Pastor Armstrong refers to Ezekiel 16 as an allegory. Other commentators call it a parable. Is there a difference as far as interpretation?
Though we are not experts in the differences between parables and allegories, Pastor Armstrong compares them this way:
A parable is a cohesive story in which all the characters and events work together to teach a single spiritual idea. On the other hand, an allegory is an illustration in which each element of the story represents a specific idea, and though the entire story works together, the importance of an allegory is in its individual elements.
For example, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the story features numerous characters and events, yet we do not dissect the parable at that level. We don't search for specific meaning in a pig sty or in the killing of the fatted calf, etc. Instead, we see the entire story building toward a single, main idea at the end (i.e., the Father has limitless, unconditional forgiveness for those who repent).
Contrast that parable with the allegory Paul gives us in Galatians:
In the story of Sarah and Hagar, Paul finds an allegory. The characters in that story stand for individual aspects of a spiritual argument concerning faith vs Law. Notice, Paul is not applying the overall account of the events of Sarah and Hagar found in Genesis. Instead, Paul is using details of their lives to illustrate individual elements of his spiritual argument. For example:
Hagar = Mt. Sinai & the Law
Sarai = Heavenly Jerusalem, grace
Hagar's slavery = slavery under the Law, present day Jerusalem
Sarai's freedom = future Israel under the New Covenant
Ishmael = son born under law, persecutor of the free, cast out
Isaac = son born of the promise, free, in the family of God
So a parable conveys a single idea while an allegory is a point-by-point illustration. Stories like the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are allegories, while stories like Aesop's Fables are parables. In the Bible there are many parables but few true allegories.