Friday, 24 May 2019
T.J. Lang: Paul the Allegorist and Early Christian Exegesis
When early Christian interpreters searched Israel’s sacred writings for allegorical meanings, they usually justified such an endeavour by appeal to Paul: “These things are an allegory” (ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα) (Gal 4:24), so says Paul of his revisionary reading of Sarah and Hagar as a story of two covenants corresponding to two Jerusalems (and a few other binaries, as well). Impressed by Paul’s allegoresis, subsequent Christian interpreters took Paul’s exegetical offerings as orders to go and do likewise. Simply put: these interpreters thought Paul had taught them how to scrutinize newly revealed meanings in received Judean writings, an exegetical pedagogy with apostolic authorisation. From the Pauline perspective, this essay explores how near or far this is from true. And, whatever the verdict, why? The aim is to reconnect Paul with his afterlife in order to re-theorize the idea of a “Pauline hermeneutics” and its relation to the idea that biblical texts mean in multiple, non-literal ways—an idea eventually codified in the medieval quadriga, which resembles Pauline reasoning in ways not often appreciated.