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The notion that the Bible has both a literal and non-literal sense is found in the earliest Biblical interpreters. Philo’s method of allegorical reading of the Old testament melded Jewish and Platonic traditions of exegesis in a way that very much influenced subsequent Christian hermeneutics. One of the most important texts for the development of allegorical reading of Scripture was Augustine’s de Doctrina Christiana, which argued that if a passage did not make sense on a literal level, that was a sign that it should be read allegorically.
When Jesus says “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” it can be read literally as a story about a specific incident in the life of Jesus and allegorically as a notion that Christians should obey the laws of their countries and not attempt to impose specifically Christian religious duties on their nation in the form of civic laws concerning the Sabbath or marriage.
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