Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Reflections on Interpretation *
1979

Two opposed axioms have served, historically, for the interpretation of the Bible, one theological, the other historical-analogical. The theological axiom maintains that without insight gained from faith in the divine origin of Scripture, its message cannot be understood. Faith is rewarded by grace whose light illumines the meaning of Scripture. A modern Catholic states the axiom as follows:

...the Church has always maintained...that...all natural knowledge, even the maximum of natural knowledge, will never succeed in understanding the Word of God as it should be understood...if the light of grace and the holy desire for what is good, inspired by grace, do not enlighten and animate the reader of the Bible. The vitally essential...content of the divine message can be...more clearly perceived by a simple and upright soul responding to God's call...than by a very erudite and, humanly speaking, very acute scholar who is impervious to the things of God.1

Historically, the product of this axiom has usually been an exegesis that puts into Scripture what ought to be believed rather than attending to what it says. The reaction, which reached fullest articulation in Chapter vii of Spinoza's Theological-Political Tractate (first printing, 1670), insisted that nothing but what Scripture itself revealed of its sense might be used in interpreting it. The ordinary process of induction, so fruitful in arriving at an understanding of nature, was adequate for -- was indeed the only legitimate basis of -- interpreting the Bible.

____________________
*
Bibliog. 140, first part

-227-

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