08/14/2018 Literally the Best Book You Will Ever Read. And how to read the Bible . . . The two conflicting approaches of interrupting Hermeneutics; the Bible Exegesis and Eisegesis . . .
Br. Isidore Rice, O.P.https://www.dominicanajournal.org/literally-the-best-book-you-will-ever-read/
This paragraph may cause grammar-conscious readers to literally explode.
In contemporary speech, many people use the word “literally” merely for emphasis.
But those who hold fast to the word’s meaning know that this usage is literally barking up the wrong tree.
Yet, confusion over the word “literally” has more serious implications than literally getting the goat of every high school English teacher:
It can lead to confusion about how we read the Bible.
Are we supposed to read the Bible literally ?
We may have an impulse to say no.
Isn’t taking the Bible literally something that only Fundamentalist Protestants do?
Since we hold to both faith and reason, how could we take the Bible literally, when some parts seem to contradict confident findings of science and perhaps even other parts of the Bible itself?
Thus, it may come as a surprise that St. Thomas Aquinas, a man of great faith and great reason, makes the literal reading of Scripture foundational to all interpretation:
“All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal” (ST I.1.10). www.dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP001.html#FPQ1A10THEP1
He even literally throws down the gauntlet:
“It is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.”
"Whether in Holy Scripture a word may have several senses?
St. Thomas Aquinas;
It seems that in Holy Writ a word cannot have several senses, historical or literal, allegorical, tropological or moral, and anagogical.
For many different senses in one text produce confusion and deception and destroy all force of argument.
Hence no argument, but only fallacies, can be deduced from a multiplicity of propositions.
But Holy Writ ought to be able to state the truth without any fallacy.
Therefore in it there cannot be several senses to a word.
Further, Augustine says
(De util. cred. iii)
That "the Old Testament has a fourfold division as to history, etiology, analogy and allegory."
Now these four seem altogether different from the four divisions mentioned in the first objection.
Therefore it does not seem fitting to explain the same word of Holy Writ according to the four different senses mentioned above.
Further, besides these senses, there is the parabolical, which is not one of these four.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xx, 1):
"Holy Writ by the manner of its speech transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery."
I answer that;
The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves.
So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification.
Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal.
That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it.
Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division.
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All, For as the Apostle says; Hebrews 10:1
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.
For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
The Old Law is a figure of the New Law, and Dionysius says.
(Coel. Hier. i)
"The New Law itself is a figure of future glory." Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do.
Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense.
But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the analogical sense.
Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as
Augustine says (Confess. xii);
If, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses.
Reply to Objection 1:
The multiplicity of these senses does not produce equivocation or any other kind of multiplicity, seeing that these senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things.
Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one—the literal—from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48).
Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.
Reply to Objection 2:
These three—history, etiology, analogy—are grouped under the literal sense.
For it is called history, as Augustine expounds (Epis. 48), whenever anything is simply related;
It is called etiology when its cause is assigned, as when Our Lord gave the reason why Moses allowed the putting away of wives—namely, on account of the hardness of men's hearts; it is called analogy whenever the truth of one text of Scripture is shown not to contradict the truth of another.
Of these four, allegory alone stands for the three spiritual senses.
Thus Hugh of St. Victor (Sacram. iv, 4 Prolog.)
Includes the anagogical under the allegorical sense, laying down three senses only—the historical, the allegorical, and the tropological.
Reply to Objection 3:
The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively.
Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense.
When Scripture speaks of God's arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified by this member, namely operative power.
Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.
St. Thomas Aquinas says, We literally need to make sense of this.
St. Thomas Aquinas says, What is this literal sense ?
For St. Thomas, the literal sense means much more than taking the words at face value.
If we were forced to do that, the creation narratives would be the least of our worries.
For instance, Scripture often speaks of God’s “mighty arm.”
Psalms 89:10, Psalms 98:1
Surely we don’t have to literally think that there is a divine bicep floating around in the heavens!
Rather, according to St. Thomas, “The literal sense is that which the author intends.”
Or as the Catechism puts it;
“The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation.”
Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study.
Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis.
a. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.”
b. That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.
The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading.
The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.
Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text.
1. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation.
2. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.
3. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting.
Second Timothy 2:15
Commands us to use exegetical methods:
“Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
An honest student of the Bible will be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself.
Eisegesis easily lends itself to error, as the would-be interpreter attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions.
Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible;
Eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.
The process of Exegesis involves;
1. Observation: what does the passage say ?
2. Interpretation: what does the passage mean ?
3. Correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible ?
4. Application: how should this passage affect my life ?
Eisegesis, on the other hand, involves;
1, Imagination: what idea do I want to present?
2. Exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea ?
3. Application: what does my idea mean?
Notice that, in Eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning.
Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s idea.
To illustrate, let’s use both approaches in the treatment of one passage:
2 Chronicles 27:1-2
“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. . . .
He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD.”
First, the interpreter decides on a topic.
Today, it’s “The Importance of Church Attendance.”
The interpreter reads 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 and sees that King Jotham was a good king, just like his father Uzziah had been, except for one thing: he didn’t go to the temple!
This passage seems to fit his idea, so he uses it.
The resulting sermon deals with the need for passing on godly values from one generation to the next.
Just because King Uzziah went to the temple every week didn’t mean that his son would continue the practice.
In the same way, many young people today tragically turn from their parents’ training, and church attendance drops off.
The sermon ends with a question:
“How many blessings did Jotham fail to receive, simply because he neglected church?”
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with preaching about church attendance or the transmission of values.
And a cursory reading of 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 Seems to support that passage as an apt illustration.
However, the above interpretation is totally wrong.
For Jotham not to go to the temple was not wrong; in fact, it was very good, as the proper approach to the passage will show.
First, the interpreter reads the passage and, to fully understand the context, he reads the histories of both Uzziah and Jotham.
(2 Chronicles 26-27; 2 Kings 15:1-6, 32-38).
In his observation, he discovers that King Uzziah was a good king who nevertheless disobeyed the Lord when he went to the temple and offered incense on the altar—something only a priest had the right to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-20).
Uzziah’s pride and his contamination of the temple resulted in his having “leprosy until the day he died.”
(2 Chronicles 26:21).
Needing to know why Uzziah spent the rest of his life in isolation, the interpreter studies Leviticus 13:46 and does some research on leprosy.
Then he compares the use of illness as a punishment in other passages, such as.
2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chronicles 16:12; and 21:12-15.
By this time, the exegete understands something important: when the passage says Jotham “did not enter the temple of the LORD,” it means he did not repeat his father’s mistake. Uzziah had proudly usurped the priest’s office; Jotham was more obedient.
The resulting sermon might deal with the Lord’s discipline of His children, with the blessing of total obedience, or with our need to learn from the mistakes of the past rather than repeat them.
Of course, Exegesis takes more time than Eisegesis.
But if we are to be those unashamed workmen “who correctly handle the word of truth,” then we must take the time to truly understand the text. Exegesis is the only way.
Hermeneutics is the field of study concerned with the philosophy and science of interpretation.
For Catholics, “the literal sense” literally just means trying to understand what the authors, both the Divine Author and the human authors, meant to communicate.
Often the authors clearly did intend to report a historical event, such as our Lord’s passion:
“He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.”
Any interpretation of the Gospels which tries to avoid their literal historical claims is literally missing the point.
However, the literal sense isn’t limited to history.
Sometimes an underlying purpose is identified:
“That you also may believe.”
Often, a theological truth is expressed through metaphor:
For instance, “God’s mighty arm” for God’s power.
We can also be confident that, since God is the primary author of all Scripture, the true literal senses of any two passages can never be contradictory.
When there is an apparent contradiction, it is a good hint that the point of contention isn’t the literal senses’ points.
Thus when we see two creation accounts that disagree about whether man or animals were created first, we can safely conclude that the authors were not concerned with telling us which came first.
They had other things on their minds.
Trusting in the guidance of the Church, in which resides the ultimate authority to determine the literal sense of Scripture.
We can literally read the best book in the world, the book that literally reveals to us God Himself, the God who literally entered our history when He became man.
“All divine Scripture is one book, and this one book is Christ, speaks of Christ and finds its fulfillment in Christ.”
(Hugh of St. Victor, cited in Verbum Domini 39).http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html