Thursday, May 19, 2011

Biblical interpretation down through the ages - the Post-Reformation period

It might be expected that since the foundation was laid for the literal method of interpretation, Scriptural exegesis based on this foundation would have grown by leaps and bounds.  However, history shows that little progress has been made due to a continual adherence to creeds and church interpretations, as we can see by what C. Matthew McMahon reveals here:

Sola Scriptura does not rely “on the Bible alone” but also on the accepted Christian truths that God has so filtered through the church through able exegetes through the centuries. Oftentimes, Christians have an incorrect idea about Sola Scriptura as if it meant “me and my Bible alone.” However, once the Christian begins to testify of the truths of the Bible, then they are testifying of the regula fide and of accepted truth. To escape “tradition” (little “t”) is impossible. The reason so many Christians often reject Sola Scriptura for Solo Scriptura is that they are part of a schismatic group implementing their own agenda.

Sad but true — we just can't seem to stick to Scripture alone.  And all who try, are declared to be schismatic.

Yet despite this, certain sound principles have come out of this period.  Berkhof summarized these principles: became an established principle that the Bible must be interpreted like every other book.  The special divine element of the Bible was generally disparaged, and the interpreter usually limited himself to the discussion of the historical and critical questions.  The abiding fruit of this period is the clear consciousness of the necessity of the Grammatico-Historical interpretation of the Bible...

The Grammatical School.  This school was founded by Ernesti, who wrote an important work on the interpretation of the New Testament, in which he laid down four principles.  (a) The manifold sense of Scripture must be rejected, and only the literal sense retained.  (b) Allegorical and typological interpretations must be disapproved, except in cases which the author indicates that he meant to combine another sense with the literal.  (c) Since the Bible has the grammatical sense in common with other books, this should be ascertained similarly in both cases.  (d) The literal sense may not be determined by a supposed dogmatical sense.

The Grammatical School was essentially supernaturalistic, binding itself to "the very words of the text as the legitimate source of authentic interpretation and of religious truth" (Elliott).

To summarize the history of interpretation, all interpretation began with the literal interpretation of Ezra.  This literal method became the basic method of Rabbinism.  It was the accepted method used by the New Testament to interpret the Old.  Our Lord and His apostles used the literal method, as did the Church Fathers, until Origen systematized the allegorical method.  Augustine's influence brought this allegorizing method into the established church and brought an end to all true exegesis.  This system continued until the Reformation, at which time the literal method was re-established.  The literal method of interpretation continued and became the basis for all true exegesis.

It is to be concluded, then, that the original and accepted method of interpretation was the literal method, which was used by our Lord, and that all other methods are false methods.

No comments:

Post a Comment