Grammatico-Historical Interpretation of the Constitution

Lots of posts out there about Antonin Scalia as the faithful Roman Catholic. But the man sure sounded like he learned how to read the Constitution from Protestants:

Nonetheless, there is no escaping a verdict on his influence on American jurisprudence, and that verdict is not affected by the fact that he was a good buddy to prominent liberals. He was an advocate of two judicial ideologies, neither of which is intellectually tenable and which conflict with each other. Originalism was Scalia’s core ideological commitment, the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was understood at the time of its ratification. He employed Originalism to question the idea that the Constitution is a “living document,” as liberal jurists held.

To be sure, there was a need for a conservative corrective after the high court starting snooping around the “penumbras” of the Constitution. As Justice Elena Kagan said in mourning Scalia’s death, “His views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law.” But, whether the Constitution is alive or not, the people whose government it intends to frame are most certainly alive and their circumstances change. Laws that cannot change with the lived circumstances of a people soon become disconnected from reality, and that disconnect will lead to the law being held in derision or ignored. . . .

Scalia’s other ideological commitment was to Textualism, the idea that the actual words must be interpreted in a kind of fundamentalist manner. This could conflict with Originalism. For example, an originalist would, like an historian, search for explanations as to what was intended by the drafters of a given text, to confirm that original intent and guarantee against latter day misinterpretations. But, Scalia famously loathed citations to legislative history. Textualism rests on the supposition that the Constitution is a self-interpreting text and if that were true, why would we need a Supreme Court? In practice, Textualism resulted in the conclusion that any given text meant exactly what Antonin Scalia thought it meant.

Of course, it’s not clear that Scalia’s hermeneutic was all positive. But it hardly sounds like it’s a product of deferring to the magisterium or to the development of dogma.

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94 thoughts on “Grammatico-Historical Interpretation of the Constitution

  1. As a Reformed Christian and someone who spent part of his career clerking for an Originalist/textualist judge, I always felt there were similarities in methodology to approaching a “sacred text.” It always struck me as ironic that some of textualism’s greatest defenders were devout Roman Catholics (like Scalia, or Thomas, or Bork, or others).

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  2. In Opera there is a similar debate concerning “Regie Opera” where the director’s vision is allowed to revise or even contradict the intentions of the composer.

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  3. There are Catholic and Protestant ways to read the constitution and its ammendments? What do we do when the barbarians are in the city( and they are) interpreting the supposed safe guard?
    So much for the constiution tempering the melting pot.

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  4. Why is it strange for an RC judge or anyone to interpret the Constitution in a different manner than Scripture? Do you think Scalia interpreted his grocery list or the daily news or Shakespeare using the same methods he used in interpreting the Constitution or Scripture? Do Protestants pray for illumination before reading Peanuts and Garfield?

    Also, revision and contradiction are not identical to going beyond or drawing out the explicit from the implicit.

    Newman: “What then is meant by the Depositum? is it a list of articles that can be numbered? no, it is a large philosophy; all parts of which are connected together, and in a certain sense correlative together, so that he who really knows one part, may be said to know all… Thus the Apostles had the fullness of revealed knowledge, a fullness which they could as little realize to themselves, as the human mind, as such, can have all its thoughts present before it at once. They are elicited according to the occasion. A man of genius cannot go about with his genius in his hand: in an Apostle’s mind great part of his knowledge is from the nature of the case latent or implicit… I wish to hold that there is nothing which the Church has defined or shall define but what an Apostle, if asked, would have been fully able to answer and would have answered, as the Church has answered, the one answering by inspiration, the other from its gift of infallibility; and that the Church never will be able to answer, or has been able to answer, what the Apostles could not answer…”

    Ratzinger: “Scripture is the essential witness of revelation, but revelation is something alive, something greater and more: proper to it is the fact that it arrives and is perceived—otherwise it could not have become revelation. Revelation is not a meteor fallen to earth that now lies around somewhere as a rock mass from which rock samples can be taken and submitted to laboratory analysis. Revelation has instruments; but it is not separable from the living God, and it always requires a living person to whom it is communicated. Its goal is always to gather and unite men, and this is why the Church is a necessary aspect of revelation. If, however, revelation is more than Scripture, if it transcends Scripture, then the “rock analysis”—which is to say, the historical-critical method—cannot be the last word concerning revelation; rather, the living organism of the faith of all ages is then an intrinsic part of revelation. And what we call “tradition” is precisely that part of revelation that goes above and beyond Scripture and cannot be comprehended within a code of formulas. ”

    “… if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf. Jn 16:12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf. Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it had not caught sight of previously and yet was already handed down in the original Word.”

    Dei Verbum:: “Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes. This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down… The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church.”

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  5. Clete said:

    Also, revision and contradiction are not identical to going beyond or drawing out the explicit from the implicit.

    Yes, because closed gates of the eschatological temple is plainly meant to foreshadow the Roman Catholic church’s distaste for thinking that Mary would be sullied by having normal, God-ordained sexual relations with her lawful husband.

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  6. Robert,

    Spoken like an NT Jew rejecting the methods of Christ and the Apostle’s exegesis and application of the OT.

    Well actually, that is, only a certain type of Jew – http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1256-allegorical-interpretation

    We have allegory, sensus plenoir, etc (in addition to ghm) in the OT community. In the NT community. In the patristic age. In the medieval age. And yet somehow it’s the case that GHM-only was and remains now the only way to go. No one got the memo.

    The PV of Mary does not contradict or revise Ezekiel’s mention of the closed gate. Which was the point. Multiple layers and meanings to a text does not entail inherent contradiction between those meanings and layers.

    Ambrose: “Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity.”

    Augustine: “It is written (Ezekiel 44, 2): ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it. Because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it…’ What means this closed gate in the house of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this – ‘The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it,’ except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of Angels shall be born of her? And what means this – ‘It shall be shut for evermore,’ but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth.”

    Jerome: “Only Christ opened the closed doors of the virginal womb, which continued to remain closed, however. This is the closed eastern gate, through which only the high priest may enter and exit and which nevertheless is always closed.”

    Proclus of Constantinople: “Jesus, as God does not break the virginal seals: in such wise he exits the womb as He entered through the ear; thus He was born, as He was conceived: without passion He entered, without corruption He exited, according to the prophet Ezekiel who says: ‘This gate will remain closed.'”

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  7. Clete,

    Spoken like an NT Jew rejecting the methods of Christ and the Apostle’s exegesis and application of the OT.

    Sorry, Charley, but the methods of Christ and the Apostles aren’t divorced from the original meaning of the text. Not ever. There’s only one place that I know of that comes close, Galatians 4, and the word often translated “allegory” there has much broader connotations than what the church has taught allegory is, and Paul’s meaning is still grounded in the intent of Moses. Then there are those quotes from the fathers you give. Why don’t you ask a modern RC biblical scholar who sits on the pontifical biblical commission if they agree with the fathers as to those interpretations being grounded in any way in Elijah’s intent. Just so you know and won’t be too embarrassed, they’ll laugh you right out of the room.

    We have allegory, sensus plenoir, etc (in addition to ghm) in the OT community. In the NT community. In the patristic age. In the medieval age. And yet somehow it’s the case that GHM-only was and remains now the only way to go. No one got the memo.

    Yeah, there was a lot of crappy biblical interpretation in the patristic and medieval period. There’s still crappy interpretation today.

    No one is saying GHM only. What is being said is that sensus plenoir must be grounded in the original meaning of the text by the author, which meaning is derivable via GHM. Get the original meaning right and typology, etc. are fine. Authorial intent serves as the control. Otherwise, you get Origen reading the census of Numbers as the ascent of the soul through thousands of layers of heaven and

    Oh and this:

    Why is it strange for an RC judge or anyone to interpret the Constitution in a different manner than Scripture?

    Depends on what yo mean by different.

    Do you think Scalia interpreted his grocery list or the daily news or Shakespeare using the same methods he used in interpreting the Constitution or Scripture?

    Unless he got to the store and saw the word “steak” and then bought “chicken,” then yes, he used the basically same methods. He didn’t write a grocery list to himself in a secret code that the bagboy with the charism was then tasked with delivering the authoritative interpretation of.

    Do Protestants pray for illumination before reading Peanuts and Garfield?

    The fact that the Bible teaches salvation doesn’t mean that the original authors wrote the Bible in a secret code or made their true intents hidden to all but the latest person to sit in the Vatican.

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  8. Scott Hahn on the literal sense Scripture… Recently read and found helpful since you hardly ever hear such from Catholic voices…

    Yet historical critcism does not tell the whole story of twentieth-century exegesis. At midcentury, on the European continent, came a revival of spiritual exegesis. The nouvelle theologie encouraged a return to Patristic sources. This new theology found expression in the work of Henri de Lubac, Hans urs von Balthasar, Yves Cougar, Jean Danielou, and Louis Bouyer. These men practiced spiritual exegesis as a truly critical science and spiritual art.

    Von Balthasar observed how de Lubac’s groundbreaking work demonstrated that “the theory of the senses of Scripture is not a curiosity of the history of theology but an instrument for seeking out the most profound articulations of salvation history. for “when exegesis is understood in this way, it includes all of theology, from its historical foundation to its most spiritual summits.” He concluded that “the theology of the present and of the future will have to emulate all this.” This movement of ressourcement was canonized to a certain extent by the documents of Vatican II, which repeatedly quote the Fathers as authorities.

    And yet… and yet… Though I hesitate to look this gift horse in the mouth, I must admit that I often find the nouvelle theologie wanting for teeth. In all the great works of these great men, what is consistently missing is historical scholarship that reaches the same heights as their mystical insight. Perhaps the academy was not ready for such work. Perhaps the entire project of nouvelle theologie would have stalled in the gate if these upstarts had challenged the historical-critical establishment.

    Whatever the circumstances, the end results were excellent, though incomplete. A strength of the movement was its attention to the Church Fathers; a fault, perhaps, was an over­reliance on the Fathers and a reluctance to engage directly the original texts of the Scriptures. Again, this may have been a necessary concession to the specialists in academia, who were overtly hostile to spirtual exegesis. But, in the end, it weakened the exegesis of the nouvelle theologie, because the theologians did not engage the Bible itself. Except in a highly mediated way, through the Fathers.

    I say all of this with a certain reluctance, because I speak here of my heroes. Yet theirs was no small deficiency. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal” (see CCC 116). Hugh of St. Victor insisted: “Historia fundamentum est.” The literal sense is foundational. Without adequate attention to the literal-his­torical sense, spiritual exegesis is built on shifting sand. Unless it is set down on the concrete historical reality of the incarnation, spiritual exegesis can easily shift into fideism, or into esoteric fancies, or into gnostic spiritualism.

    So we find ourselves today in an odd predicament. As heirs of Augustine and Jerome and Thomas, we have, for centuries, neglected our inheritance, which is nothing less than the “full sense” of God’s inspired Word. Instead, we have taken a few scraps — methodologies, research tools, and narrow specialties — and fled to our respective comers of academia. We can view it as almost a version to patristic history with historical critics retreating to their academic Antioch and nouvelle theologians scurrying to a latter-day Alexandria. One of the great New Testament scholars of our day, B.F. Meyer, writes that “the most pressing need in biblical interpretation today is for a critical synthesis of Antioch and Alexandria.”‘

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  9. My guess is that by “barbarians within the city” Susan means something to do with jurisprudence on abortion and gay marriage.

    But, Susan, doesn’t reading an original text and trying to discern the writer’s meaning without requiring a special class of interpreters unable to err to resolve disagreement seem more Protestant-ish that Cath-olick-y? Though the suggestion that Scalia’s commitment entailed “a kind of fundamentalist manner” would have to mean he was dismissive of a highly esteemed if quite fallible tradition, which seems pretty far off the mark for someone who achieved his kind of office. After all, does one really get to be a SPJ by simply thumping his Constitution?

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  10. Darryl,

    “where did you ever get the idea that the U.S. was only for Christians?”

    No, never got that idea. But I did get the idea that the constitution was founded on Judeo-Christian morals and ethics, and so wondered why you would think that Catholics and Protestants would read it different from each other.

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  11. Is a “textualist” a “biblicist”? And is that a good thing?

    If you can’t find stopping a Florida recount in the Constitution, don’t go looking somewhere else for reasons.

    If you can’t find something in the text of the Confession, don’t go looking for it in the Bible.

    http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1239&context=nlr

    Scott Clark—“On the proposed test, we would have to give up the doctrine of the Trinity or the two natures of Christ. In short, it is an unintentionally destructive test. It is a form of biblicism largely unknown to Reformed orthodoxy which leads to conclusions that contradict the Westminster Standards.”

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  12. Hey Steve,

    “But, Susan, doesn’t reading an original text and trying to discern the writer’s meaning without requiring a special class of interpreters unable to err to resolve disagreement seem more Protestant-ish that Cath-olick-y”

    You know actually, a protestant minister that I knew did think that it was nonsense to believe that a living magisterium was needed to interpret the scriptures.( although this isn’t entirely accurate since just interpreting the scriptures isn’t the scope of the magisterium).
    He tried to demonstrate the comparison by likening it to the faulty belief that we couldn’t understand the intention of the framers intention since they were all dead. I scratched my head back then over that unsuccessful remark, that did not prove what he inteded. I knew that maker’s of laws were either not being faithful to the morality of the founders, or that the founder’s had never intended a one-size-fits-all lasting moral tradition in the first place.
    But since they were all dead, how could we find out which was true.
    This was eye opening to me when I switched out “constitution” for “scripture”. If discernment of the constitution is hard, the divinely inspired scriptures are impossible (without the Holy Spirit who guides the living church).

    Let me ask you. If theologians interpret the scriptures differently does this mean that original text is pliable, having many possible interpretations, or does it mean that everyone is wrong but taking a stab at interpreting the writer’s meaning, or is it that some church authorities are right on some things but wrong on others?

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  13. Susan, you missed one alternative: It means Scripture is perfectly clear but its readers are sinful and it’s that abiding sin that accounts for the competing and deeply divided interpretations of that one perfectly clear source. And some are right and some are wrong but none are always right because they can never be wrong.

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  14. Steve,

    “It means Scripture is perfectly clear but its readers are sinful and it’s that abiding sin that accounts for the competing and deeply divided interpretations of that one perfectly clear source.”

    Then we can never know what it actually means, since everyone sins. It might as well never have been written if nobody knows what it means.

    That might sound humble to you, but it makes God out to be a fool for giving man the only map that is supposedly written to save his soul( that much was correctly gathered from sinful man’s interpretation, we hope, yes?), but no man knows how to read.
    I say, what’s the good if we can’t understand it? If we are arguing about something or another within, don’t we have to be pretty convinced we understand it in order to stand by it and defend it?
    My goodness, the contortions you will go through to keep from becoming Catholic, but you will sit in a pew where the teacher is taking a good stab at elucidating the “clear” text?
    How can you say it’s clear if your deep abiding sinfulness is preventing you from recognizing the clarity you say( how do you know)it has?

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  15. Susan,

    Then we can never know what it actually means, since everyone sins. It might as well never have been written if nobody knows what it means.

    That’s quite the leap there. How about we recognize that the same thing applies to Roman Catholicism.

    You assume the Magisterium is crystal clear, but Roman Catholics do not agree on what the Magisterium means. And they can ask the Magisterium until they are blue in the face, but you still end up with disagreement. And on top of that, you rarely have excommunication anymore, which would imply that anyone who isn’t excommunicated has at least a potentially valid reading of the Magisterium. This is what happens when you put all your eggs in that Magisterial basket.

    Or, if biblical clarity + disagreement + sin = we can never know what the Bible means, why is this equation false:

    Magisterial clarity + disagreement + sin = we can never know what the Magisterium means.

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  16. Susan, because you and Mermaid and James Young and Called to Communion make such a big big big big deal of paradigms.

    Plus, you guys always trot out development of doctrine when it looks like the church has changed. In Constitutional questions, who does that sound like? Living, breathing constitution or originalism?

    THINK.

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  17. Susan, “the morality of the founders”

    STOP!

    The Constitution enumerates powers, not morality. I do think you read through an Aristotelian-Thomist lens. Everything’s morality.

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  18. Susan, and if we never know what it means because of sin, we never have any legitimate authorities (parents, governors, umpires) because of sin.

    You construe the problem of authority in such a flawed way only to justify your papacy. The world operates relatively well with lots of fallen authorities. Get this — It could even happen in the church, you utopia-addled one.

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  19. James Young, “Do you think Scalia interpreted his grocery list or the daily news or Shakespeare using the same methods he used in interpreting the Constitution or Scripture?”

    Maybe on your terms. Remember, without an infallible interpreter, all non-RC’s are skeptics like Descartes.

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  20. Was Scalia a cafeteria Roman Catholic?

    Scalia was no stranger to debate over how he lived as a Catholic and ruled as a justice, especially on matters like abortion and marriage, when his positions aligned with Catholic social doctrine and on the death penalty, where his views diverged. Scalia often made a point of publicly distinguishing between the two parts of his life.

    In 2002, Scalia analyzed the morality of the death penalty in an article written for First Things, a journal for religion and public life. Whether the death penalty is morally acceptable is “a matter of great consequence to me,” he wrote. “The death penalty is undoubtedly wrong unless one accords to the state a scope of moral action that goes beyond what is permitted to the individual,” he explained. “I do not find the death penalty immoral. I am happy to have reached that conclusion, because I like my job, and would rather not resign.”

    Critics at times have argued that Justice Scalia’s Catholicism at times dictated his jurisprudence. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Vincent Phillip Muñoz, professor of political science and law at the University of Notre Dame. “His most significant church-state decision, Oregon v. Smith (1990), limited the reach of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. When criticized by religious conservatives for overturning precedent and narrowing protections for religious freedom, Justice Scalia responded by writing another opinion [in City of Boerne (1997)] supporting his original decision with even more evidence from the founders to support his decision.”

    “A big part of his legacy will be how navigated the relationship between one’s deeply held faith commitments and one’s role as a judge,” Garnett, of Notre Dame, says. “For him, the way to navigate that relationship, it was not to compromise one’s religious faith or water it down, it was to distinguish between the legal questions the judge has the power to answer and the religious commitments that a judge has the right to hold, just like all of us do.”

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  21. We’re screwed:

    Understand that Antonin Scalia was not merely a great and brilliant justice. He was a solid Roman Catholic, whose faith properly and ideally infused his judicial principles. He had a complete and healthy understanding of the role of faith in public life and in America. He was not just an orthodox Catholic. He was the leader of constitutional orthodoxy on the Supreme Court and its voice, which he expressed with eloquence, uniqueness, cheer, wit, flair and panache — con molto brio, as they say in his ethnic Italian. He was winsome and likable, a colorful character.

    But more than that, Scalia was nothing short of our hope on the Supreme Court on matters of religious freedom, unborn life and marriage. There are so many pivotal cases involving these things coming up this year, from a major Texas case on abortion to the Little Sisters of the Poor, as the Obama Department of Health and Human Services forces the celibate nuns to fund abortion drugs and contraception in violation of their consciences.

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  22. Susan: Then we can never know what it actually means, since everyone sins. It might as well never have been written if nobody knows what it means.

    morning Susan ,
    have you ever heard of this: http://www.precept.org/about_inductive_bible_study.
    You might check it out…. “designed to equip you with inductive study tools so you can discover truth for yourself” ….by the power of the Holy Spirit

    God is not a fool ,nor makes us out to be fools, but wants us ‘illuminationed’

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  23. Susan, not humble but cynical. So it’s either the claim of (ahem, selective) infallibility or nobody knows anything at all no-never-ever? That’s a fundamentalist tick.

    But don’t you affirm John 16: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

    The church is preserved by God and led into all truth, though no promises made of an infallible magisterial mechanism to get there, just a lowly Holy Spirit. Which makes your set up seem to show quite a lack of faith–you won’t believe anything anyone says unless he claims to be infallible first, Spirit Schmirit. I’m fallible but do you believe me when I say the earth is round, sky is blue and 2+2=4? The contortions are all yours, actually.

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  24. Those who hold to the Conservative interpretation of the 2nd Amendment cannot be described as those who rely on textualism to extract the original meaning of the founders. We should note that The Constitution was written in response to widespread dissent and Shays Rebellion. One of the main purposes of The Constitution was to strengthen the federal government so it could better respond to movements like Shays Rebellion. Certainly there is other documentation besides The Constitution that lends support to that idea, but when we look at all of the references made to the militia in The Constitution, we see ample documentation for this interpretation of The Constitution.

    We can start with the 2nd Amendment. The right to bear arms is set in the context of the need for a militia. Now how we interpret that is one thing, but that the need for a militia serves as the context for the right to bear arms is indisputable to those who are employing a textual approach to reading The Constitution. And when we read what The Constitution says about the militia, we learn that it is under the command of the President, to be provided with weapons and training all funded by Congress, and its purpose is to repel invasions and put down insurrections. So how does one emphasize the individual’s right to bear arms outside of the need for a militia when they call themselves originalists who are committed to textualism? BTW, we should add that The Constitution explicitly says that though the Navy should receive permanent funding, funding for an Army should not exceed 2 years.

    My guess is that the labels of “originalist” and “textualism” are applied by conservatives to judges whose decisions comply with conservative ideology. And so what we have between the Conservative approach to The Constitution and the one that treats the document as a living document is a similar divide that Islam has seen between Sunnis and Shias. Where each group is basing its authority and authenticity on the claim of being the true predecessors and followers of the one or those who found the faith. Thus, they are the true guardians and keepers of the faith and the others should be considered to be infidels.

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  25. “There are so many pivotal cases involving these things coming up this year, from a major Texas case on abortion to the Little Sisters of the Poor, as the Obama Department of Health and Human Services forces the celibate nuns to fund abortion drugs and contraception in violation of their consciences.”

    Dear government administration (ie, the Christians there),
    No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth and put away others gods and serve the LORD; if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve.

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  26. Robert, ZRIM, Darryl,

    ZRIM wrote above that it is the church that is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit, so it is one church that must be our authority. If I am outside of that visible authority I am liable to fall into error.
    If we all our own little visible churches following the Spirit, none of us could possibly fall into error.
    Plus we would never have any earthy authorities tT hat we must obey, so it can’t be correct that a bunch of other individual churches like myself can get together and establish our own larger slightly hierarchal structure.
    If there is any visible divine authority it must be established by God.

    What you do wrong is to look at sin in the church and you look for things that you dont agree with and say that the RCC can’t be “a” true church. Well, in your paradigm the only true churches are those that agree witj your interpretation of scripture. The bible never said that there are many true churches who were given authority to administer the sacraments and etc..
    Maybe one day it will become clear.

    Take Care,
    Susan

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  27. Susan,

    ZRIM wrote above that it is the church that is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit, so it is one church that must be our authority.

    Who says unity means one bureaucratic system. That is the assumption Rome keeps reading out of Scripture. Maybe it is there, but no one ever argues for it. It is just assumed. “That they may be One even as I and the Father are One” isn’t necessarily institutional bureaucratic unity.

    If I am outside of that visible authority I am liable to fall into error.

    And the confessional Protestants agree.

    If we all our own little visible churches following the Spirit, none of us could possibly fall into error.

    What? I don’t understand why this is your conclusion.

    Plus we would never have any earthy authorities tT hat we must obey, so it can’t be correct that a bunch of other individual churches like myself can get together and establish our own larger slightly hierarchal structure.

    I don’t understand this statement.

    If there is any visible divine authority it must be established by God.

    Okay. And I don’t see where any of us here disagree. The church has divine authority and it was established by God. It’s this strange idea I think that Rome is the only church founded by Jesus. It’s not at all true. The OPC has an equally valid claim to being founded by Jesus as Rome does. And the same thing applies for a multitude of visible expressions of the church.

    What you do wrong is to look at sin in the church and you look for things that you dont agree with and say that the RCC can’t be “a” true church. Well, in your paradigm the only true churches are those that agree witj your interpretation of scripture.

    In your paradigm, the only true churches are those that agree with your interpretation of the Magisterium.

    The bible never said that there are many true churches who were given authority to administer the sacraments and etc..
    Maybe one day it will become clear.

    What seems clear to me is the sheer inability for conservative Roman Catholics to see unity as anything other than institutional bureaucratic unity. When we point out the lack of unity of faith among bishops, we get shrugs. When we point out the lack of unity of practice among RCs in good standing, we get shrugs. All we get are pointers back to a Magisterium that doesn’t show any real unity—see Kasper—and a pope who currently, at best, is very confusing in his speech.

    You have more unity of faith with a conservative Missouri Synod church than with the RC parish down the street who is all behind the LGBT stuff. And yet Rome is golden and the rest of us aren’t part of true churches. You guys need to get your heads out of the sand.

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  28. Hey Susan and CvD,

    There’s a potential convert rejecting Christ’s promise fulfilled in the apostles in this thread:

    But don’t you affirm John 16: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

    The church is preserved by God and led into all truth…..

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  29. DGH,

    From Scalia’s First Things article:

    Unlike such other hard Catholic doctrines as the prohibition of birth control and of abortion, this is not a moral position that the Church has always—or indeed ever before—maintained. There have been Christian opponents of the death penalty, just as there have been Christian pacifists, but neither of those positions has ever been that of the Church. The current predominance of opposition to the death penalty is the legacy of Napoleon, Hegel, and Freud rather than St. Paul and St. Augustine.

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  30. Susan, I din’t say the church is preserved from error. I said the Spirit preserves the church and (referencing Scripture) leads her into all truth. Those are different things.

    But if what you’re saying about the one true and visible church is right then how do you make sense of the church’s (plural) in Revelation and the absence of any centralized religious bureaucracy with its own zip code? Have you considered that instead of culling holy writ that Rome has picked up and syncretized a lot of Roman religion and culture?

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  31. ZRIM wrote above that it is the church that is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit, so it is one church that must be our authority. If I am outside of that visible authority I am liable to fall into error.

    So are you saying that those inside of that visible authority are not liable to fall into error? Didn’t the church admit that they erred in the whole Galileo affair? It seems that error should be construed much more narrowly. Of course even then, it isn’t individuals like yourself that are ever protected from error, right? It is the Holy Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium that is protected from error. Scripture is easy (though we may read it incorrectly). Infallibly identifying what counts as legitimate Tradition and Magisterial authority is much more difficult as evidenced by the ongoing debates between trad RC apologists and RC theologians.

    If we all our own little visible churches following the Spirit, none of us could possibly fall into error.

    Really? So if the RCC is infact the one true church, then none who belong to her could possibly fall into error? I don’t think that is what your church teaches.

    Plus we would never have any earthy authorities that we must obey, so it can’t be correct that a bunch of other individual churches like myself can get together and establish our own larger slightly hierarchal structure.

    So if an apostle is indeed an apostle, he should always be obeyed even if he teaches a different gospel?

    If there is any visible divine authority it must be established by God.

    But as Paul notes, all governments are established and ordained by God. Very visible! But they can also go astray in which case we have a duty to resist them when they require us to disobey God. Why would it be different for ecclesiastical governments. We have already established that they can err.

    What you do wrong is to look at sin in the church and you look for things that you dont agree with and say that the RCC can’t be “a” true church.

    I suspect more than a few of us allow that the RCC is “a” true church. I myself am undecided, but I seem to recall Brandon saying that he thinks they are legit.

    Well, in your paradigm the only true churches are those that agree witj your interpretation of scripture.

    I thought our “paradigm” says that all churches are a mixture of truth and error…nobody’s perfect (as the great philosopher Miley Cyrus sings). Some are so far gone as to not be churches at all, but no church gets every thing right.

    The bible never said that there are many true churches who were given authority to administer the sacraments and etc..

    Sure it does… there were seven churches in asia minor… All with varying degrees of error and all legit churches. No indication that there was a centralized bureaucracy guiding everything.

    Maybe one day it will become clear.

    I’m sure it will, then you notice how right I’ve been…HA!

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  32. Susan: What you do wrong is to look at sin in the church and you look for things that you dont agree with and say that the RCC can’t be “a” true church.

    Actually, the precise statement is that churches are more or less visible according to whether the gospel is preached accurately and the sacraments administered properly. So it’s not that the RCC can’t be “a” true church (as the Mormon church is not), but that its gospel proclamation and practice of sacraments is in great need of reform.

    Hence: When we receive an ex-Catholic for membership, we do not rebaptize. True church, true baptism. When we receive an ex-Mormon for membership, we do rebaptize.

    But as to looking at sin to assess the authority, Jesus himself told us to do that. Matt 7.15-20

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  33. SDB,

    I suspect more than a few of us allow that the RCC is “a” true church. I myself am undecided, but I seem to recall Brandon saying that he thinks they are legit.

    I affirm that Rome is a Christian church. I do believe that is less pure on a number of issues and there are Catholic parishes, priests, bishops, dioceses, cardinals, and popes who have forsaken the faith. I also believe that these same categories have many who love God and trust in Christ. My categories are not Rome’s categories and I do not believe that all churches that claim allegiance to the Roman bishop are equal.

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  34. The text of the Constitution says 3/5 of person, but the text can be revised to say which part is moral and which part is ceremonial, so you can get to Brown vs Board of Education.

    Matthew Tuininga—“They were just as concerned about the social and political impact of Presbyterianism as were their progressive rivals, and just as likely to use their religious authority to argue against communism or racial integration as were their opponents to argue against the Vietnam War or segregation. As often as not, it seems, the spirituality of the church doctrine was invoked simply to shut down efforts that were deemed too progressive, only to leave the church free to proclaim the implications of Scripture for a conservative social worldview…”

    Matt T— The word ‘spiritual’ is hardly self-defining. It is often interpreted so as to connote the sense of immateriality, through a sort of gnostic spiritualization that reduces the gospel’s impact on this world purely to a matter of saving individual souls for an eternal beatific vision in heaven. But this is not how Scripture ordinarily uses the term nor does it have anything to do with what John Calvin meant when he said that the kingdom of Christ (or the church) is spiritual. Rather, that the kingdom is spiritual means 1) that its power is that of the Holy Spirit; 2) that it fulfills creation’s ultimate eschatological purpose; and 3) that it will be consummated only when Christ returns to make all things new.[2] To put it another way, that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual means that it is of the age to come, though it breaks into the present age through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-kingdom-and-its-righteousness-rightly-defining-the-spirituality-of-the-church/

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  35. The text or nothing? That sounds like the fundamentalist bluster of antithesis–a Roman Catholic as one of Machen’s warrior children….Think like we do or be nihilists….

    “If he did what he said, then there is nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if he didn’t, , then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few moments you got left the best way you can–by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other mean-ness to him.” Flannery O’Oonnor’s “the misfit”.

    I was thinking that being “catholic” means being able to include contradictions without splitting everything up. Scalia could cherry-pick the parts of the church and constitution he liked, and reject the current Roman Catholic teaching on the death penalty

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  36. Robert, “Who says unity means one bureaucratic system”

    And who says the bureaucratic system is unified? Ask the retired pope. I think he’s leading a Bible study with James Young.

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  37. Okay, we aren’t going to be able to reach agreement; at least not now.

    Your peanut gallery shtick is adorable except for when it’s frustrating 🙂

    Darryl, thanks for keeping the theater alive!

    Best to you all!
    Susan

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  38. Susan, no, THANK you. You’re the one in the church with so much drama and where the fat lady is always singing.

    We’re just in little old out of the way churches. Never mind us.

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  39. Susan, see, there’s that abiding sin thing at work. I get the easy out route you take, but I also don’t get how one can take it and sleep at night.

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  40. What do you mean “that abiding sin thing”?

    As for the “easy way out ” accusation, I assure you my journey in discovering the Catholic Church, it was anything but. However, I am grateful not to be walking the rest of the journey without a shepherd and the sacraments administered through those who received authority to administer them.

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  41. Zrim

    “But don’t you affirm John 16: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
    The church is preserved by God and led into all truth”

    The irony. Have you not noticed a certain NOON constantly rejecting your interpretation of that passage on this blog (whether applying it to the church or individuals), which you are now using to support interpretive clarity in light of your doctrine of the noetic effects of sin Susan focused upon?
    Like clockwork, he called you out on it here.

    Not to mention this begs the question on the definition and identification of the “church”.

    ““It means Scripture is perfectly clear but its readers are sinful and it’s that abiding sin that accounts for the competing and deeply divided interpretations of that one perfectly clear source.”

    Your own doctrine of perspicuity asserts it’s only perfectly clear in one aspect – not entirely.
    And given this position, how would you determine if your interpretation of Scripture in the above statement is itself an errant one due to sin, and so it’s really not the case that Scripture is perfectly clear in isolation, but rather that it was intended and meant to function within the tradition and church in which it was written and given?

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  42. James Young, “The irony. Have you not noticed”

    Not sure you’re in the position to call out irony. You object to Protestantism and your pontiff, the one who gives your ideas meaning, is celebrating the Reformation next year.

    There’s a lot more irony on your side than on ours. Too much paradigm (or rakes) I guess for you to notice.

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  43. Darryl,

    Speaking of irony, don’t forget the “Necessary for salvation to submit to the Roman pontiff” apparently doesn’t include Jew, Buddhists, or Muslims, at least if the Vatican’s prayer video is any indication.

    Development.

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  44. Susan, I mean the “inability to reach agreement” remark of yours–that’s abiding sin at work. And I’m referring to your epistemological angst, not your actual experience. You relieve the angst of having to live with abiding sin and the lack of absolute certainty it yields by invoking the papal infallibility mechanism. So again, I get the angst, but what I don’t get is conjuring up and relying on a completely fabricated mechanism. It’s actually what gives religious detractors fuel to accuse of religious fantasy.

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  45. CvD, it’s not as hard as you make it. if the Bible is God’s word then it’s perfectly clear as is and if there is any problem with its clarity then the fault lies entirely with those who seek to discern it. Who denied that “it was intended and meant to function within the tradition and church in which it was written and given”? Not me. Contra the biblicists it was, but contra the Catholics not infallibly.

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  46. Robert, development of universal jurisdiction, that is.

    The crusades and inquisitions weren’t working. Now turn everyone into a believer and look how the pope finally rules the world.

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  47. Zrim,

    Of course, one could make a very sound argument that the Reformation happened because the Scripture was not longer interpreted within the context it was given—the church catholic including the laity and legitimately but ordinarily ordained pastors/elders—but rather had been captured by a different context—the specially ordained pastors (bishops and priests) who claimed for themselves a charism of infallibility that just wasn’t theirs to claim and the sole prerogative of interpretation.

    Oh the irony of Rome claiming to be “Catholic.”

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  48. Joe M
    Posted February 15, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
    Scott Hahn on the literal sense Scripture… Recently read and found helpful since you hardly ever hear such from Catholic voices…>>>>>>>

    Have you read Aquinas’ commentary on the Gospel of John? He had the Bible memorized and it shows.

    He is also very Catholic. The guys here speculate about what would make people join the Catholic Church if they are already Christians.

    In my case, it was when I read the Fathers of the Church and other saints and doctors of the Church as Catholics. I then realized I wanted to be whatever they are. The beauty of their thoughts and words spoke to me in a way that even my favorite Protestant teachers did not.

    Breathtaking beauty. Unmistakably Catholic.

    Chrysostom. Augustine. Aquinas.

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  49. “Susan, I mean the “inability to reach agreement” remark of yours–that’s abiding sin at work. And I’m referring to your epistemological angst, not your actual experience.”

    Whew, I thought you were saying that my teasing was too tough.

    “You relieve the angst of having to live with abiding sin and the lack of absolute certainty it yields by invoking the papal infallibility mechanism. So again, I get the angst, but what I don’t get is conjuring up and relying on a completely fabricated mechanism.”

    Please don’t act like my psychologist. I live with the temptation to sin. Any angst that I now have is from being angry with myself for my failures to act like Jesus.

    Maybe you can ask me( or tell me since you seem to have a peek inside my brain) lack certainty about to see if I really do lack certainty.
    I’m pretty sure that I’m sure about all the same things you are.

    No, I didn’t conjure up the Catholic Church. It exists outside my head.

    “It’s actually what gives religious detractors fuel to accuse of religious fantasy.”

    I disagree. Many Christianities is a scandal to the world. I had nearly an entire class of 20 year olds in a modern lit. class affirm this when questioned by the professor who also taught anthroplogy.
    They also were skeptical because of the supernatural and mythical vibe within the scriptures( Jesus is like Mithras stories…), but it was also very much because the fact that there were evangelicals and refomed( me at the time) and Catholics in the room, who were proving the teacher’s point that Christianity is just another religion that is syncretizing with other religions.
    At that time, being aware that a “many christianities ” scenario was true, I had one of my first pangs of doubt.
    I was Reformed and affirmed that there were true Christians inside many false churches( I of course, was safe since I was in a true church, as determined self referentially by me and mine.), so it was all the other christianites who had to worry about falling away from orthodoxy.
    If the churches were man-made( since man sins and errs and tends to go the way of social progress) there would be no way to keep Christianity from amalgamating with other religions. But if it was really from God, He would keep it from mutating by keeping it what He intended in spite of man.
    But, how to tell the difference, if there were many churches?

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  50. Susan: Maybe you can ask me( or tell me since you seem to have a peek inside my brain) lack certainty about to see if I really do lack certainty.

    I don’t have a peek. On days when Catholics and Protestants are at each other, my guesses about mental states are not always charitable!

    But I do know that there is a difference between certitude — the feeling of being correct — and certainty — an objective, grounded case for correctness.

    I greatly fear after observing literally years of the CtC apologetic is that what the adherents achieve is unshakable certitude.

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  51. Robert,

    “but the methods of Christ and the Apostles aren’t divorced from the original meaning of the text”

    Sensus plenoir and the four-fold sense does not reject or supplant the literal sense.

    CCC: “According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.”
    “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.””

    Pontifical Biblical Commission doc:
    “Holy Scripture, inasmuch as it is the “word of God in human language,” has been composed by human authors in all its various parts and in all the sources that lie behind them. Because of this, its proper understanding not only admits the use of this method but actually requires it…. To be sure, the classic use of the historical-critical method reveals its limitations. It restricts itself to a search for the meaning of the biblical text within the historical circumstances that gave rise to it and is not concerned with other possibilities of meaning which have been revealed at later stages of the biblical revelation and history of the church. Nonetheless, this method has contributed to the production of works of exegesis and of biblical theology which are of great value…. [the literal sense] is not only legitimate, it is also absolutely necessary to seek to define the precise meaning of texts as produced by their authors—what is called the “literal” meaning…. The literal sense of Scripture is that which has been expressed directly by the inspired human authors. Since it is the fruit of inspiration, this sense is also intended by God, as principal author. One arrives at this sense by means of a careful analysis of the text, within its literary and historical context…. It does not follow from this that we can attribute to a biblical text whatever meaning we like, interpreting it in a wholly subjective way. On the contrary, one must reject as unauthentic every interpretation alien to the meaning expressed by the human authors in their written text. To admit the possibility of such alien meanings would be equivalent to cutting off the biblical message from its root, which is the word of God in its historical communication; it would also mean opening the door to interpretations of a wildly subjective nature. There are reasons, however, for not taking ‘alien’ in so strict a sense as to exclude all possibility of higher fulfillment. The paschal event, the death and resurrection of Jesus, has established a radically new historical context, which sheds fresh light upon the ancient texts and causes them to undergo a change in meaning….. While there is a distinction between the two senses, the spiritual sense can never be stripped of its connection with the literal sense. The latter remains the indispensable foundation…. The fuller sense is defined as a deeper meaning of the text, intended by God but not clearly expressed by the human author. Its existence in the biblical text comes to be known when one studies the text in the light of other biblical texts which utilize it or in its relationship with the internal development of revelation…. It has its foundation in the fact that the Holy Spirit, principal author of the Bible, can guide human authors in the choice of expressions in such a way that the latter will express a truth the fullest depths of which the authors themselves do not perceive. This deeper truth will be more fully revealed in the course of time—on the one hand, through further divine interventions which clarify the meaning of texts and, on the other, through the insertion of texts into the canon of Scripture. In these ways there is created a new context, which brings out fresh possibilities of meaning that had lain hidden in the original context.”

    Nor were the methods of Christ and the Apostles divorced from the original meaning of the text, even as they went beyond it. As Protestants agree (some going so far as to saying the NT hermeneutic is unique and cannot be followed today):

    Paul Copan: ““Fulfillment” in the New Testament is much broader than “completion of a prediction” … New Testament writers saw Jesus living out Old Testament Israel’s story. This covers most of the passages they allegedly took out of context … New Testament writers handled the Old Testament as did many Jewish rabbis of their day. Jews in Jesus’ day would quote the Old Testament in different ways to make a point [literal, pesher, midrash, allegory] … The New Testament authors read the Old Testament Christocentrically, and sometimes they go beyond what the human author originally intended …. Scripture involves both human and divine authorship. So we should expect that the human authors’ intentions were narrower than what the divine Author had in mind as He inspired them. Like a full-grown oak, the New Testament canon understandably gives us fuller clarity than the acorn-like Old Testament by itself could…. When John says that Isaiah in his vision (Isaiah 6) saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41), this is not something we would pick up just by reading Isaiah.”

    Steinmetz: “The medieval theory of levels of meaning in the biblical text, with all its undoubted defects, flourished because it is true, while the modern theory of a single meaning, with all its demonstrable virtues is false.”

    Beale and Carson: “For the evidence is really quite striking that the first disciples are not presented as those who instantly understood what the Lord Jesus was teaching them or as those who even anticipated all that he would say because of their own insightful interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures. To the contrary, they are constantly presented as, on the one hand, being attached to Jesus, yet, on the other, being very slow to come to terms with the fact that the promised messianic king would also be the Suffering Servant, the atoning lamb of God, that he would be crucified, rejected by many of his own people, and would rise again utterly vindicated by God. Nevertheless, once they have come to accept this synthesis, they also insist, in the strongest terms, that this is what the OT Scriptures actually teach … Rather, they keep trying to prove from the Scriptures themselves that this Jesus of Nazareth really does fulfill the ancient texts even while they are forced to acknowledge that they themselves did not read the biblical texts this way until after the resurrection, Pentecost, and the gradual increase in understanding that came to them, however mediated by the Spirit, as the result of the expansion of the church, not least in Gentile circles. This tension between what they insist is actually there in the Scriptures and what they are forced to admit they did not see until fairly late in their experience forces them to think about the concept of “mystery”—revelation that is in some sense “there” in the Scriptures but hidden until the time of God-appointed disclosure… A favorite illustration of some in explaining this phenomenon is the picture of a seed. An apple seed contains everything that will organically grow from it. No examination by the naked eye can distinguish what will grow from the seed, but once the seed has grown into the full apple tree, the eye can then see how the seed has been “fulfilled.” It is something like that with the way OT passages are developed in the NT. There are “organic links” to one degree or another, but those links may not have been clearly discernible to the eye of the OT author or reader. Accordingly, there is sometimes a creative development or extension of the meaning of the OT text that is still in some way anchored to that text….contributors have been encouraged to deploy an eclectic grammatical-historical literary method in their attempts to relate the NT’s reading of the OT…. we sometimes need reminding that the NT authors would not have understood the OT in terms of any of the dominant historical-critical orthodoxies of the last century and a half.”

    Beale: “Those texts with a low degree of correspondence with the Old Testament literary context can be referred to as semi-contextual, since they seem to fall between the poles of what we ordinarily call “contextual” and “non-contextual” usages. Indeed, there are instances where New Testament writers handle Old Testament texts in a diametrically opposite manner to that in which they appear to function in their original contexts. Often, upon closer examination such uses reveal an ironic or polemical intention. In such examples it would be wrong to conclude that an Old Testament reference has been interpreted non-contextually. Indeed, awareness of context must be presupposed in making such interpretations of Old Testament texts. On the other hand, non-contextual uses of the Old Testament may be expected to occur where there is unintentional or unconscious allusion. Caution should be exercised in labeling Old Testament usages merely either as contextual or non-contextual, since other more precisely descriptive interpretative categories may be better.”

    “Historical-grammatical exegesis traditionally has been used to exegete a Hebrew or Greek paragraph. You try to interpret it contextually in the book, using word studies, grammar, and syntax. You try to understand the logical development of thought within the paragraph, historical background, and theological or figurative problems. You check for parallel texts. It’s a whole array of things you bring to bear on a particular paragraph.
    Eclectic and literary [method] extends grammatical-historical exegesis from just looking atomistically at the paragraph in the context of its book. In my view, part of exegetical method has to do with how the passage fits into the corpus of the author, how it fits in the New Testament, and how we relate it to the Old Testament. One would especially want to pay attention to Old Testament allusions and quotations, going back to see what’s happening in the Old Testament. You might call that a biblical-theological perspective that really goes beyond the traditional understanding of grammatical-historical.

    Carson: “First, the thrust of the approach Enns adopts is that the hermeneutics deployed by the New Testament writers is indifferentiable from the hermeneutics of other first-century Jewish writers. However alien such interpretive principles may be to those of us weaned on grammatical-historical exegesis, those are the realities, and we need to come to terms with them. With much of this I am in happy concurrence.”

    Robert Thomas: “When interpreting the Old Testament and New Testament each in light of the single grammatical-historical meaning of each passage, two kinds of New Testament uses of the Old Testament surface, one in which the New Testament writer observes the grammatical-historical sense of the Old Testament passage and the other in which the New Testament writer goes beyond the grammatical-historical sense in using a passage…. Clearly the New Testament sometimes applies Old Testament passages in a way that gives an additional dimension beyond their grammatical-historical meaning. This does not cancel the grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament passage; it is simply an application of the Old Testament passage beyond its original meaning, the authority for which application is the New Testament passage… First, can today’s interpreter imitate what New Testament writers did in assigning additional and different meanings in applying Old Testament passages? No, they cannot, because that would depart from grammatical-historical interpretation and violate the principle of single meaning… But someone will say, “Why can’t we imitate the principles used in the New Testament writings? Don’t we learn our hermeneutics from them?” The difference in qualifications is the answer. New Testament writers possessed the gift of apostleship and/or the gift of prophecy that enabled them to receive and transmit direct revelation from God. No contemporary interpreter possesses either of those gifts. Those gifts enabled the gifted ones to practice what is called “charismatic exegesis” of the Old Testament. That practice entailed finding hidden or symbolic meanings that could be revealed through an interpreter possessing divine insight. It was similar to the technique called midrash pesher that members of the Qumran community used, but neither did the members of that community possess such gifts as apostleship and prophecy… A third question is, “Did God know from the beginning that the Old Testament passage had two meanings?” Obviously He did, but until the New Testament citation of that passage, the second or sensus plenior meaning did not exist as far as humans were concerned. Since hermeneutics is a human discipline, gleaning that second sense is an impossibility in an examination of the Old Testament source of the citation. The additional meaning is therefore not a grammatical-historical interpretation of the Old Testament passage.

    Dan G. McCartney “The New Testament writers were not doing grammatical-historical exegesis nor did they consistently interpret according to original historical contextual meanings, but we should follow their exegetical lead anyway. All would agree, I think, that the New Testament writers do sometimes follow “natural” or contextual meanings, and I think most would also agree that at times they find meanings in the Old Testament which are hard to justify by strict grammatical-historical interpretation…. So far as I can tell on the basis of the New Testament texts themselves, when the apostles used the Old Testament they never asked questions like “what did this text mean in its original historical context of several hundred years ago.” The few times they come close to doing so, they sometimes reject the original historical context as not particularly relevant. (e.g. 1 Cor 9:9, “Is God concerned with oxen? Does it not speak entirely for our benefit?”) Apostolic use of the Old Testament is not, however, representative of the way they would interpret texts in general. For them the Old Testament was generically different from other literature. As the New Testament writers thought of the Old Testament as a divine word rather than a human word, they read the Old Testament not as they would a letter from home but as “the Holy Spirit speaking from God…. There is certainly a necessity for us to do disciplined grammatical-historical interpretation. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that grammatical-historical interpretation of the Old Testament is going to give us all we need. Grammatical-historical exegesis clearly demonstrates that neither New Testament nor Old Testament writers were doing anything like grammatical-historical exegesis when they referred to earlier revelation. John Walton’s recent diatribe against reading the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament at least gets this right: 1) that typology cannot be sneaked in under the banner of grammatical-historical exegesis, and 2) the New Testament writers frequently were not doing anything like grammatical-historical exegesis because they were more interested in the text’s fulfillment in Christ and the church than in what it meant ten centuries previous. Walton’s own solution, to make a distinction between a text’s meaning and its fulfillment, only resolves the issue by avoiding it. Note that the New Testament writers made no distinction between meaning and fulfillment. Not only did they understand a text to mean something on the basis of its fulfillment, they even engaged in a hermeneutical process to get to their non-grammatical-historical interpretation (e.g. Acts 2 and 13 give reasons why Psalm 16 wasn’t about David).”
    from http://www.bible-researcher.com/mccartney1.html

    Richard Longenecker: “Having, then, such a view of God’s purposes and their culmination, the early Christians looked to their Scriptures for prefigurements of what they had seen and experienced in Jesus. In so doing, they spelled out those prefigurements in terms of what we have categorized as (1) direct prophecy explicitly verified, (2) enigmatic passages clarified, (3) corporate solidarity, and (4) typological correspondences in history – though, admittedly, such a precise demarcation of categories would have seemed to them overly pedantic. In effect, they began with Jesus as the epitome of the divine pattern of personal relationships and worked from that estimate of him to prefigurements of such a pattern in the OT. From their Christocentric and so new revelational perspective they laid stress on ‘fulfilment’ – with fulfilment being understood to include everything from direct prediction precisely enacted on through typological correspondences in history. ”

    “Why, then, should it be thought unusual or un-Christian for early believers in Jesus to have interpreted their Scriptures by means of the [Jewish] hermeneutical canons then at hand? Indeed, how could they have done otherwise? Jewish exegesis of the first century can generally be classified under four headings: literalist, midrashic, pesher and allegorical…The Jewish roots of Christianity make it a priori likely that the exegetical procedures of the NT would resemble to some extent those of then contemporary Judaism. This has long been established with regard to the hermeneutics of Paul vis-à-vis the Talmud, and it is becoming increasingly clear with respect to the Qumran texts as well. Indeed, there is little indication in the NT itself that the canonical writers were conscious of varieties of exegetical genre or of following particular modes of interpretation. At least they seem to make no sharp distinctions between what we would call historico-grammatical exegesis, midrash, pesher, allegory, or interpretations based on ‘corporate solidarity’ or ‘typological correspondences in history’. All of these are used in their writings in something of a blended and interwoven fashion. Yet there are discernible patterns and individual emphases among the various NT authors.

    “the authors of the NT themselves at times suggest that their exegesis should be taken as more circumstantial and ad hominem in nature, in accord with their purposes then in view, than universally normative (e.g. Paul’s catena of polemically motivated passages in Gal. 3:10-13, or his argument on the generic ‘seed’ in Gal. 3:16, or his allegorical treatment of Hagar and Sarah and their sons in Gal. 4:21-31).
    It is my contention that, unless we are ‘restorationists’ in our attitude toward hermeneutics, Christians today are committed to the apostolic faith and doctrine of the NT, but not necessarily to the apostolic exegetical practices as detailed for us in the NT. What the NT presents to us in setting out the exegetical practices of early Christians is how the gospel was contextualized in that day and for those particular audiences. We can appreciate something of how appropriate such methods were for the conveyance of the gospel then and of what was involved in their exegetical procedures. And we can learn from their exegetical methods how to contextualize that same gospel in our own day. But let us admit that we cannot possibly reproduce the revelatory stance of pesher interpretation, nor the atomistic manipulations of midrash, nor the circumstantial or ad hominem thrusts of a particular polemic of that day – nor should we try. For various reasons, neither we nor our audiences are up to it.”
    from www(DOT)biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_otnt_longenecker.html

    RC Robert Louis Wilken: “Origen believed that Paul, by his example, had provided a “rule of interpretation” for understanding the Old Testament. “Take note,” he writes, “how much Paul’s teaching differs from the plain meaning…. What the Jews thought was a crossing of the sea, Paul calls baptism; what they supposed was a cloud, Paul says is the Holy Spirit.” And what Exodus calls a “rock,” Paul says was “Christ.” Christian interpreters, says Origen, “should apply this rule in a similar way to other passages.” In other words, Paul has given the Church a model of how the Old Testament is to be interpreted, and it is the task of later expositors to discern how other passages are to be understood in light of Christ’s coming. Augustine made precisely the same point on the basis of the passage from 1 Corinthians. How Paul understands things in this passage, says St. Augustine, “is a key as to how the rest [of the Old Testament] is to be ­interpreted.

    “Following St. Paul, the Church Fathers argued that a surface reading of the Old Testament, what Origen calls the “plain” meaning, missed what was most important in the Bible: Jesus Christ. The subject of the Scriptures, writes Cyril of Alexandria, is “the mystery of Christ signified to us through a myriad of different kinds of things. Someone might liken it to a glittering and magnificent city, having not one image of the king but many, and publicly displayed in every corner of the city …. Its purpose is not to provide us an account of the lives of the saints of old. Far from that, its purpose is to give us knowledge of the mystery [of Christ] through things that make the word about him clear and true.”

    “To drive home the point, the Church Fathers also cited the passage in Ephesians where St. Paul interprets the famous words about the institution of marriage in Genesis as referring to Christ and the Church. The text in Genesis reads: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

    “Paul comments, “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” In Paul’s interpretation, the words from Genesis do not simply signify Christ but are speaking about Christ; that is to say, marriage takes its meaning from the mystery of Christ. At the beginning of his Literal Commentary on Genesis , St. Augustine cites this passage from Ephesians and the text from 1 Corinthians 10 to show that the Old Testament cannot be understood in a strictly literal or historical way. “No Christian will dare say that the narrative must not be taken in a figurative sense. For St. Paul says, ‘Now all these things that happened to them were symbolic.’ And he explains the statement in Genesis ‘And they shall be two in one flesh’ as a great mystery in reference to Christ and to the Church.”

    “The early Church read the Old Testament as the Word of God, a book about the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the God who “was and is and is to come.” What the text of the Bible meant when it was written, as far as that can be determined, is part of interpretation, but it can never be the last word, nor even the most important word. A historical interpretation can only be preparatory….. Once a deeper significance of a word or phrase or image is discerned, texts from the Old Testament resonate with a fullness that could be found only in Christ. The Bible becomes a vast field of interrelated words, all speaking about the same reality: the one God revealed in Christ, whose work was confirmed by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.”

    Onwards.

    “There’s only one place that I know of that comes close, Galatians 4”

    There is more than just Hagar and Sarah. If that was the only case, do you really think the complex debate on the NT use of the OT would have gone on for so long with erudite scholars on both sides? Here’s a survey from Protestant Robert Thomas covering literal and nonliteral uses as well as various scholars’ positions – www(DOT)tms.edu/m/tmsj13d.pdf or Mark Shea’s RC view at www(DOT)mark-shea.com/7.html

    “Why don’t you ask a modern RC biblical scholar who sits on the pontifical biblical commission”

    That would be the same PBC that issued the document on biblical interpretation with a section lauding the fathers (It’s section 3.B.2).

    “Yeah, there was a lot of crappy biblical interpretation in the patristic and medieval period. There’s still crappy interpretation today. ”

    Jewish or atheist scholar: Yeah, there was a lot of crappy OT interpretation by the NT writers and church fathers. There’s still crappy interpreation today by Christians.

    “Authorial intent serves as the control.”

    There goes the NT use of the OT.
    Poythress: “Both [NT writers] and their readers typically presuppose the context of later revelation. Hence, what they say using an OT passage may not always be based on the OT text alone, but on relations that the text has with this greater context. There is nothing odd about this process, any more than there is anything odd about laypeople who read Psalm 22 in the light of their knowledge of the whole of Scripture.”

    “God meets us and speaks to us in power as we read the Bible. God’s power and presence must be taken into account from the beginning, just as we take into account all that characterizes a human author of any human text. We cannot, with perfect precision, analytically isolate God’s propositional content from his personal communion. To attempt to perform grammatical-historical exegesis by such an isolating procedure is impious.

    “It is legitimate to explore the relations between what God says in all the parts of the Bible. When we perform such a synthesis, what we conclude may go beyond what we could derive from any one text in isolation. ”

    “When later human writers of Scripture interpret earlier parts of Scripture, they typically do so without making fine scholarly distinctions concerning the basis of their knowledge. Hence we ought not to require them to confine themselves to a narrow grammatical-historical exegesis. ”

    McCartney: “Even grammatical-historical method cannot really control meaning, because the interpretive goal will still determine how grammatical-historical method is used, and how consistently.” Exactly the point I’ve raised before about how insufficient and facile just asserting “GHM is the answer” is. GHM practitioners arrive at different conclusions because GHM is insufficient in and of itself to determine how best to apply it, what data gets to count in application, what analysis of that data gets to count in application, etc. Not to mention other things presupposed by Christians when using, but not entailed by, GHM such as deriving authorial intent using the context of the canon – thus using disparate books spanning different centuries, languages, authors, and genres as guides to interpretation rather than atomistically analyzing passages – and that the analogy of faith holds (i.e. no contradiction). Thus, all the statements above and McCartney again “The text of the whole Bible, the assumption of its coherency, and its ultimate purpose in pointing to Christ, provide parameters for determining which interpretations correspond and appear valid, and which do not. Grammatical-historical exegesis serves us well as one tool among others in carrying forward the recognition of the Bible’s coherency, so long as the context for our exegesis remains not only historical but also canonical.”

    “He didn’t write a grocery list to himself in a secret code that the bagboy with the charism was then tasked with delivering the authoritative interpretation of.”

    I see. So non ghm-exegesis reduces to secret codes and decoder rings.

    “Do Protestants pray for illumination before reading Peanuts and Garfield?
    – The fact that the Bible teaches salvation doesn’t mean that the original authors wrote the Bible in a secret code or made their true intents hidden to all but the latest person to sit in the Vatican.”

    A non-answer. It’s obvious you don’t actually buy everyone should approach Scripture like they approach a grocery list and Garfield. Nor should you buy that – Scripture isn’t a mundane document, don’t make arguments treating it as such.

    Like

  52. Jeff,

    Should I have certitude that Jesus is the promised Messiah. I do have unshakeable certitude.
    Should I have certitude that Jesus died and rise from the dead? I do.

    How about the sacrifice of the mass, the presence of angels at every mass, the prayers of Mary and the saints?
    I have complete certainty because the faith tells me so.

    Like

  53. from proto the paedo—-“In the coming days Scalia will be praised especially by the Christian Right. A Roman Catholic idolater, his adherence to Robert Bork’s Originalist interpretation of the Constitution was and is without warrant and in fact contradicted the very legal and political development of American legislation and jurisprudence. It may produce judgments that Conservatives like but it’s actually subversive.”

    http://pilgrimunderground.blogspot.com/2016/02/scalias-death-and-obamas-legacy.html

    Like

  54. Robert: GHM as I am defending it includes or is at least not contrary to all those things.

    You forgot “and nothing you have said refutes it.”

    Like

  55. Susan, nobody is trying to climb inside your head. Remember, we’re the Belgic 13 Prots–if discerning the secret will of God is verboten then your head is no exception. Just going by your stated words and making good and necessary conclusions.

    As to the rest of your last response to me, sorry, I don’t really follow any of it so I’ll heed your request and not attempt discerning it.

    Like

  56. Susan:
    Please don’t act like my psychologist. I live with the temptation to sin. Any angst that I now have is from being angry with myself for my failures to act like Jesus.>>>>>

    Thank you for your reasonable and kind answers. I enjoy reading what you have to say.

    Still, don’t let yourself get sucked in. You know how it goes here. Of course in a way it is a complement. They’d rather talk to us Catholics than to one another. Catholicism is more interesting you have to admit. I can hardly blame them.

    It’s funny that you are being accused of not presenting evidence to support your faith. That is all you do. Answer questions and present evidence. Yet you still get accused of being certitude – evidently a bad thing – instead of certainty – evidently a good, evidence-based thing. They are synonyms, but you gotta’ focus on the nuance, right?

    I notice that you have both. Certitude and certainty. They are not mutually exclusive.

    Still, take care of yourself. I miss Tom. Don’t you? 🙂

    Love to you. I got your back, FWIW.

    Like

  57. D. G. Hart
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
    James Young, you exceeded the word limit of comments. All responses to this will be deleted.

    Sheesh.

    Nobody wants to talk to you, Darryl.

    You’re jealous: VD, Cletus has shown you up on content. Everybody wants to talk with him. And each other and everyone except you, here at your own blog.

    You’re ignored at your own blog not on substance but because of your lack of it. Stop sliming and mocking and maybe somebody will pay attention to you. Peace, brother. You gotta get right.

    Like

  58. The Little Mermaid
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
    Joe M
    Posted February 15, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
    Scott Hahn on the literal sense Scripture… Recently read and found helpful since you hardly ever hear such from Catholic voices…>>>>>>>

    Have you read Aquinas’ commentary on the Gospel of John? He had the Bible memorized and it shows.

    He is also very Catholic. The guys here speculate about what would make people join the Catholic Church if they are already Christians.

    In my case, it was when I read the Fathers of the Church and other saints and doctors of the Church as Catholics. I then realized I wanted to be whatever they are. The beauty of their thoughts and words spoke to me in a way that even my favorite Protestant teachers did not.

    Breathtaking beauty. Unmistakably Catholic.

    Chrysostom. Augustine. Aquinas.

    >>>Susan
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
    “Susan, I mean the “inability to reach agreement” remark of yours–that’s abiding sin at work. And I’m referring to your epistemological angst, not your actual experience.”

    Whew, I thought you were saying that my teasing was too tough.

    The Nice Catholic Ladies are holding their own quite well despite your bullying too, Darryl. Perhaps you should ban your rapidly diminishing flock from responding to them, and them responding to each other too.

    Go for it, tough guy. Excommunicate them from Old Life. You are what you hate.

    Like

  59. Can’t remember when/where: Susan: Dear Darryl, Right now I don’t know if I’m saved.

    wondering what ” got your back, FWIW”, looks like when someone says this -don’t recall Catholic rallying to comfort when this was said

    Like

  60. D. G. Hart
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
    James Young, you exceeded the word limit of comments. All responses to this will be deleted.

    Sheesh.>>>>>>

    See, Brother Hart, the Reformed guys are saying that Catholics do not use the grammatico-historical method of Biblical interpretation.

    CvD is arguing quite effectively that they indeed do. It is a very interesting discussion, and pretty respectful.

    Here is something he said.: “Sensus plenoir and the four-fold sense does not reject or supplant the literal sense.”

    He then went on to support his argument with evidence – something that Jeff seems to think Catholics do not do.

    So, if Catholics present evidence, it is too many words. If Catholics do not present evidence, then our faith is merely certitude and not certainty.

    Yet even your guys, when they feel it supports their side, will bring out the big guns like Anselm, Aquinas, and Augustine.

    All of them Catholic priests, celebrating Mass in the way you call idolatrous.

    This is fascinating. Thank you for providing this platform for CvD’s fine work.

    Like

  61. Jeff Cagle:
    I greatly fear after observing literally years of the CtC apologetic is that what the adherents achieve is unshakable certitude.>>>>>

    Hey, BFF – Best Frenemies Forever – your comment is funny! That’s kind of the conclusion I came to, but after observing literally years of the Reformed apologetic.

    You just think it’s based on certainty, but how can you know? You’re not omniscient. In fact you have deliberately cut out a LOT of what Christianity actually is.

    Back when Brasil was a military dictatorship, it was reported that newspapers would be distributed with blank spots on the front pages where articles should have been. News that did not match the views of those in power were just made to disappear.

    That is what Reformed apologetics has done to men like Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, and yes, even your friend, Anselm – priests all, and some bishops. All celebrating Mass in that way you call idolatrous.

    The secret is now out. People can read the original sources for themselves without the Protestant filter.

    Like

  62. Mermaid,

    Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, and yes, even your friend, Anselm

    Where is the evidence that Augustine, Chrysostom, and Anselm gave mass the way Tridentine Romanism does?

    Like

  63. Mermaid,

    He then went on to support his argument with evidence – something that Jeff seems to think Catholics do not do.

    He went on to quote Protestants who rightly admit that GHM isn’t the exclusive means of Christian interpretation, thinking that somehow supports the fourfold allegorical nonsense of much traditional RC exegesis. It doesn’t.

    Typology isn’t allegory. Typology is connected to the original meaning of the text. What Rome has traditionally practiced is allegory.

    Like

  64. Robert
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink
    Mermaid,

    He then went on to support his argument with evidence – something that Jeff seems to think Catholics do not do.

    He went on to quote Protestants who rightly admit that GHM isn’t the exclusive means of Christian interpretation, thinking that somehow supports the fourfold allegorical nonsense of much traditional RC exegesis. It doesn’t.

    Typology isn’t allegory. Typology is connected to the original meaning of the text. What Rome has traditionally practiced is allegory.>>>>>

    The point is that he is building his arguments, just as you do. Yet Brother Hart slaps him down. It is an interesting discussion. Why not just let it continue and people can decide for themselves?

    It makes no sense to write posts about Catholicism, but not let Catholics freedom to respond. It makes all of you guys look better that way, actually.

    The conversation is respectful. What’s the problem?

    Like

  65. Darryl,

    Apologies on the length. I might have edited it down better but wanted to be clear, and people sometimes ignore links, as we’re about to see.

    Robert,

    “He went on to quote Protestants who rightly admit that GHM isn’t the exclusive means of Christian interpretation”

    They did more than just state that. RCism rightly admits that as well, so where’s the beef.

    “Typology isn’t allegory.”

    Is it GHM?

    McCartney: “Typology is not grammatical-historical…. I would challenge the whole notion as to whether typology can lay claim to a grammatical-historical pedigree.

    Attempts to distinguish typology from allegory only partially succeed. Both allegory and typology see the textual item as a symbol pointing to something more important. Allegorical interpretation sees a historical/textual item as a symbol for an idea; Typological interpretation sees an ancient historical/textual item as a symbol for a recent and more significant historical item.

    The difference between allegory and typology is thus not so much in method but in interpretive goal. Both typological and allegorical are taking the historical meaning of a text as symbolizing something else. But they are looking for different kinds of things to be symbolized.

    Typology may very well build on historical correspondence, and may be able to link to grammatical-historical interpretation for one of the corners of typological housebuilding, but typology is not grammatical-historical exegesis. Typology is a theological construction based on a conviction that two events in history or an event in history and a (separate) event in a text are somehow actually related (not just comparable or similar, nor just literarily related) in that the meaning of the former event (or the written record of such) only becomes fully manifest in the later event. Such a construction cannot be derived purely from the events themselves. Historical meaning indeed provides a tethering point for typology, but what drives typology is the fulfilment in Christ, not the historical meaning itself.”

    Like

  66. Robert
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink
    Mermaid,

    Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, and yes, even your friend, Anselm

    Where is the evidence that Augustine, Chrysostom, and Anselm gave mass the way Tridentine Romanism does?>>>>

    Aw, come on. They celebrated the sacraments that Calvin called idolatrous. I can read, and so can you. They were priests and some bishops. They celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass. Read them in their own context and in their own words.

    Use the grammatico-historical method on their writings. Put them and their words in their proper context.

    They certainly were not Protestants and Calvinists!

    That’s not your theology. In Protestantism, Anglicanism is the closest. Why aren’t you Anglicans?

    Read the guys as Catholics, and then they make sense.

    Like

  67. Clete,

    They did more than just state that. RCism rightly admits that as well, so where’s the beef.

    The beef is in disconnecting the application from the literal sense intended by the original author.

    .Historical meaning indeed provides a tethering point for typology, but what drives typology is the fulfilment in Christ, not the historical meaning itself.

    I agree more or less. The traditional allegorical ways of reading the text so very popular in the medieval period, such as the fourfold sense, have no tethering point in the historical meaning. It’s why you can get Origen looking at the census of Israel and finding the ascent of the soul through multitudes of heavenly layers. It’s why you can see locked gates on the eschatological temple being an allegory for the Virgin Mary. There’s no connection between the historical sense of any of that and the later use. And with that use of the Ezekiel passage, you have very clear violations of how the temple language is used in the NT.

    On the other hand, I can draw a clear historical connection between Hosea’s “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” and Matthew’s citation of the text, which is what the authors you cite, such as Carson, actually do even while they admit the limitations of the GHM.

    So the point isn’t that the GHM has no limitations. The point is that the GHM is necessary to provide interpretative control. And it is clear when you apply the GHM to Scripture that the later authors intended their writings and teachings to be read canonically. If they didn’t, the Apostles wouldn’t have said what they did about fulfillment. So many of the quotes you provide kind of miss the point in this discussion we are having.

    Like

  68. Mermaid,

    Aw, come on. They celebrated the sacraments that Calvin called idolatrous. I can read, and so can you. They were priests and some bishops. They celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass. Read them in their own context and in their own words.

    Calvin didn’t call all the sacraments of Romanism idolatrous; he just denied that all of them were actually sacraments. And it’s a great leap from saying the Eucharist is a sacrifice to transubstantiation, perpetual representation, and so forth. Augustine often speaks in ways that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of the church itself, not Christ. Further, there are many kinds of sacrifices. You just don’t get RC theology of the Eucharist out of these guys. They don’t explain how Christ is present.

    Use the grammatico-historical method on their writings. Put them and their words in their proper context.

    I do, and that involves NOT reading back Tridentine theology into ancient people.

    They certainly were not Protestants and Calvinists!

    I agree 100 percent. They were ancient church fathers. They were ancient men living in a particular context dealing with particular issues and were influenced by particular things. It’s as wrong to read Augustine as if he were a Calvinist as it is to read him as if he were a Tridentine RC. Does Augustine say some things that anticipate later Tridentine RCism? Absolutely. Does he say other things that anticipate Calvinism. Absolutely. There’s a reason why both sides appeal to him and, indeed, to all the fathers.

    That’s not your theology. In Protestantism, Anglicanism is the closest. Why aren’t you Anglicans?

    Because I believe the Anglicans are wrong. We make a fundamental mistake in assuming that the early church fathers were the apex of biblical and theological understanding. Not even Rome buys that.

    Read the guys as Catholics, and then they make sense.

    Actually they make sense just fine to me without having to assume they are Tridentine RCs. And to historians as well. It’s only this contingent of hardcore conservative RC Apologists that think otherwise.

    RC historians don’t read church history the way you do. Someday you all are going to have to deal with that fact.

    Like

  69. Robert,

    “The beef is in disconnecting the application from the literal sense intended by the original author.”

    Once more, with feeling: CCC: “According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.”
    “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.””

    The original author included God. There is not a “disconnect” with human authorial intent any more than there was a disconnect in the NT writers’ multi-faceted use of the OT, as the citations went over.

    Was there excessive allegorization by some? Yes. That no more impugns the validity of the method than those practitioners of the GHM who use it “excessively” to tear apart the inspiration and coherency of Scripture invalidate GHM.

    “The point is that the GHM is necessary to provide interpretative control. ”

    McCartney as already cited above: “Even grammatical-historical method cannot really control meaning, because the interpretive goal will still determine how grammatical-historical method is used, and how consistently…. The text of the whole Bible, the assumption of its coherency, and its ultimate purpose in pointing to Christ, provide parameters for determining which interpretations correspond and appear valid, and which do not. Grammatical-historical exegesis serves us well as one tool among others in carrying forward the recognition of the Bible’s coherency, so long as the context for our exegesis remains not only historical but also canonical.”

    Like

  70. Zrim,

    “it’s not as hard as you make it.”

    Is your mind the one clouded by sin in applying John 16 the way you do, or is NOON’s?

    “if the Bible is God’s word then it’s perfectly clear as is and if there is any problem with its clarity then the fault lies entirely with those who seek to discern it.”

    So why is your doctrine of perspicuity limited to only what is necessary for salvation? Shouldn’t the doctrine then be all of Scripture is perfectly clear, with no gradation or spectrum of clarity?

    “Who denied that “it was intended and meant to function within the tradition and church in which it was written and given”? Not me.”

    You follow the Reformers who did in replacing the rule of faith.

    Like

  71. Robert,

    ” He went on to quote Protestants who rightly admit that GHM isn’t the exclusive means of Christian interpretation, thinking that somehow supports the fourfold allegorical nonsense of much traditional RC exegesis. It doesn’t.”

    It just means that even protestants don’t depend for the text’s true meaning to be merely historical.
    It has to be literal as in the events really happened but for it to benefit us now( and those who came before us but after the events)it has to have a spiritual meaning, a moral meaning and an escatalogical meaning. I don’t know if every text has a moral meaning and an escatological one, but I do know that every story is more than a report of what God did in “those days”.

    “Typology isn’t allegory. Typology is connected to the original meaning of the text. What Rome has traditionally practiced is allegory.”

    Typology is a foreshadowing( if its in the OT) and a revelation of the foreshadow if it’s in the NT.
    Let’s not talk about allegory right now. Bibilical typology is fascinating enough.And it’s obvious why people ,who rightly employed it ( with the Holy Spirits help),were able to identify what books were canonical.

    You should listen to that Lawrence Feingold lecture on typology and typology in Genesis especially.
    None of the insights mined from the texts by Catholic theologians were hidden from myself or any protestant pastor’s that I say under or heard on the radio or in books, but they never elucidated the typology present like the Catholic Church does.

    There is plenty of OT typology to point to the Mass, you just won’t see it. So no, I suspect that protestants learned typology from the church that precedes every protestant denomination. Do you believe that the term protoevangelism in Gen. 3:15 wasn’t known until the reformation and that the early church fathers understood it to be allegorical?( It would be interesting to hear what it is an allegory of.)
    Anyways, even the protoevangelium isn’t as fully understood in Protestantism.That isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just that the sensus fidelium is something only the one church can have.

    Even if you dont believe this, it is still true that it is the Catholic Church that has more nuance, breadth , and beautiful through it’s employment of typology and any other methodologies in its interpretive toolbox.

    Like

  72. Robert,

    Apologies for my typos and overall sloppiness generally, but I also want to correct my saying that Catholic theologians use methodologies. Reading the bible isn’t like reading Thucydides.. People without faith try to read it objectively treating it like an artifact, and lose its whole significance of being God’s continued speech, speech that isn’t just written but also oral and, most of all , still among a people who are still journeying.

    Peace on yours,
    Susan

    Like

  73. Cletus,

    The original author included God. There is not a “disconnect” with human authorial intent any more than there was a disconnect in the NT writers’ multi-faceted use of the OT, as the citations went over.

    Was there excessive allegorization by some? Yes. That no more impugns the validity of the method than those practitioners of the GHM who use it “excessively” to tear apart the inspiration and coherency of Scripture invalidate GHM.

    As long as Rome finds allegories of Mary in the Temple and the Ark, the excessive allegorization continues.

    McCartney as already cited above: “Even grammatical-historical method cannot really control meaning, because the interpretive goal will still determine how grammatical-historical method is used, and how consistently.

    Translation: Where you start often determines where you finish. Apply this to the MoC now.

    Like

  74. Cletus,

    You follow the Reformers who did in replacing the rule of faith.

    The Magisterium wasn’t the rule of faith until the medieval period.

    Like

  75. Susan,

    Anyways, even the protoevangelium isn’t as fully understood in Protestantism.That isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just that the sensus fidelium is something only the one church can have.

    Meanwhile this Protestant first heard of the Protoevangelium in a Protestant church.

    Reading the bible isn’t like reading Thucydides.

    Yes and no. The Bible is God’s Word, not Thucydides. But like Thucydides, the biblical authors used forms of communication that were current in their time, not secret Holy Ghost Greek or something like that.

    But one point you guys miss is that the uniqueness of the Bible is not really in one’s ability to understand what it says but in one’s ability to believe it. Plenty of liberal Bible scholars read the text without any belief in the supernatural and discern rightly what the text is teaching. They just don’t believe the text is true.

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  76. Robert,

    “As long as Rome finds allegories of Mary in the Temple and the Ark, the excessive allegorization continues.”

    Please tell me the clean line of demarcation between acceptable allegory/typology and excessive allegory/typology. Then tell me the clean line of demarcation between acceptable ghm and excessive ghm.

    PBC again, “It does not follow from this that we can attribute to a biblical text whatever meaning we like, interpreting it in a wholly subjective way. On the contrary, one must reject as unauthentic every interpretation alien to the meaning expressed by the human authors in their written text. To admit the possibility of such alien meanings would be equivalent to cutting off the biblical message from its root, which is the word of God in its historical communication; it would also mean opening the door to interpretations of a wildly subjective nature. There are reasons, however, for not taking ‘alien’ in so strict a sense as to exclude all possibility of higher fulfillment. The paschal event, the death and resurrection of Jesus, has established a radically new historical context, which sheds fresh light upon the ancient texts and causes them to undergo a change in meaning …. While there is a distinction between the two senses, the spiritual sense can never be stripped of its connection with the literal sense. The latter remains the indispensable foundation … The fuller sense is defined as a deeper meaning of the text, intended by God but not clearly expressed by the human author. Its existence in the biblical text comes to be known when one studies the text in the light of other biblical texts which utilize it or in its relationship with the internal development of revelation”

    “But one point you guys miss is that the uniqueness of the Bible is not really in one’s ability to understand what it says but in one’s ability to believe it. ”

    McCartney: “Grammatical-historical method does not, and by its very nature cannot, deal with the special hermeneutical considerations of a divine text. A text written by several individuals from different cultures over the course of several centuries, which is at the same time authored by One who knows where history is going before it gets there, is inherently unique. Grammatical-historical interpretation proceeds on the assumption of the similarity of its text to other texts. The Bible is indeed a text like other texts, but it is also in certain ways sui generis, and thus requires something more …. But, the apostles and their Jewish contemporaries all understood the Bible to have divine meanings because it was a divine book. If we agree, then why should we limit our hermeneutic to a method that explicitly limits the meaning to the human intent? … Apostolic use of the Old Testament is not, however, representative of the way they would interpret texts in general. For them the Old Testament was generically different from other literature. As the New Testament writers thought of the Old Testament as a divine word rather than a human word, they read the Old Testament not as they would a letter from home but as “the Holy Spirit speaking from God””

    Poythress: “God meets us and speaks to us in power as we read the Bible. God’s power and presence must be taken into account from the beginning, just as we take into account all that characterizes a human author of any human text. We cannot, with perfect precision, analytically isolate God’s propositional content from his personal communion. To attempt to perform grammatical-historical exegesis by such an isolating procedure is impious.”

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  77. Clete,

    Please tell me the clean line of demarcation between acceptable allegory/typology and excessive allegory/typology. Then tell me the clean line of demarcation between acceptable ghm and excessive ghm.

    True allegory is always unacceptable. Unacceptable typology is any typology entirely divorced from the original meaning of the text.

    Brief example of Matthew and Hosea, a really famous example:

    “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

    Hosea was referring back to the original exodus in the verse itself.
    Hosea also points out that God’s son-Israel-failed.
    Hosea looks forward to a new exodus wherein Israel will be faithful

    Matthew appeals to Hosea to see that just as God once led Israel out of slavery, He would do so again, and said second exodus is revealed not only in Hosea but also in the other prophets.
    Jesus is the true Israel because He is the true Son who is faithful where Israel isn’t.

    Plus you have the precedent of having one person—Jacob—identified as Israel.

    Would Matthew have seen that before Jesus. Not likely. But what He does see isn’t divorced from the intent of the text.

    The kind of allegory we see throughout church history at least up until the Reformation often divorces things entirely from the text’s intent. Today things are more restrained, but that’s because people—including RC scholars—have more or less considered that the Reformers were more correct in their overall hermeneutic than someone like Augustine was.

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  78. Clete,

    Oh, and you can keep on selectively quoting Poythress and McCartney as if I am differing with them if you want, but it’s not working because I don’t essentially differ with them. And you have to deal with the fact that people will readily admit that they know what the text is teaching but they reject it anyway. That means we don’t have an allegorical codebook that only the spiritually enlightened can decipher. That’s the problem with allegorical exegesis. The only control over meaning can finally be coercion. The author can never speak for himself.

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  79. The Protestant affinities increase:

    Dear Dr. Goodloe:

    I looked for you unsuccessfully at the luncheon following the funeral yesterday. I wanted to tell you how reverent and inspiring I found the service that you conducted.

    In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted—though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner. (My goodness, that seems more like a Presbyterian thought than a Catholic one!)

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  80. “I say, what’s the good if we can’t understand it? ”

    That argument applies equally to the Magisterium’s dizzying contradictions. For some cognitive dissonance, go read James P. Fenton on the Church’s mission, and compare it to Francis. His book length treatment is even for confounding for those who claim the Magisterium’s job is to help us understand. I am not sure any Protestant interpreter could be more confusing.

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/ecumenism/meaning.htm

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  81. Robert,

    “True allegory is always unacceptable.”

    The NT writers’ exegesis was unacceptable then. Did they “divorce” their allegorical interpretations from the literal sense to yield a sea of subjectivity? No, and RCism agrees with that approach. But that doesn’t make their use of allegory “non-true”.

    Can you tell me how the Ark or Temple being a type of Mary who bore God is “entirely divorced from the original meaning of the text”?

    Did the author of Hosea intend the text to be prophetic, or was it intended to be non-prophetic?

    Robert Thomas references Hosea as a nonliteral use of the OT by the NT in his survey – http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj13d.pdf :

    “Matt 2:15 with Hos 11:1. Sometimes the NT uses a non-prophetic OT passage such as Hos 11:1 and treats it as though it predicted a NT occurrence. Hosea wrote about the historical exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, but Matthew applies the same words to Jesus’ departure from Egypt with His family after their flight there to escape the murderous intentions of Herod the Great.

    From these examples it is quite clear that the NT sometimes applies OT passages is a way that gives an additional dimension beyond their grammatical-historical meaning. This does not cancel the grammatical historical meaning of the OT; it is simply an application of the OT passage beyond what it originally meant in its OT context.”

    Referencing Bruce Waltke: “He agrees that “the text’s intention became deeper and clearer as the parameters of the canon were expanded” and that “older texts in the canon underwent a correlative progressive perception of meaning as they became part of a growing canonical literature.” … Waltke’s approach violates grammatical-historical principles which state that the meaning of a text is discoverable on the basis of the facts of the original historical setting and the principles of grammar. Literal interpretation does not postulate that the original readers were shut out from a text’s meaning that could come to light only after centuries of waiting.”

    Referencing Walter Kaiser Jr: “He also contends that the human [OT] author was aware of all the stages of fulfillment, but did not know the time of their fulfillment. This assumption goes beyond what literal interpretive principles will justify.”

    Citing Longenecker: “I do not think it my business to try to reproduce the exegetical procedures and practices of the New Testament writers, particularly when they engage in what I define as ‘midrash,’ ‘pesher,’ or ‘allegorical’ exegesis. Those practices often represent a culturally specific method or reflect a revelational stance or both—neither of which I can claim for myself.”

    Referencing Bock: “In his eclectic approach to the NT use of the OT, Bock has inevitably violated grammatical-historical principles… He has forsaken the quest for objectivity and inserted the interpreter’s preunderstanding as a major factor in interpretation. He has substituted his “complementary” or multilayered reading of an OT text that views a text’s meaning from the standpoint of later events rather than limiting that meaning to the historical setting of the text’s origin. In the name of progress of revelation, he has refrained from limiting a passage to a single meaning in order to allow for later complementary additions in meaning, which of necessity alter the original sense conveyed by the passage. He has advocated assigning a text meanings beyond what its grammatical-historical analysis will bear.”

    Referencing Walton: “He laments the intrusion of the analogy of faith and its subjectivity when it glosses “a theological concept into a context where it has no ostensible role.” To allow such an intrusion is to lapse into subjectivity in interpretation …. In commenting on the citation of Hos 11:1 in Matt 2:15, Walton notes that the verse in the context of Hosea’s prophecy has little connection with the use Matthew makes of it. He observes that Matthew is not interpreting the message of Hosea which was understood by Hosea and his audience through objective principles of historical-grammatical hermeneutics. Even though Matthew associates fulfillment – using the verb – with Jesus’ being brought by His parents from Egypt, Walton emphasizes that one cannot glean that from Hosea. That conclusion can come only from subjective association exercised through inspiration by the writer Matthew. Matthew does not interpret the message of Hosea; he identifies the fulfillment. Walton’s comments underline a very important principle. On the basis of grammatical-historical interpretation, an OT passage may have only one meaning, the meaning based on objective principles of literal interpretation.”

    Referencing KBH: “Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard offer several options related to the NT use of the OT:
    – Biblical authors intended only one sense (meaning), and this historical sense—what the text would have meant at the time written to its original readers—remains the only legitimate object of exegesis. Whatever NT writers may have done with the OT, we must limit our exegesis to the original historical sense of the text.

    – Biblical authors intended only one sense, but unknown to them the Holy Spirit encoded in the text additional and hidden meaning(s). When NT writers employed OT texts, in places they were drawing out this fuller sense, the sensus plenior. Such a process may or may not be repeatable for modern interpreters.
    – Biblical authors intended only one sense, though later readers may employ creative exegetical techniques to discover additional valid senses not intended by the original authors. Such techniques include Jewish methods like midrash, pesher, or typology. There probably was some connection between original text and later sense, though the connection may appear arbitrary, if not undecipherable, to others. The process may or may not be repeatable today.

    Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard eventually choose the last two options, noting that a fresh meaning need not be limited to the original sense. As earlier discussion has consistently observed, however, only their first option abides by the guidelines of grammatical-historical interpretation. The principle of single meaning and the objectivity of sound hermeneutics requires the exclusion of additional meanings subjectively derived.”

    Onwards.

    Also, Matthew’s use of Hosea is just one type of category of fulfillment the NT writers freely used in plumbing the OT:
    Longenecker: “Having, then, such a view of God’s purposes and their culmination, the early Christians looked to their Scriptures for prefigurements of what they had seen and experienced in Jesus. In so doing, they spelled out those prefigurements in terms of what we have categorized as (1) direct prophecy explicitly verified, (2) enigmatic passages clarified, (3) corporate solidarity, and (4) typological correspondences in history – though, admittedly, such a precise demarcation of categories would have seemed to them overly pedantic. In effect, they began with Jesus as the epitome of the divine pattern of personal relationships and worked from that estimate of him to prefigurements of such a pattern in the OT.

    McCartney: “So far as I can tell on the basis of the New Testament texts themselves, when the apostles used the Old Testament they never asked questions like “what did this text mean in its original historical context of several hundred years ago.” The few times they come close to doing so, they sometimes reject the original historical context as not particularly relevant. (e.g. 1 Cor 9:9, “Is God concerned with oxen? Does it not speak entirely for our benefit?”)”

    Now, given all the above, I’d like to know how Mary as a type of the Ark or Temple (which obviously also inextricably links and speaks to Christ) somehow is “divorced” from the meaning of the text or not warranted by the model of exegesis we see practiced by NT writers.

    “were more correct in their overall hermeneutic than someone like Augustine was.”

    Wilken: “the Church Fathers also cited the passage in Ephesians where St. Paul interprets the famous words about the institution of marriage in Genesis as referring to Christ and the Church. The text in Genesis reads: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Paul comments, “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” In Paul’s interpretation, the words from Genesis do not simply signify Christ but are speaking about Christ; that is to say, marriage takes its meaning from the mystery of Christ. At the beginning of his Literal Commentary on Genesis , St. Augustine cites this passage from Ephesians and the text from 1 Corinthians 10 to show that the Old Testament cannot be understood in a strictly literal or historical way. “No Christian will dare say that the narrative must not be taken in a figurative sense. For St. Paul says, ‘Now all these things that happened to them were symbolic.’ And he explains the statement in Genesis ‘And they shall be two in one flesh’ as a great mystery in reference to Christ and to the Church.”

    Was Paul being excessive in his use of the Genesis passage, informing Augustine’s error in methodology?

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  82. Robert,

    “you can keep on selectively quoting Poythress and McCartney as if I am differing with them if you want, but it’s not working because I don’t essentially differ with them.”

    Let’s see. You said, “the uniqueness of the Bible is not really in one’s ability to understand what it says but in one’s ability to believe it.”

    McCartney: “Grammatical-historical method does not, and by its very nature cannot, deal with the special hermeneutical considerations of a divine text. A text written by several individuals from different cultures over the course of several centuries, which is at the same time authored by One who knows where history is going before it gets there, is inherently unique. Grammatical-historical interpretation proceeds on the assumption of the similarity of its text to other texts. The Bible is indeed a text like other texts, but it is also in certain ways sui generis, and thus requires something more …. But, the apostles and their Jewish contemporaries all understood the Bible to have divine meanings because it was a divine book. If we agree, then why should we limit our hermeneutic to a method that explicitly limits the meaning to the human intent? … Apostolic use of the Old Testament is not, however, representative of the way they would interpret texts in general. For them the Old Testament was generically different from other literature. As the New Testament writers thought of the Old Testament as a divine word rather than a human word, they read the Old Testament not as they would a letter from home but as “the Holy Spirit speaking from God””

    Poythress: “God’s power and presence must be taken into account from the beginning, just as we take into account all that characterizes a human author of any human text. We cannot, with perfect precision, analytically isolate God’s propositional content from his personal communion. To attempt to perform grammatical-historical exegesis by such an isolating procedure is impious.

    Sounds like ability in understanding and hermeneutics to me, not ability to believe it.

    “And you have to deal with the fact that people will readily admit that they know what the text is
    teaching but they reject it anyway.”

    There’s nothing to deal with since I freely acknowledge that. You’re making that the exclusive and sole reason underlying Scripture’s uniqueness – “the uniqueness of the Bible is not really in one’s ability to understand what it says but in one’s ability to believe it.”, I’m not.

    “That means we don’t have an allegorical codebook that only the spiritually enlightened can decipher. That’s the problem with allegorical exegesis. The only control over meaning can finally be coercion. The author can never speak for himself.”

    So either you’re asserting NT writers coerced the meaning in applying allegory and typology to OT texts, or you’re disagreeing with:
    KBH as referenced by Thomas: “Biblical authors intended only one sense, but unknown to them the Holy Spirit encoded in the text additional and hidden meaning(s). When NT writers employed OT texts, in places they were drawing out this fuller sense, the sensus plenior. Such a process may or may not be repeatable for modern interpreters.”

    Beale and Carson: “This tension between what they insist is actually there in the Scriptures and what they are forced to admit they did not see until fairly late in their experience forces them to think about the concept of “mystery”—revelation that is in some sense “there” in the Scriptures but hidden until the time of God-appointed disclosure… It is something like that with the way OT passages are developed in the NT. There are “organic links” to one degree or another, but those links may not have been clearly discernible to the eye of the OT author or reader. Accordingly, there is sometimes a creative development or extension of the meaning of the OT text that is still in some way anchored to that text …. we sometimes need reminding that the NT authors would not have understood the OT in terms of any of the dominant historical-critical orthodoxies of the last century and a half.”

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