A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, Edition: by David Tracy, Robert McQueen Grant

By David Tracy, Robert McQueen Grant

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Additional info for A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, Edition: Revised, Enlarg

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While Augustine insists on the need for learning, and attacks the view of those who would like to interpret scripture “without a hu- 80 A SHORT HISTORY OF THE INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE man guide,“16 his ultimate authority in interpretation is twofold. It is first of all scripture itself, which at its highest proclaims the law of love as that on which all the rest depends. And in the second place it is the tradition of the church. Augustine takes the insights of Irenaeus and Tertullian and transposes them into a higher key.

Not only through Chrysostom, however, but also through a far more learned exegete, “the greatest doctor of the church in expounding the sacred scriptures,” did this influence come down. This doctor was Jerome. He was by no means so extreme a literalist as Theodore of Mopsuestia. He stood closer to such a writer as Chrysostom. But the main lines of his exegesis moved further and further away from the allegorization which he originally admired. He came to emphasize the historical reality of the Old Testament narratives and prophecies.

6 And the only way, ultimately, for him to determine whether to interpret a passage literally or to allegorize it was to see whether or not its plain meaning was in accordance with the teaching of the church. Tertullian set forth orthodoxy as the norm of the interpretation of scripture in the period before Origen became prominent. And, as we have seen, while Origen makes use of the principle of interpretation according to the rule of faith, the meaning of the rule of faith for him is somewhat different from more commonly accepted views, and for him a truly philosophical understanding of scripture was the goal of interpretation.

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