Troublesome Topic: Is there One Correct Way to Interpret Symbolism?

No, there is not. If I were able to bring to our time 10 people from ancient Israel, and yet they somehow would know modern English and the culture that goes with it, they would all couch the symbolism with slightly different English words, but all of them would be pointing the same direction. OK, forget modern English for a moment, if they explained the symbolism to a child in their own language during their own time, all 10 of them would explain it slightly differently, but would most likely all be pointing the same direction.

            It is not the exact words I choose that is important, it is the direction I am pointing. I could probably say it half a dozen different ways and all of them could be equally right as long as they pointed you to the same idea.

Is there a wrong way to interpret symbolism?

            Yes, there is. The wrong way is to see something that is obviously symbolism, or that we think might have been intended as symbolism, and try to figure out from our own lives, our own culture, our own historical context, what that ancient symbolism means. We must remember that it is not our symbolism, it is theirs. Therefore, the only right way to interpret ancient symbolism is to try get into the heads of ancient peoples. Once we have done that there are many ways we could choose to express it; the important thing is that our interpretation of the symbolism be pointing the same direction that they would have pointed.

The next lesson is Why Do the Versions of the Bible Disagree So Much?