Chapter 10: A Meaning Worthy of God
Part 3 of Boyd's 2-volume work begins considers Origen's 'reinterpretation' of violence in the Old Testament as a historical example of the type of solution that Boyd is pursuing going forward (though Boyd's proposal will differ significantly). If we can't dismiss these texts (because they are God-breathed) and we can't accept them at face value (because they don't conform to the revelation of Christ on the cross) then our only remaining option is to re-interpret them. And that's what Origen did by using an allegorical method of interpretation for such texts.
Origen believed that troublesome texts existed to challenge readers and motivate them to dig for deeper meanings. God buried meanings below embarrassing dirt not just to challenge truth-seekers, but also to accommodate the dirty conceptions people of those times had about Him. So while the surface level meaning (like command to conquer Canaan) were not congruent with Christ, the deeper meaning (like the importance of spiritual warfare) were revelatory.
Boyd does not think that Origen believed most of the violence in Scripture actually happened in history. What was true about a passage was in the mystery (the deeper meaning) moreso than the history (whether it really happened). Boyd disagrees on this point. He accepts the literal events recounted in the biblical narrative and denies that the authors of these texts had allegorical intentions when they wrote. They were writing from their own fallen and culturally conditioned understandings of God.
This was an interesting chapter. Truth be told, I've always been fascinated by Origen and the early Christian writers. Their hermeneutical approach to the Old Testament is very different from modern approaches. I enjoyed learning about the rise of the allegorical method and the motivations behind it. And it makes sense to me that God would accommodate His people (ie. recognizing that they got 'used' to animal sacrifices in Egypt and, therefore, accommodating that practice but directing the sacrifices to Himself rather than to many gods).
As intriguing as Origen is, I think Boyd did a good job of pointing out some of his weaknesses as well. Like Greg, I don't think Origen was right to so quickly dismiss a historical basis behind the text. And some of the allegories come off as hermeneutic gymnastics. Greg's proposal to offer another 'species' of Origen's re-interpretation solution is attractive.