Let us return to the original question: “Does the Bible have different levels of meaning?” We do not believe it does. There is one level of meaning—the one tied to the historical-cultural and literary contexts. This meaning includes its meaning for the biblical audience and the theological principles behind that meaning. There can be different aspects of a text’s meaning and even a number of principles behind those aspects. But there are not deep, “spiritual” meanings hidden in the text that are unrelated to the historical and literary context.
Typology is the only thing that comes close to being an exception. However, even though we affirm the predictive aspects of typology, we do not think typology opens the door for creating different, nonhistorical, “spiritualized” levels of meaning. Furthermore, Old Testament typology is limited to that which is identified in the New Testament; it is not something we are able to find or create through our cleverness. Likewise, we have argued that the popularized practice of allegorical interpretation, along with Bible codes, is not indicative of deeper, spiritual levels of meaning, but rather indicative of the creative speculation of the reader.
We have encouraged you in this section to avoid the temptations of “spiritualizing” or allegorizing. Keep your search for meaning within the historical and literary contexts of your passage. Do not be a “tent-peg allegorizer.” We have also warned you about sensational Bible codes. Seek the meaning of the divine/human author instead of the creative fantasies of human speculation. Use the Interpretive Journey to interpret the Bible. Throughout this book we will do our best to provide you with the proper skills to dig deeply into the Bible—skills that will help you to grasp God’s Word for your life. We want you to find spiritual meaning, but we want you to find the spiritual meaning that lies within the text, not the meaning that people have projected back into the text.
What role does the Holy Spirit play in all of this? Can the Holy Spirit lead us into a deeper, spiritual meaning that goes beyond the text? We’re glad you asked, for this is the topic of the next unit.