Layers of Meaning

Earlier today, I posted about the Patristic and Mediaeval approach to reading Scripture, using my good friend John Cassian along the way.

WordPress linked to this post about a potential return to allegory for biblical criticism in their “Possible Related Posts” section.  The post gives a very brief, terse, yet informative tour of exegesis, recommending a possible return to the old way of doing things.  Cassian is paraphrased fairly well:

For Cassian there were four ways of interpreting scriputre. A classical example is interpreting what is meant by the city of Jerusalem in the Biblical text. For moderns, it is just a city in the geographical area of Palestine. However for someone like Cassian it would mean the following (from Biblical Interpretation):

  1. The Literal Sense: A city in Palestine
  2. The Allegorical or Typological Sense: The church of God on earth
  3. The Moral or Tropological Sense: The soul of the believer
  4. The Mystagogical Sense: The heavenly city; the church in heaven

The post is pretty good, although I think they give too much weight to allegory.  The anagogical (here as “mystagogical”), and tropological senses are also important throughout the history of interpretation.  As well, the usual blanket statements about the Middle Ages are there, this time to the tune of “Mediaeval Scholasticism and Ockham’s razor,” even though this style of interpretation was present until the Renaissance/Reformation (hence Henri de Lubac’s Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture).

NB: You can find the post at faith-promoting rumor’s new home here.


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