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Allegory is one of four primary ways to express a truth, typically about a fundamental aspect of life. An allegory differs from a parable, a fable, and a metaphor. Sometimes parables and fables are viewed as types of allegories.

An allegory is a description or story that is logical and rings true, while conveying a profound insight about life itself.

The Gospel of John sets forth two very powerful allegories:

The use of allegories by the Gospel of John is unique in all of the Bible, which reinforces its authenticity.

Compared with a fable

A fable is typically a very short story in which all the characters are animals, as in most of Aesop's Fables, such that the story itself could never happen in real life and yet it conveys something simple about human nature. Rarely does a fable convey anything spiritual.

Compared with a parable

Parables are stories that appear to be factual, and may have actually occurred, in which the characters are humans and the message is moral or spiritual. Often parables have a surprise twist to them that is counterintuitive at first, but completely logical upon further reflection.

Compared with a metaphor

An allegory is longer, and more story-like, than a metaphor. Also, an allegory makes logical sense when interpreted literally (although not with the full intended meaning), while metaphors do not.

Animal Farm

In modern literature, Animal Farm by George Orwell is called an allegorical novella or a fable. It uses animal characters to tell the story of Communism in the Soviet Union, from the revolution to the rise of Stalin. This story does not perfectly fit that of an allegory because the characters are animals and the events could not actually happen as described, but the characters are based on historical facts (with animals replacing humans) such that it is not a traditional fable either.

Old Testament

In the Old Testament, some consider the bride and groom in the Song of Solomon to be an allegory for the Church and Jesus.

See also