why do the writers of the bible use symbols
Is there symbolism in the Bible? If so, how do we try and decide what the message and the meaning is behind these symbols? ItБs not a question of whether the Bible uses symbolism or not but how does the Bible use it. The fact is we all use symbolism every single day. When someone is angry they might say БIБm so mad I could knock his block offБ or in sports, БThat guyБs red hotБ but we all realize that no one has a block to knock off or the guy is not really БredБ as in red hot. Even traffic signs give us warnings by the use of symbols to warn us about things that are ahead like a crosswalk, a sharp curve, or a no passing zone. ItБs something that helps us have a better idea of what to expect and we only need to look at the symbols to understand what the signs mean without the need for words. Symbols give us a mental image about something in a descriptive way that sometimes better inform us about something or someone than mere words can. Many of the Old Testament prophets used symbolic language. In one such example, Jeremiah writes Б
O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it Б (Jer 18:6-8). Naturally, the house of Israel does not consist of clay human beings but of flesh and blood but the point God was making was that He is the Potter and they were the clay and He forms and shapes them and does whatsoever He pleases and has the privilege to do so as the Maker of the clay vessels. Israel being referred to as clay and God as the Potter is symbolic and helps us to better understand what God was trying to tell Israel through Jeremiah. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faithБmore precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fireБmay be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Б Naturally, faith is not something that can pass through the fire but the symbolism with which Peter writes means that our trials refine our faith and burn everything away that is not genuine faith so all that remains is only that faith which will result in the praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ returns. When Paul writes that we need the full armor of God (Eph 6:10), he must have been using the symbolism of the defense needed to thwart off the spiritual attacks of the invisible enemy (Eph 6:11-12). Paul was often under arrest and attended to by Roman guards and was well acquainted with the equipment of the Roman soldier so he made the analogy of the armor that protected the Roman soldier as the different aspects of our salvation that are likened to our being protected by the different pieces of equipment that each Roman soldier carried and wore. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:14-17) are not literal swords, helmets, shields, and such but are representative or symbolic of the equipment necessary for every believer in Christ to survive the attacks of the powerful and invisible forces of darkness. The Book of Revelation is deep in symbolic language and so we have to see what the different authors of the books of the Bible are trying to communicate to us when they use symbols that we are familiar with so that we can better understand what the writer is telling us. Sometimes symbols give our minds a better grasp of what the author is telling us than simple words can, so yes, the Bible does use symbolism and it is to our benefit when we understand why. Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believerБs daily walk with God and the Bible.
You can follow Jack on or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon. WHY DOES GOD USE SYMBOLS AND PARABLES? The Answer to this question can be found in the Bible, let God answer forб Himself. Matthew 13:13-17, 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this peopleБs heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. The Meaning of the text is clear. Jesus spoke in parables because they/we are not paying attention! We see and hear, but do not put any effort into understanding. The truth of the Bible comes to those who put effort into understanding it. Jesusб used stories that the hearers would remember. He wanted to tell the people the plain meaning of the lessons that He was illustrating, but many were prejudiced and would not listen except to the stories that He told. Parable speaking was popular in His time and captured the attention of all; the Leaders, the people, and those of other nations.
People were curious to find out the meanings of the parables that Jesus taught. The Priests and Rabbis were frequently secretly among the people and were waiting for Jesus to say something that they could use against Him, so He could not speak openly and plainly, but the leaders and Rabbis knew what He was saying and implying. б John 11:53Б54 Remember, Christ is the actual author of all the Bible. John 5:39б Its contents were transmitted through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to human beings. Both the New and Old Testaments. He wanted us to searchб His Word diligently to find the lessons and doctrine and messages that He has buried there for us, He wants us to study to find His lessons as if we were searching for earthly treasures. He knew we would not value aб plain straightforward message, and that we would take it for granted, and that we would only value the message if we had to search for it for ourselves. б John 5:39Б40 Godб knew that we would misapply, and distort the doctrines that He gave to us plainly, but He concealedб His doctrines in Symbolism so that we would search, and discover, and confirm the doctrine that he gave to us through the prophets by Symbolism. Jude 3-4. Christб veiled many of the doctrines and lessons in Symbols and Signs and Parables so that they would be protected, and could be verified untouched by other human interpretations as they were uncovered in His Word. Many of the BibleБs books and chapters were written in the time of the Prophets before the time of Christ, by the wisdom of Christ. These messages were written specifically for the people of that time, but they have a dual meaning in them. As important as they were to the people of the time that they were written for, they have even greater importance for the people of our time upon which the ends of the earth are come. Readб 1 Corinthians 10:1Б13, especially 1 Corinthians 10:6. In light of these texts, we have a lot of homework to do. That is the focus of this website.
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