A New Word Wednesday Book – “Allegory”

CoinedbyGod-MallessRecently I was given a new word book by fellow bibliophile Gary Vander Schaaf. It is a rather unique book, in that it focuses on words that appeared for the first time in the English translations of the Bible. Its title is Coined by God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Bible and it is the combined work of Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain (W.W. Norton, 2003).

Since we referenced Wycliffe yesterday, it is fitting that the first word I chose to feature is the word “allegory”, first found in English in Wycliffe’s Bible. Here’s the entry as it appears in Coined by God:

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Wycliffe uses allegory for the first time in English. Telling his audience that he ‘perplexed’ over their insistence in following Mosaic law over Christian faith, Paul reminds them that language often portrays things in the guise of something else. Specifically, he refers to the story of Hagar and Sarah as ‘[That] which [has] been said by allegory, or ghostly understanding’ (4:24).

in the Latin of the Vulgate, the words appears as allegoriam, Jerome’s transliteration of the original Greek, allegoria. In like manner, Wycliffe also adopts the words exactly as it is written, minus the inflectional ending. Tyndale, however, avoids it altogether and translates the passage as ‘Which things betoken mystery.’ (The King James translators keep Tyndale’s phrase but reenlist allegory as a replacement for ‘mystery.’)

A combination of the Greek roots allos (‘other’) and agora (‘speaking,’ with the added nuance of agora, ‘the public assembly’), allegory occurs only this one time in the Bible. nonetheless, from Keat’s observation in a letter to his brother (1819) that a ‘man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory,’ to the bedevilment of students in high school English class, to the ‘mysteries’ of postmodernism’s ‘allegories of reading,’ allegory has sustained a long history of ‘otherspeak.’

Published in: on July 22, 2015 at 7:18 AM  Leave a Comment