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OGA On The Pulpit: The Allegory of the Freewoman and the Bondwoman

First, this is a follow-up to the last essay on Religious Las Vegas XVIII: OF SARAH AND HAGAR: Scriptural Misreading and Misinterpretations.

You may want to reference that for proper understanding on this presentation. Thank you. The use of symbolic figures or ideas or concepts to immensely portray a very easily digestible understanding in a way that makes for clarity is what is called Allegory.

The best definition so far seen by me is by Richard Nordquist, and it reads: “The rhetorical strategy of extending a metaphor through an entire narrative so that objects, persons, and actions in the text are equated with meanings that lie outside the text” In other words, concepts and or ideas are represented or symbolized by characters or events.

This definition is very relevant in pursuing a true understanding of what Apostle Paul was writing about in the fourth chapter of the book of Galatians, which has systemically become the portion of scripture used accentuate a clamor for hatred, dislike and rejection of Islam and its adherents. Here is a background story to elucidate the scripture.

After the planting of the Galatian Church by Apostle Paul and his subsequent absence from the land, certain people who are called Judaizers invaded the region of Galatia with a message of perversion. Grace was now being denounced for salvation and works of the law been elevated as needed for righteousness, with huge emphasis on the Jewish circumcision rite.

The people of Galatia are now being deceived and confused on what to believe. Paul heard of the confusion and had to refute the teachings of the Judaizers with the same format and style of their deception. Since Paul could not visit directly then he had to write a very succinct and swift letter to counter the very ‘offensive’ teachings. First, the Judaizing teaching dismissed the Apostleship of Paul, and grossly minimized his influence as a ‘spiritual father’ to the Galatian Church.

So Paul had to re-emphasize his Apostleship and then addressed the people as “my little children” in strict refutation of the Judaizer’s teachings. Paul’s letter was a mix of anger and love, one, that they could allow another message outside the scope of grace and the other because Paul cared so much for their souls. Paul then had to emphasis seriously the one and only gospel of grace by which salvation is wrought and de-emphasis the message of righteousness by the works of the law.

In Chapter Four of the book of Galatians, the first emphasis was placed on sonship and heirship, a true identity in Christ and not religion. We were all slaves to sin, but now freed to liberty of sonship of God through Christ Jesus (4:1-7).

Here is the crux of the matter. The Judaizers presented their message of works of the law from a huge respect for Abraham as the father of their faith, especially in regards to circumcision of the Jewish race. How do you fault that argument? Paul then had to use the same Abraham to refute them exclusively.

“Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham”. Romans 3: 6-9 Now in verses twenty-one through thirty-one of chapter four, Paul had to use an allegory or symbolic figuration to explain the two covenants, which has nothing to do with Ishmael or Isaac.

Here Paul used the story of Hagar/Ishmael and that of Sarah/Isaac to buttress a serious point of departure with the Judaizers and he categorically stated in the scriptures that their mention was only symbolic to his point. His concern here was the wrong emphasis based on a physical geographical location of the earthly Jerusalem as compared with the eternal value of Jerusalem above (unfortunately this is still a battleground in the Middle East). Here we see Hagar/Ishmael being used to denote fleshy works of the law while Sarah/Isaac was used to explain a divinely finished work of grace for salvation freely provided by God.

Taking the scripture literally completely depart from its original intended allegorical instructions in meaning. Here, Paul was not condemning Hagar/Ishmael per se. He was only using them to underscore a very important refutation of the call by the Judaizers to old forgone works of law that had condemned everyone in the first place. It was all about what was divinely preferred and accepted by God for salvation.

Unfortunately that scripture has variedly being used to slammer the Arab world as unacceptable and rejected by God. That is an error of understanding of God and the scripture. There is no bond or free in God, everyone from eternity was born FREE. Conditions of life might have made some servants to others, but not necessarily a definition of God for such. A major truth to comprehend will be the fact that not all children born of Isaac (and his generations) are true Israelites.

Israel has nothing to do with genealogy of birth. If you consider that the seed of Isaac (the promised seed) include Esau then you might be getting close to the understanding that Ishmael and Isaac are symbolic representations of fleshly works and divine provisions respectively. That then does not connote judgmental rejection of any tribe, people or nation on earth. Remember this that the scripture is clear that death (condemnation, without any exclusion) reigned from Adam to Moses (Romans 5: 14).

The blatant misrepresentation of scripture to preclude or tag some tribe as strangers to the commonwealth of GRACE is very incriminating to the faith of Christ that I profess. Slandering the Arab world as children of bondwoman is notoriously wrong and reductive in understanding the heart of God. Moslem world and their religion may not be acceptable to some people but so also are the religions of China and India. Are they also descendants of Hagar? Hagar was NEVER rejected by God nor her son Ishmael abandoned.

The scripture is clear on that. It is also very instructive to mention that the vast majority of the Arab world (East) so referred to as “children of the bondwoman” are mostly not blood-related to Hagar or Ishmael according to the scriptures. Other children of Abraham by Keturah are three fourth of the Eastern descendants (Geneis 25: 1-18). The Bible also had it recorded that many who served in David’s administration of Israel were children fathered by Ishmaelites, a good one to remember is Amasa who was an astute soldier of repute. The scripture does not even suggest any rancor between Isaac and Ishmael as the message of today emphasizes.

It will seem like Isaac and Ishmael never saw each other again after the departure of Hagar and Ishmael. So true is their separate geographical location but also true was the fact that they jointly buried their father Abraham and there was no fight. God is love and those that hate are dead! Our differences in faith are no reason for our hating each other.

God never divided us asunder, we did. Next time you see a Muslim, please respect his conviction of faith as his personal right of choice and never disparage them as less human by birth or genealogy. Have respect for all humans.

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