtras)

Then there was the ridicule by tennis super-brat and now commentator, John McEnroe, after Mrs Court’s statement that “tennis is full of lesbians”. McEnroe fired back, “This is true and who gives a f***? This is not true and who should give a f***? This is half true and should we really give a f***?” (AAP 2017)

Open lesbian and tennis great, Martina Navratilova, engaged in emotional abuse of Mrs Court in her “open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena” when she stated:

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.

“And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK. This is in fact sick and it is dangerous. Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatising of our LGBT community” (Navratilova 2017).

Navratilova supported the change of name of Margaret Court Arena: “I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it”. Would you endorse this?

Etihad Stadium crop.jpg(photo Etihad Stadium, courtesy Wikipedia)

Does Whitaker consider the former Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, should have had a name change between 2009-2018? It was sponsored by Etihad Airways, the national airline of the Islamic country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is now known as Docklands’ Stadium.

Was she an advocate to change name of Etihad Stadium during its sponsorship of the stadium?

What is the Islamic view on homosexuality? The Muslim commentary on the Quran, Hadith, states in al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152: [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver”. Another statement from the Hadith is: “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done’ (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4447).

Thus, Islam requires capital punishment for both the perpetrator and recipient of what the people of Sodom did.

What did the “people of Lot” do? Lot’s (Lut in Arabic) life is explained in Genesis, chapters 11-14, and 19. He lived in Sodom, a city of open homosexuality (see Genesis 19:4-9). What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Greg Koukl examined the options in depth and concluded:

We know the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were homosexual, “both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (19:4), to the point of disregarding available women (19:5-8). After they were struck sightless they still persisted (19:11). These men were totally given over to an overwhelming passion that did not abate even when they were supernaturally blinded by angels.

Homosexuality fits the biblical details. It was the sin that epitomized the gross wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—the “grave,” “ungodly,” “lawless,” “sensual conduct of unprincipled men” that tormented Lot as he “saw and heard” it “day after day,” the “corrupt desire” of those that went after “strange flesh.”

Islam’s punishment for homosexuality is an extreme treatment compared with what Margaret Court advocated.

Homosexuality may be punishable by imprisonment or death in the UAE. Why didn’t Dr Whitaker support the cancellation of the sponsorship of Etihad Stadium for the sake of the LGBTIQ+ community when Islam is opposed to homosexuality?

It seems inconsistent to me that she wanted to downgrade Mrs Court’s persecution and abuse for her statements on homosexuality but avoid dealing with a Muslim country’s airline’s sponsorship of Etihad Stadium in Australia.

Margaret Court has put up with persecution, abuse and ridicule from the tennis community, mass media, and now pro-LGBTIQ+ bias from Dr Whitaker, a woman representing the Christian community.

Related image Hole 6: You cherry pick a Bible verse without bringing contextual understanding to try to oppose Mrs Court’s teaching ministry as a woman at Victory Life Centre, Perth.

You claim that if the literalism that Mrs Court applied to Genesis on marriage were applied to 1 Timothy 2:12, she would be in hot water because it forbids women to teach or have authority over men.

The facts are that “I am not permitting a woman to teach” focussed especially on the church where Timothy was located at Ephesus. However, in other churches women could prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5), give a teaching on occasions (1 Corinthians 14:26). Women were not excluded from teaching in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct one another wisely’ (NIRV), and the older women were to be good teachers of the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). One of the spiritual gifts is that of teachers (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Nothing in these verses indicates the teaching gift is exclusively for men to minister to a mixed gathering.

As a female teacher of males in a church college and university at which you work, and your affiliation with the Uniting Church, you should know that literal interpretation includes examining the use of plain language, figures of speech, literary context, and the cultural context. It is hypocritical, in my view, for you to challenge Margaret Court’s teaching as a minister while you are involved in a related kind of ministry as a female teacher.

Therefore, Margaret Court is not out of order by being a Christian teacher. Interpreting the Bible literally and in context does not lead to your conclusion of Mrs Court being in “hot water” as a female teacher. Rather, she is in the hot seat of being one of God’s gifts to the church and stating publicly exactly what Jesus taught in support of heterosexual marriage and thus rejecting homosexual relationships.

God’s grace as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection extends to all sinners as Paul illustrated, “Some of you used to do those things. But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). What they “used to do” included those who “practised homosexuality” and other sins.

Through Christ’s salvation there is hope for change among those who used to practise homosexuality and other sins.

Please be consistent with your biblical interpretation. You were the one who quoted Galatians 3:28 to affirm that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female because “all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. That teaching is profoundly troublesome for your statement against Mrs Court as a Christian teacher.

Related image Hole 7: There are holey Bible arguments in what you excluded as much as what you included. Your claim is that polygamy was common in the Old Testament (which is true) and that you don’t hear anyone advocating this as a “biblical view” of marriage.

That is only partially true. A cult group such as the Mormons historically practised polygamy. You fail to mention that this polygamy in the Old Testament was between a man and women and not male to male. It was heterosexual polygamy.

However, are you not aware of a website such as, Polygamy is not only advocated by the Mormons but also, “Idaho evangelical Christian polygamists use the Internet to meet potential spouses”. Christian polygamy also is promoted in:

It is a significant issue in African churches where polygamists are converted to Christ.

Related image Hole 8: What was God’s view of polygamy? His original plan was one man for one woman from the beginning with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25).

That changed when sin entered the human race (Genesis 3) and Lamech had wives (Genesis 4:23). The Law of Moses was clear for the Israelites: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). In that same chapter, there is a warning of the consequences of polygamy:

The Lord had warned Israel about women from other nations. He had said, ‘You must not marry them. If you do, you can be sure they will turn your hearts toward their gods.’ But Solomon continued to love them anyway. He wouldn’t give them up (1 Kings 11:2).

Related image Hole 9: You declare the traditional nuclear family can be found in the Bible if we look for it, but it’s not the dominant model. The information given above makes it clear that the nuclear family (with aberrations such as polygamy) was found in the Bible in both New and Old Testaments.

You stated that the Bible doesn’t condemn “what we understand to be loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”. This is an imposition on the biblical text which states,

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, emphasis added).

Another translation of “men who have sex with men” is “male prostitutes, sodomites”.

Those who practise homosexuality are prevented from entering the kingdom of God – along with wrongdoers, deceivers, the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.

The New Testament does not allow or stress homosexual relationships. Its statement is clear nonetheless: “Since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). It’s a serious violation of Scripture when you want to harmonise a verse like this with ”loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”.

clip_image024 Hole 10: You make a case for faith being what makes a person a Christian and not family structures or sexuality. That is not what Jesus taught: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). By the fruit of homosexual relationships, will you recognize Christians? The biblical evidence says, “No”.

Yes, faith in Christ alone for salvation is the primary requisite. However, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declares the people with certain kinds of behaviour will not enter God’s kingdom. Homosexuality is one such activity. Faith needs to be demonstrated through God’s kind of works, not works defined by political correctness (see James 2).

clip_image026 Hole 11: You stated that Mrs Court’s “culturally bound ideology” is rejected by “biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches”. Here you have committed the Appeal to Common Belief fallacy.

When you claim that a particular group of people – biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches – accept the anti-literal interpretation as true, you have not presented evidence for the claim. It is erroneous reasoning.

This is careless thinking and is a dangerous way to accept information.

This is your faulty reasoning:

  • Many people (scholars and mainstream Church people) believe in a non-literal interpretation of what Margaret Court accepts literally.
  • Therefore, the non-literal interpretation is correct.

clip_image028 Hole 12: Your statement that “in the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce” is a diversion.

There was no need for Jesus to affirm same-sex relationships because his definition of marriage excluded them. He was not silent but defined the marriage union as between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5).

clip_image030 Hole 13: Your assertion that many Christians are not represented by the views of Margaret Court or the “so-called Australian Christian Lobby”. This commits a Hasty Generalisation fallacy, also known as argument from small numbers. Ask  Australian rugby union star, Israel Folau, about that!

You have drawn a conclusion from a small sample size (your estimate of “many Christians”), rather than examining statistics that are in line with the average situation. Your debunking of Mrs Court’s view and that of the Australian Christian Lobby because they do not line up with your “many Christians” of another view is deceptive reasoning.

AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg(image courtesy wikipedia)

A better solution would be to examine the statistics for the mainline churches versus the evangelical churches, including Pentecostal churches.

USA church growth expert, Ed Stetzer, has a particular interest in what is happening in the Australian church. He has analysed the Australian church scene and reported in the Bible Society Live Light, (12 May 2015) that too many churches are stagnant.

His observation of the Western world, including the Australian outlook, is that “mainline Protestantism” in the USA and its counterparts in the rest of the English speaking world are “rapidly declining”. He used the Uniting Church of Australia as a representative example, but this could be applied to other members of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCC). He expects this trend of progressive Protestant decline to continue.

By contrast, evangelicalism (represented by Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby) is growing in Australia. His view is that some of this may be partly related to those moving from NCC churches.

Stetzer said that the majority of Protestant Australians who attend church go to a conservative church. It may not call itself evangelical but is influenced by that movement.

A survey of 1,015 adults at Easter 2015 found that “just over half (52%) of Australian’s believe that God exists as the creator of the universe and Supreme Being. These findings have yielded similar results to the same question asked of the Australian public 6 years ago” (McCrindle Research).

According to the 2016 National Church Life Survey, the Pentecostals have overtaken Anglicans as Australia’s second largest religious group by attendance, behind the Catholic Church (

This should account for Stetzer’s comment that the large numbers of Protestant Australians attending church are conservative. He considered this represented the majority of Australian Protestants. I consider that a better assessment would be to state that a significant number of Protestant Australians attend conservative churches.

Therefore, Dr Whitaker, to dumb down the views of Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby on homosexuality as “not representative” of “many Christians” is to commit the Appeal to Popularity fallacy. This fallacy invokes the popularity of a proposition to provide evidence of its truthfulness.

Here you have committed this fallacy:

  • Many Christians promote modern Christian families that include gay couples and are not represented by Mrs Court’s or the Australian Christian Lobby’s views.
  • Therefore, the truth is that the modern Christian family includes gay couples.

This is invalid reasoning because it does not engage with a contextual interpretation of the biblical texts and the statistical divide between mainline Protestants and evangelical churches.

clip_image032 Hole 14: It is acceptable to send a player of rugby league, rugby union, ice hockey and basketball to the “sin bin” for certain offences against the rules of the games.

One of the largest holes in your agenda, Dr Whitaker, is your avoidance of the key factor – yes, the key factor – that has screwed up our worldviews. This is the problem of sin that has infiltrated every human being and our culture. “God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

Image result for christart Sin(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12) but this sin not only screwed up human beings and their relationships, it also contaminated the universe.

God told Adam that because he listened to his wife (not his male partner) and ate from the tree from which God commanded him not to eat, then, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17).

However, you have been negligent in eliminating the problem of sin and its influence in Old Testament polygamy and other aberrations of marriage, including homosexual marriage, heterosexual adultery, and promiscuity (sleeping around).

The teaching on sin is central to Christianity. Sin consists of acts of offence against God and breaking his laws. “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12).

However, the contamination of sin in relationships was missing from your article. There is no point in Jesus’ death and resurrection for redemption if there is no need to be liberated from the guilt of sin. Jesus Christ “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

There was no need to be freed from the sin of homosexuality or polygamy in your presentation. The sin problem left a big hole in your argument.


There’s a huge gap between Dr Margaret Court’s holy Bible and Dr Robyn Whitaker’s holey Bible on the authority of Scripture that contains teaching on homosexuality, gay couples, marriage equality, polygamy, heterosexuality and sexual purity..

I found 14 holes in Dr Whitaker’s case against Dr Court. There are possibly more. It is a serious situation when Whitaker castigates Court’s views when heterosexual and not homosexual relationships are supported by Jesus Himself.

You have bought into the contemporary, pro-homosexual, politically correct agenda that receives vast mass media coverage. Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby have promoted the biblical mandate of heterosexual marriage, which was supported by Jesus, the apostle Paul and has been the norm since the beginning of time.

I recommend that you make an apology to Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby for promoting your own views over those endorsed by Scripture – all in the name of your being a representative of Christianity.

Works consulted

AAP 2017. John McEnroe makes light of Margaret Court same-sex marriage saga. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 5 June. Available at: (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Navratilova, M 2017. An open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena. The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June. Available at: (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Provan, I 2017. The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press.


Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2018.

The Wedding at Cana Led to Divorce


By Spencer D Gear PhD

I read the Brisbane Times online (28 June 2016) and the story, ‘Koala in pain for hours after dog attack’. It stated:

A koala was left lying in pain for five hours after being attacked by a dog north of Brisbane before finally being put out of its misery.

The koala, a young male coming into his first breeding season, was attacked about 2.30am on Tuesday at Petrie, but the dog’s owners did not contact the RSPCA until 7.30am.

The animal had to be euthanased due to the severity of its injuries (Brisbane Times 2016).

clip_image004(photo of koala, courtesy Wikipedia)


Do you think it is reasonable to understand this as referring to a cuddly marsupial koala that was attacked by an actual dog in the Brisbane suburb of Petrie? The real pain lasted hours until the koala was euthanised after the RSPCA, an animal welfare organisation, had been contacted.

Or would you prefer that I interpret this story as referring to pain that was a symbol of what God wanted to teach Christians about the benefits of suffering, according to James 1:2-4 (NASB):

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

You would be justified in calling for the mental health people if I came up with such a crazy allegorical interpretation of imposing on the text of the Brisbane Times a meaning that was in no way found in the newspaper’s wording about the injured koala.

But that’s exactly the kind of interpretation I encountered when I visited a Christian forum online with allegorical interpretations of Jesus’ miracle of converting the water into wine at the wedding at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11 NLT).

If you want to screw up the meaning of Jesus’ first ‘sign’ miracle and cause it to be divorced from the fundamental narrative of the text, there is a way to do it. Read on and you’ll be exposed to some glaring examples of what people do to reject an objective interpretation of a biblical text.

When I speak of the wedding at Cana leading to a divorce, I’m referring to a divorce from the meaning presented by the text. It is disarming to see how some Christians can do it but not see the danger of what they do. We will see this as this article unfolds.

Two people did this on a Christian forum with their allegorical interpretations of the Wedding at Cana. I’ll use a back and forth dialogue with me as the format for this engagement although the original was in posts that could have been separated by a day or two.

1. Divorce in view: Allegorical interpretation of the wedding at Cana


This person started the thread with a lengthy statement of interpretation. I can see the divorce in motion: [2]

God’s word can be literal and Spiritual as in the case of the wedding in Cana. The wedding represents the Spiritual being the union between Jesus and his bride whom are the children of God through repentance. Jesus brings his disciples to the wedding to show them the wonders of God through the renewal of his Spirit. I want you to see the relationship we have between the old self in the flesh and the new Spiritual rebirth in Christ. We are called the bride of Christ and I could not find any better example of this as in the story of the first wedding Jesus attended with his disciples, (Ref: John 2:1-11).

The word marriage represents our relationship with Jesus. We are called the bride of Christ which means when we ask Jesus into our life through repentance we become one in the Spirit that is in Christ and have communion with his life, death and resurrection. We are united with Jesus as one body that has been renewed through the Spirit that is God. We become as a bride to the bridegroom as we are joined together as one. (Matthew 9:15; Rev 21:9)

The word call means that we do not just happen to fall into a relationship with Jesus as we are called of God or predestined before the world began for Gods purpose and grace. Jesus and his disciples were called to the wedding to witness the testimony of Gods power and authority through the miracle of changing water into wine, which was Jesus first miracle. The water and the wine represent the word of God and his Spirit as a renewal of our body and soul through the salvation of Jesus. (Jeremiah 1:5; 2Timothy 1:9; John 3:5)

Wanting wine meant the disciples wanted understanding of those things Jesus was teaching them as they could not understand with their carnal minds, but did know that Jesus was a prophet sent by God. When Jesus said to his mother my time has not come yet he was speaking of his death and resurrection. Spiritual understanding could not come until Jesus ascended unto the Father and the Holy Spirit that is the Spirit of God be brought down from heaven to open our Spiritual eyes and ears to understand those teachings of Jesus while he walked the earth with his disciples. (Romans 8:5-8; John 14:26)

The water pots in themselves are a Jewish tradition of placing these pots outside the wedding feast so everyone could wash their hands and feet before entering into the feast. The significance of there being six water pots of stone is that the number six represents the number of the beast or sinful nations that are being controlled by Satan using others to deceive man like he used a serpent to deceive Adam and Eve as Satan is a spirit that has no form and has to use whatever or whomever he can to work through to deceive man.

When Jesus asked the servants to fill the water pots with water and then he changed the water into wine is a Spiritual representation of the water being the word of God and the wine being the Holy Spirit as it is only by the word of God and his Holy Spirit that we can see the kingdom of God through a renewed Spiritual rebirth through repentance.

The governor asked Jesus why was the good wine served last after everyone was already drunk as he could not understand such a thing. In the beginning man was pure and knew no sin until they allowed themselves to be deceived by Satan who used the serpent to deceive them thus the knowledge of sin was revealed to them and extended to all generations. The good wine (Gods Spirit come to flesh in Jesus) was sacrificed for the atonement of sin as through repentance we now have the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God – new wine) that renews our inner man through the word of God that we can now have life eternal with the father. (Rev 13:18; John 1:14; Colossians 3:5-14; Genesis 3:6, 7)

Before the dispensation of grace (Jesus) men were bound by the laws and traditions enforced by the Priest and the Scribes. The laws that were established by God were changed daily by the Pharisees so they could justify their own deeds of unrighteousness, By changing the laws this put men under bondage and they ended up dying in their sins for if you broke even one you were guilty of breaking them all because the law had no saving provisions in it and became a curse to men because they could not e justified by the laws. (Galatians 3:10-12)

Jesus gave a parable about the old garment and old bottle which represents our old sin nature. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior through repentance this created a new Spiritual inner man and old things are passed away (sin) and remembered no more by God and all things become new once again. You have two masters you can choose to serve as one is God and the other is self. If we have truly died to self (old garment, old bottle) and serve God then he clothes us in his robe of righteousness and we drink from the new bottle from the fountain of living water. There is no fence riding when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. You either trust him in all things or you deny him in all things. You can not put a new piece of garment on an old piece as it ruins the new garment if you cut into it. (Note: wine bottles were made from the hide of animals and if used to much the hide would wear out and split.) (Luke 5:36-39; Matthew 6:24)

When the Pharisees saw Jesus sitting with such undeliverable type of people in their opinion they question his disciples why he would waste his time on those they deemed unworthy and Jesus overhearing their conversation told them that he came to call the sinner not the righteous back to the grace of God through repentance as the righteous already hold that which is of God in their hearts. The Pharisees could not understand what Jesus meant as they felt that anyone who did not support their interpretations of the laws of Moses would become an outcast forever. Their interpretations of the laws, as they changed them daily, became more authoritative than the original ones God gave to Moses. The laws had become bondage and caused many to die in their sin for they could not keep all the laws as there were over 613 of them as I said before the Pharisees added to them daily to try and justify their own deeds. Jesus was sent of God to make an end to the curse of the law as he was made the final blood sacrifice to redeem us all from sin through repentance to bring us back to the grace of God. (Matthew 9:10-13; Galatians 3:10-14)

Once again the Pharisees came against Jesus and his teachings for what he was teaching came against their own interpretations and traditions of the laws and as he was also teaching to the gentiles who were thought to be heathens as they worshipped other gods this angered those who held high office in the Priesthood in the Jewish nation. The Jewish people were bound by the laws as they were taught by the Priest and Rabbi in the Synagogue they also questioned Jesus about why his disciples did not fast as fasting was part of the law of purification and Jesus told them why would one fast for something they already had. He also told them that he would not always be with the people and they would fast again, but it would be another type of fast that the disciples of Jesus (us) would loose the bands of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke of bondage. The fast Jesus was talking about was to feed the hungry, help the poor and clothe the naked.

Fasting was not afflicting the soul as what would that bring about, but only ones own emotions of pain. Fasting is to take the word of God out to those who need to hear of Gods salvation and showing the actions of the word of God by helping those in need. The old bottle or the old wineskin (man under the law) was bound by the law or the interpretation of it, which only brought Spiritual death and literal death, but the new bottle or new wine skin (man under grace) has been set free from the curse of the law as the Holy Spirit has been given to us that renews Gods Spirit in us and teaches us the true knowledge of Gods spoken word. (Matthew 9:14-17; Isaiah 58:5-8)

We have to be careful for what we are being taught by others so we will not fall into the bondage of traditional interpretations and preach a deceptive gospel that will cause others to stumble and separate themselves from grace, but rather we need to be teaching the acceptable word of God in all truths no matter what tries to come against us. You might think that anything taught from the pulpit is truth because after all these people are our teachers and they should know what they are speaking, but we are warned many times in the word of God to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing because Satan as a roaring lion is seeking to whom he can use to devour us. Learn to discern what is being taught to you so you can rightly divide the word of God to know what is truth or what is error as we will stand before God individually to give an account for what we have learned and taught others and there will be no excuses before the father as he has given us truth by his Spirit, but it was up to us to accept it or reject it.

Never take anyone’s word for what they teach unless they can back themselves up with scripture and you study it for yourself by asking the Holy Spirit to confirm if what you have been taught is truth or error and if you find error in those teachings it is up to you to go to them in love and compassion to show them where they have erred as when you do this you gain a brother, but if they refuse to hear you then shake the dust from your feet and move on. Never argue or debate Gods word for this will only bring foolishness on you and is not pleasing to the Father, but in all things let us bring glory and honor to the Lord by living in his will of love and show forth the good fruits of his grace. (1 Peter 5:8; 1Timothy 1:4-7).

This lengthy interpretation is a classic piece of creative innovation that makes the text state what is not included in it. The interpreter has not separated the subject from the object in interpretation.

1.1   Adding to the text with alleged ‘spiritual’ interpretation

clip_image005Here is my response:


The above interpretations[4] you have made from John 2:1-11 are not in the text. They are added to the text in these ways:

  1. ‘God’s word can be literal and Spiritual as in the case of the wedding in Cana. The wedding represents the Spiritual being the union between Jesus and his bride whom are the children of God through repentance.’
  2. ‘The water and the wine represent the word of God and his Spirit as a renewal of our body and soul through the salvation of Jesus’.
  3. ‘Wanting wine meant the disciples wanted understanding of those things Jesus was teaching them as they could not understand with their carnal minds, but did know that Jesus was a prophet sent by God’.
  4. ‘six water pots of stone is that the number six represents the number of the beast or sinful nations that are being controlled by Satan using others to deceive man like he used a serpent’;
  5. ‘The good wine (Gods Spirit come to flesh in Jesus) was sacrificed for the atonement of sin as through repentance we now have the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God – new wine) that renews our inner man through the word of God that we can now have life eternal with the father’,
  6. Etc, etc, etc.

None of these interpretations came from the text; they were your inventive creations. The early church Father, Origen (ca. 185-254) , would have been proud of your allegorical interpretations as he was one of the famous allegorisers in the early church and his method of interpretation has been condemned because it means that anyone can come along and say what he or she wants about a text – a long as it has spiritual overtones. See, ‘The rise of allegorical interpretation‘.

You exhort us: ‘Never take anyone’s word for what they teach unless they can back themselves up with scripture and you study it for yourself by asking the Holy Spirit to confirm if what you have been taught is truth or error’.  As I have mentioned briefly, the teachings you have given from the Wedding at Cana of Galilee are not in the text and are thus in error. I’m using your call to assess whether it is truth or error.

You see, if I accept your allegorising, there is no way that you can reject my responses as well. Here goes:

  1. God’s word can only be interpreted literally and that means all figures of speech are included in literal interpretation. This is the case for the incident of turning water into wine at Cana of Galilee.
  2. The water and the wine are literal products involved in the miracle at Cana.
  3. For the disciples to understand what Jesus taught, they interpreted him as one would any conversation or piece of literature – literally – which includes acceptance of figures of speech.
  4. Six water pots of stone were just that – 6 water pots of stone – no more and no less.
  5. The good wine was kept until last to demonstrate the importance of Jesus’ first sign at Cana.
  6. Etc, etc, etc.

When one allegorises Scripture, one can make it say anything one wants. It’s really imposing on the text a meaning that is not there. It is like postmodern, reader-response interpretation where the reader determines the meaning of a text and does not allow the intention of the original author to speak.

I did not state this in the thread and I was negligent in not doing it. I should have provided a definition of allegorical interpretation and a list of its dangers. Here goes for this article:

1.2   Definition of allegorical interpretation

clip_image007Let’s check on three leading texts from the past on hermeneutics (i.e. biblical interpretation.

Berkeley Mickelsen, in a text I used in seminary, warns that

allegory, a very legitimate way of teaching truth, should not be confused with allegorizing, which takes a narrative that was not meant to teach truth by identification. By a point by point comparison, allegorizing makes a narrative convey ideas different from those intended by the original author. Thus allegorizing is an arbitrary way of handling any narrative (Mickelsen 1963:231).

Milton Terry’s definition is:

The allegorical method of interpretation is based upon a pro­found reverence for the Scriptures, and a desire to exhibit their manifold depths of wisdom. But it will be noticed at once that its habit is to disregard the common signification of words, and give wing to all manner of fanciful speculation. It does not draw out the legitimate meaning of an author’s language, but foists into it whatever the whim or fancy of an interpreter may desire. As a system, therefore, it puts itself beyond all well?defined principles and laws (Terry n d:164).

Bernard Ramm, in a text I used in Bible college, stated that:

Allegorical interpretation believes that beneath the letter (rhete) or the obvious (phanera) is the real meaning (hyponoia) of the passage. Allegory is defined by some as an extended metaphor…. But if we presume that the document has a secret meaning (hyponoia) and there are no cues concerning the hidden meaning interpretation is difficult. In fact, the basic problem is to determine if the passage has such a meaning at all. The further problem arises whether the secret meaning was in the mind of the original writer or something found there by the interpreter. If there are no cues, hints, connections, or other associations which indicate that the record is an allegory, and what the allegory intends to teach, we are on very uncertain grounds (Ramm 1970:24).

We’ll discuss the dangers of allegorical interpretation after my discussion with two promoters of the allegorical method below.

Now we return to the Christian Forum dialogue. The stereotype continued:

1.3   ‘Spiritual meaning’


Can we quit making this a battle field and please stay on topic. My whole point of starting this thread was to show how something that is literal can also have a Spiritual message to it. Thank you.[5]


Your supposed ‘spiritual message’ is really allegorical interpretation, which means that you impose your own alleged spiritual meaning onto the text. That ‘spiritual message’ is not stated in the text (John 2:1-11). It is invented by you. It is a battlefield of your own making because of your invented method of adding to the text.

Roy Zuck’s practical definition of allegorical interpretation (what you have done) is:

Allegorizing is searching for a hidden or secret meaning underlying but remote from and unrelated in reality to the more obvious meaning of a text. In other words the literal reading is a sort of code, which needs to be deciphered to determine the more significant and hidden meaning. In this approach the literal is superficial, the allegorical is the true meaning.[7]


Just as Nicodemus did not understand that of the Spiritual in John 3 that Jesus was telling him so the same as many will not see the Spiritual teaching in the wedding in Cana. Words have literal meaning like water and wine, but some, like water and wine, have very Spiritual meaning within the literal as I have already explain in my OP with scripture.

John 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?[8]

1.4   We should not go beyond the text of Scripture

Another came in to offer support of the position I was advocating.


I must, however, agree with Oz. He’s right in making the point that we should not go beyond what is actually in the scripture. Anyone could come up with any concept and put it forward as a teaching. How would we ever know which is correct and which isn’t correct?

We should try to adhere to what the original writer intended us to know. Wine is held in jars. It’a normal everyday thing. It’s okay to see some spirituality in this – but it should not be a teaching, an official teaching. If John had meant to say what is being expressed here, then he would have just said it.

John made it a point to say what he believed to be important.
Scripture looses all meaning when we give our own private interpretation and then pass it along as a factual teaching. If you believe anything – believing becomes meaningless.[9]

1.5   Spiritual meaning ‘given to me’


From where did this ‘spiritual meaning’ come that was given to the person?

I already stated that this was something that was personally given to me and no, I am not adding anything to the text, but only showing things that are also Spiritual within the literal. Spiritual usually is never stated, but can be applied, as it is given to one by the revelations of the Holy Spirit when one seeks understanding.

Changing water into wine was Jesus first miracle at the beginning of His ministry. We can also apply this to we (sic) being the water only having the word, but not yet having the new wine which represents the indwelling of the Holy Spirit like that of what Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3.[10]


The advocate, against allegorical interpretation, continued:

THIS is what happens when we read too much into a scripture.
You mention the discourse between Jesus and John in John 3.
There are already 2 different theological theories as to what Jesus meant about being born of water.
1. One big denomination believes that Jesus is speaking about baptism. Baptismal water. This brings up problems but we won’t get into that.
2. Protestantism believes that Jesus is speaking about being born naturally since Nicodemus asks how it could be possible to return to the mother’s womb.
Now, YOU are introducing a new idea. You’re saying:
We can also apply this to we (sic) being the water only having the word,

You’re saying that WE are the water (the new idea) only having the word.
(And I still haven’t gotten some scripture as to how you can relate water to being the word …)
According to you, I must add a number 3 to my list above.[11]


This is rank eisegesis, so I replied:[12] When you engage in allegorical/figurative interpretation of any text, you are adding to the text – adding your own ‘spiritual’ interpretation that is not stated in the text of John 2:1-11 (ESV).

All right, let me try my own allegorical interpretation. Changing the water into wine means that Jesus promoted the view that it is spiritually uplifting to indulge in drinking large quantities of alcoholic wine when I gather with God’s people, to assist my spiritual life in developing miraculous, spiritual understanding and development.

What I have written here is just as suitable as what you have written because both of us have added to Scripture of John 2 (ESV) what is NOT in the text. However, your use of allegorical interpretation allows me to use the same method and make the text mean whatever I want it to mean. I can add all the spiritual words I want, but that does not detract from the fact that you and I have engaged in eisegesis with our allegorical/figurative interpretation.

Allegorical interpretation destroys the meaning of any text.


Predictably, the emphasis continued:

It’s not an allegorical interpretation, but a Spiritual understanding of that which is literal. It’s like all the parables Jesus taught. They were literal fiction stories, but each story had a Spiritual reference to our salvation through the Spiritual new birth as we take the part and combine it with the whole of scripture for our understanding. Your interpretation would have no merit for it has no scriptural founding in it and actually comes against what Jesus already taught about gluttony in Proverbs 23:20; Ephesians 5:18. Nicodemus only saw the literal in John 3:1-6, but was then given the Spiritual meaning. Water-word, wine-Holy Spirit.[13]

What could I do but have a laugh over the continued refusal to listen to the exposure of her unbiblical interpretations.


So I wrote:[14] I’m chuckling FHG! clip_image008Your ‘spiritual understanding’ is nothing more and nothing less than allegorical interpretation of infusing into the text of Cana of Galilee something that was not there. It’s an invention.

Cana of Galilee is NOT a parable but you are trying to make it into your own special variety by infusing your own imaginative stuff. You claim that my interpretation has no merit because it has ‘no scriptural founding’. Do you mean foundation? Yours has no more scriptural foundation than mine in interpretation of Cana of Galilee.

‘Spiritual meaning’ is your individualistic invention of spiritual sounding words that add to the text and make it say what it is not saying.

1.6   Unnecessary conclusion: Bible literal and not spiritual


The promoter of allegorical teaching continued:

So what you are saying is that the whole Bible is literal and contains nothing Spiritual in it for our understanding? How do we become born again without the Spirit? How do we learn the mysteries of Gods word without the Spirit revealing those things that confound the carnal mind, Deuteronomy 29:29; Proverbs 25:2 Matthew 13:11-13; Colossians 1:26, 27; 1Timothy 3:16 ? Not all private interpretations are to be shared unless God says it’s time to share them to those who have ears to hear. This is why God told Daniel to shut up the words and seal the book (visions) that were revealed to him until the time of the end when knowledge would increase, Daniel 12:1-4. The time of the end was when Jesus was taken up and the Holy Spirit was sent down to indwell us and teach us all things as then Spiritual knowledge was increased, John 14:26.
The book was opened in the end with John who was indwelled with the Holy Spirit who received these visions in Revelations from the angel Jesus sent to him while he was being held captive on the isle of Patmos for his witness and testifying of Christ. John was in the Spirit, not caught up to the third heaven where God sits on His throne, when these visions of Daniel were given to him to share with the seven Churches in Asia and all generations after him. It’s only understood by those whose knowledge has been increased by the Holy Spirit.[15]

1.7   John 3:5: Born of water and the Spirit


A portion of the allegorical promoter’s post read:

John 3:5 never mentions the word baptize, but says only by being born of water and spirit, which means water as living water (word) that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are Spiritually renewed (born again) by the word, which is Christ Jesus and by the Holy Spirit that came on them in the OT and indwells us in the NT. Many do read into the passage a preconceived idea or theology, but baptism is never mentioned in this verse. Word in John 3:5 is living water as described in John 4:10; 7:38; 1John 5:6; Jeremiah 2:13; Isaiah 55:1-3 to name a few.[16]


Therefore, I asked: ‘Please share with us how you obtain the meaning of John 3:5 (ESV), ‘unless you are born of water and the Spirit’ in context’.[17] The reply was:


Can we be born again by literal water like that of John the Baptist, no, for John’s baptism in water was for repentance and had nothing to do with being Spiritually born again. Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. We are saved through faith by Gods grace, not by being dunked or sprinkled with water as that would be by works. Jesus being the word of God made flesh, John 1:1-14, as being the water in John 3:5 or a better word would be living water we are then born again by the word of God and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit as then we are baptized into Christ, Galatians 3:22-27.[18]


How should I reply? This was my retort:[19] This is a wonderful example of avoidance. I asked: ‘Please share with us how you obtain the meaning of John 3:5 (ESV), ‘unless you are born of water and the Spirit’ in context’, and this is what I got.

You assert that ‘as being the water in John 3:5 or a better word would be living water we are then born again by the word of God and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit as then we are baptized into Christ’. This does not tell us HOW you obtain the meaning of ‘unless one is born of water and the Spirit’ (John 3:5 ESV).

I still don’t know how you obtain the meaning you have given in the context of John 3:5 (ESV). In this thread you have imposed your allegorical/figurative interpretation on the text of the Wedding at Cana. Is that what you are doing here? Your imposition of your own idiosyncratic meaning on the text! Seems so!

Let’s get back to the Wedding at Cana. Why don’t you accept the literal interpretation of John 2:1-11 (ESV) instead of inventing your figurative understanding that is found nowhere in the text?


I did share the meaning, but will bring maybe a better light to what I said about the water in John 3:5 meaning the word of God:
Word is living water as described in John 4:10; 7:38; 1John 5:6; Jeremiah 2:13; Isaiah 55:1-3 to name a few.
I never said I didn’t accept the literal wedding. I’m just showing how it can be compared to the Spiritual new birth and there is nothing wrong with that as even Jesus compared different things in scripture. It’s called “likened”. I’m not interpreting it, but likening it to John 3:3-6 with the water, wine and six water pots.[20]


The evidence is obvious: ‘You are engaging in allegorical interpretation with adding to Scripture what is NOT in the text of John 2:1-11 (ESV)’.[21]


It’s not an allegorical interpretation, but a Spiritual understanding of that which is literal. It’s like all the parables Jesus taught. They were literal fiction stories, but each story had a Spiritual reference to our salvation through the Spiritual new birth as we take the part and combine it with the whole of scripture for our understanding. Your interpretation would have no merit for it has no scriptural founding in it and actually comes against what Jesus already taught about gluttony in Proverbs 23:20; Ephesians 5:18. Nicodemus only saw the literal in John 3:1-6, but was then given the Spiritual meaning. Water-word, wine-Holy Spirit.[22]

There were two consecutive comments here by FHG because there was an interjection by a moderator who was complaining about ‘no trolling’ and it’s a Bible Study forum where no debate is allowed.[23]


The whole point of my OP was not only based on the water and wine, but more importantly what is said in:
John 2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
The water can be related to the word as well as the new wine being the best wine can be related to the Holy Spirit in that of our Spiritual rebirth and seeing the glory of the Lord when we first begin to follow Him as He is our Bridegroom and we His Bride. Many if not all of the teachings of Christ are directed to our need of a Savior as we put off the old man (flesh) and put on the new man (Spirit). We are renewed by the word of God and through the Holy Spirit teaching us of all things. John 3:1-6, 14:26, Colossians 3:1-4.[24]


My response was that this is allegorical interpretation because it adds to the text what is not in the text of John 2:1-11 (ESV).[25]


‘It adds nothing to the text, but draws a reference from the text that not everyone can see unless light is brought to it’[26]


That’s your adding to the text the alleged ‘deeper meaning’, which is the method of interpretation called eisegesis – reading into the text what is not there. To call it ‘light’ is to redefine the meaning of ‘light’ to make it equal eisegesis and allegorical interpretation. This is an example of the fallacy of appeal to authority.[27]

2.  Another supporter of allegorical interpretation

While I was engaged in the above challenge of allegorical interpretation, I was doing battle with another promoter of figurative, ‘spiritual’ hermeneutics.

The discussion on spiritual meaning and allegorical interpretation in this thread had been rolling along with much acceptance until I interrupted with my posts. It was at this point that this person stated:


There’s no question that Jesus came to transform the knowledge of the word–the water of the word–into the joyful infilling of the Holy Spirit. This is unique to the New Covenant….unless you were a king, or a priest, or a prophet, or a handful of other privileged people in the old covenant.
We can speculate as to specific details beyond that fundamental truth, and each one of us is free to take them or leave them, but the fundamental truth being illustrated by the story stands.[29]

2.1   Transforming knowledge with water


To the statement, ‘There’s no question that Jesus came to transform the knowledge of the word–the water of the word–into the joyful infilling of the Holy Spirit’, I asked him to ‘please provide book, chapter and verses in the NT to confirm your statement here’.[30]


Are you asking because you do not think Jesus makes it so mere written words become the Holy Spirit in a person?
I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt10This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (Hebrews 8:8-10 NIV bold mine)[31]


How should I reply?[32] Your statement was: ‘There’s no question that Jesus came to transform the knowledge of the word–the water of the word–into the joyful infilling of the Holy Spirit’.

I asked for you to provide book, chapter and verse to confirm what you stated. The reference you have given here from Heb 8:8-10 (NIV) in no way relates to the question I asked. Thus, this makes your reply a red herring. We can’t have a logical conversation when you engage in this kind of erroneous reasoning.

2.2   The first covenant of words transformed to the New Covenant of the Spirit


Then came this lengthy reply:

The first covenant, as we know, was a covenant of words, witnessed by a carving of stone. Those words provided a ceremonial outward cleansing. The New Covenant is a Covenant witnessed by the Spirit. It writes the words of the law on the heart by the Spirit and provides a complete inner and outer cleansing. Jesus did that. Jesus transformed the witness of the words of scripture carved in stone into the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit for the people of God. Just like in the story, the very best was saved until last. And all to the pleasure of the Master of the Banquet.
Now, let’s look at the passage I provided, again: As was said, the first covenant was a covenant of written words, and which provided outward cleansing for the people of God as necessary. That fact is contained in this part of the NT scripture you requested:
I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt
Then the NT author reminds his audience of God’s promise to write those words on the heart in a New and subsequent Covenant (which we know is done by the Holy Spirit – 2 Corinthians 3:3 NASB):
10This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (Hebrews 8:8-10 NIV bold mine)
So you can see, the words of the old covenant used for ceremonial outward cleansing, likened unto the outward cleansing of water, become, like the best of wines, the very life and joy of God in us in this New Covenant. Jesus did that. It’s the miracle and glory of the New Covenant. It’s the miracle that he was to effect, scheduled to happen at a particular time in history, and after the time of ceremonial cleansing.
This could be hard to see for a person if they’re still in a ‘word only’ relationship with God and only attend churches where the promise of the life and joy and abundance of the Holy Spirit in the believer is suppressed and not taught, let alone experienced. This can be likened to only having John’s baptism–repentance in response to hearing the words of the gospel. In these kinds of churches, the Holy Spirit is just a factual reality, not a felt reality. For most Christians this is true. They simply do not get taught about, let alone experience, the joy and life of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it seems they get taught to resist that experience. This was the very first thing I realized when I was born again. I could see how the church of the world was devoid of the Spirit and how, sadly, even among the true believers in the church of the world, these promises remain unclaimed:
“And their heart will be glad as if from wine;
Indeed, their children will see it and be glad,
Their heart will rejoice in the LORD.” (Zechariah 10:7 NASB)
5“…you will see and be radiant,
And your heart will thrill and rejoice” (Isaiah 60:5 NASB)
And so it is that most of the ceremonial jars of clay in the church filled with the water of the word have yet to have that water turned into the wine of the Spirit. And worse, are terribly offended for you telling them that.[33]

2.3   Eisegesis of Wedding at Cana

I could not let him get away with this falsehood so I responded: This is false teaching. That is NOT what the Wedding at Cana of Galilee teaches at all in John 2:1-11 (ESV). You have imposed a foreign meaning – your idiosyncratic understanding – on the text. You have not obtained the meaning of the text from out of the text. You have imposed YOUR meaning on the test. This is called eisegesis.
This means that I could make John 2:1-11 (ESV) mean whatever I wanted and you would have no objective means to oppose my false or even heretical views. That’s what allegorical meaning does. It adds to the text. You have done just that in your response to me.[34]

Instead of pursuing his previous thought, I reverted to commenting on what I said above:

All right, let me try my own allegorical interpretation. Changing the water into wine means that Jesus promoted the view that it is spiritually uplifting to indulge in drinking large quantities of alcoholic wine when I gather with God’s people, to assist my spiritual life in developing miraculous, spiritual understanding and development.


Predictably, he did not like this and stated:

That’s impossible. Not because I personally don’t agree with it, which is the reason some people choose not to believe other people’s insights into scripture. See, it’s important to know that Biblical insights come from the Bible itself. This is not about knowing things pulled out of thin air and calling it from the Spirit and then insisting everyone agree with it. It’s about knowing what the Bible says about a particular subject in the places where it says that and then using that information to spiritually discern more veiled or less understandable passages of scripture.
This being true, we know that we can immediately discard the interpretation of the water into wine passage that you developed for purposes of illustration. Not only does it have zero Biblical support, it actually contradicts the Bible. So we know without a doubt that these pretend spiritual insights into the story are false. And again, not just because I don’t agree with them, but because they have no support from the Bible itself and actually contradict it.
The ‘water into wine’ meaning the converting of the water of the word in to the wine of the Spirit in this New Covenant is developed through other scripture. That’s how and why it can be received as a legitimate spiritual insight. In fact, here we see the water of the word being changed into the wine of the Spirit in an actual recorded Biblical account:
43“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:43-44 NASB)
The servant, Peter, filled the clay ‘vessels’ of Cornelius’ household up with the word of the prophets and it in effect became the wine of the Spirit in those vessels. That’s what happens in this New Covenant. It’s the miracle of the New Covenant.[35]


This gave me an ideal opportunity to expose the destructive nature of his hermeneutics:[36]

You don’t seem to understand how destructive your allegorical interpretation is to the actual statements of Scripture. I’ve tried to show you over and over how your invention of the meaning is nothing more than allegorical-figurative eisegesis. See the article, What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? (Got Questions) which explains the difference between exegesis and eisegesis:

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.
The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.
Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

I continued: This is how you have engaged in allegorical interpretation in this quote of yours:

  • ‘It’s about knowing what the Bible says about a particular subject in the places where it says that and then using that information to spiritually discern more veiled or less understandable passages of scripture’ (Here you are searching for the ‘deeper meaning’ behind the words – this is your invention of what is in the text but all done ‘ to spiritually discern more veiled or less understandable passages of scripture’ (your language). That is not how Scripture asks us to read it. Take a read of Acts 17:11 (ESV).
  • ‘we know that we can immediately discard the interpretation of the water into wine passage that you developed for purposes of illustration. Not only does it have zero Biblical support, it actually contradicts the Bible’. You have no basis to make this judgment of what I stated because the method I used (allegorical interpretation) was exactly the same as you used. The only difference is that you don’t like the content of what I wrote. That’s hardly a reason to reject it when it is true to your methodology – the deeper allegorical meaning which I gained. Your method contorts and distorts Scripture, as I did when I gave my example.
  • ‘The ‘water into wine’ meaning the converting of the water of the word in to the wine of the Spirit in this New Covenant is developed through other scripture‘. This is another allegorical invention that has no connection with Acts 10:43-44 (NASB). Zero connection!
  • ‘The servant, Peter, filled the clay ‘vessels’ of Cornelius’ household up with the word of the prophets and it in effect became the wine of the Spirit in those vessels. That’s what happens in this New Covenant. It’s the miracle of the New Covenant’. That is nothing more than your figurative invention. It is not based on exegesis of the text but is your insertion, which is called eisegesis as a method of interpretation.

You are so enraptured with this method that you can’t see the damage done by it to meaning of a biblical text. I suggest that you learn to use the historical-grammatical method of interpretation that will enable you to get to the meaning of the text and not engage in a spiritually esoteric meaning.


Oz, I want to preach a sermon about people–you know, clay vessels on the earth (2 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)–receiving the word of God and it resulting in the Holy Spirit being in them. Can you think of some Biblical stories and/or accounts I can use to illustrate this miraculous experience?[37]


It is fairly easy to respond to this kind of challenge. If you want to preach a sermon about anything, I suggest that you quit allegorical interpretation and learn some sound exegesis of the text that you will use as the foundation of expository preaching/teaching. Then preach your way through books of the Bible and engage in historical-grammatical interpretation.
I’m not interested in fuelling any of your imagination with figurative hermeneutics.[38]


Here’s water being symbolic of the washing of the word:
“…having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26 NASB)
3“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3 NASB)
Here’s wine being symbolic of, and likened to, the joy of the Holy Spirit:
“And their heart will be glad as if from wine” (Zechariah 10:14 NASB italics in original)
“do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NASB)
Here’s people being referred to as earthen vessels (you know–bodies made of the clay of the earth):
6For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NASB)
And here’s an actual Biblical account of the water of the word being changed into the wine of the Spirit in earthen vessels:
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.” (Acts 10:44 NASB)
The word becoming the wine of the Spirit in earthen vessels is a miracle of the New Covenant. And all scheduled to happen at the appointed time through Christ’s ministry:
“when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4 NASB).


Oz, I guess your argument would mean something if you could show us how it is unBiblical that water = the word, wine = the Holy Spirit, earthen vessels = people, and so on. I’ve shown you where they are Biblical. edited . Just because you don’t see it (even though the interpretation is right in the Bible) doesn’t mean it’s false. What it means is you can’t see it.[40]


I’ve already shown you that nowhere in the story of the Wedding at Cana is anything said about the water = word and the wine = the Holy Spirit and earthen vessels = people. That’s your allegorical invention – imposing a meaning on the text that is not there.

Showing me where you gain your figurative interpretation does not make the view legitimate when it is imposed on a narrative where that information is not contained.

I have zero misguided fear. My only concern is over what allegorical interpretation does to propositional revelation – what the text actually says. It prostitutes the text.

Your statement, ‘even though the interpretation is right in the Bible’, is not a fact. Your allegorical interpretation of John 1:1-11 (ESV) is NOT in the Bible. It is Jethro’s creative invention.


Well, this is the Bible study forum, so perhaps you can provide some Biblical study material to show that water can not be interpreted as the word, wine can not be interpreted as the Holy Spirit, and earthen vessels can not be interpreted as people. Then you will have some Biblical foundation to resist interpreting the wedding at Cana in the way it is in the OP.
Until then we’ll go with the Biblical material that has been presented that does allow the wedding at Cana to be interpreted per the OP. I think that’s only reasonable. I think it entirely unreasonable to say one can not interpret those things that way when in fact the Bible itself sets the precedent to interpret them that way. This has nothing to do with Jethro’s creative invention. It doesn’t come from me. It comes from the Bible itself. I proved that in post #119 which you are free to discuss (not debate) using the Bible per the guidelines of this particular forum. I’m interested in what you say is in the Bible that makes it so water can not be interpreted as the word, and so forth.
So tell us, what Bible material do you have to show that water can not be interpreted as the word, wine can not be interpreted as the Holy Spirit, and jars of clay can not be interpreted as people? And then, tell us Biblically, what to do with the examples in the Bible of the word of God going into a person and it becoming the Holy Spirit in that person?[42]


Since my reply was edited, a moderator claiming I was ‘trolling’, I do not have my exact words of reply. However, this is approximately what I wrote: Since it is a Bible study forum, I have shown you over and over that nowhere in the text of John 2:1-11 is it ever stated that water = the word and wine = the Spirit. That is foreign language you have inserted in the text. It is not a ‘fact the Bible itself sets the precedent to interpret them that way’. That water, wine, word, Spirit interpretation is an invention of Jethro.

I have repeated this over and over to you but I’ll not hold my breath waiting for you to see that you have added to the text. If you come back with a repeat of what you’ve already said, I’ll not respond.

2.4   What are the dangers of allegorical interpretation of the Bible?

Bernard Ramm has already hinted at one of them:

1. If the secret meaning was not stated by or hinted at by the original writer, then the allegorical is on ‘uncertain grounds’ of interpretation (Ramm 1970:24). I would go beyond that to state that the interpretation is irresponsible and should not be accepted.

2. It is an imposition of meaning on the text that is creatively invented by the reader. Therefore, it promotes eisegesis when exegesis is needed to obtain the meaning directly from the text. Reading into the text meaning that is not there is a travesty of hermeneutics that no responsible interpreter should support.

3. It sounds remarkably like a contemporary postmodern, reader-response interpretation. By reader-response, I mean that ‘all reading is ideological and guided by certain interests…. The text, with no aims nor interests of its own, is at the mercy of the reader. With only slight exaggeration, Mark Taylor characterizes interpretation as “a hostile act in which interpreter victimizes text”’ (Vanhoozer 1998:28).[44]

Scholar of the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan’s plays reader-response with the text when he says of Christ’s conception:

My position as an historian trying to be ethical and a Christian trying to be faithful is this: I do not accept the divine conception of either Jesus or Augustus as factual history, but I believe that God is incarnate in the Jewish peasant poverty of Jesus and not in the Roman imperial power of Augustus (Crossan 1998:29).

4. One of the fundamental principles in our quest for knowledge is the subject-object distinction. By this I mean that the subject is the thing or person who is the observer. The object is the thing or person observed. There needs to be a distinction between these for objective knowledge to be obtained. So knowledge of any object is independent of the subjective if ‘objective knowledge’ is to be acquired.

So, Norman Geisler makes this pointed statement about how to obtain objective meaning from any text:

The objective meaning of a text is the one given to it by the author, not the one attributed to it by the reader. Readers should ask what was meant by the author, not what it means to the reader. Once a reader discovers what the author meant by the text, he has obtained its objective meaning. Thus, asking, “What does it mean to me?” is the wrong question, and it will almost certainly lead to a subjective interpretation. Asking of the author, “What did he mean?” will almost certainly lead the reader in the right direction, that is, toward the objective meaning (Geisler 2002:173).

What allegorical interpretation does not do is separate the subject and object so that objective knowledge can be obtained about any text. Suppose I refuse to separate the subject and object in this story that appears in Queensland Country Life (June 28, 2016):

Cattle station announces plans for a yacht club in the outback

With the announcement last week that the Longreach community is to host an Outback Yacht Club, many could be forgiven for thinking that seeing their dams filled for the first time in years has made the locals a little over-excited.

If you were to have driven over the bank of a turkey’s nest at Camden Park, east of Longreach, last Thursday evening and spotted some red sails in the sunset belonging to a tiny boat hitched to the bore water outlet, you might be forgiven for thinking it was a mirage.

It was all fair dinkum though and all in aid of building bridges between city and country, according to “commodore” James Walker, who conceived the idea along with his brother Dan and some urban mates in the depths of last year’s drought (Cripps 2016).

If I meld the subject and object in this story and introduce allegorical interpretation or reader-response ideology, I can arrive at this understanding: The parched lives of unbelievers who lack the living water was ended with the living water of the Gospel coming to the spiritually dry people of outback Queensland, especially Longreach. This town is a symbol of the lengths to which God goes to reach people and the Yacht Club is a reminder of Jesus’ desire to turn water into the wine of his Holy Spirit. Drought becomes life when God is involved.

That inventive, spiritual, ‘deeper meaning’ of the Country Life story is an example of creative nonsense that is associate with imposing the reader’s reader-response understanding on the text (my creation). This is parallel to allegorical interpretation. It destroys the objective interpretation of the text.

Therefore, Geisler hit the target with his pursuit of objective meaning: ‘Look for meaning in the text, not beyond it’. He explains:

The meaning is not found beyond the text (in God’s mind), beneath the text (in the mystic’s mind), or behind the text (in the author’s unexpressed intention); it is found in the text (in the author’s expressed meaning). For instance, the beauty of a sculpture is not found behind, beneath, or beyond the sculpture. Rather, it is expressed in the sculpture.

All textual meaning is in the text. The sentences (in the context of their paragraphs in the context of the whole piece of literature) are the formal cause of meaning. They are the form that gives meaning to all the parts (words, punctuation, etc.)….

Look for Meaning in Affirmation, Not Implication

Another guideline in discovering the objective meaning of a text is to look for its affirmation, not its implication. Ask what the [text] affirms (or denies), not what it implies. This is not to say that implications are not possible or important, but only that the basic meaning is not found there. Meaning is what the text affirms, not in how it can be applied.

There is only one meaning in a text, but there are many implications and applications. In terms of meaning the sensus unum (one sense) view is correct; however, there is a sensus plenum (full sense) in terms of implication (Geisler 2002:174, 175, emphasis in original).

5. Another dangerous aspect of allegorical interpretation is that it sounds so spiritual. The language used comes from other portions of Scripture, mingled with aspects of the wedding at Cana. What could be so dangerous in allegorising when it sounds so harmless?

The peril is in seducing the reader into believing this is the objective meaning of the text when it is not. It is a deceitful way of spiritualising Scripture with the intent of getting a supposed ‘deeper understanding’, but it is a fabricated meaning that comes out of the mind of the reader or interpreter.

3.  Which is a better method of interpretation?

Surely this encounter with a couple people on a Christian Forum should provide evidence to refute allegorical interpretation. Pursue principles of objective biblical interpretation that acknowledge the subject-object distinction.

Also see my articles:

clip_image012 What is literal interpretation?

clip_image012[1] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image012[2] Is the Bible to be interpreted as literal or metaphorical?

clip_image012[3] Dangerous church trend: Subjective spiritual knowledge

4.  Conclusion

Two people in this Christian Forum thread cannot see the damage they are doing through allegorising the Wedding at Cana. Both inserted their own, idiosyncratic ‘spiritual deeper meaning’ into the narrative text. This means they invented content what was not in the Wedding at Cana narrative in John 2:1-11. No matter how one wraps the package, the end result is that allegorical interpretation is destructive to the meaning by an author of any text because it adds to the text, reads into it content that is not there, and thus engages in eisegesis.

It is a parallel perspective to that being promoted by postmodern reader-response advocates such as John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar.

The need was demonstrated for an interpretation methodology that is objective and maintains the subject-object distinction.

What caused the divorce following the wedding at Cana? It was a divorce between the literal words of Scripture and a subjective, spiritualised, allegorical interpretation. When the subject-object relationship in interpretation is lost, a divorce is inevitable. It is a divorce that sends the subject (the reader) into the arms of another ‘lover’ – a lover of spiritual, deeper meaning that is divorced from the literal interpretation.

Works consulted

Brisbane Times 2016. Koala in pain for hours after dog attack (online), June 28. Available at: (Accessed 28 June 2016).

Cripps, S 2016. Cattle station announces plans for a yacht club in the outback. Queensland Country Life (online), June 28. Available at: (Accessed 28 June 2016).

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N 2002. Systematic Theology, vol. 1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Ramm, B 1970. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics, 3rd rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Terry, M S n d (first reprint 1974). Biblical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).


[1] FGH is an abbreviation for a poster by the name of for_his_glory. I think the person is a female.

[2] Christian, ‘Wedding in Cana’, now a dead thread that has been closed. for_his_glory#1. Available at: (Accessed 21 June 2016).

[3] Oz is an abbreviation for my posts as OzSpen.

[4] This is my response, OzSpen#75, 21 June 2016.

[5] Ibid., for_his_glory#62.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#78.

[7] In Bible Study Tools 2014, ‘The rise of allegorical interpretation’. Available at: (Accessed 28 June 2016).

[8] ‘Wedding in Cana’ loc cit., for_his_glory#80.

[9] Ibid., wondering#81.

[10] Ibid., for_his_glory#82.

[11] Ibid., Wondering#83.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#102.

[13] Ibid., for_his_glory#109.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#112.

[15] Ibid., for_his_glory#84.

[16] Ibid., for_his_glory#86.

[17] Ibid., OzSpen#91.

[18] Ibid., for_his_glory#94.

[19] Ibid., OzSpen#96.

[20] Ibid., for_his_glory#99.

[21] Ibid., OzSpen#101.

[22] Ibid., for_his_glory#108.

[23] Ibid., reba#109, reba#110.

[24] Ibid., for_his_glory#111.

[25] Ibid., OzSpen#112.

[26] Ibid., for_his_glory#113.

[27] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

[28] Jethro is a shortened form of the poster, Jethro Bodine.

[29] Wedding at Cana, op cit., Jethro Bodine#76.

[30] Ibid., OzSpen#79.

[31] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#95.

[32] Ibid., OzSpen#97.

[33] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#98.

[34] Ibid., OzSpen#100.

[35] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#104.

[36] Ibid., OzSpen#105.

[37] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#108.

[38] Ibid., OzSpen#112.

[39] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#119.

[40] Ibid.., Jethro Bodine#122.

[41] Ibid., OzSpen#125.

[42] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#126.

[43] My reply, ibid., OzSpen#128, was edited by reba and then the thread was closed

[44] Vanhoozer (1998) provides a superb critique of postmodern hermeneutics.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 June 2016