Thursday 18th September 2014

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Senses Of Scripture

June 28, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

Part 2

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that the spiritual sense of interpreting Sacred Scripture can be subdivided into three senses: allegorical, moral, and anagogical. Last week, we discussed the allegorical sense in some detail and found that through its use, as expressed by the Catechism, “we can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ” (n. 115). The specific historical event cited as an example of the application of this interpretative technique was the recognition of the hidden, deeper meaning of the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. In light of the coming of Christ, this Old Testament event can be seen “as a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism” (CCC, n. 115).
We also examined the closely related exegetical science of typology, “which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what He accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of His incarnate Son” (CCC, n. 128). Now, we will examine the moral and anagogic senses of scriptural interpretation.
The moral (or tropological) sense of biblical interpretation, as its name implies, is that which pertains to our moral life; it is the spiritual sense of Sacred Scripture that deals with acting justly. In his Summa Theologiae (STh), St. Thomas Aquinas explains the moral sense as follows: “So far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense” (STh, I, Q. 1, art. 1). And St. Paul alludes to how Scripture accomplishes this: by recording events, “written down for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11), that give us guiding principles for how to live virtuous and upright lives. Fr. John Hardon, SJ, explains the moral sense of a biblical event as one that “teaches us a lesson for our spiritual life” (The Faith, p. 32).
When interpreting in the moral sense, scriptural exegetes attempt to determine how the sacred text, literally and figuratively, provides the faithful with instructions and guidelines on how to live their day-to-day lives in a way that actualizes holiness, or love of God and love of neighbor. As such, just as the allegorical sense works to build up the theological virtue of faith, the moral sense works to build up the virtue of charity.
It is unmistakable that some teachings in Sacred Scripture clearly refer to the moral life. For example, the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue), as handed down to Moses (see Exodus 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-22), leave no doubt as to their moral imperative — specific, unambiguous behaviors incumbent upon faithful followers of Christ are explicitly stated. However, anyone who refers to a thorough guide for examining their conscience as they prepare to receive the Sacrament of Penance can’t help but recognize that much more is implied by each commandment than is contained in the written biblical word. When considered in light of other teachings and parables in Sacred Scripture and the natural law that is written on our hearts, use of the moral sense of interpretation will readily identify many additional moral points that correspond to virtuous (or vicious) behavior.
Many accounts in Sacred Scripture teach moral lessons in a more figurative manner. For example, consider the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. Who can miss the moral teaching implied by the eternal end arrived at by the rich man, “who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day,” as compared to that of Lazarus, “who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table”? Or the moral teaching contained in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray (see Luke 18:9-14)? The moral maxim that follows the parable is self-explanatory: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). The example of interpreting with the moral sense given by Fr. Hardon in his book The Faith is as follows: “Abraham’s faith teaches us the obligation to believe in Christ” (p. 32).
The anagogical (or eschatological) sense of biblical interpretation refers to the future — to the afterlife and our final end. St. Thomas Aquinas expresses this sense as follows: “So far as [the words of Sacred Scripture] signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense” (STh, I, Q. 1, art. 1). And as Fr. Hardon puts it, this sense applies “when realities or events have a meaning for eternity” (The Faith, p. 32). The Catechism refers to a verse in the Book of Revelation to demonstrate this sense: “And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). The anagogical sense can be viewed as pertaining to the “last four things”: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Since it is forward-pointing and applies to our eternal destiny, this spiritual sense can be seen as corresponding to the theological virtue of hope.
But to fully comprehend the deeper, hidden meaning given by the spiritual sense of Scripture, there is an indispensable requirement that far outweighs learning, intelligence, or effort, and that is the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
The third-century Scripture scholar Origen expressed this requisite condition as follows: “The Scriptures were written by the Spirit of God, and have a meaning, not such only as is apparent at first sight, but also another, which escapes the notice of most….The spiritual meaning which the law conveys is not known to all, but to those only on whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in the word of wisdom and knowledge” (De Principiis, Preface, n. 8).
Having examined each of the four interpretative senses as outlined in the Catechism, it is important also to recognize that accurate interpretation cannot be gained by using individual senses autonomously; to discern the true meaning intended by the Holy Spirit, all must be considered together. Dr. Scott Hahn expresses this interpretative principle as follows: “In exegesis, we distinguish the four senses, not to separate them, but to unite them in the integral meaning of the text. Indeed, the literal and spiritual senses are inseparable and interdependent….Only if we see the literal and spiritual senses together can we discern the unity and integrity of the divinely intended meaning of the Scriptures” (Scripture Matters, pp. 53-54).
And Pope John Paul II called attention to this same standard: “One should not underestimate the danger inherent in seeking to derive the truth of Sacred Scripture from the use of one method alone, ignoring the need for a more comprehensive exegesis which enables the exegete, together with the whole Church, to arrive at the full sense of the texts” (Fides et Ratio, n. 55).
Before leaving this topic, it would be good to affirm that faith and reason work together in faithful interpretation of Scripture. Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission (at which time he was presented with The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church), stated that magisterial documents regarding biblical exegesis “reject a split between the human and the divine, between scientific research and respect for the faith, between the literal sense and the spiritual sense. They thus appear to be in perfect harmony with the mystery of the Incarnation” (n. 5).
And as emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI in the foreword of his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth, a prior act of faith is indispensable for all interpretative work. His starting point, as it must be for all authentic interpreters of Sacred Scripture, is a firm conviction and trust in the Resurrected Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels (cf. p. xxi).

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

">

Breaking . . . Cardinal Burke – Fr Z

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’ll post this. I do not like the fact that Sandro Magister posted in this way, however.  I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now.  The optimist…Continue Reading

Catholic Education Honor Roll Announced

Today, The Cardinal Newman Society released the list of schools recognized by the Catholic Education Honor Roll as 2014 Schools of Excellence. Since 2004 the Honor Roll has celebrated quality Catholic education throughout the United States. Honor Roll schools receiving…Continue Reading

Hermeneutic of Continuity: Pope Benedict XVI’s 10 Step Guide to Vatican II

pope200

In 2005 His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI gave a Christmas address to the Roman Curia that sparked a “Holy Revolution.” The good pontiff’s comments were received as “epoch-making” by many of those faithful to Sacred Tradition.1 At the heart of…Continue Reading

Satanists Sell Out Controversial Oklahoma ‘Black Mass’ Event, Will Stage Exorcism Despite Christian Protests

The Satanist group that will stage a controversial “black mass” at an Oklahoma City civic center has said that all 88 tickets for its Sept. 21 event are sold out. The co-founder of the group revealed that the ritual will…Continue Reading

Catholic League Bowing Out Of New York’s St. Patrick’s Parade

NEW YORK –  The Catholic League says it will sit out next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York because parade organizers aren’t letting an anti-abortion Catholic group march. Catholic League head Bill Donohue said Thursday that his organization…Continue Reading

Catholic Cardinal McCarrick Embraces Islam

Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick offered Islamic religious phrases and insisted that Islam shares foundational rules with Christianity, during a Sept. 10 press conference in D.C. “In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate,” McCarrick said as he introduced himself…Continue Reading

MURDER OF CATHOLIC NUNS SHOCKS WORLD

The triple murder of three elderly Italian religious sisters in Burundi has their religious family and the local community reeling. The Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed Monday’s death of a third missionary, Sister Bernadette Boggian, who wasdecapitated, according to a…Continue Reading

Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

by Hon. Bob Marshall Sept. 8, 2014 New York’s Cardinal Dolan, appointed as Grand Marshal of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, praised the decision to allow an openly gay group to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “I have…Continue Reading

Founder: Catholic Studies programs help colleges fulfill call to faithfulness

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 8, 2014 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- University-level Catholic Studies programs are an essential response to the increasingly fragmented college experience, said the man who founded the first such program 20 years ago. “At the heart of…Continue Reading

A ‘dereliction of duty’? Catholics react to Cardinal Dolan’s role in St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s decision to act as grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade despite its decision to allow an openly homosexual organization to participate has drawn strong criticism from Catholic writers and outrage from many…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Caves

notredame

The following comes from an Aug. 30 email from the Sycamore Trust, “alumni protecting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.” Notre Dame is complying with the abortifacient/contraceptive mandate in renewing its student health insurance program for 2014-15. Aetna, the insurer, will now provide students with…Continue Reading

Vatican’s Cardinal Burke dismantles ‘Who am I to judge?’

burk

Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court – the Apostolic Signatura – has given a lengthy televised interview in which he decisively rectifies the false notions about Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” quote that has been…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Tells Catholics To Go Forth With The Gospel Message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis encouraged Catholics go forth and bring the Gospel message to the world and to their communities. Speaking on Wednesday during his General the Pope spoke of the universal and apostolic nature of the Catholic Church. He explained that the word catholic means that she is universal, something that she shows by speaking all languages, which –…Continue Reading

Pope And Santa Marta: Closeness And Compassion

pope525

(Vatican Radio) Beautiful homilies are useless if you are not close to the people, if you do not suffer with the people and do not give hope, they are vanity: This was Pope Francis’ reflection Tuesday morning during Mass in Santa Marta, the day on which the Church remembers the Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, bishop martyrs. The Gospel of…Continue Reading

One Thing Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Doesn’t Explain About Benghazi

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY In her memoir, Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included a chapter on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. But she failed to specifically explain why Ambassador Chris Stevens was there that day. “U.S. ambassadors are not required to consult or…Continue Reading

Violence Begets Violence

By REY FLORES Is it me or is violence becoming more prevalent across our society? Is it because most people have a cell phone nowadays with a camera and are able to share these ever-increasing acts of violence across cyberspace on social media? Perhaps it’s a little of both, but it’s definitely a lot more…Continue Reading

Birth Statistics Show Collapse Of The Family

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate provided this column; all rights reserved.) + + + If you count a generation as spanning 20 years, then approximately 36 percent of the American generation born from 1993 through 2012 — which has begun turning 21…Continue Reading

Deacon Describes Last Hours… Convicted Killer In Prolonged Execution Was Baptized

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — Although most news attention focused on the nearly two hours it took for a convicted Arizona double murderer to die during the execution by lethal injection in July, he had been baptized a Catholic not long before, according to a deacon who helped Joseph Wood prepare for death. Ed Sheffer,…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… A “Better Life Index” That Ignores What Makes For A Better Life

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . “And Who Is My Neighbor?” The Embryo And The ALS patient

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The prophet Jeremiah in chapter 20 bewails his isolation as a result of the scorn of nonbelievers: “The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” He describes his temptation to throw in the towel as a prophet tasked by God with a message for mankind: “I say to myself,…Continue Reading

Priestly Celibacy: Unnatural? Or . . . Supernatural? Celibacy In The Teachings Of St. Paul

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 St. Paul was not one of the twelve, but he is known as “the Apostle,” certainly because of the richness of his apostolic zeal in teaching, possibly more than all the other apostles put together. He was educated in the faith by Jesus Himself, and after that intense training, he became as zealous…Continue Reading

The Implications Of Faith In One God

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks, we have reflected on but an infinitesimal fraction of all that the faithful affirm when they reverently and genuinely say the first four [or five] words contained in the Creeds of the Church: “I believe in [one] God.” In saying these words with heartfelt sincerity, one is acknowledging his belief in who…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I have recently read a book entitled Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll. I was taken aback by its premise and wonder about its veracity. Do you have an opinion on the book? — E.J.S., New Jersey. A. You have good reason to wonder about the veracity of Constantine’s Sword (and the movie based on the book) since its author,…Continue Reading

Magnify The Lord

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9 Phil. 1:20c-24, 27a Matt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, Isaiah cries out to all the people that they are to seek the Lord while He may be found. This becomes extremely important to us because Scripture speaks of the possibility of the Lord coming to…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Joseph Of Cupertino

By CAROLE BRESLIN Now that the school year has begun, students — especially Catholic students — will find recourse to their favorite patron saint of studying. Some may choose St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo. For those students who find it difficult to retain what they read and write about it, perhaps this saint will encourage them: St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Mother Teresa Of Calcutta

By CAROLE BRESLIN After returning from a visit to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and giving a retreat to her Missionaries of Charity there, Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, told a class of lay faithful, “Americans are living in a dream world.” He spoke of the thousands of people dying on the streets of Calcutta where Mother had begun her work…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading