If an allegory is just an invention? How can you discus the validity of something that is based on opinion.

For example:

Ex 23:19 ... Thou shalt not seethe [boil] a kid in his mother’s milk. Ex 34:26 ... Thou shalt not seethe [boil] a kid in his mother’s milk. De 14:21 ... Thou shalt not seethe [boil] a kid in his mother’s milk. -KJV

One may claim that boiling represents tribulation. Another challenges it saying:

"Sure it can be a symbol for tribulation, but it can also mean a step in preparing food. Taken as a symbol, it could mean "purification" or "change" or "reducing" or whatever.

How can we tell which proposal is valid?

  • There is probably a better word than "intelligent". MEaningful, productive..?
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 27 '11 at 4:03
  • I know the context, but I think it would help to make it explicit. My suggestion would be to quote the passage that brought up the comment and ask if boiling can be a symbol of tribulation here. The question underneath is good, but I'm afraid the context will be missing for most readers. (I'd rather not vote to close this question, but it's a bit to specific to a particular time and place for this site as it's currently phrased.)
    – Jon Ericson
    Oct 27 '11 at 17:21
  • Gotcha. I am hoping to elicit conversation on the process of discerning rather than a discussion of what boiling is.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 27 '11 at 22:24
  • Excellent! (But does the KJV really use seethe rather than boil? Maybe another translation would be more applicable to the question.)
    – Jon Ericson
    Oct 27 '11 at 22:58
  • You are all missing the point. It matters not whether it is "boil" or "bake". What matters is that a "calf in its mother's milk" is an idiom for a calf which is not yet weaned.
    – user3681
    Mar 12 '14 at 17:33

The only certain interpretation of "boil" in this context is as a reference to the food preparation technique. I take these sections of Torah as being something like the US Code. It may be possible to understand the "spirit" of the law and extrapolate a broader or deeper meaning, however. If so, the symbolic, typological, allegorical, or analogous meaning of the command would have to be grounded in overarching meaning of the law as a whole.

  • It occurs to me that this is a very Cartesian (skeptical of tradition) answer and I don't usually take that position. Hmmmm...
    – Jon Ericson
    Oct 27 '11 at 23:17

There are two parts to the question:

  1. Is allegory appropriate for a particular verse.
  2. Is the proposed allegory valid.

On the first question there are these views:

  1. Enumeration - Allegory is only appropriate where a NT author mentions it as an allegory.
  2. Sample - NT authors mention allegory as a sample of what we may find. If we find it, it is appropriate.
  3. Sensus plenior - every verse has a hidden meaning, so it is always appropriate.

On the second question there are these views:

  1. Sample - An apparent allegory is valid if it teaches truth. Many allegorical interpretations can derived from a single portion of scripture and they each may be valid as long as they teach truth in agreement with the Bible. This is the source of differing opinions and much debate, since there is no agreement on what Biblical truth is. Allegory is generated to fit personal interpretations of Biblical doctrine.

  2. Sensus plenior - An allegorical meaning must be the same everywhere the term exists in all scriptures. As such, the scriptures are viewed as a giant crossword puzzle. Opinion has no place, only tentative solutions until the whole is resolved. Opinion, by definition, is a position held when there are insufficient facts to determine truth. In sensus plenior, an allegory is resolved by adding more facts to the discussion. A statement made under the 'banner' of sensus plenior is subject to all the rules associated with sensus plenior.


  1. Sample - Opinion is pitted against opinion until someone declares a rule of faith and anathematizes the other.

  2. Sensus plenior - Drash is practiced where all portions linked by various Remez methods are overlaid to make a single picture. The picture is then interpreted Christologically.


There are 24 verse which use the word bashal and are translated as boil, seethe, ripe, sodden, roated, baked. All of these verses must make theological sense when the sensus plenior is unpacked from them using the same allegorical meaning for bashal.

When two or three examples are given, and no contradictory examples are available, a solution is penciled in, subject to scrutiny under all the other verses that are linked by Remez.

It is impractical to justify every word in every conversation concerning sensus plenior since the linked scriptures expand exponentially as the sensus plenior for each occurrence are examined.

As such, a formal discussion of sensus plenior would include in a challenged allegorical meaning, the sensus plenior exposed in a Remez-linked passage where the proposed allegory did not work.

Without getting into the details in this article: The narrative of Eli's son's and their three pronged meat fork, contains an account similar to Adam's rib, in much more graphic detail than the Genesis account of the birth of the church through Christ's death. This would be offered in an extended discussion of how boil represents tribulation. As each of the other verses containing the word are unpacked, an incontrovertible solution is derived due to the interlocking of all the allegorical meanings that must be consistent.

Types of errors (may not be exhaustive):

Observation - missing details.

Remez - bad links because of using English rather than Hebrew

Drash - missing portions

Interpretation - preconception biases

These can be discussed dispassionately and objectively.

  • 1
    Do you know, this answer helps me understand the method quite a bit. May I use the following definition? Sensus plenior: "the scriptures are viewed as a giant crossword puzzle." ;-)
    – Jon Ericson
    Oct 28 '11 at 16:37
  • It is not the best definition. Since it explains how the apostles got their 'strange' use of the OT, it might be better viewed as an apostolic method. But certainly, if not meant in a derogatory way, seeing consistency of allegorical usage throughout the scriptures is a good thing. It is a vernacular way of explaining remez and drash.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28 '11 at 20:55
  • I certainly didn't mean any disrespect. (Perhaps you missed the little smiley at the end?) I honestly understand the method better thanks to that phrase.
    – Jon Ericson
    Oct 28 '11 at 21:05
  • No apology necessary.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28 '11 at 21:07

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