Saturday, March 20, 2010

2 Timothy 3:16, Allegory, and 1 Corinthians 9

I was reflecting briefly on 2 Timothy 3:16 today--"All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for instruction..." A comment of a student in an online class sparked the way Paul uses Deuteronomy 25:4 in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10. In what way does Paul find Deuteronomy 25:4 profitable in this way?

The answer at least seems quite illuminating! He finds Deuteronomy profitable for instruction by reading it allegorically while at least questioning its literal sense: "it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop" (NRSV).

In other words, 2 Timothy 3:16 does not indicate how Scripture is profitable for instruction, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Presumably it could function in this way on more than one level, literal or allegorical. Paul seems to find Deuteronomy 25:4 profitable almost entirely in an allegorical sense, while little in its literal sense.

This is a striking finding to me!


π² said...

I think this is interesting also, and I hadn't really thought about it before. But, I think I did a similar allegorical interpretation in my “Stone Soup” post. Does this "profitably motive" of using allegory have to be applied to all Scripture passages just because 2 Tim. 2:16 refers to "all Scripture?" Wouldn't it be a "safer" hermeneutic to say that the Deut passage may be interpreted allegorically only because Paul did so under inspiration?

Ken Schenck said...

This is a safe position--Paul can do this because he is inspired. You, stick to the original meaning. I think the key is the rule of faith. We all have a basic sense of the boundaries of Christian faith and ethics, even though most of us are largely unaware of it. We have absorbed it through church, other Christians, the Spirit, etc. We subconsciously know when an interpretation fits and when it doesn't. I think there is a spiritual richness that we can experience through the text in non-literal ways through the Spirit, and if they fit with the rule of faith I think they only add to the richness of our experience of Scripture.

Anonymous said...

I too think we need to acknowledge the special position Paul (and other Scripture writers) had in regards to inspiration, but it is interesting to see what some of the early church Fathers did with some passages.