Saturday, September 28, 2013
PEELING BACK THE ONION
Sweet Onion, Jamestown, NC
Origen of Alexandria was one of the early and greatest Christian theologians. He taught that Scripture must be understood in three senses: the literal/historical, the moral, and the allegorical. Allegory is a way of interpreting a story by “peeling back the onion” to focus on the hidden or symbolic meanings rather than the literal meaning.
Although allegory scholars generally agree that the Old Testament was not written allegorically, some scholars consider that the story of Jonah and the Whale represents Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale while Jesus was in the tomb for three days before he rose from the dead. In modern times, many people have suggested Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is an allegory for the World Wars and the one ring was an allegory for the atomic bomb. While the author of a text may not consciously write with hidden meaning, his text may be interpreted in different ways by his readers.
In an era of mass illiteracy, many of the stories in Jesus’ time were passed along by oral tradition. His parables were relatively simple in structure and imagery with messages that were central to his mission. They remain very effective to this day as a testament to his understanding of human nature and learning. But all of these stories which comprised about one third of his recorded teachings were earthly stories with heavenly meanings. When we peel back the outer layer of these mortal events we find deeper spiritual meanings such as in the parables of the Good Samaritan (the meaning of love), the Lost Coin/Prodigal Son/Sheep (loss and redemption), the Unforgiving Servant (forgiveness), the Faithful Servant (growing the Kingdom of God), the Ten Virgins (being prepared for Jesus’ return), the Pearl (the great value of and need to secure the Kingdom of God), etc. And this onion isn’t so harsh that it brings tears to your eyes, but is most assuredly the sweetest variety known to mankind.