Notes on the unique and distinct Biblical symbolism and rhetoric – and certain related matters difficult to categorize
The Bible has what we can call a functional or functionalistic symbol-usage and definition of symbols. The symbols generally represent a function, which can be applied by good and evil powers.
Hence both Messiah and Satan (and the Antichrist) can be represented by the symbol of the lion (Rev. 5:5 / 1st Pet. 5:8), the snake (John 3:14 / Rev. 12:9) and the morningstar (Rev. 22:16 / Isa. 14:12)..
We can interpet the symbols in order to see if this follows a logic (as with Hinduism, Platonism, Taoism and the well-developed world-systems, the Bible, or God, has his own logic; there is not one universal logic.)
The lion represents (the function) strength, might, and we see every day that both Messiah and the devil each have their own might.
The snake represents wisdom (Matt. 10:16), and the Bible certainly says that the devil is “wiser than (the prophet) Daniel” (Ezk. 28:3), but who is wiser than the Messiah, who says of himself: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up”.
The exaltation, or uplifting, mentioend here (John 3:14) is a fantastic and characteristic example of the Bible’s own symbolism, rhetoric, prophetical style, etc. The uplifting, we are told, directly refers to him being lifted up on the cross, but also, we must understand, to him being lifted up when he rose from the dead, and later lifted up into heaven. The crucifixion in itself is of course very dualistic, or a many-sided event. It is both the greatest tragedy and injustice – and a prerequisite and necessity for our salvation.
The uplifting of the snake brings us to our next example:
Stars can be synonymous with angels (Job 38:7), but can also represent having influence at a distance; as a star casting its light, radiating its influence, throughout the universe and which can be seen at a great distance. The star in turn is connected to the symbol of light, which has a similar symbolic value.
In the garden of Eden we had two special trees.
An interesting dualism is exactly the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which then has both good and evil in it. I think this tree, and the tree of life, can represent the cross. The tree of knowledge (Biblically, “knowledge” often indicates experiential knowledge) is also this world, this Egypt / Assyria / Babylon we live in, which has both good and evil in it. And marriage, childbirth, to have or be parents, all this has a twosidedness (if not tensidedness).
Technology, based on knowledge, is another archetypal example of something dualistic; a veritable tree of knowledge. (1) Smithing and (2) wine-cultivation and (3) PC’s are all twosided things. With the first-mentioned, Tubalcain can make the first weapons and God’s inspired artist Bezalel can make the ark of the covenant. The second is used and spoken of very positively by the Messiah, and he compares himself and his blood to wine, he transforms water to wine, etc. etc. (John 15:1, 15:5, Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18, Rev. 19:9) but wine is also the cause for, and correlated to, multiple curses (Gen. 9:20-25, Rev. 19:15); certain extra-Biblical texts even claim that the tree of knowledge was the “wine-tree” (Vitis).
The third example is equally obviously used for good and evil. Without the computer you would not be reading this, but perhaps without computers the society, from the ground up, would have been structured differently and people would have been more social, in the same way we notice cities are structured to slavishly-megalomaniacally conform to the car (and would have been different but for the car).
The Jews have taken the tree of life to symbolize multiple things, but most notably the Torah, God’s law, which includes provisions for punishment and reward, which are two different (but not contradictory) things.
I have already mentioned that a prophecy can have multiple fulfilments.
That is logical, when we understand that the Hebrew word for prophet, Nabi, means one who speaks, preaches, shouts or recites, and the word for prophecy, Nabuah, means a speech, sermon, shout or recitation; a proverb, a saying, etc.
In the same way that the proverb “cat’s got your tongue” can be fulflled in multiple instances – every time a person is speechless – so can Biblical proverbs, prophecies, utterances and narrative events be repeated and realized in many different instances and in multiple ways.
Joseph, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, among others, have all too many parallels for us not to notice it and infer that God causes this to happen intentionally; and when God repeats something it means that here is something he especially wants us to focus on.
Another interesting thing God does is that he allows doubt. It is at least difficult for me to describe it another way. That is to say, he has Sarah, wife of Abraham, be captured by the king of the city-state Gerar (Gen. 20) and by Pharaoh (Gen. 12) so that there arises thereby a certain doubt whether Abraham is the father of her child, and the same happens with Isaac and Rebecca (Gen. 26). We trust obviously God’s version of things, that Abraham is the physical forefather of Yeshua (Jesus) with all that this implies, but we see that he allows “the world”, the others, to have doubt, and reason for doubt. And are we to be honest, certain of the Jews had relatively understandable reasons to doubt whether Yeshua was the Messiah. Not even his Disciples thought it was meant for the Messiah to come twice, to die the first time, and not rule politically before the second time (cp. John 12:34).
It is written: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (Proverbs 25:2), which is a fundamental principle in the Bible, and, we must conclude, an extremely important one. It is certainly not the first thing one learns, but it is nevertheless a foundation for understanding God’s Way.
Those God calls in this age will become kings and priests (Exodus 19:6, 1st Peter 2:9, Rev. 1:6, 5:10) in the coming millennial kingdom and thereafter, and they now wander on the narrow path, which not at all contradicts verses like Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10, 1st Timothy 2:3-4 or 1st Corinthians 15:22. In any given period there are only a few being saved at a time, or at least it is so now.
Yeshua, Jesus, tells us the reason he spoke in mysterious parables and symbols hard for most people to understand:
“The disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables.”
Here we see how the Bible’s distinct (mysterious, but also consistent/logical) rhetoric and symbol-usage and parables affect soteriology, that is to say, how people get saved. That God and Yeshua are in control over who gets saved means to me that universal salvation undoubtedly will become reality, and that such verses as the following refer to a temporary condition, an order for this age but not for all ages to come:
“(God) has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they would not see with their eyes or understand with their hearts and be converted” (John 12:40).
I think this verse can be read both specifically in relation to that the Jews generally have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah, but also universally in that most people do not do so either.
This is probably much to digest, but what we have looked at here makes up the foundation for a perspective that conforms to the Bible, God’s word, instead of conforming it to some or other postulated standard (traditionally some variant of Greek philosophy has made up European theologians’ standard/logic for interpreting the Bible.)
~~ Abel Zechariah, 20 January 2014