(Gal. 4:24) Are we allowed to interpret the OT allegorically?

CLAIM: Sound biblical interpreters claim that allegorical interpretation is beyond the rules of proper hermeneutics. However, Paul says that his interpretation of the OT is “allegorically speaking” (Gal. 4:24). If Paul could interpret the OT allegorically, can we do this, as well?

RESPONSE: A number of observations can be made, regarding Paul’s handling of the OT.

First, Paul notes his use of allegory. Paul notes that this is an allegory –almost as though this was not a common way of interpreting the OT. If it was a common interpretive method, then he wouldn’t have felt the need to mention it. In fact, this is the only use of this Greek word (allēgoreō) in the entire NT.

Second, Paul’s observations are not truly allegorical. An allegory reads something into the text that isn’t really there. However, Paul’s observations are not truly allegorical in this way. Here, Paul is illustrating what happened to Abraham, when he tried to get God’s blessing through works –rather than through faith. Paul is observing that dealing with God’s promises in the flesh (through works) is always bad. It was in Abraham’s time, and it still is today. Therefore, Paul isn’t reading anything into the text. Instead, he is pulling principles from the text that still apply today.