The Body as Metaphor

The Structure of a Human and the Meaning of Scripture

In: Novum Testamentum
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  • 1 Dean and Professor, Divinity School, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

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This essay considers Philo of Alexandria’s metaphor in which he used the dual nature of embodied existence (body and soul) to argue that both literal and allegorical readings are legitimate. It examines the metaphor in the framework of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CTM) developed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson that argues that experience is the key to meaning. A metaphor occurs when we apply a pattern that we have observed in one setting (gestalt) to another. In this case, Philo has drawn on a Platonic/Stoic understanding of being human and applied it to contested hermeneutics within the Alexandrian Jewish community in an effort to maintain a sense of unity among two groups. The metaphorical experience is the recognition that Scripture is polyvalent in the same way that being human is.

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