Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bible interpretation down through the ages - the Reformation period

It wasn't until the Reformation period that any sound exegesis was produced.  In fact, it could be said that the whole Reformation movement was activated by a return to the literal method of interpretation. Certain influences led up to this.  According to Farrar:

Valla, a Canon of St. John one chief link between the Renaissance and the Reformation.  He had...learnt from the revival of letter that Scripture must be interpreted by the laws of grammar and the laws of language.

Erasmus is seen as another link because of his emphasis on the study of the original texts of Scripture. The translators also did a lot to bring people back to understanding the Bible literally.  Again as Farrar explains:

Wiclif, indeed made the important remark that "the whole error in the knowledge of Scripture, and the source of its debasement and falsification by incompetent persons, was the ignorance of grammar and logic.

Farrar also says of Tyndale:

We may borrow similitudes or allegories from the Scriptures," says the great translator Tyndale, "and apply them to our purposes, which allegories are not sense of the Scriptures, but free things besides the Scriptures altogether in the liberty of the Spirit.  Such allegory proveth nothing, it is a mere simile.  God is a Spirit and all his words are spiritual, and His literal sense if spiritual."  "As to those three spiritual senses," says Whitaker, the opponent of Bellarmine, "it is surely foolish to say there are as many senses in Scripture as the words themselves may be transferred and accommodated to bear.  For although the words may be applied and accommodated tropologically, anagogically, allegorically, or any other way, yet there are not therefore various senses, various interpretations, and explications of Scripture, but there is but one sense and that the literal, which may be variously accommodated, and from which various things may be collected.

Even our liberal-minded friend Briggs, who is no friend to the literal interpretation of Scripture, quotes Tyndale:

Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense.  And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way.  And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way.  Neverthelater, the Scripture useth proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle, or allegory signifieth, is over the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently...

 (to be continued)

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