It is an interesting question as well as an interesting line of study. There really are two purposes. One involves most symbolic language in the Bible. The other involves only one of which I am aware. I won't be able to give an exhaustive list off the top of my head, but in the Bible there are types, figures, allegories, analogies and parables. The first four in that list represent a body of literary tools designed to illuminate the understanding of the reader or hearer. The last in the list, parables had a dual purpose. First they were also designed to give understanding, although a measure of prior belief, faith or trust was required. Second, parables were designed to prevent understanding. Those without that prior faith, meaning those who adamantly refused to believe what was being communicated, would never quite get the point.
There may be symbolism in the Bible that many don't consider to be symbolism. I for one have a wait and see attitude concerning these. If they were supposed to be crystal clear then there wouldn't be the controversy that actually exists. I am speaking of Genesis chapters one through three as well as prophetic revelations in much of the OT and in the book of Revelation in the NT. For example, streets of gold. Is that real or some kind of symbol? There are lots of those examples.
The purpose of symbolism in scripture is to serve the function of an allegory. An allegory is the description of one thing under the image of another. In the Bible, or other sacred scriptures, we see authors presenting stories in which people, things, and happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning. This way, we can understand allegories as teaching methods, for explaining ideas, moral principles, etc.
I could go on and on and on with this, but I want. I have presented enough for a reader to see how symbolism expresses itself in the form of allegories and how this can be used to teach moral principles, which the sacred scriptures are expected to do.
I think symbolism is used so that even though our daily circumstances are totally different than those of biblical times, we are still able to relate a specific passage, scripture to our changing circumstances. We are also able to use same scriptures for multiple problems and occurrences.
To make you think, because when you figure things out on your own you are more apt to believe them, than if some one tells you and treats you like an idiot.
Of course I could be wrong, it happened once!
That is the answer I would have given.
@lone77 I never said God did not have a sense of humor, after all I believe He created Humankind in His spiritual image. But, unlike humans I don't believe God's sense of humor results from mischief. Mischief defined is - : a cause or source of harm,
I think @somethgblue made a good point with "it makes you think."
I've grown up with the Bible in my home. I've studied it for decades, but only this last year have I read it for the first time, cover-to-cover... almost done. And I'll do it again many times.
The hidden wisdom in the Bible makes you work to understand it. I pity the biblical literalists who think the Bible was meant to be simple. That only aids laziness and arrogance.
I think the writers of the Bible wanted us to work and to be humble. Only with humility can we ever learn anything new.
And our salvation depends so much on our humility -- the "self" that must die before we can gain everlasting life must bow to humility. Because humility is so important to our salvation, it would seem that the writers of the Bible would take every opportunity to require humility of us. Thus the symbolism and the hidden wisdom.
Why, for instance, did God give such protection to a murderer and a liar (Cain)? And later, to his descendant, Lamech? Why did God wipe the Earth clean with the Flood, when humans have been violent and wicked long after the Flood? What crime was cured by the Flood? And who were the evil "daughters of man?"
These questions and more have been answered. But it took humility to find them. It took the hunger of a beggar to reach those answers.
Symbolism is important in that it allows the person to be able to relate to what the scripture is saying. It brings a better understading of the meaning to God's Word. It allows the reader and the studyier of the Word to place themselves inside the picture being portraid.
It is something that enables you to reach out and grab ahold of the Word making it real. The reader becomes a part of it and is able to relate much better having an image to focus on.
Sumbolism makes it possible for the reader to bring the invisible unseen image into the present reality or state of mind.
Symbolism in scripture, in my opinion, is God's mischief to allow not-so-spiritually-evolved pundits to misinterpret them!
@c.v God has many attributes but "michief" isn't one of them.
I believe God has good sense of humor and He plays His mischief for fun!
CV, great answer! Misinterpretation is the province of ego, especially when ego craves to live in only one interpretation.
Come on, CH. Do you really think it's impossible that the Father of all cannot have a sense of humor?
I believe it is to make the reader think. Great question by the way.
Symbolism is used by God for us to seek its purpose through prayer and love. If we seek its purpose, it is a way for us to get to know our Father better. If we seek the divine truth of symbolism, we seek God.
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