Recently we have been going into some depth about the use of literary ideas in the scriptures – namely how much symbolism is used. I am going to try something here – pick a few random chapters in scripture – and see if I can find symbolism being used.
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (vs.1)
“And He told them a parable” (vs.16)
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit” (vs. 35)
“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!” (vs. 49)
“Put on the full armor of God” (vs. 11)
“Stand firm therefore, hag girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 14)
“shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (vs. 15)
“shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (vs. 16)
“take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit” (vs. 17)
1 Peter 2
“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word” (vs. 2)
“living stone…you also, as living stones” (vs. 4 + 5)
“a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’ (vs. eight)
“out of darkness into His marvelous light” (vs. 9)
“fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (vs. 11)
“die to sin and live to righteousness” (vs. 24)
“continually straying like sheep” (vs. 25)
To be perfectly honest – namely in Peter – there was so much examples of this metaphorical idea it was hard to know where exactly to draw a line. However, I think I did a fair job – and Luke 12 contained like 3 parables in the whole chapter – I mentioned it once.
What is worth noting is that symbolism bolsters the idea being mentioned – via comparison to some other idea or actual symbol. However, it also leaves us quite open to varying interpretations and what some of that stuff means. This is where we kind of have to be more studious in looking at those passages and seeing what is being said.
(a) I have come to cast a fire upon earth – Now we know Jesus wasn’t an arsonist – so what is he saying there?
(b) Shield of faith – we know Christians were not dressed as Roman soldiers – so what does that image say?
(c) Die to sin and live to righteousness – literal? Are you dead yet? I am not sure of the exact type of phrase this is – but I think it’s symbolic. Still – what does it mean to ‘die’ to ‘sin’?
This is the point of the use of symbolic language and metaphors – to say something – and sometimes it requires some real work to dig out all that is being said and how this relates to our faith. I could of went to the Tanakh for more instances – but I checked one single Psalm and I didn’t want to mess that up at all (but there was a lot of symbolism being used also).
Point being – something doesn’t have be literal to have a deep meaning – or even to contain some truth.