Obama, Piper, and Allegorical Interpretation

John Piper highlights how President Obama exegetes and applies the Sermon on the Mount:

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity — a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.

It’s clear how this interpretation misses the point Jesus makes of the parable: the rock is Jesus’ words.

What’s not so clear is that the same error is made by conservative pastors who use allegorical interpretation. The classic example is Origen saying that every detail in the parable of the Good Samaritan refers to something in Christian theology. No: as Jesus interprets it, the point of the parable is to love others in need.

Common allegorical errors today: the Song of Songs refers to Jesus (not, as it would seem, romantic love), many OT prophecies refer to Jesus (not, as it would seem, the land of Israel).

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2 Responses to Obama, Piper, and Allegorical Interpretation

  1. Arnold says:

    Hi Josh –

    I’m not sure you said what you meant in your last paragraph. (?)

    First, because it doesn’t have to be an either or (means “A” rather than “B”); it could be a both/and, such as the prophecies being for Israel but ALSO referring to Jesus.

    Second, because there’s a difference between prophecy and allegory. They’re not the same thing.

    Third, because the NT book of Matthew tells the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, and Matthew cites to several prophecies as referring to Jesus. So I’m not sure it’s a practice you really want to criticize.

  2. alivingepistle says:

    you know though,

    if you compared Obama’s exegesis to lets say… Paul’s… or… any other rabbis’ during the first century they are all all the same. When you throw in the “fulfilled” prophecies of Christ (according to the NT Gospel writers), its no different than Obama’s exegesis of Jesus’ parable.

    Not that I necessarily agree with improper hermeneutics, but you get the point. (maybe?)

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