Friday 21st June 2024

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Senses Of Scripture

January 17, 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

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  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 su
bscribe 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 150 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

Catechism

Today . . .

Doctors urge U.S. medical groups to ‘immediately stop’ transgender treatments on children

Top medical groups and physicians have signed a “Doctors Protecting Children” declaration that expresses “serious concerns” about the treatment of minors who are uncomfortable with their biological sex, one advocate told EWTN News this week.  Jill Simons, the executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol on Thursday that the medical group has been “sounding the alarm” after the recently leaked files from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health in which…Continue Reading

Pedophile advocacy group praises Germany’s new law softening punishment for child pornography

(LifeSiteNews) — In 2010, Jan Flesichhauer and Wiebke Hollersen penned a chilling essay for Der Spiegel titled “How the Left Took Things Too Far.” “One of the goals of the German 1968 movement was the sexual liberation of children,” they wrote. “For some, this meant overcoming all sexual inhibitions, creating a climate in which even pedophilia was considered progressive.”   That climate involved discussions about whether sex with children might be healthy for the children and musings that this could…Continue Reading

Here’s Harrison Butker’s Full Speech Celebrating Pro-Life Christian Values

Some sports stars make headlines for drug abuse or acts of violence, but one football player is taking heat for publicly promoting Christian values. On Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered the commencement at the Catholic Benedictine College, encouraging young graduates to stand firm in their faith and live out authentic Christian virtues. Now, the National Football League (NFL) is playing defense and condemning Butker’s speech as offensive. The NFL’s senior vice president and top diversity, equity,…Continue Reading

DeSantis declares Florida ‘will not comply’ with Biden rule forcing ‘gender identity’ on schools

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida “will not comply” with the Biden administration’s recently finalized rule forcing widespread recognition and accommodation of LGBT “identities” on the American education system, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis declared. In February, President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Education submitted to the U.S. Office of Management & Budget its finalized Title IX rule. Late last month, the administration published the rule, which expands the federal

U.S. birth and fertility rates drop to record lows, according to CDC report

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 26, 2024 / 16:45 pm Provisional data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week showed that the fertility rate in the United States hit a record low and the total number of births in the country was the lowest it’s been in decades.  According to the report, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through…Continue Reading

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)