Famous early American English language scholar, Noah Webster, provided this excellent definition of the word “allegory” in his first edition of “An American Dictionary of the English Language,” published in 1828: “A figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The principal subject is thus kept out of view, and we are left to collect the intentions of the writer or speaker, by the resemblance of the secondary to the primary subject. Allegory is in words what hieroglyphics are in painting. We have a fine example of an allegory in the eightieth psalm, in which God’s chosen people are represented by a vineyard. The distinction in scripture between a parable and an allegory is said to be that a parable is a supposed history, and an allegory, A FIGURATIVE DESCRIPTION OF REAL FACT.”
THE BASIS OF ALLEGORY
In the books, “1984,” and “Animal Farm,” George Orwell wrote in allegory of Soviet Communism. In the first book, he merely inverted the last two digits of the publishing date and made it into 1984—a rather transparent alteration. It was not a prediction of some future time and place; he was illustrating by way of allegory the managed economy and dictatorship of communism. It was a political satire on a system of government that already existed in that very day, and which regulated every facet of people’s lives. But some readers, not understanding allegory, imagined that he was writing about some other far off time and place. In fact, many took the books to be something like “Alice in Wonderland”—an imaginary story that is almost ethereal and unlikely to come to pass, like science fiction. But ALLEGORY IS NOT ETHEREAL; IT HAS A BASIS IN FACT.
Israel in Scripture is not ethereal, either. When someone uses the term, “Spiritual Israel,” it may sound ethereal; but Israel, even in allegory, has a basis in fact. It wouldn’t be a true allegory if it didn’t match the reality which it allegorized. The allegory is used to point out the real fulfillment of something. THE ALLEGORY ILLUSTRATES THE REALITY. In the religious realm, people also imagine that Bible allegory and reality are two different things. It is as if allegorical Israel and physical Israel are two totally separate entities, existing side by side, but having no genetic connection. But Israel is not comprised of two disparate realities, two unrelated peoples existing on different planes of existence, one literal and one allegorical. Again, the allegory illustrates the reality. You cannot give the allegory a life of its own, separate from the thing it illustrates. If you did, you would then have a double fulfillment, not an allegory. That is, in fact, what people are essentially claiming about prophetic latter-day Israel. They are implying that the prophecies fit both the Jews and the Anglo-Saxon peoples, so that there must be a double fulfillment, one literal and one spiritual. That is not the case, for there are not two unrelated Israel’s in the Bible!
The Encyclopedia of Myth and Magic has an interesting article on the Lost Tribes of Israel, and comments that, “the Jewish community may contain vestiges of all the tribes, and certainly represents them all spiritually.” However, no Christian theologian designates the Jews as “spiritual Israel.” The New Testament does speak of God’s Israel as being Christian people (Galatians 3:7, 29), which definition does not embrace adherents to Judaism. Spiritually, then, the Jewish religious adherents do not fit the New Testament description of Israel in the latter days. The same encyclopedia goes on to point out, “The prophets foretell various things about Israel which have not been fulfilled in the Jews: that God’s people will be powerful [Isa.14:2; 41:15; Micah 4:13], that they will be ‘a nation and a company of nations,’[Gen. 17:5; 35:11] and so forth. Also a few passages (notably Ezekiel 36:15-25) certainly seem to keep up the distinction between Israel and Judah after the exile of both….” It is therefore clear, as scholars note, that there were two houses of Israel with continuing separate existences, neither of which was limited to being spiritual or allegorical! Both were literal, physical tribal nations. At the very most, the Jewish people may relate in some ways to the ancient house of Judah, but they do not also fulfill the prophecies to the house of Israel, the ten tribes. Of course, if the Jews were ALL of Israel, then they would fulfill ALL of the literal prophecies to Israel! Scholars point out that this is manifestly not the case.
SPIRITUAL OR FIGURATIVE?
British-Israel writer and scholar John Shootingham in 1898 observed, “It is highly probable that the spiritualizing system would be easily discredited and deposed but for a confusion of thought that exists in most minds—a confusion between ‘spiritual’ and ‘figurative.’ When we urge literal fulfillments of prophecy and disparage the so-called spiritual method, opponents reply that the Bible is an oriental book and ‘full of figurative language.’ This is undeniable and satisfies the crowd; but it is decidedly misleading, for ‘spiritual’ and ‘figurative’ are not synonymous. Take ‘thy seed shall possess the Gate of his enemies’ (Gen. 22:17) as an example. Here ‘gate’ is figurative, but not spiritual. Some deny it is literal; none deny that it is figurative. Strictly speaking, a gate is a door, which opens and shuts; but in Biblical phraseology it became ‘the seat of power’, and may mean a fortress, a city, a pass, a strait, or any position of advantage. Spiritualizers themselves construe it in a figurative way, for they join Genesis 22:17 to Matthew 16:18, and argue that ‘the gates of hell’ imply ‘Satanic might’, which shall not prevail against the ‘spiritual descendants’ of Abraham. Thus, they turn ‘gate’ into figure, and rightly so, but it does not follow that the figure has a spiritual import. Let us not be tripped up by wiles of this kind!” (BOI xxii:112)
The basis of the spiritual Israel teaching is the false assumption that all of Israel rejected Christ and God had to turn to another people, a spiritual Israel, to fulfill His purposes. In a separate tract, “Did Israel Reject Christ?” (www.israelite.info) we deal with the mistaken notion that all of the Israelites rejected Jesus at His first advent 2,000 years ago. Jesus said that He was “not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. 10:5; 15:24), and we know that His mission was not a failure as some today would imply. Not only were the disciples Israelites, but the Book of Acts in the New Testament tells of the thousands of Israelites that welcomed Him eagerly as their redeemer. The Jewish people of that day were divided into two main camps: The first were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and their followers, and the second were the Hellenized Jews. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary has this to say concerning the latter:
“We usually underrate the proportion of Jews who embraced Christianity. Hellenistic Judaism disappeared as Christianity became widely diffused, and was probably for the most part absorbed into the new faith.” (IV:207)
It is obvious, of course, that their Christian descendants would not be a part of the Jewish community and would today be known as “Europeans” and “Caucasians,” and not known as Jews. With the additional information revealed by Biblical Archaeologist Magazine (March, 1996), that ancient Semites (including Israelites) colonized the coasts of Europe in ancient times (“an enduring and significant presence”), there is little basis for spiritualizing and ignoring the literal Hebrew-Caucasian connection. What people assume is a non-Israelite “spiritual Israel” fulfilling prophecy is in fact “a figurative description of [the] real fact” that believing Israelites are found in the Christian nations of Western Europe.