In today’s Epistle (1 Corinthians 9:2-12), St. Paul engages in a form of Scriptural interpretation which we might call allegory – he obviously rejects a literal reading of Deuteronomy 25:4, and gives the text a spiritual meaning.
Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
This form of “allegorical” interpretation of Scripture was commonly used by the first Christians in the apostolic era and carried on into Patristic Christianity as well. Since we find it used in the New Testament as a way to interpret the Old, we have to admit it is a biblical form of interpreting the Scriptures.
“…whatever language the Fathers use to describe their exegetical practice (and there is no great consistency here), they all interpret Scripture in a way we would call allegorical, and allegoria is the usual word the Latin Fathers use from the fourth century onwards to characterize the deeper meaning they are seeking in the Scriptures. Some of the Fathers, it is true, attack what they call allegory and its use; but what they are attacking are the results (particularly the results that Origen came up with) and not the method.… Even the Antiochen Fathers admit of a deeper spiritual meaning (which they call not allegoria but the ‘contemplative’ meaning—kata theorian).… the idea that the text means what the author meant it to mean—the idea, almost, that the meaning of a text is a past historical event—give us a sense that the meaning of a text is something objective, something unproblematic…(Augustine) takes it for granted that the meaning of a text is what the author intended.” (Andrew Louth, DISCERNING THE MYSTERY: AN ESSAY ON THE NATURE OF THEOLOGY, pp 96-98)