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§ 33.

Biblical Interpretation.

Olshausen, über tiefern Schriftsinn, Königsberg 1824. Rosenmüller, Historia Interpretat. N. T. t. iii. J. A. Ernesti, De Origene Interpretationis grammaticæ Auctore, Opusc. Crit. Lugd. 1764, p. 283 ss. Hagenbach, Observat. circa Origenis methodum interpretandæ S. S., Bas. 1823, cf. the review by Hirzel in Winer's Krit. Journal, 1825, Bd. iii. Thomasius, Origenes, Appendix I. [S. Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics, developed and applied; including a Hist. of Biblical Interpretation from the earliest of the Fathers to the Reform., Edinb. 1843. Comp. also Fairbairn's Hermeneutics, 1858. Frankel, Einfluss der palestin. Exegese auf d. Alexandr. Hermeneutik, Leipz. 1851.]

The tendency to allegorical interpretation (1) was connected in a twofold manner with the theory of verbal inspiration. Some writers endeavoured to bring as much as possible into the letter of the sacred writings, either on mystical and speculative, or on practical religious grounds; others, from a rationalistic and apologetical tendency, were anxious to explain away all that might lead to conclusions alike offensive to human reason and unworthy of the Deity, if taken in their literal sense. This may be best seen in the works of Origen, who, after the example of Philo (2), and of several of the Fathers, especially of Clement (3), first set forth a definite system of interpretation, which allowed a threefold sense to Scripture; and, accordingly, they distinguished the anagogical and the allegorical interpretation from the grammatical (4). The sober method of Irenæus, who defers to God all in the Scripture that is above human understanding (5), is in striking contrast with this allegorizing tendency, which makes everything out of the Scriptures.

(1) "With their high opinion of the inspiration of the sacred writings, and the dignity of a revelation, we should expect, as a matter of course, to meet with careful interpretation, diligently investigating the exact meaning. But the very opposite was the fact. Inspiration is done away with by the most arbi

trary of all modes of interpretation, the allegorical, of which we may consider Philo the master." (Gfrörer, Geschichte des Urchristenthums, i. s. 69, in reference to Philo.) However much this may surprise us at first sight, we shall find that the connection between this theory of inspiration and the mode of interpretation which accompanies it, is by no means unnatural; both have one common source, viz. the assumption that there is a very great difference between the Bible and other books. That which has come down from heaven must be interpreted according to its heavenly origin; must be looked upon with other eyes, and touched with other than profane hands. Comp. Dähne on Philo, s. 60. Here it is

with the Word as it was afterwards with the Sacraments. As baptismal water was thought to avail more than common water, and the bread used in the Lord's Supper to be different from common bread, so the letter of the Bible, filled with the Divine Spirit, became to the uninitiated a hieroglyph, to decipher which a heavenly key was needed.

(2) Comp. Gfrörer, Dähne, 1.c., and J. J. Conybeare: The Bampton Lecture for the year 1824, being an attempt to trace the history and to ascertain the limits of the secondary and spiritual interpret. of Script., Oxf. 1824. (German in Tholuck's Anzeiger, 1831-44.)

(3) Examples of allegorical and typical interpretation abound in the writings of the apostolical and earlier Fathers, see § 29, note 3. [Comp. Davidson, Sacred Hermen. p. 71 ff. Barnabas, 1. 7: The two goats (Lev. xvi.) were to be fair and perfectly alike; both, therefore, typified the one Jesus, who was to suffer for us. The circumstance of one being driven forth into the wilderness, the congregation spitting upon it and pricking it, whilst the other, instead of being accursed, was offered upon the altar to God, symbolized the death and sufferings of Jesus. The washing of the entrails with vinegar denoted the vinegar mixed with gall which was given to Jesus on the cross. The scarlet wool, put about the head of one of the goats, signified the scarlet robe put upon Christ before His crucifixion. The taking off the scarlet wool, and placing it on a thorn-bush, refers to the fate of Christ's Church. Clem. Alex. lib. v. p. 557: "The candlestick situated south of the altar of incense signified the

movements of the seven stars making circuits southward. From each side of the candlestick projected three branches with lights in them, because the sun placed in the midst of the other planets gives light both to those above and under it by a kind of divine music. The golden candlestick has also another enigma, not only in being a figure of the sign of Christ, but also in the circumstance of giving light in many ways and parts to such as believe and hope in Him, by the instrumentality of the things at first created." Comp. also p. 74, 75, 79, 80.] For a correct estimate of this mode of interpretation, comp. Möhler, Patrologie, i. s. 94: "The system of interpretation adopted by the earlier Fathers may not in many respects agree with our views; but we should remember that our mode of looking at things differs from theirs in more than one point. They knew nothing, thought of nothing, felt nothing, but Christ,—is it then surprising that they met Him everywhere, even without seeking Him? In our present state of culture we are scarcely able to form a correct idea of the mind of those times, in which the great object of commentators was to show the connection between the Old and the New Covenant in the most vivid manner." The earlier Fathers indulged unconsciously in this mode of interpretation; but Clem. Alex. attempts to establish a theory, asserting that the Mosaic laws have a threefold, or even a fourfold sense, τετραχῶς δὲ ἡμῖν ἐκληπτέον τοῦ νόμου τὴν βούλησιν. Strom. i. 28 (some read Tρixos instead of Teтρaxŵs). [Comp. Davidson, 1.c. p. 79.]

(4) Origen supposes that Scripture has a threefold sense corresponding to the trichotomistic division of man into body, soul, and spirit (comp. § 54); and this he finds, too (by a petitio principii), in the Scripture itself, in Prov. xxii. 20; and in the Shepherd of Hermas, which he values equally with Scripture. This threefold sense may be divided into: 1. The grammatical [owpaτikós] = body; 2. The moral [xikós] = soul; and 3. The mystical [TVEVμATIKós] = spirit. [ψυχικός] The literal sense, however, he asserts cannot always be taken, but in certain cases it must be spiritualized by allegorical interpretation, especially in those places which contain either. something indifferent in a religious aspect (genealogies, etc.), or what is repulsive to morality (e.g. in the history of the patriarchs), or what is unworthy of the dignity of God (the

anthropomorphitic narratives in the Book of Genesis, and several of the legal injunctions of the Old Testament). Comp. Philo's method, Gfrörer, u. s.; Davidson, p. 63. But Origen found stumbling-blocks not only in the Old, but also in the New Testament. Thus he declared that the narrative of the temptation of our Saviour was not simple history, because he could not solve the difficulties which it presents to the historical interpreter. [The Gospels also abound in expressions of this kind; as when the devil is said to have taken Jesus to a high mountain. For who could believe, if he read such things with the least degree of attention, that the kingdoms of the Persians, Scythians, Indians, and Parthians, were seen with the bodily eye, and with as great honour as kings are looked upon? Davidson, l.c. p. 99.] He also thought that some precepts, as Luke x. 4, Matt. v. 39, 1 Cor. vii. 18, could be taken in their literal sense only by the simple (akepalois). He does not indeed deny the reality of most of (ἀκεραίοις). the miracles, but he prizes much more highly the allegory which they include (comp. § 29, note 10); see, besides, the De Princip. lib. iv. § 1-27, where he gives the most complete exhibition of his theory, his exegetical works, and the abovementioned treatises, with the passages there cited. Both tendencies above spoken of, that of interpreting into, and that of explaining away, are certainly exhibited in the writings of Origen. Therefore the remark of Lücke (Hermeneutik, s. 39), "that a rationalistic tendency, of which Origen himself was not conscious," may account in part for his being addicted to allegorical interpretation, can be easily reconciled with the apparently contrary supposition that the cause of it was mysticism, based on the pregnant sense of Scripture. "The letter kills, but the spirit quickens; this is the principle of Origen. But who does not see that the spirit can become too powerful, kill the letter, and take its place?" Edgar Quinet on Strauss (Revue des deux Mondes, 1838).

(5) Irenæus also proceeded on the assumption that the Scriptures throughout were pregnant with meaning, Adv. Hær. iv. 18: Nihil enim otiosum, nec sine signo, neque sine argumento apud eum, and made use of typical interpretation. Nevertheless, he saw the dangers of allegorizing, and condemned it in the Gnostics, Adv. Hær. i. 3. 6. We are as

little able to understand the abundance of nature as the superabundance of Scripture, ibid. ii. 28 (Gr. 47): Nos autem secundum quod minores sumus et novissimi a verbo Dei et Spiritu ejus, secundum hoc et scientia mysteriorum ejus. indigemus. Et non est mirum, si in spiritualibus et cœlestibus et in his quæ habent revelari, hoc patimur nos: quandoquidem etiam eorum quæ ante pedes sunt (dico autem quæ sunt in hac creatura, quæ et contrectantur a nobis et videntur et sunt nobiscum) multa fugerunt nostram scientiam, et Deo hæc ipsa committimus. Oportet enim eum præ omnibus præcellere. . . . Ei dè èπì tôv tŷs ktíoews ěvia pèv ἀνάκειται τῷ θεῷ, ἔνια δὲ καὶ εἰς γνῶσιν ἐλήλυθε τὴν ἡμετέραν, τί χαλεπὸν, εἰ καὶ τῶν ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς ζητουμένων, ὅλων τῶν γραφῶν πνευματικῶν οὐσῶν, ἔνια μὲν ἐπιλύομεν κατὰ χάριν θεοῦ, ἔνια δὲ ἀνακείσεται τῷ θεῷ, καὶ οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι ἐν τῷ νυνὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι ; ἵνα ἀεὶ μὲν ὁ θεὸς διδάσκῃ, ἄνθρωπος δὲ διὰ παντὸς μανθάνῃ παρὰ θεοῦ.

$ 34.


Pelt, über Tradition, in the Theolog. Mitarbeiten, Kiel 1813; K. R. Köstlin, Zur Gesch. des Urchristenthums, in Zeller's Jahrb. 1850, 1 ff. Jacobi, ubi supra, s. 90 ff. Comp. § 30.

Notwithstanding the high esteem in which Scripture was held, the authority of tradition was not put in the background. On the contrary, in the controversies with heretics, Scripture was thought to be insufficient to combat them, because it maintains its true position, and can be correctly interpreted (ie. according to the spirit of the Church) only in close connection with the tradition of the Church (1). Different opinions obtained concerning the nature of tradition. The view taken by Irenæus and Tertullian was of a positive, realistic kind; according to them, the truth was dependent upon an external, historical, and geographical connection with. the mother Churches (2). The Alexandrian school entertained a more ideal view; they saw in the more free and

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