Symbol, Symbolic, Symbolical, Symbolize, Symbolism!
Let us first
define what a Symbol is:
A symbol is something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.
So a symbol is merely something that represents something else, and that something else is the reality of the symbol even if it is invisible.
Here are a few ground rules regarding symbolism that must be mastered before anyone makes an attempt for serious Bible study.
1. You have probably heard the quotation by Saint Augustine:
"The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament".
2. The New Testament is hidden in the Old by a plethora of symbolism called typology.
3. Old Testament types (symbols) and even New Testament symbolism always point to New Testament realities as I will show soon.
4. An Old Testament type never points to a New Testament symbol.
This is such an important point, that I will reword it for emphasis. A symbol of the O.T. never points to a N.T. symbol but always to the reality of what the symbol represents.
5. A symbol of itself has no power to save. All power is reserved for the much greater reality.
6. Here are some other terms, some of which are in Holy Scripture, which are sometimes used as substitutions for symbolism:
shadow, foreshadow, badge, emblem, figure, template, pattern, token, foretoken, prefigurement, prefiguration, gesture, label, picture, hint, sign, blueprint, image. As you can readily see, none are the reality of what they represent.
We are made in the image of GOD (Genesis 1:26-27) but we are certainly not divine as is GOD.
Here are some examples of symbolism versus reality...
Colossians 2:16-17, the Jewish Sabbath is but a shadow of good things to come. This is a foreshadowing of the Christian Sunday worship. How much power does a shadow have compared to what causes it to begin with?
Exodus 31:16-17, the Sabbath is a sign or a token (the word used depends on the Bible) and it is for the children of Israel.
Hebrews 10:1, the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament) is but a shadow of good things to come.
The "good things to come" is the New Covenant of Jesus Christ which has obsoleted the Law, Hebrews 8:13.
Hebrews 10:4, the blood of oxen and goats cannot take away sins. Animal sacrifices were symbolic of the New Testament reality of the Blood of Christ which could wash away the sins of the world.
Ephesians 1:7, through the blood of His Son, we are set free from our sins.
*The Holy Eucharist:
The manna in the desert (the O.T. type) fed the body, but it could never feed the soul, John 6:49.
The manna is the symbol for the Holy Eucharist.
The only thing that could feed the soul is the Body and Blood of Christ, the Holy Eucharist (the N.T. reality), John 6:47-58.
Remember the basic rules of typology,
"An Old Testament type never points to a New Testament symbol, but to its reality."
"A symbol of itself has no power to save anyone. All power to save is reserved for the much greater reality."
Now why do Protestants and Fundamentalists and other non-Catholics bend and break the rules of typology by taking the whole Bible literally except for chapter six of the Gospel of John for which they say is symbolic? Doesn't it sound strange to you that all books of the Bible are taken literally by them except for that one chapter in the Gospel of John?
Isn't it reminiscent of Martin Luther who wanted to remove entire books from the Bible simply because they were opposed to HIS teaching?
The answer to why is simply because none of them have a valid authorized priesthood which is able to perform sacrifice as commanded by Holy Scripture that we must do on a continuous daily basis. So, for them IT IS ONLY A SYMBOL!
However, they have no right to say for the Catholic Holy Eucharist, that it is only a symbolic gesture also.
For those who deny the true presence in the Catholic Holy Eucharist, I must point out two Bible references which fit all of the scoffers perfectly. I have listed each of the two from different Bibles for emphasis:
"But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand, and in their destruction they will also be destroyed, suffering wrong as payment for wrongdoing.
"These false teachers insult what they don't understand. They are like animals, which are creatures of instinct that are born to be caught and killed. So they will be destroyed like animals and lose what their wrongdoing earned them. These false teachers are stains and blemishes."
"But these people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals. Woe to them! They followed the way of Cain, abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perished in the rebellion of Korah."
"Whatever these people don't understand, they insult. Like animals, which are creatures of instinct, they use whatever they know to destroy themselves. How horrible it will be for them! They have followed the path of Cain. They have rushed into Balaam's error to make a profit. They have rebelled like Korah and destroyed themselves."
Written by Bob Stanley, May 1, 2003
Updated October 17, 2004
Back to Home Page
Next topic, Typology