Interpretation, Biblical

Interpretation, Biblical or the science of sacred Hermeneutics, as it is more technically called. In a narrower sense it is frequently termed exegesis, especially in relation to particular passages. For practical rules of interpretation, SEE HERMENEUTICS.

I. Definition and Distinctions. —

1. There is a very ancient and wide-spread belief that the knowledge of divine things in general, and of the divine will in particular, is by no means a common property of the whole human race, but only a prerogative of a few specially gifted and privileged individuals. It has been considered that this higher degree of knowledge has its source in light and instruction proceeding directly from God and that it can be imparted to others by communication to them a key to the signs of the divine will. Since, however, persons who in this manner have been indirectly taught, are initiated into divine secrets, and consequently appear as the confidants of Deity, they also enjoy, although instructed only through the medium of others, a more intimate communion with God, a more distinct perception of his thoughts, and consequently a mediate consciousness of Deity itself. It therefore follows that persons thus either immediately or mediately instructed are supposed to be capable, by means of their divine illumination and their knowledge of the signs of the divine will, to impart to mankind the ardently desired knowledge of divine things and of the will of Deity. They are considered to be interpreters or explainers of the signs of the divine will, and, consequently, to be mediators between God and man. Divine illumination, and a communicable knowledge of the signs and expressions of the divine will, are thus supposed to be combined in one and the same person. SEE REVELATION.

2. The above general idea is the basis of the Hebrew נָבַיא, prophet. The prophet is a divinely-inspired seer, and, as such, he is an interpreter and preacher of the divine will. He may either be directly called by God, or have been prepared for his office in the schools of the prophets (comp.

Knobel, Der Prophetismus der Hebraer volstaddig dargestellt. Bresl. 1837, 1, 102 sq.; 2, 45 sq.). SEE SEER. However, the being filled with the Holy Ghost was the most prominent feature in the Hebrew idea of a prophet. This is even implied in the usual appellation נביא, which means a person in the state of divine inspiration (not a predicter of future events). Prophetism ceased altogether as soon as Jehovah, according to the popular opinion, ceased to communicate his Spirit. SEE PROPHET.

3. The Hebrew notion of a נָבַיא appears among the Greeks to have been split into its two constituent parts of μάντις, from μαίνεσθαι, to rave (Plato, Phadrus, § 48, ed. Steph. p. 244, a. b.), and of ἐξηγητής, from ἐξηγεῖσθαι, to expound. However, the ideas of μἀντις and of ἐξηγητς῎ς could be combined in the same person. Compare Boissonnade, Anecdota Grceca, 1, 96, Λάμπων ἐζηγητής, μάντις γὰρ ῏ην καὶ χρησμοὺς ἐξηγεῖτο (compare Scholia in Aristophanes, Nubes, 336), and Arrian, Epictetus, 2, 7. Τὸν μάντιν τὸν ἐξηγούμενον τὰ σημεῖα; Plato, De Leibus, 9:p. 871, c., Μετ᾿ ἐξηγητῶν καὶ μάντεων; Euripides, Phsenisse, 5. 1018, ῾Ο μἀντις ἐξηγήσατο, and Iphigenia in Aulide, 1. 529. Plutarch (Vita Numce, cap. 11) places ἐξηγητής and προφήτης together; so also does Dionysius Halicarnassensis, 2, 73. The first two of these examples prove that ἐξηγηταί were, according to the Greeks, persons who possessed the gift of discovering the will of the Deity from certain appearances and of interpreting signs. Jul. Pollux (8, 124) says, Ε᾿ξηγηταὶ δὲ ἐκαλοῦντο οἱ τὰ περὶ τῶν διοσεμείων καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων ἱερῶν διδάσκοντες. Harpocration says, and Suidas repeats after him, Ε᾿ξηγητής, ὁ ἐξηγούμενος τὰ ἱερά. Comp. Becker, Anecdota Greca, 1, 185, Ε᾿ξηγοῦνται οἱ ἔμπειροι. Creuzer defines the ἐξηγηταί, in his Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Volker, 1, 15, as "persons whose high vocation it was to bring laymen into harmony with divine things. These ἐξηγηταί moved in a religious sphere (compare Herod. 1, 78, and Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8, 3, 11). Even the Delphic Apollo, replying to those who sought his oracles, is called by Plato ἐξηγητής (Polit. 4, 448, b.). Plutarch mentions, in Vita Thesei, ὁσίων καὶ ἱερῶν ἐξηγηταί; compare also the above-quoted passage of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, and especially Ruhnken (ad e Timceum Lexicon, ed. Lugd. Bat. 1789, p. 189 sq.). The Scholiast on Sophocles (Ajax, 320) has ἐξήγησις ἐπὶ τῶν θείων, and the Scholiast on Electra (426) has the e definition ἐξήγησις διασάφησις θείων. It is in connection with this original signification of the word ἐξηγητής that the expounders of the law are styled ἐξηγηταί;

because the ancient law was derived from the gods, and the law-language had become unintelligible to the multitude. (Compare Lysias, 6, 10; Diodorus Siculus, 13:35; Ruhnken, as quoted above; the annotators on Pollux and Harpocration; and K. Fr. Hermann, Lehrbuch der Griechischen Staats-Alterthuiner, Marburg, 1836, § 104, note 4). In Athenueus and Plutarch there are mentioned books under the title ἐξηγητικά, which contained introductions to the right understanding of sacred signs. (Compare Valesius, ad Harpocrationem Lexicon, Lipsiae, 1824, 2, 462.)

4. Like the Greeks, the Romans also distinguished between vates and izterpres (Cicero, Fragm.; Hortens.): "Sive vates sive in sacris initiisque tradendis divinae mentis interpretes." Servius (ad Virgilii AEn. 2, 359) quotes a passage from Cicero to this effect: "The science of divination is twofold; it is either a sacred raving, as in prophets, or an art, as in soothsayers, who regard the intestines of sacrifices, or lightnings, or the flight of birds." The aruspices, fulguriti, fulguratores, and augures belong to the idea of the interpres deorum. Comp. Cicero, Pro domo sua, c. 41 "I have been taught thus, that in undertaking new religious performances the chief thing seems to be the interpretation of the will of the immortal gods." Cicero (De Divinatione. 1, 41) says: "The Hetrusci explain the meaning of all remarkable foreboding signs and portents." Hence, in Cicero (De Legibus, 2, 27), the expression "interpretes religionum." An example of this distinction, usual likewise among the Greeks, is found in 1Co 12:4,30. The Corinthians filled with the Holy Ghost were γλώσσαις λαλοῦντες, speaking in tongues, consequently they were in the state of a μάντις; but frequently they did not comprehend the full import of their own inspiration, and did not understand how to interpret it because they had not the ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν, interpretation of tongues: consequently they were not ἐξηγηταί.

The Romans obtained the interpretatio from the Etruscans (Cicero, De Dicinatione, 1, 2, and Ottfried Muller, Die Etrusker, 2, 8 sq.); but the above distinction was the cause that the interpretatio degenerated into a common art, which was exercised without inspiration, like a contemptible soothsaying, the rules of which were contained in writings. Cicero (De Divinatione, 1, 2) says: "Supposing that divination by raving was especially contained in the Sibylline verses, they appointed ten public interpreters of the same." The ideas of interperes and of interpretatio were not confined among the Romans to sacred subjects, which, as we have seen, was the case among the Greeks with the corresponding Greek terms. The words interpres and interpretatio were not only, as among the Greeks, applied to the explanation of the laws, but also, in general, to the explanation of whatever was obscure, and even to a mere intervention in the settlement of affairs; for instance, we find in Livy (21, 12) pacis interpres, denoting Alorcas, by whose instrumentality peace was offered. At an earlier period inteopretes meant only those persons by means of whom affairs between God and man were settled (comp. Virgil, Eneid, 10, 175, and Servius on this passage). The words interpretes and conjectores became convertible terms: "for which reason the interpreters of dreams and omens are called also conjecturers" (Quintil. Instit. 3, 6).

From what we have stated, it follows that ἐξήγησις and interpretatio were originally terms confined to the unfolding of supernatural subjects, although in Latin, at an early period, these terms were also applied to profane matters.

5. The Christians also early felt the want of an interpretation of their sacred writings, which they deemed to be of divine origin; consequently they wanted interpreters and instruction by the aid of which the true sense of the sacred Scriptures might be discovered. The right understanding of the nature and will of God seemed, among the Christians, as well as at an early period among the heathen, to depend upon a right understanding of certain external signs; however, there was a progress from the unintelligible signs of nature to more intelligible written signs, which was certainly an important progress.

The Christians retained about the interpretation of their sacred writings the same expressions which had been current in reference to the interpretation of sacred subjects among the heathen. Hence arose the fact that the Greek Christians employed with predilection the words ἐξήγησις and ἐξηγητής in reference to the interpretation of the holy Scriptures. But the circumstance that St. Paul employs the term ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν for the interpretation of the γλώσσαις λαλεῖν (1Co 12:10; 1Co 14:26), greatly contributed to the use likewise of words belonging to the root ἑρμηνεύειν. According to Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, 3:9), Paulus, bishop of Hierapolis wrote, as early as about A.D. 100, a work under the title of λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις, which means an interpretation of the discourses of Jesus. Papias explained the religious contents of these discourses, which he had collected from oral and written traditions. He distinguished between the meaning of ἐξηγεῖσθαι and ἑρμηνεύειν, as appears from his observation (preserved by Eusebius in the place quoted above), in which he says concerning the λόγια of Matthew, written in Hebrew, ῾Ερμήνευσε δὲ αὐτα ὡς ἐδύνατο ἕκαστος, "But every one interpreted them according to his ability." In the Greek Church, ὁ ἐξηγητής and ἐξηγηταὶ τοῦ λόγου were the usual terms for teachers of Christianity. (See Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 7:30, and Heinichen on this passage, note 21; Photius, Biblioth. Cod. p. 105; Cave, Hist. Liter. 1, 146). Origen called his commentary on the holy Scriptures ἐξηγητικά; and Procopius of Gaza wrote a work on several books of the Bible, entitled σχολαὶ ἐξηγητικαί. However, we find the word ἑρμηνεία employed as a synonyme of ἐξήγησις, especially among the inhabitants of Antioch. For instance, Gregorius Nyssenus says concerning Ephraem Syrus, Γραφὴν ὅλην ἀκριβῶς πρὸς λέξιν ἡρμήνευσεν (see Gregory of Nyssa, Vita Ephraini Syri, in Opera, Paris, 2, 1033). Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and others, wrote commentaries on the sacred Scriptures under the title of ἑρμηνεία (comp. A. H. Niemeyer, De Isidori Pelusiotce Vita, Scriptis, et Doctrina, Halwe, 1825, p. 207).

Among the Latin Christians the word interpres had a wider range than the corresponding Greek term, and the Latins had no precise term for the exposition of the Bible which exactly corresponded with the Greek. The interpretatio was applied only in the sense of OCCUPATION or ACT of an expositor of the Bible, but not in the sense of CONTENTS elicited from Biblical passages. The words tractare, tractator, and tractatus were in preference employed with respect to Biblical exposition, and the sense which it elicited. Together with these words there occur commentarius and expositio. In reference to the exegetical work of St. Hilary on Matthew, the codices fluctuate between commentarius and tractatus. St. Augustine's tractatus are well known; and this father frequently mentions the divinar um scripturarum tractatores. For instance, Retractationes, 1. 23. "Divinorum tractatores eloquiornm;" Sulpicius Severus, Dial. 1, 6," Origines qui tractator sacrorum peritissimli habebatur." Vincentius Lirinensis observes in his Comonitorium on 1Co 12:28: "In the third place, teachers who are now called tractatores; whom the same apostle sometimes styles prophets, because by them the mysteries of the prophets are opened to the people" (comp. Dufresne, Glossarium' medice

et infinmce Latihitatis, s. vv. Tractator, Tractatus; and Baluze, ad Servat. Lupum., p. 479).

However, the occupation of interpres, in the nobler sense of this word, was not unknown to St. Jerome, as may be seen from his Prcefatio in libros Sanmuelis (Opera, ed.Vallarsi, 9:459): "For whatever, by frequently translating and carefully correcting, we have learned and retain, is our own. And if you have understood what you formerly did not know, consider me to be an expositor if you are grateful, or a paraphrast if you are ungrateful."

6. In modern classification, Hermeneutics "forms a branch of the same general study with Exegesis (q.v.), and, indeed, 1§ often confounded with that science; but the distinction between the two branches is very marked, and is, perhaps, sufficiently indicated by the etymology of the names themselves. To hermeneutics properly belongs the 'interpretation' of the text-that is, the discovery of its true meaning; the province of exegesis is the 'exposition' of the meaning so discovered, and the practical office of making it intelligible to others in its various bearings, scientific, literal, doctrinal, and moral. Hence, although the laws of interpretation have many things in common with those of exposition, it may be laid down that to the especial province of hermeneutics belongs all that regards the text and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; the signification of words, the force and significance of idioms, the modification of the sense by the context, and the other details of philological and grammatical inquiry; the consideration of the character of the writer or the persons whom he addressed; of the circumstances in which he wrote, and the object to which his work was directed; the comparison of parallel passages; and other similar considerations. All these inquiries, although seemingly purely literary, are modified by the views entertained as to the text of Holy Scripture, and especially on the question of its inspiration, and the nature and degree of such inspiration" (Chambers, Cyclopaedia).

II. History, Methods, and Literature. —

1. From ancient times the Church, or rather ecclesiastical bodies and religious denominations, have taken the same supernatural view with reference to the Bible, as, before the Church,' the Jews did with respect to the Old Testament. The Church and denominations have supposed that in the authors of Biblical books there did not exist a literary activity of the same kind as induces men to write down what they have thought, but have always required from their followers the belief that the Biblical authors wrote in a state of inspiration, that is to say, under a peculiar and direct influence of the divine Spirit. Sometimes the Biblical authors were described to be merely external and mechanical instruments of God's revelation. But, however wide or however narrow the boundaries were within which the operation of God upon the writers was confined by ecclesiastical supposition, the origin of the Biblical books was always supposed to be essentially different from the origin of human compositions; and this difference demanded the application of peculiar rules in order to understand the Bible. There were required peculiar arts and kinds of information in order to discover the sense and contents of books which, on account of their extraordinary origin, were inaccessible by the ordinary way of logical rules, and whose written words were only outward signs, behind which a higher and divine meaning- was concealed. Consequently, the Church and denominations required ἐξηγηταί, or interpreters, of the signs by means of which God had revealed his will. Thus necessarily arose again in the Christian Church the art of opening or interpreting the supernatural, which art had an existence in earlier religions, but with this essential difference, that the signs, by the opening of which supernatural truth was obtained, were now more simple, and of a more intelligible kind than in earlier religions. They were now written signs, which belonged to the sphere of speech and language, through which alone all modes of thinking obtain clearness, and can be readily communicated to others. But the holy Scriptures, in which divine revelation was preserved, differ, by conveying divine thoughts, from common language and writing, which convey only human thoughts. Hence it followed that its sense was much deeper, and far exceeded the usual sphere of human thoughts, so that the usual requisites for the right understanding of written documents appeared to be insufficient. According to this opinion, a lower and a higher sense of the Bible were distinguished. The lower sense was that which could be elicited according to the rules of grammar; the higher sense was considered to consist of deeper thoughts concealed under the grammatical meaning of the words. These deeper thoughts they endeavored to obtain in various ways, but not by grammatical research.

The Jews, in the days of Jesus, employed for this purpose especially the typico-allegorical interpretation. The Jews of Palestine endeavored by means of this mode of interpretation especially to elicit the secrets of futurity, which were said to be fully contained in the Old Testament. (See Wahner, Antiquitates Hebrcaorusm, Gottinge, 1743, 1, 341 sq.; Dopke, Hermeneutik der neutestamentlichen Schriftsteller, Leipzig, 1829, p. 88 sq., 164 sq.; Hirschfeld, Der Geist der Talmudischen Auslegung der Bibel. Berlin, 1840; compare Juvenal, Sat. 14, 103; Justin Martyr, Apol. 1, p. 52, 61; Bretschneider, Historisch-dogmatische Auslegung d. Neuen Testamentes, Leipzig, 1806, p. 35 sq.)

The Alexandrine Jews, on the contrary, endeavored to raise themselves from the simple sense of the words τὸ ψυχικόν, to a higher, more general, and spiritual sense, τὸ πνευματικόν (see Dithne, Geschichtliche Darstellung der Jidisch-Alexandrinischen Religions-Philosophie, Halle, 1834, 1, p. 52 sq.; 2, 17,195 sq., 209, 228, 241). Similar principles were adopted by the authors of the New Testament (see De Wette, Ueber die Symbolisch Typische Lehrart in Briefe an die Hebrer, in the Theologische Zeitschrift, by Schleiermacher and De Wette. pt. 3; Tholuck, Beilage zum Commentar über den Brief an die Hebrer, 1840).

These two modes of interpretation, the allegorico-typical and the allegorico-mystical, are found in the Christian writers as early as the first and second centuries; the latter as γνῶσις, the former as a demonstration that all and everything, both what 'had happened and what would come to pass, was somehow contained in the sacred Scriptures (see Justin Martyr, Apol. 1, p. 52, 61, and Tertullian, Adversius Mar-cionenm, 4, 2, "The preaching of the disciples might appear to be questionable, if it was not supported by other authority").

To these allegorical modes of interpretation was added a. third mode, which necessarily sprung up after the rise of the Catholico-apostolical Church, namely, the dogmatical or theologico-ecclesiastical. The followers of the Catholico-apostolical Church agreed that all apostles and all apostolical writings had an equal authority, because they were all under an equal guidance of the Holy Ghost. Hence it followed that they could not set forth Wither contradictory or different doctrines. A twofold expedient was adopted in order to effect harmony of interpretation. The one was of the apparent and relative kind, because it referred to subjects which appear incomprehensible only to the confined human understanding, but which are in perfect harmony in the divine thoughts. Justin (Dialogus cum Tryphone, c. 65) says: "Being quite certain that no Scripture contradicts the other, I will rather confess that I do not understand what is said therein." St.

Chrysostom restricted this as follows (Homil. 3, c. 4, in Ep. 2 ad Thessalonicenses): "In the divine writings everything is intelligible and plain, whatever is necessary is open" (compare Homil. 3, De Lazaro, and Athanasii Oratio contra gentes, in Opera, 1, 12).

The second expedient adopted by the Church was to consider certain articles of faith to be leading doctrines, and to regulate and define accordingly the sense of the Bible wherever it appeared doubtful and uncertain. This led to the theologico-ecclesiastical or dogmatical mode of interpretation, which, when the Christians were divided into several sects, proved to be indispensable to the Church, but which adopted various forms in the various sects by which it was employed. — Not only the heretics of ancient times, but also the followers of the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, the Syrian, the Anglican, the Protestant Church, etc., have endeavored to interpret the Bible in harmony with their dogmas.

Besides the three modes of interpretation which have been mentioned above, theological writers have spoken of typical, prophetical, emphatical, philosophical, traditional, moral, or practical interpretation. But all these are only one-sided developments of some single feature contained in the above three, arbitrarily chosen; and, therefore, they cannot be considered to be separate modes, but are only modifications of one or other of those three. The interpretation in which all these modes are brought into harmony has lately been called the panharmonical, which word is not very happily chosen (F. H. Germar, Die Panharmonische Inteopretation der Heiligen Schrift, Lpz. 1821; and by the same author, Beitrag zur Allgemeinen Hemrmeneutik, Altona, 1828).

The interpretation which, in spite of all ecclesiastical opposition, ought to be adopted as being the only true one, strictly adheres to the demands of general hermeneutics, to which it adds those particular hermeneutical rules which meet the requisites of particular cases. This has, in modern times, been styled the historico-grammatical mode of interpretation. This appellation has been chosen because the epithet grammatical seems to be too narrow and too much restricted to the mere verbal sense. It might be more correct to style it simply the historical interpretation, since the word "historical" comprehends everything that is requisite to be known about the language, the turn of mind, the individuality, etc., of an author in order to rightly understand his book. This method, the origin of which has been traced to Semler (Vorbereitung z. d. theol. Hermeneut. 1762), is liable, however, to degenerate into Rationalism (Farrar, History of Free Thought, p. 22), unless guarded by the spirit of evangelical piety.

The different modes of interpreting the Bible which have generally obtained are, according to what we have stated, essentially the following three: the GRAMMATICAL, the ALLEGORICAL, the DOGMATICAL. The grammatical mode of interpretation simply investigates the sense contained in the words of the Bible. The allegorical, according to Quintilian's sentence, "Aliud verbis, aliud sensu ostendo," maintains that the words of the Bible have, besides their simple sense, another which is concealed as behind a picture, and endeavors to find out this supposed figurative sense, which, it is said, was not intended by the authors (see Olshausen, Ein Wort iiber tieferen Schriftsinn, Kbnigsberg, 1824). The dogmatical mode of interpretation endeavors to explain the Bible in harmony with the dogmas of the Church, following the principle of analogiafidei. Compare Concilii Tridentini, Session 4:decret. 2: "Let no one venture to interpret the holy Scriptures in a sense contrary to that which the holy mother Church has held, and does hold, and which has the power of deciding what is the true sense and the right interpretation of the holy Scriptures." So also Rambach. Institutiones Hermeneutice Sacrae (Jense, 1723): "The authority which this analogy of faith exercises upon interpretation consists in this, that it is the foundation and general principle according to the rule of which all scriptural interpretations are to be tried as by a touchstone." Art. 20 of the Anglican Church: "It is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's word written, neither may it expound one place of Scripture so as to be repugnant to another." Scotch Confession, art. 28: "We dare not admit any interpretation which contradicts any leading article of faith, or any plain text of Scripture, or the rule of charity," etc.

2. The allegorical, as well as the dogmatical mode of interpretation, presupposes the grammatical, which consequently forms the basis of the other two, so that neither the one nor the other can exist entirely without it. 'Hence the grammatical mode of interpretation must have a historical precedence before the others. But history also proves that the Church has constantly endeavored to curtail the province of grammatical interpretation, to renounce it as much as possible, and to rise above it. If we follow, with the examining eye of a historical inquirer, the course in which these three modes of interpretation, in their mutual dependence upon each other, have generally been applied, it becomes evident that in opposition to the grammatical mode, the allegorical was first set up.

Subsequently, the allegorical was almost entirely supplanted by the dogmatical; but it started up with renewed vigor when the dogmatical mode rigorously confined the spiritual movement of the human intellect, as well as all religious sentiment, within the too narrow bounds of dogmatical despotism. The dogmatical mode of interpretation could only spring up after the Church, renouncing the original multiplicity of opinions, had agreed upon certain leading doctrines; after which time it grew, together with the Church, into a mighty tree, towering high above every surrounding object, and casting its shade over everything. The longing desire for light and warmth, of those who were spellbound under its shade, induced them to cultivate again the allegorical and the grammatical interpretation: but they were unable to bring the fruits of these modes to full maturity. Every new intellectual revolution, and every spiritual development of nations, gave a new impulse to grammatical interpretation. This impulse lasted until interpretation was again taken captive by the overwhelming ecclesiastical power, whose old formalities had regained strength, or which had been renovated under new forms. Grammatical interpretation, consequently, goes hand in hand with the principle of spiritual progress, and the dogmatical with the conservative principle. Finally, the allegorical interpretation is as an artificial aid subservient to the conservative principle, when, by its vigorous stability, the latter exercises a too unnatural pressure. This is confirmed by the history of all times and countries, so that we may confine ourselves to the following few illustrative observations.

The various tendencies of the first Christian period were combined in the second century, so that the principle of one general (Catholic) Church was gradually adopted by most parties. But now it became rather difficult to select, from the variety of doctrines prevalent in various sects, those by the application of which to Biblical interpretation a perfect harmony and systematical unity could be effected. 'Nevertheless, the wants of science powerfully demanded a systematic arrangement of Biblical doctrines, even before- a general agreement upon dogmatical principles had been effected. The wants of science were especially felt among the Alexandrine Christians; and in Alexandria, where the allegorical interpretation had from ancient times been practiced. it offered the desired expedient which met the exigency of the Church. Hence it may naturally be explained why the Alexandrine theologians of the second and third century, particularly Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen, interpreted allegorically, and why the allegorical interpretation was perfected, and in vogue, even before the dogmatical came into existence. Origen, especially in his fourth book, De Principiis, treats on scriptural interpretation, using the following arguments: The holy Scriptures, inspired by God, form a harmonious whole, perfect in itself, without any defects and contradictions, and containing nothing that is insignificant and superfluous. The grammatical interpretation leads to obstacles and objections which, according to the quality just stated of the holy Scriptures, are inadmissible and impossible. Now, since the merely grammatical interpretation can neither remove nor overcome these objections, we must seek for an expedient beyond the boundaries of grammatical interpretation. The allegorical interpretation offers this expedient, and consequently is above the grammatical. Origen observes that man consists of body, soul, and spirit; and he distinguishes a triple sense of the holy Scriptures analogous to this division (De Princip. 4, 108; comp. Klausen, Hermeneutik des Neuen Testamentes, Leipzig, 1841, p. 104 sq.).

Since, however, allegorical interpretation cannot be reduced to settled rules, but always depends upon the greater or less influence of imagination; and since the system of Christian doctrines, which the Alexandrine theologians produced by means of allegorical interpretation, was in many respects objected to; and since, in opposition to these Alexandrine theologians, there was gradually established, and more and more firmly defined, a system of Christian doctrines which formed a firm basis for uniformity of interpretation, in accordance with the mind of the majority, there gradually sprung up a dogmatical mode of interpretation founded upon the interpretation of ecclesiastical teachers, which had been recognized as orthodox in the Catholic Church. This dogmatical interpretation has been in perfect existence since the beginning of the fourth century, and then more and more supplanted the allegorical, which henceforward was left to the wit and ingenuity of a few individuals. Thus St. Jerome, about A.D. 400, could say (Comment. in Malachai 1:16): "The rule of Scripture is, where there is a manifest prediction of future events, not to enfeeble that which is written by the uncertainty of allegory." During the whole of the fourth century, the ecclesiastico dogmatical mode of interpretation was developed with constant reference to the grammatical. — Even Hilary, min his book De Trinitate, 1, properly asserts: "He is the best reader who rather expects to obtain sense from the words than imposes it upon them, and who carries more away than he has brought, nor forces that upon the words which he had resolved to understand before he began to read." After the commencement of the fifth century, grammatical interpretation fell entirely into decay; which ruin was effected partly by the full development of the ecclesiastical system of doctrines defined in all their parts, and by a fear of deviating from this system, partly also by the continually increasing ignorance of the languages in which the Bible was written. The primary condition of ecclesiastical or dogmatical interpretation was then most clearly expressed by Vincentius Lirinensis (Commonit. 1): "'Since the holy Scriptures, on account of their depth, are not understood by all in the same manner, but their sentences are understood differently by different persons, so that they might seem to admit as many meanings as there are men, we must well take care that within the pale of the Catholic Church we hold fast what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all" (Compare Commonit. 2, ed. Bremensis, 1688, p. 321 sq.). Henceforward interpretation was confined to the mere collection of explanations, which had first been given by men whose ecclesiastical orthodoxy was unquestionable. "It is better not to be imbued with the pretended novelty, but to be filled from the fountain of the ancients" (Cassidori Institutiones Divine, Praef. Compare Alcuini Epistola ad Gislans, in Opera, ed. Frobenius, 1, 464; Comment. in Joh., Prea:, ib. p. 460; Claudius Turon. Prolegomena in Comment. in libros Regqum; Haymo, Historia Ecclesiastica, 9:3, etc.). Doubtful cases were decided according to the precedents of ecclesiastical definitions. "In passages which may be either doubtful or obscure, we might know that we should follow that which is found to be neither contrary to evangelical precepts, nor opposed to the decrees of holy men" (Benedicti Capitulara, 3, 58, in Pertz, Monumeneta Veteris German. Histor. 4, 2, p. 107).

During the whole period of the Middle Ages the allegorical interpretation again prevailed. The Middle Ages were more distinguished by sentiment than by clearness, and the allegorical interpretation gave satisfaction to sentiment and occupation to free mental speculation. — The typical system of miracle-plays (q.v.) and the Biblia Pauperum exactly illustrate the spirit of allegorical interpretation in the Middle Ages. But men like bishop Agobardus (A.D. 840, in Gallandii Bibl. 13, p. 446), Johannes Scotus, Erigena, Druthmar, Nicolaus Lyranus, Roger Bacon, and others, acknowledged the necessity of grammatical interpretation, and were only wanting in the requisite means, and in knowledge, for putting it successfully into practice.

When, in the fifteenth century, classical studies had revived, they exercised also a favorable influence upon Biblical interpretation, and restored grammatical interpretation to honor. It was especially by grammatical interpretation that the domineering Catholic Church was combated at the Reformation; but as soon as the newly-arisen Protestant Church had been dogmatically established, it began to consider grammatical interpretation a dangerous adversary of its own dogmas, and opposed it as much as did the Roman Catholics themselves. From the middle of the 16th to the middle of the 18th century this important ally of Protestantism was subjected to the artificial law of a new dogmatical interpretation, while the Roman Catholic Church changed the principle of interpretation formerly advanced by Vincentius into an ecclesiastical dogma. In consequence of this new oppression, the religious sentiment, which had frequently been wounded both among Roman Catholics and Protestants. took refuge in allegorical interpretation, which then reappeared under the forms of typical and mystical theology.

After the beginning of the 18th century grammatical interpretation recovered its authority. It was then first reintroduced by the Arminians, and, in spite of constant attacks, towards the conclusion of that century, it decidedly prevailed among the German Protestants. It exercised a very beneficial influence, although it cannot be denied that manifold errors occurred in its application. During the last half century both Protestants and Roman Catholics have again curtailed the rights and invaded the province of grammatical interpretation by promoting (according to the general reaction of our times) the opposing claims of dogmatical and mystical interpretation. Comp. J. Rosenmüller, Historiae Interpretationis Librorum sacrorum in Ecclesia Christiana, Lipsine, 1795-1814, 5 vols.; Van Mildert, An Inquiry into the General Principles of Scripture Interpretation, in Eight Sermons, etc. (Oxford, 1815); Meyer, Geschichte der Schrifterklarung seit der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften (Göttingen, 1802-9, 5 vols.); Simon, Histoire Critique des principaux Commentateurs du Nouv. Test. (Rotterdam, 1693); E. F. K. Rosenmüller, Handbuch fur die Literatur der Biblischen Kritik und Exegese (Gott. L797,1800, 4 vols.).

3. In accordance with the various notions concerning Biblical interpretation which we have stated, there have been produced Biblical hermeneutics of very different kinds; for instance, in the earlier period we might mention that of the Donatist Ticonius, who wrote about the fourth century his Regule ad investigandam et inveniendam intelligentisam Scripturarum septem; Augustinus, De Doctrinat Christiana, lib. 1, 3; Isidorus Hispalensis, Senteni. 419 sq.; Santis Pagnini (who died in 1541), Isagoga ad imysticos Sacrce Scripturce sensus. libri octodecim (Colon. 1540); Sixti Senensis (who died 1599), Bibliotheca Sancta (Venetiis, 1566. Of this work, which has frequently been reprinted, there belongs to our present subject only Libertertius, Artem exponendi Sancta Scripta Catholicis Expositoribus aptissimis Reg. ulis et Exemplis ostendens.) At a later period the Roman Catholics added to these the works of Goldhagen (Mainz, 1765), Bellarmine, Martianay, Calmet, and, more recently, See Muller's Hermeneutica Sacra (1799); Mayr's Institutio Interp. Sacsri (1789); Jahl's Enchiridion Hermen. (Vienna, 1812); Arigler's Hermeneutica Generalis (Vienna, 1813); Unterkircher's Hermeneutica Biblica (1831); Ranolder, Herm. Bibl. Principia Rationalia (Fiinf Kirchen, 1838); Schnittler, Grundlinien der Hermeneutik (Ratisbon, 1844); Glaire's Hermeneutica Sacra (1840).

On the part of the Lutherans were added by Flacius Clavis Scripturea Sacrce (Basilee, 1537, and often reprinted in two volumes); by Johann Gerhard, Tractatus de Legitima Script. Sacrce Interpretatione (Jenee, 1610), by Solomon Glassius, Philologice Sacrce libri quinque (Jenae, 1623, and often reprinted); by Jacob Rambach, Institutiones Hermeneuticae Sacrae (Jenae, 1723).

On the part of the Calvinists there were furnished by Turretin, De Scripturce Sacrei Interpretatione Tractatus Bipartitus (Dordrecht, 1723, and often reprinted). In the English Church were produced by Herbert Marsh. Lectures on the Criticism and Interpretation of the Bible (Cambridge, 1828).

Since the middle of the last century it has been usual to treat on the Old- Testament hermeneutics and on those of the New Testament in separate works: for instance, Meyer, Versuch einer Hermeneutik des Alten Testamentes (Lübeck, 1799); Pareau, Institutio Intempretis Veteris Testamenti (Trajecti, 1822); Ernesti, Institutio Interpretis Novi Testamenti (Lipsise, 1761, ed. 5ta. curante Ammon, 1809; translated into English by Terrot, Edinburgh, 1833); Morus, Super Hermeneutica Novi Testamenti ccroases academica (ed. Eichstadt, Lipsise, 1797-1802, in two volumes, but not completed); Keil, Lehrbuch der Hermeneutik des Neuen Testamientes, nach Grundsitzen derl gramimatisch-historischen Interpretation (Leipzig, 1810; the same work in Latin, Lipsise, 1811);

Conybeare, The Bampton Lectures for the year 1824, being an attempt to trace the History and to ascertain the limits of the secondary and spiritual Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford, 1824); Schleie-macher, Hermeneutik und Kritik mit besonderer Beziehung aufdas Neute Testament (edited by Liicke, Berlin, 1838). The most complete is Klausen, Hermeneutik des Neuen Testamentes (from the Danish, Leipzig, 1841); Wilke, Die Hermeneutik des Neuen Testamentes systematisch dargestellt (Leipzig, 1843); S. Davidson's Sacred Hermeneutics developed and applied; including a history of Biblical Interpretation from the earliest of the Fathers to the Reformation (Edinburgh, 1843).

For lists of other works on the subject; see Walch, Bibliotheca Theologica, 4, 206 sq.; Danz, Universal Warterbuzch., p. 384 sq.; Append. p. 46; Darling, Cyclopaedia Bibliographica, 2, 31 sq.; Malcolm, Theological Index, p. 218.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.