Symbolism beyond the intention of the author

Krzysztof Bardski bard at
Thu Nov 11 05:26:19 EST 1999

 Dear Colleagues
 I'm glad to read about typology in BH-list. Since a certain time I take up
 biblical symbolism and typology in my research. I'm interested especially
 in the symbols and types in the streams of the traditions of the
 communities of faith (Israel or Church). Let me impart to you some
 reflections concerning this topic.
I found out that the problem of the symbolical interpretation that goes
beyond the intention of the author apperars in a very similar way in the
Jewish and Christian traditions. I mean the mechanismes of building and
developing symbols; the content is obviously different. I would be very
glad to know the opinion of some Jewish scholar if what I write in the
following lines is compatible or not with the Jewish way of reading and
interpreting the Scripture today.
 The relationship between a symbol and its parallel may be of three kinds:
 1. Symbols that existed before the formation of the biblical text and have
 been assumed by the inspired authors. Usually such symbols have not been
 explained in the biblical text as intelligible for the prime receivers,
 but not always for us.
 2. Symbols created by the inspired authors. Usually they are explained or
 their meaning is suggested by the context.
 3. Symbols created and handed down in the community of faith.
 The problem discussed in the BH-list concerns point 3. I think we should
 take in account a process of the formation of these kind of symbols:
 1. First, there is an original interpretation of a comentator, an author
 of a sermon or an anonymous idea that apperas in several writings of the
2 community of faith.
 2. Second, the judgement of the community: symbols living in the community
are picked up by the following comentators, preachers and other authors.
On the ground of this fact we can distinduish symbols or types that are
more or less present in the tradition of certain community. Our
conclusions in this case should be nevertheless very cautious becouse we
have at our disposal only the evidence of the preserved writings. In some
cases they are numerous (e.g. more then 300 preserved christian
comentaries to Shir ha-Shirim till the XV century). But the fact of
preservation and copy of certain manuscripts is also an avidence of the
importance of the ideas that it contains.
3. Third, the actualisation and adaptation of a certain symbol to the
mentality of the members of the community of faith in a concrete
historical moment. This is our task if we consider that our communion with
other faithful has not only a synchronical dimension, but also

In the light of what I said above, I think, the problem of the types and
symbols may be approched in a different way depending of some
1. If we don't belive that the community of faith is guided, protected and
assisted by the Lord (ha-Shem or the Holy Trinity) in ALL its history,
since the beginning untill now, these kind of symbols and types will be
seen as "eisegesis" and "over-typologizing", and will have no value, will
be "not legitimate". I supose it is the point of view of some christians
that consider the period between the Counsil of Nicea and the appearance
of Martin Luther as "dark ages" and "time of errors". If I'm wrong, please
correct me.
2. If we belive in the divine assistence of the community of faith, this
kind of symbolism will be useful both for our spiritual life and for some
kind of biblical hermeneutics that goes beyond the intention of the
author. "Divina elloquia cum legente crescunt" - "The words of the Lord
are growing together with the reader" (Gregory the Great).   

Recently I wrote an article "The Threefold Cord of Ecclesiastes (Qoh
4,12b) and its symbolism in the tradition of Israel and the Church",
Scriptura Sacra 3 (1999) 5-44 (in polish with a summary in italian) that
presents the development of the different symbolical interpretations in
the traditions of the communities of faith.

Krzysztof Bardski

> On Sat, 6 Nov 1999, somi wrote:
> > Is it not possible that the typology used in the NT can serve as guides to
> > our discovery of other types in the OT?  This is not to say that we are able
> > now to over-typologize everything in the OT...but our "narrow" view of
> > typology (by reducing them to ONLY the examples found in the NT) may blind
> > us from other types intended by the inspired text.
> > 
> > Just a thought.
> > 
> > Blessings,
> > Somi.
> > 
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Griffin, James R SWL <James.R.Griffin at>
> > To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
> > Date: Wednesday, November 03, 1999 4:02 AM
> > Subject: Typology
> > 
> > 
> > >The only OT types that are legitimate types are ones that the New Testament
> > >declares as such, e.g., Jonah. If we go beyond this scope of
> > interpretation,
> > >we take a liberty upon ourselves that is not supported by the scriptures.
> > >Perhaps this is a narrow view of "typology," but I believe it is the safest
> > >one.
> > >
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