If Isaac and Ishmael are an allegory, where does that allegory start and where does it end?

Greetings All.

I ask the question above based on this verse from Galatians 4:

24 Which things(Abraham’s two sons) are an allegory: for these are the two covenants…

I’d like to use the opening question to suggest that the allegory begins in Genesis 1:1 and that the prime reason that the allegory (or “spirit of the law”) is often unrecognized is because English readers are deprived of the distinctions of language that are used in the Scriptures, beginning at Genesis 1:1 forward.

When we speak of Genesis, we often speak of “creation.” But what is creation in Biblical terms? Genesis 1:1 tells us that “God created the heavens and the earth” but Genesis 1:2 tells us the “waters” already existed and Genesis 1:10 tells us that those existent waters, now gathered, are called “seas.” In like fashion, the earth which existed in Genesis 1:2 also existed in Genesis 1:9 in which the “dry land”(yabbashah/H3004) is neither created nor made but is rather spoken of as already existent – and that existent “dry land” is called “earth.”

So, Biblically speaking, is “creation” in the initiation of matter or in the definition of that which exists, be it material or non-material? I believe the latter but I hope to press and explore not the question “did God create the universe” but rather the question “what exactly is Genesis 1 speaking of” – and this because I believe that NT theology pertaining to “the spirit” and “the things unseen” are embedded in the particular language of the OT, beginning with Genesis 1. The allegory that arises from the account of Isaac and Ishmael cannot reasonably be concluded as a random allegorical anomaly in the midst of strict materialism/temporal history.

In the end, I’m hoping to engage others who would like to explore and discuss God’s particular word usages which have been so horribly misrepresented and cross-rendered by English versions of the Bible. Perhaps we can start with the distinction between bara/H1254(“create”) and asah/H6213(“make”) as those are two distinct primary words which seem to regularly receive the same definition by English conceptions.

Another horrible misrepresentation is of allegory as analogy. Not a mistake God would make ; )

There is nothing occulted in Hebrew by God which we need to divine. The earliest Jewish Christians had to follow their founder in deconstructing and transcending their religion before they could move on.

Thanks for posting! I look forward to hearing insights from the crowd. As more of a “big picture” person, one thing I always wonder is whether by trying to pick apart individual words and their meaning, do we not then fail to see the overall message. Forest and trees. Still, there is much to learn from looking at individual trees.


Yes it is!(allegory is not analogy) - that should have read “If Isaac and Ishmael are an allegory…” I miswrote that as “analogy.” Thanks!

Concerning “nothing occulted in Hebrew…” I’m not sure what you mean. But "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2. I think that the Hebrew is demonstrably occulted by English and that the Hebrew is not “occulted” per se but rather is very intricate and deliberate in its distinctions.

Paul does tell his readers to “be transfigured by the renewing of [their] minds” and also that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16/17). Consider how often even Jesus refers to “it is written” or “haven’t you read?”

Scripture cannot be overlooked in its relation to religion - it is the thing which either validates or invalidates a religion, no?

You say the early Christians had to “deconstruct and transcend their religion;” am I saying the same thing as you when I say “they had to relearn their religion in terms of the spirit and not according to the flesh?”

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I do not think it is just a matter of English versus Hebrew, but one of modern language versus ancient language. Languages evolve as the People and their thinking evolve, adding more and more distinctions as time goes on. This is not to say that all languages are the same. They definitely do make distinctions quite differently according to how they are used and what the people using the language think is important.

You’re welcome. I look forward to hearing those as well. I find “the trees” immensely important! I mean, if we are going to look at “the Word,” shouldn’t we pay attention to the words?

If God put distinction between two words, isn’t the removal of those distinctions effectively to change God’s words? Such practice is routine in English versions, starting with the KJV. erets/H776 cannot be the same as adamah/H127, yet the two distinct words are represented by identical words constantly and their distinctions as were originally presented are hidden from the English reader.

In turn, we naturally conceive of such words according to our own immediate understanding of the English terms rather than contemplate the thought that may be behind the original wording. For example, why is adam/H120 created in God’s image but ish/H376 not mentioned as being created or made at all? Both words are routinely rendered as “man;” why isn’t the distinction between them made apparent in English?

My working theory is that the distinction between adam and ish is the kernal of what Paul will call the “inner/outer man” or the concept that is inherent in Jesus’ statement “let the dead bury the dead” but I may be wrong. Either way, those “individual trees” have a lot to offer indeed!

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I think it’s a matter of faithful representation of word usage. By that I mean that if God used distinctive words, then those distinctive words need distinctive representation so that His thought may be divined rather than the “translators of any age” idea of a word.

Strong’s Concordance is able to give us a unique number for words of its source text. Why then are words routinely represented by identical words rather than unique words? For example, since H120 is not the same word as H376 - how can they be rightly presented as the same word(“man”) in thousands of places?

What we are witnessing by that example is the replacement of “what God says” with “what man say God says.” It is “thought for word” translation and is a very slippery slope. No?

Translation is a difficult task. Especially translation from an ancient language that is essentially dead. A word for word translation has its problems also, as idioms are difficult to understand outside of the culture. Meanings of words in this context must often be inferred, based on context and from knowledge of how those words are used elsewhere, perhaps even in non-biblical writings in related languages. While we are blessed to have good translations in English, it is good to remember that those scholars who translated the text have their own biblical bias and understanding which influences their translation. That is not a criticism, just something we have to understand when comparing translations.

While I agree we have to use wisdom in our reading and understanding, trying to say the word for word translation is more correct both denies the way language works, and also implies that scripture is “dictated by God” to a human scribe, rather than being inspired or breathed by God to a human who then expresses that inspiration in his own words and with his own limitations of communication.

If you were raised, as I was, in a culture that considered the Bible inerrant to the point of each word being exact and true, it messes with you a bit to learn that it is quite a bit more problematic than that. Even those scholars who claim inerrancy often have a very different definition than the average person sitting in the pew.

I hesitate to write on this subject, as Christie here is an expert, and all I know about the subject I learned from her. If I have erred, the fault is mine in my misunderstanding.

Now, despite this, I think word studies have their place, as you have to know what the words mean to know what they mean in context, so I welcome learning more about the subject you bring up.


Must everyone who studies quantum mechanics limit themselves to the word usage of an explanation of this to a kindergarten class? I don’t think so.

Likewise I don’t think we must limit scripture to what the people thousands of years ago were capable of understanding. At least this is a difference between the scientific study of texts as literature in an academic pursuit and the study of scripture in a religious pursuit. The latter believes God is behind those texts and is capable of communicating more than the people involved at the time were capable of understanding. This is not to say that the cultural context is irrelevant. Take for example, the cosmology of ancient Israelites. To be sure, this informs us of the limitations of how God could communicate to the ancient Israelites. But this does not limit what God seeks to communicate.

That sounds more like the inherent limitations in the work of translation. Where I see a replacement of what God says with what man says is in the insistence upon particular theological interpretations of the text.

Trying to work out exactly what God meant in ancient texts in ancient languages of long dead cultures is predicated on multiple fallacies and historical-grammatical method becomes logomancy; divination by words.

God didn’t dictate the Bible, he inspired the authors. They were free to choose their own words. The KJV has translation errors, to be sure. Better English translations are available.

What original wording? We don’t have the original (“autograph”) for any book of the Bible. But you could always study ancient Hebrew.

It won’t help if you bring ‘inspiration’ to the party, let alone the other two 'i’s.

Not your call.

It’s rationality’s.

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