Much on this page and subsequent
section of LCM were taken from my book;
By Walter Robinson II
®All Rights Reserved
The “Origen” of Allegorical Interpretation and
NOTE: I have not misspelled the word 'Origen' in the title for this page. I
am using a play on words to show that the originator of the arbitrary
allegorical method of interpretation can be traced back mostly to one person who
bore the name 'Origen.'
Also see the following related articles:
NOTE: Linked footnotes to Bible passages are embedded in the text.
Click on the reference to go to it, then click the 'BACK' or
button on your browser until you return to your previous place on this page)
The allegorical method of
interpretation was first injected into Christian thinking by a “converted”
Neo-Platonist philosopher known as Origen of Alexandra, Egypt. (A.D.
185 to circa 254) Neo-Platonists commonly looked for deeper truths by
searching for symbolic meanings in the text they were studying. Origen became so
proficient in this practice he became known as the “father of the allegorical
method of scriptural interpretation;”
. . Origen is regarded as the father of the allegorical method of scriptural
interpretation. He taught the principle of the threefold sense,
corresponding to the threefold division of the person into body, spirit, and
soul, which was then a common concept. He was a Platonist and endeavored to
combine Greek philosophy and the Christian religion . . . . [He also developed
doctrines] such as that of the preexistence of the soul, [which] were
severely criticized by many of Origen’s contemporaries and by subsequent
writers. . . .
The doctrine of the “preexistence
of the soul” is a key teaching with reincarnation. It, as well as arbitrary
allegorical interpretation are indeed non-Christian in origin. Frankly, many
teachings of Neoplatonism serve as fundamental beliefs for Theosophy as
expressed in the occultic and esoteric writings of Helena Blavatsky, Alice
Bailey, and prominent New Ager, Benjamin Creme. Thus, one can understand why Origen was criticized
even in his day.
A Roman Catholic Bishop named “St.” Augustine
354-430) would later follow in Origen’s steps. Like Origen, he was also a
Neo-Platonist before his “conversion.” History indicates that Augustine also
continued some of his earlier practices. They also indicate that he believed the
final authority in Christianity was the Church of Rome, not the Bible.
This is why he wrote,
would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did
not move me to do so. 
Consequently, he worked to
reconcile the teachings of the Bible with the beliefs and practices of the
Church of Rome. In doing so he also resorted to Neoplatonic allegorical
interpretation, and by thus, this method became firmly joined with Romanized
Many today respectfully refer to Augustine as the “founder
Thus, some may consider my remarks about him to be unfounded and unscholarly.
Therefore, I present the following as objective reinforcement for my claims.
ancient mystical philosophy based on the later doctrines of PLATO, especially
those in the Timaeus. Considered the last of the great pagan
philosophies, it was developed in the 3rd cent. A.D. by PLOTINUS. Rejecting
DUALISM, he saw reality as one vast hierarchical order containing all the
various levels and kinds of existence. At the center is the One, an
incomprehensible, all-sufficient unity that flows out in a radiating process
called emanation, giving rise to the Divine Mind, or Logos. The Logos contains
all intelligent forms of all individuals. This in turn generates the World Soul,
which links the intellectual and material worlds. Despite his mysticism,
Plotinus’ method was thoroughly rational, based on the logical traditions of the
Greeks. Later Neoplatonists grafted onto its body such disparate elements
as Eastern mysticism, divination, demonology, and astrology. Neoplatonism,
widespread until the 7th cent., was an influence on early Christian thinkers
(e.g., ORIGEN) and medieval Jewish and Arab philosophers. It was firmly joined
with Christianity by St.
AUGUSTINE, who was a Neoplatonist before his conversion.
Neoplatonism has had a lasting influence on
Western metaphysics and MYSTICISM. Philosophers whose works contain elements of
Neoplatonism include St. THOMAS AQUINAS, BOETHIUS, and HEGEL
.[italicized bold emphasis mine]
Thus, Augustine, “the founder of
theology,” can also be given some credit for the adoption of the allegorical
method of interpretation that is still prevalent in Christianity today.
This method makes it possible for
individuals to be guided at their own personal whim and fancy when developing
biblical understanding. Thus, notions such as reincarnation can seemingly be
supported by using the Christian Scriptures. The official dogma of Roman
Catholicism indicates that such practices can take one far astray from what the Bible
Allegorical interpretation was not always
accepted by Christian teachers. This included the 1st and early 2nd
century Christian forefathers, and also those who begin the Christian
a hermeneutical (interpretive) method used to uncover hidden or symbolic
meanings of a biblical text. Rooted in the techniques developed by Greek
thinkers who attempted to overcome the problems posed by literal interpretations
of ancient Greek myths, the allegorical method was further developed by Jewish
scholars, such as Philo of Alexandria in the 1st century AD, and
Christian thinkers, such as Clement and Origen of Alexandria in the 2nd
and 3rd centuries AD. Though other methods of biblical
interpretation were often used, the allegorical method was dominant until late
medieval times. The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century
rejected, for the most part, the allegorical method and returned to the more
literal interpretation of the Bible.
The allegorical method
attempts to overcome the difficulties of morally perplexing biblical passages
and to harmonize them with certain traditions and accepted teachings of the
synagogue or the church.
By assigning to each feature of a text a hidden, symbolic, or mystical meaning
beyond the primary meaning that the words convey in their literal sense, the
allegorical interpretation seeks to make that text more comprehensible,
acceptable, and relevant to the present. . . .
Though there are explicit allegories in the
Bible, such as the allegory of old age in Eccles. 12:1–7 and the parable of the
sower in Mark 4:1–9, the allegorical method as it was developed in the
post-biblical times allowed an interpreter great latitude for subjective
speculation without providing means for critical evaluation of the postulated
meanings of the text.
[all bold emphases mine]
In many respects, the reformation is still in progress.
Even some 150 years after it began, the renown English mathematician and
physicist, Sir Isaac Newton (A.D.
About the time of the End, a body of men will be
raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist on their
literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition.
the Bible and the historical record says about interpreting the Bible, I believe
taking it at its plain sense is the only way gain true insight into the Word of
God. The eternal destiny of each reader depends upon not only what we learn from
reading or hearing God's word, but also how we response to it. May you be guided
accordingly as you seek to better know the God of heaven and His will for you
Walter Robinson II
Pastor of Windward Bible Church
& Webmaster of LCM
Also see the following related articles:
Infopedia; Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, (Future Visions Inc., 1995) CD‑ROM
Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast: The
Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days (Eugene Oregon: Harvest House
Publishers, 1994) p. 340. Reprinted from Karl Keeting, Catholicism and
Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (Ignatius
Press, 1988), pp. 125‑127.
 The Concise
Columbia Encyclopedia (Columbia University Press, 1995) CD‑ROM Version.
“allegorical interpretation, biblical.”
Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropedia,
(Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1976), p. 252.
 Hal Lindsey,
The Road to Holocaust (New York, New York; Bantam Books, 1989), p. 53.
NOTE: The citing of the sources above by Dave Hunt or Hal
Lindsey does not mean that I endorse all that they have said or written. I am
painfully aware that Hunt is a Charismatic Neo-Evangelical that is part of a
Plymouth Brethren Assembly. Likewise, I am also aware that Lindsey is a
Neo-Evangelical. Both openly cooperate with Charismatics, which I believe
hinders the message they proclaim. Nevertheless, I believe their information as
presented here is accurate and trustworthy.
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Revised: May 02, 2006.