Tracts for the Times


by John Keble

[Number 89]

§iii.-The Literal Sense left entire by the Mysticism of the Church.

No impression, I believe, is more general among ordinary readers of theology, than this; that beyond a strong tendency to allegory, the Fathers had no definite principles at all, by which to interpret Scripture, but only employed, in a rhetorical way, whatever allusions best served the purpose of the moment. A remarkable and not a very encouraging fact, if such really were the case, that such a series of distinguished writers,—writers whom their very censurers40 allow to have greatly exceeded the mass of their contemporaries,—zealously applying themselves to this one work, and with a, devotion and reverence as sincere, in very many cases, as martyrdom could prove it; that these should have gone on quite at random, and have been right, when they were right, only by a happy chance. Nor would it seem easy to reconcile such a statement with our Lord’s command to search the Scriptures, and with His implied and express promises of spiritual aid ; unless we were prepared to maintain, what all history contradicts, that the Fathers either neglected the Bible, or forfeited the promise of aid in the study of it by gross heresy, or insincerity, proved, by ill conduct.

But is the fact so, that they were without principles of interpretation? Is it not rather our want of steady attention and reverential industry in examining the whole subject, which makes it seem so to us? It is readily allowed, that there exists a peculiar difficulty, in evolving the patristical rules for expounding Scripture, on which difficulty something will be presently said. But that some such principles, however latent, do exist, we might confidently gather from this one fact ; that no one, tolerably versed in their writings, would fail to detect their style of interpretation, wherever he met with it, by something in its, air and tone ; something, not the less real, because it may be to us indescribable in words. Let anyone, for example, compare the commentary of Quesnel on the New Testament, or that of Wogan on the Proper Lessons, both which are expressly, founded on the ancient glosses, with the explanations of Scripture interspersed in the "Pilgrim’s Progress." Both being to a high degree allegorical, he will yet find the one, throughout of a different caste and family from the other.

(2.) Now it is no wonder if we find it difficult to seize in distinct thought, and embody in language, the exegetic principles of the old Church writers since, in all probability few, if any, of them were ever able to do so for themselves. With an instinctive skill, acquired in part at least, by long and zealous training of themselves in that one department, they felt when any exposition or conjecture, which occurred to them, was (to use their own word) Ecclesiastical, and when otherwise. It was a happy sagacity, which could afford to dispense with all manner of critical and argumentative development. They were natives, and could speak the language idiomatically, without stopping to recollect rules of grammar.

And here we seem to have no inconsiderable proof, that the mystical interpretation was no result of a theory subsequently introduced among Christians; it was not this or that writer’s importation or invention, but it was from the beginning habitually inwrought into the thoughts and language of the Catholic Church.

Hereby also we have suggested to us a way for attaining to a virtual knowledge, of their rules of interpretation, though we perhaps may never be able, any more than they were, to trace out those rules in language. We have only to exercise ourselves much and deeply in their expositions of Holy Writ, and in the observances which we know they kept up, and we by degrees their practised eye—e ¢ x e ¢ m p e i r ía z óm m a —whereby to discern their first principles. This would be one way, and on every account the best way, of convincing ourselves that the mysticism of the early interpreters is not the vague, unsettled, dreamy kind of view, which many of us are at first hearing apt to imagine. We may set ourselves to study the examples of it thoroughly in detail: and finding, as we shall in a great proportion of them, a great deal more than we had expected, we shall gradually and surely learn, both to value the method more highly, and to understand it better.

(3.) With this view, some examples have been given above: examples purposely selected, many of them, as the likeliest to startle and scandalize a mere modern reader ; and something, it is hoped, has been done towards shewing, that in those cases at least the holy Fathers well knew what they were about ; that they proceeded, in interpreting Scripture, on the surest ground—the warrant of Scripture itself in analogous cases.

Another process, leading to the same conclusion, would be to examine, fairly and fully, whether there be not certain limitations which the Fathers carefully observe in their application of the mystical method ; certain bounds within which they confine themselves, as did champions of old within the rules of the tourney, in the utmost heat and speed of their career. Some indeed of these rules are laid down in express words by the more exact and argumentative of the Fathers : others we may gather with sufficient assurance from the comparison of their comments. To this subject, then, the limitations of the mystical exposition, as they were generally recognized by Antiquity, we are to address ourselves in the present stage of the inquiry.

(4.) The first and most obvious of these rules of limitation was, not to lose sight of the letter; to reserve in every mystical comment the foundation of historical and literal truth. This, as all men know, is one of the points on which the Fathers have been most confidently assailed ; but, as a few plain considerations will show, most unjustly.

For, first, the evidences of the Christian religion were from the beginning chiefly historical : such as the records of the life of Christ, the ministration of the Apostles, and the facts by which, in the old dispensation, God had authorized His messages by His prophets. The faith had been received in the first instance, as to the main body of it, in the plain literal and historical sense. It was so accepted by the mass of believers, as the Old Testament had ever been by the mass of the Jews ; and surely appeal might be made without hesitation to those who are really versed in Christian Antiquity, whether even the most daring mystics among them do not all along assume the truth of the history ; whether the mere allegory, which they sometimes appear to maintain, be at worst more than an exception to a general law; a resort in difficulties ; a solecism, not a rule.

(5.) But secondly, if in any case they seem to press the allegory beyond this, there are considerations, which would lead a sound critic to be cautious in urging their statements in that kind further than, their very words oblige us to go. There are reasons which should induce us to give them all the benefit of any qualification or ambiguity which their expressions admit of, -to construe all that is equivocal in favour of the literal meaning. Were they not in a great measure free from some of the temptations, which have ever been found most effective, in inducing inconsiderate commentators to deal over freely with the letter of the Divine Records? These temptations have commonly arisen, on the one hand, from over refinement in philosophical and moral subjects ; on the other hand, from critical skill, and dexterity in sifting statements on matters of fact. Of the first head, philosophical and moral allegory, something will be said by-and-by, when, we come to the case of those Fathers, who are allowed to have erred in exaggerating the mystical sense. But their general deficiency in critical and historical acuteness is notoriously one of the most popular charges against them, and one of the reasons most frequently given for not deferring to their authority in Scripture interpretation. Those who judge so of them, must at least allow that they were, so far, exempt from that temptation to take liberties with the text of Scripture, which historical and critical difficulties continually offer.

For example, had Origen been as unversed in critical discussion, as were, on, this hypothesis, the majority of the Fathers, be would not have been driven, by a supposed chronological difficulty, to throw discredit generally on the letter of the evangelical narrative. So at least he is supposed to have done, in commenting on St. John’s account of our Saviour’s return to Galilee after the temptation. Not finding how to reconcile that account with those of the other Evangelists, he says41, (if his words indeed are rightly so translated,) "The truth concerning these things must needs be lodged out of sight in their secondary and, spiritual signification. The discrepancy being so accounted for, we need not relax in any measure our faith regarding the Gospel narratives, as though they were either untrue, or destitute of any peculiar divine inspiration, or failing in their proper office as memorial’s." Then having, stated the difficulty at length, he concludes, "In this and many cases besides, whoever will carefully examine the Gospels with a view to any disagreement in the narrative, it will either cause him with a sort of mental giddiness to give up the claim of the Gospels to absolute authority and choose one of them at random to adhere to, as not venturing to repudiate entirely the faith of our, Lord ; or, if he still admit all four, he will consider their truth to be lodged somewhere else, than in the outward material words, and letters, and syllables." The amount of Origen’s meaning in this passage may perhaps be a subject of discussion by-and-by. At present it is quoted simply for the sake of pointing out the danger incurred by habits of searching criticism, viz. that, it leads men, on discovering flaws, to them, incurable, to think more slightly, than they ought of the letter of the Bible altogether. It is the genius of modern philology, to cut all such knots, by expressing or insinuating more or less of doubt, as to the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. Some of the ancients, not perhaps more logically, but with at least as much of religious awe and reverence, had recourse, we see, in the like cases, to the suppositions of mere allegory intermixed with the truth. But the far greater number of theme being, as their opponents complain, quite "uncritical," i. e. taking the text as they found it, and not perplexing themselves with difficulties of construction and, harmony, were free at least from this one undue bias towards the secondary sense.

(6.) A still stronger and more universal preservative must have been the unfeigned and singular veneration, with which they ever regarded the Holy Book. Whatever else may be laid to the Fathers’ charge, even the most scornful and bitter of their censors have been constrained to admit the paramount value which they set on their Bibles, and, their thorough acquaintance with them. Even where they mysticised improperly, their ordinary motive was a sincere veneration for the Scriptures ; whose dignity, they sometimes with some plausibility argued, could not stand with the literal sense. This was a shortsighted and erroneous feeling, so far as it may have wanted that wise and simple faith, which would have caused them at once to receive the very letter, hoping or pretending to explain all difficulties. Still there was a feeling here of affectionate and dutiful though mistaken loyalty; like St. Peter’s, when lie took hold of our Lord and began rebuke and contradict Him ; saying, "Be it far from this shall not be unto Thee."

Accordingly, when Origen goes off to the mystical sense, it is with him almost always a matter of reverent and earnest prayer.

Thus, having given a careful and sensible commentary on literal account in Genesis of the building of the ark, he proceeds42 :

"Now, first beseeching His indulgence, who alone is able to withdraw the veil from the reading of the Old Testament, let us try and make out what spiritual edification also is contained in the raising of this august fabric, the ark."

Again in his exposition of the parable of the unmerciful servant43 :

"It is no small matter to express, according to the full meaning of our Saviour, who are meant by the various persons introduced in this parable : . . . indeed, the very truth of these things, I am bold to affirm, no one shall be able to utter, unless the same Jesus, who privately expounded these things to His own disciples, have entered in to dwell in his mind, and open there all the treasures contained in the parable ; dark, hidden, far out of sight. …I for my part,—as one who has not yet obtained in sufficiency that mind, which can thoroughly penetrate and mingle with the mind of Christ, that mind, which, aided by the Spirit, can search all, even the depths of God-am able as yet to form but an indefinite notion of the details of this passage."

The expression of awe is, perhaps, still more remarkable, wen he draws back from an interpretation, which he had actually entered on: as one who caught himself unawares intruding further into the sanctuary than he had intended. It is on the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard44, he says :

"Seeking out, what might be the ‘one day,’ which limits the time of this parable,…I have unwarily taken some steps into certain of the deeps of Almighty God ; lacking as I do that Spirit which searcheth all things, even the deep things of God."

Surely the tone of mind here apparent could not exist, without a profound veneration for the letter itself and literal meaning, the garb and outward vehicle of truths so revered and precious. Surely it could have been only by comparison, if ever, the same writers seem to disparage the letter. And in fact we find that few authors have done more for the elucidation of the historical sense, or given more unsparingly the best practical proof of reverence, unwearied religious diligence in trying to understand. So that with respect to the threefold method of interpretation, which he is known to have generally adopted, a partial judge might almost say of him, and of others like him, as contrasted with modern that he had three Bibles to read and we but one ; a jot or tittle failing in his reverence for the body of the sacred Book, compared with ours, while he enjoys, what we generally want, the privilege of contemplating its soul and spirit also.

(7.) Now, if even Origen, the known champion of the allegorical method, felt and practised such regard for the Letter of Scripture, it is surely unnecessary to multiply quotations, in proof of the opinion of the Church on that subject : her impartial veneration for the whole of the Divine Book, her deep, faithful and undoubting reception of every part, both in its, obvious and in its abstract senses, according to the fullness of the meaning of the Spirit of God. There, is a striking passage in St. Augustine, which collects, as it were, into a point, the confessions on this head of every generation of believers45.

"The style itself in which Holy Scripture is framed, how open is it to everyone’s approach, how impossible to be searched out by any, but a very few! What things it contains that are obvious and open, those, like a familiar friend, it speaks simply to the heart, both of unlearned and learned. As to those, on the other band, which it hides in mysteries, neither does it elevate them by lofty speech, such as might deter from a nearer approach the dull and untaught mind, as a poor man sometimes fears to approach a rich one ; but Scripture invites all by a lowly kind of speech, intending only to feed all with obvious truth, but also to exercise and prove all by that truth which is remote from view : having in its easy parts whatever its hard parts contain. But lest, being open to view, they should incur contempt, the same truths again are made desirable by concealment; to meet the desire, they are, as it were, produced anew; and being so renewed, they insinuate themselves with a kind of delight. Thus wholesome correction is provided for corrupt minds, wholesome nourishment for feeble minds, and wholesome enjoyment for great minds. That mind alone is set against this teaching, which either through error knows not its healing power, or through sickness loathes it as medicine."

Men who were so minded towards the whole Book of God,—would it not require overpowering evidence to convince us that they commonly passed by with disdain the letter of Scripture? Yet they have been charged with no less than this.

(8.) The improbability of such allegations becomes yet more glaring when we take into account the universal cast and tenour of the Fathers’ doctrinal views. This is a consideration, indirectly indeed, yet really and materially, bearing on the present discussion. Ever since the Church began, she has felt that she had to guard against a tendency to over-refinement and affected spirituality. There has been danger lest the body, so to call it, of important truths should be exhausted and exhaled away, in their supposed moral and imaginative meaning. This is the error of the people called Friends, and in general of the rationalists of modern days. It was also the error of the Gnostics of old, who denied, as is well known, the reality of the Incarnation and Passion of our Lord, the Resurrection of the Body, the identity of the Creator with the Redeemer ; and whatever other portions of Christian belief appeared to them in any way mixed up with things outward, material, and bodily. Against there, in the beginning as now, the Church of God always protested, maintaining the literal reality of these Truths, as she now maintains the real efficacy of material Sacraments, in opposition to the refinements of philosophy and vain deceit. Now it was a sort of index to this first school, their denying the historical meaning of Holy Scripture; as may be seen in many parts of Irenæus. His statements are like the followings46:

"These vainest of sophists maintain that the Apostles taught not truly but feignedly, according to the capacity of their hearers ; that they framed their answers to suit the prejudices of those who at any time were asking them questions ; discoursing with the blind blindly, according to their blindness, and with the sick according to their sickness, and the erring according to their error. Thus, to such as imagined that the Creator was the only God, they made Him the subject of their preaching ; but to those who are able to receive the unutterable Father, they administered by parables and allegories the unspeakable mystery : thus making it out that our Lord and His Apostles gave instruction, not according to the tenor of the very truth, but in pretence, and according to the capacity of each."

Such are the complaints brought against heretical theorists, by ecclesiastic writers of those days. Had we no direct evidence on the subject, passages of this sort would warrant us in concluding, that the early Church held to the literal Scripture as her foundation, whatever the superstructure of mystical or moral truth she might know and believe herself entitled to build upon it. For there is a natural and very distinct analogy between the doctrines, which reject the body, and the expositions, which reject the letter. We perceive at once that they belong in their several kinds to the same turn of mind, the same school of opinions. And on the other hand, the straightforward, unflinching faith, which is always content to take God’s work as He has made it, will of course be willing also to accept His Word as He has taught it. "When I hear of grass," says St. Basil47, remarking on the excessive proneness to the mere allegory, by which some had explained away the history in the first chapter of Genesis, "when I hear of grass, I understand it to mean grass, and so of plants and fishes, and beasts, and cattle ; all of them, as they are spoken, so I receive. For neither am I ashamed of the Gospel." And a little further on :

"In the oracles of the Spirit, I desire to glorify Him, who has not employed our understanding on vain things, but has dispensed all so as to be written for our edification, and the perfecting of our souls. Of which truth, as I think, some not being aware, have tried, by I know not what allurements and figures of speech, to get the Scriptures credit for a kind of dignity, which in fact is of their own devising. But this is to make one’s self wiser than the oracles of the Spirit, and under the show of interpretation, covertly to introduce matter of our own. As it is written then, so let our understanding be."

(9.) There occurs however in the history of early corruptions one case, which would appear at first sight to militate strongly against the reality of the connection here supposed, between fantastic doctrine and interpretation merely allegorical. I mean the case of Marcion of Pontus. He distinguished himself from the main body of the heretics of his time, by denying that Scripture was ever to be understood in any sense but that of the bare letter : at the same time that he agreed with them in rejecting the truth of Christ’s Body, the resurrection of our bodies, and the other doctrines above alluded to.

But see what line Marcion was obliged to take, in consequence of this extraordinary combination of opinions. He boldly discarded the whole of the Old Testament, as the work of an evil, at least of an inferior being. He retained, moreover, of New Testament only one Gospel, St. Luke’s, and the Epistles of St. Paul. And, to make these at all seem to bear witness in his favour, he was constrained to dislocate and alter the text to a very considerable extent.

It is not within our present scope to show how inconsistent, after all, his admitted Scriptures were with his shadows of doctrine : Tertullian has done so at large, and with more, if possible, than his usual acuteness, in his two last books against Marcion : but the point material to be here noticed is, his sympathizing with the other heretics, and contradicting the Catholic Church, in his irreverence for the letter of Scripture : the only differences being, that he chose rather to take the ground of the Jews of his time, and, in effect, that of our modern rationalists, by denying the inspiration of the portions which most perplexed him ; instead of wresting them, as most heretics did, by various figures, to his own construction.

Thus it appears that the proceedings of Marcion form no such exception as should invalidate the general rule ; and the position stands good, that the Church of the Fathers, maintaining as it did the doctrines which the Docetæ denied, was very unlikely to give undue sanction to their merely allegorical mode of interpreting Scripture ; just as the same Church, even yet, arguing with rationalists, refuses to admit that "fire in the prophecy of St. John the Baptist is quenched with, the name of the Holy Ghost, or with the name of the Spirit, water dried up in the words of Christ"48, concerning the new birth.

(10.) The drift of all these antecedent probabilities is this: that whatever affirmations are found in ecclesiastical writers strongly in favour of the letter of holy Scripture, are to be credited for their full apparent amount ; but for those comparatively rare instances, in which they have permitted themselves to speak lightly of the literal meaning, every kind of allowance ought to be made; they must be taken, so to speak, at a considerable discount. Consider, for example, the opening sentences of St. Augustine’s treatise, De Genesi ad literam49. "The whole Scripture of God is twofold; according to the intimation of our Lord, when He said, ‘Every scribe instructed into the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, bringing out of his treasure things new and old.’ . . . . In the relation therefore of things done, one has always to inquire whether each particular is to be received in the figurative, sense only, or to be affirmed and maintained as to the actual verity of the facts. For to deny that there are things to be figuratively understood no Christian man will venture, remarking the words of the Apostle, ‘All these things befell them in figure ;’ as also where he commends to us, as a great mystery relating to Christ and the Church, the expression in Genesis, ‘And they two shall be one flesh.’"

This place has been quoted50 as an instance of extravagance in urging the secondary sense, on account, probably, of the possibility intimated in one part of it, that in some cases there may be no true literal or historical sense. But, according to the rule above laid down for interpreting the Fathers on this subject, it is but fair to understand by St, Augustine’s doubtful cases, those which may reasonably be considered more or less parabolical ; such as Nathan’s reproof of David, or our Lord’s account of the Prodigal Son. It would be doing him injustice, to charge him with throwing doubt hereby on any part of the series of sacred history.

On the other hand, when we find the same Father arguing as follows in favour of the reality of Paradise, and of the history of our first parents, we need not hesitate to believe, that he meant his argument to extend, as by parity of reasoning it would extend, to every other portion of the regular inspired narrative. He says51:

Those of our faith, who believe these divine books but like not to have Paradise understood according to the very letter, i. e. a most pleasant place, shaded with groves of fruit trees, of immense extent, too, and fertilized by a copious fountain; seeing as they do, without any labour of man, so many green glades overshadowed with forests by the secret working of the Almighty :—I wonder how they believe the corresponding narrative of the formation of the man, in a way like nothing which ever met their eyes. Or if that, too, must be understood figuratively ; who begat Cain, Abel, and Seth? Were they likewise mere figures, not men born of mankind? I would advise men therefore, narrowly to consider what is the drift of the notion they are inclined to assume, and to endeavour with us to understand all things, related as facts in the first instance, as they are literally expressed. That once done, every one will look kindly on their views of what the same things teach also by figurative expression, either of spiritual natures themselves and spiritual processes, or of events yet to come.

I grant that if we could not receive in a bodily sense the things here named as bodily, without doing violence to the faith of the truth, nothing would remain but that we must understand them to be figurative expressions, rather than cast impious reflections on Holy Scripture. But if the bodily acceptation of these things be so far from embarrassing, that it rather more firmly establishes, the general statements of God’s word, I should not expect to find any one so full of heathenish obstenacy, as to abide by any old opinion, which he may have formed in favor of the mere allegorical exposition, after seeing the whole explained literally in accordance with the Rule of Faith.

He then proceeds to state, as the very occasion of his writing that treatise, a wish to improve on a former exposition of Genesis, which he had undertaken against the Manichæans ; and in which, not being able at that time to make out the literal meaning, he had assigned to many things an interpretation merely allegorical52. He says:

"Still even then, keeping in mind that which was all along chiefly in my wish though beyond my power, vis. that every thing in the first instance should be understood not in figure but literally, and not despairing altogether that such an understanding might be acquired, I expressed that feeling in the opening of the second book. My words are, ‘Whosoever desires to understand every thing, according to the sound of the letter, provided he can avoid blasphemies, and all that he affirms be agreeable to the Catholic Faith, his labours must not be taken grudgingly : rather we must account of him as understanding the Scriptures in the proper sense of the word, understanding.’"

That such from the beginning was St. Augustine’s feeling,—that he always preferred the literal sense as the foundation, and only had recourse to the purely figurative, when, as he conceived, the analogy of the faith required it,—he gave the most satisfactory proof, by going over the same ground, writing a more literal commentary, when in process of time maturer reflection had brought to his knowledge more of the literal meaning.

(11.) I say, when the analogy of the faith required it ; for this is a very remarkable circumstance in the patristical mode of deviating from the letter of Scripture, especially as compared with those adopted by more modern interpreters : viz. that whereas these latter are commonly moved to set it aside by some apparent inconsistency with the truths of philosophy or history, some scruple of human reason ; the only sufficient plea for such deviation, in the judgment of such critics as St. Augustine, was the impossibility of reconciling the letter with the Rule of Faith. Thus, in the, passage quoted above, the excepted cases are described as follows: "Si nullo modo possent salve fide veritatis corporaliter accipi :" "Si nullus exitus datur, ut pie et digne Deo quæ scripta sunt intelligantur, nisi figurate proposita credamus." And let it, not be imagined that by the phrase, "pie et digne Deo," a door, is opened for the unlimited intrusion of each person’s private judgement. The phrase is sufficiently explained by one which had occurred a few lines above : "prædicare omnia congruentia fidei catholicæ." That was to be judged pious and worthy of God, which agreed, not with this or that man’s preconceived notions of the divine proceedings and attributes, but with the body of scriptural truth set forth by the Church from the beginning.

If, then, we may suppose St. Augustine here to speak the general sense of ecclesiastical writers on this subject, we shall see that the utmost extent, to which the Church encouraged the use of the exposition by mere allegory, was to bear with it as a possible or at most as a probable hypothesis, in cases where the letter seemed irreconcileable with the analogy of the Faith ; always allowing for the chance of some more favoured commentator solving the difficulty without this extreme resort.

(12.) But the true ecclesiastical rule of interpretation will be put in a stronger light, if we consider the case of Origen and his school, and the degree in which they incurred the suspicion, if not the censure, of the Church. And we may notice, by the way, a remarkable instance of the hard measure which has been dealt out to the Fathers, by those who were resolved, at all events, for whatever reason, to derogate from their authority. It is the usual manner of proceeding, with such writers as Daillé, Whitby, Middleton, and the rest, to quote largely from the censures of St. Jerome and others, pronounced on the Origenists for their extravagance in the allegorical way, and then to turn suddenly round, and use these same censures, as if they were applicable to the whole body of the Fathers ; especially to St. Jerome himself and the rest who were eager in promulgating them.

But surely the censure might speak the opinion of the Church, though, from human infirmity and inconsistency, the persons pronouncing it might themselves incur it elsewhere.

Again, it should be well considered whether St. Jerome, St. Basil, and others, commonly quoted on this matter, are deprecating the allegorical system itself, or only the particular abuse of it now under examination, viz. the occasional suppression of the letter for the allegory’s sake. It may be some help towards estimating rightly the judgment of the Fathers on the whole subject, if a few words be here added, first on the real amount of the concessions of the Alexandrian school in disparagement of the letter ; next on the real amount of Church censure, properly so called, which that school incurred, on that ground, in the person of Origen, the most renowned, and therefore perhaps the most obnoxious, of all its champions.

(13.) And first, as to the extent of liberty taken by Origen with the literal sense of the Bible: it is but just to begin with stating, that his faith in the plenary inspiration of Holy Writ, those parts of it even which he is most accused of denying, is as unquestionable as it can be rendered, both by the tone of cordial reverence in every part, and also by repeated glowing professions like the following53 :

By this brief demonstration of the divinity of Jesus, and application of the prophetical words concerning Him, we do in effect demonstrate at the same time the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures which prophesy of Him, and also of the writings which relate His sojourn here and His teaching ; writings, which were uttered with all authority and power, and have thereby become victorious over the elect portion of the Gentiles. It should be added that the divinity of the prophetic words, and the spirituality of Moses’ laws shone forth only in consequence of the [earthly] sojourn of Jesus. For evident proofs of the inspiration of the ancient Scriptures, before Christ’s sojourn here, it was not possible to exhibit ; but the Law and the Prophets, before liable to suspicion, whether they were indeed things Divine, had a clear light cast on them by the residence of Jesus on earth, as being composed and written by a grace from above. And he who with care and attention studies the prophetic words, feeling as he will on the bare reading a kind of enthusiasm stealing over him, will be convinced by his feelings that they are no writings of men, which we believe to be the words of God. The light, too, which existed before in the Law of Moses, wrapped up in a veil, shone forth at the time of our Lord’s abode here; the veil being taken away, and the good things, which were shadowed by the letter, coming gradually into full knowledge.

(14.) Next, I observe, that in general, i. e. with comparatively few exceptions, and those always particularly accounted for, Origen did not only receive the letter, but acknowledge the historical meaning, of the Holy Book. This will be sufficiently evident by a few citations, falling into two separate groupes. The first will consist of passages in which he inculcates his much canvassed maxim of a Triple Sense of Scripture : the other, of express or incidental cautions, in the course of his commentary, over and over enforced upon his hearers, not to lose sight of the letter in the brightness of the Spirit.

The Triple Sense of Scripture is most expressly set forth in a well-known passage of the Fourth Book p e r ì¢ a r c v n 54.

"We ought to transcribe into our own souls the meaning of the Holy Writings in three several ways : in the first place, that the simpler may be edified by what may be called flesh or body of the Scripture, by which name we denote the obvious, literal acceptation : in the next place, that he who has attained to a certain height, may receive edification from that which is as it were the soul of the same Scripture : thirdly, that he who is perfect, and like those of whom the Apostle speaks as fit to have wisdom spoken among them—wisdom not of this world—that they too may be edified out of that spiritual law, which has the shadow of good things to come. For as man is compounded of body, and soul, and Spirit, so is the Scripture, dispensed by God by way of gift for the salvation of men."

Again, in a noble passage of the Fifth Homily on Leviticus55,—which may be cited the more at length, on account of the light, which it seems to throw on the analogy above alleged, as existing between the doctrines of the Fathers and heretics respectively, and their methods of interpreting Scripture. He observes:

"The details of the law concerning sacrifices are to be received in a different sense from that which the literal text points out. Else, when they are publicly read in the Church, they tend rather to the hindrance and subversion of the Christian faith, than to the admonition and edification of men. But if we search and find in what sense these things are said, and mark them, as they ought who think of God, who is the declared author of these laws ; then the hearer will become a Jew indeed, but ‘a Jew inwardly,’ according to the distinction of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans; which distinction of the inward and outward Jew, certain impious heretics not understanding, have withdrawn themselves not from the Scriptures only, but from God also, the Giver of this law and of the divine Scriptures to mankind, and have feigned to themselves another god, besides the Maker of Heaven and Earth : whereas, as you know, the verity of the faith holds one and the same God of the Law and of the Gospel, the Creator alike of visible and invisible things: the rather, because the things visible retain with invisible no small affinity ; so that the Apostle affirms, ‘the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world,’ to be seen, ‘being understood by the things which are made.’ As therefore a mutual affinity exists between things visible and invisible, earth and heaven, soul and flesh, body and spirit, and of combinations of these is made up this present world : so also Holy Scripture, we may believe, is made up of visible and invisible parts : first, as it were, of a kind of body i. e. of the letter, which we see with our eyes : next of a soul, i. e. of the sense which is discovered within that letter : thirdly, of a spirit, so far as it contains also in itself certain heavenly things ; as says the Apostle, ‘they serve to the example and shadow of things celestial.’

"Such then being the case, let us, first calling on God, who made of Scripture both the body, and soul, and spirit—the body for those who were before us, the soul for ourselves, the spirit for those who in time to come shall obtain the inheritance of eternal life, whereby to win their way to the heavenly kingdoms ;—let us now seek that soul of the law, which I have mentioned, so far as belongs to our present subject."

(15.) One may remark, by the way, that the opening of this statement enables us in some measure to solve one principal difficulty connected with the allegorical method ; viz. how it came to pass that in public and popular discourses, discourses to the unbaptized, Origen and others, so continually and unreservedly publish these mystical expositions ; expositions which themselves repeatedly compare to strong meat, hardly fit therefore for the babes and beginners in Christ. This is to be accounted for, probably, much in the same manner as the publication of the Three Creeds, and putting the mysteries of our faith in every one’s mouth ; it was in itself not desirable, nay rather contrary to Church principles : but the Jews and perverse heretics made it necessary, each endeavouring, for their own purposes, to maintain that, the Old Testament was contrary to the New : a position which could not in strict reasoning be met satisfactorily, unless by divulging the secret of the allegorical meaning. Origen himself speaks feelingly of this difficulty, in the course of his remarks on the parable of the Unmerciful Servant56.

"But some one will say, are we not acting irreligiously in wishing these things to convey a meaning, because of the heavenly Book’s secret and mystical nature in some parts? Are we not wrong in trying to expound these things? however accurately, for argument’s sake, we may suppose ourselves to have made out the drift of them."

The tenor of his answer is this : that it was by no means his custom, to trust his ordinary hearers with all the mysterious wonders, which be seemed to himself faintly to discern in Scripture, but that be always suggested those which he judged best for edifying : of which edification, one necessary groundwork would be, the securing the flock against the prevailing heresies.

(16.) But to proceed with our reasons for attributing, even to the allegorical school, a high respect for the literal sense. Clement of Alexandria, Origen’s predecessor, in discoursing on the two senses (for it does not appear that it had occurred to him to distinguish the Moral from the Mystical ; as Origen afterwards did, influenced perhaps by a desire to retain together with the Christian interpretation as much as he could of the morality which he admired in Philo57 ;) Clement, I say, among other very many passages to the same effect, has one in which he refers to a tradition, remarkable at least for poetical force and beauty :

"When God took Moses to Himself, Joshua saw him in two forms ; in one with angels, in the other on the mountains and among the ravines receiving sepulchral honours. This sight Joshua beheld from above, being lifted up in the Spirit, together with Caleb. . . . The drift of the history being, I suppose, to show that true knowledge does not belong to all, but some behold only the body of the Scriptures, the words and sentences, as it were the body of Moses : others see through to the meaning and the things signified by the words, making that Moses who is with the angels the object of their search. In fact, of those who called on the Lord Himself, the greater part said only, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me ;’ but some few acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, as Peter ; whom also He blessed, because not flesh and blood had revealed to him the truth, but His Father, which is in heaven : Christ showed, that the perfect Christian recognises the Son of the Almighty, not by the flesh, which was conceived born, but by the very power of the Father."

Such passages as these lose their force, except we understand letter of Scripture to have, in the opinion of these writers, substantial meaning, as the bodies of our Lord and of Moses were real and substantial.

The same remark may be made on the only place, that I know of, in which Clement seems to come near the Origenian doctrine of the three significations. "The purport of the law," he says, "we must take, either as declaring to us some sign," (i. e. as it may seem, some instance of Divine interference,) "or as some commandment for right conversation, or as uttering oracle in the manner of a prophecy." Here it is plain that the first or historical meaning is by no means slighted or annulled, since to it is ascribed the office of declaring signs from heaven.

(17.) We may now proceed to some citations from Origen belonging to the second of the two classes specified above : cases, namely, in which he warns his hearers, more or less expressly, that the letter is by no means abolished. First, there is a remarkable fragment produced by the Martyr Pamphilus, which, on the whole, we may cite without scruple, notwithstanding the suspicions cast by St. Jerome and others, on the good faith or genuineness of the Apology for Origen, which went under Pamphilus’ name. For it has no relation to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which was the occasion of the corruptions specified by Jerome ; and again, it has all the internal evidence, which can arise from agreement with Origen’s ordinary interpretations. Thus then Pamphilus represents him as speaking of the evangelical narrative generally58.

"Though these things have a spiritual meaning, yet the truth of the history being first established, the spiritual sense is to be taken as something over and above. For what if our Lord, in a spiritual sense, be always curing the blind, when He casts His light on minds blinded with ignorance : yet He did not the less at that time heal one corporally blind. And He is ever raising the dead: yet He did then really perform wonders of that kind also, as when He raised Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son and Lazarus. And though at all times, when awakened by His disciples, He quiets the storms and whirlwinds of His Church; yet it is unquestionable that those things also, which are in the history, really took place on that occasion. This therefore is the only sound way of receiving the sense of Scripture; nor ought we to lend an ear to those who affirm, that He was born by Mary, not of Mary."

In which last sentence the connection above noticed is obvious, between the historical sense and Catholic doctrine.

The following are instances of detail, which prove how carefully Origen carried this rule out in practice. In his commentary on our Lord’s future coming in the glory of His Father with His angels, be had spoken thus59:

"Consider whether one say, that the Prophets in their sufferings of old bore an analogy to the Word, which had no form nor comeliness; but as the Son of Man cometh in the glory of His Father, so the Words abiding in the Prophets appear with Him, having become angels, keeping up in a kind of due proportion the glory which appertains to them."

This allusive exposition, modestly enough proposed, he follows up with words of caution. "These, things we say, by no means slighting the doctrine of the second coming of the Son of God, as it is more simply understood,"

In the commentary on Genesis60, he answers the trite objections to the history of the ark,—how it could contain, such a multitude of animals, and the like,—by a calculation as to its admeasurement, which supposes the account literally true ; and on this, foundation, proceeds to build his Allegorical exposition shewing that be did not spare trouble to avoid the allegory, wherever it seemed possible.

When he comes to the birth of Isaac, having quoted the well-known passage from the Epistle to the Galatians, he asks61,

"What then? Was not Isaac born after the flesh? Did not Sarah bear him? Was not he circumcised? This very sport of his with Ishmael, did it not take place in the flesh? This is the remarkable point in the Apostle’s exposition, that those things even, concerning which there can be no doubt of their having been done in the flesh, he affirms to be allegorical."

Having proposed a mystical interpretation of Abraham’s marriage with Keturah and his second family, he adds an observation, which evinces that he did not think of annulling the historical sense62.

"If we remember the historical notices of the generations derived from her, we shall the more easily make out [the truth] about several nations mentioned in the Scripture, e. g. where it is said that Moses married a daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian, which Midian we find was the son of Abraham by Keturah ; whereby we learn that Moses’s wife was of the seed of Abraham, and not an alien. . . . And the like you will find in the generations of Ishmael, which if you diligently look into, you will discover many points of history unperceived the generality."

Had it not been for these remarks coming in at the end, the whole tone of what he says about Keturah would lead one to suspect that he thought nothing of the literal sense : it is fair to conclude, therefore, that in other cases, where he is merely silent regarding it, he does by no means intend to disparage it.

(18.) Further, I observe that many of the passages, in which he seems at first positively and expressly to reject the historical sense, not only may, but in fairness must, be explained with very great mitigations. Sometimes he is only speaking by comparison, employing the same kind of figure as did the Prophet, when he wrote, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." Thus in discoursing of the history of Isaac63, he says, "As in the Lord there is nothing bodily, so in all these things take care to understand nothing bodily." Which words sound indeed like a plain denial, first of the reality of our Lord’s Incarnation, secondly of the truth of the narrative concerning Isaac : yet it is evident in the same page64 that Origen was orthodox in the former respect for he explains the real offering of the ram to represent the real suffering of Christ in the flesh, and the figurative offering of Isaac to represent the impassability of the Divine Word in the hour of crucifixion ; and we have seen before that he specifies the history of Isaac as an instance of the allegory not impairing the truth of the letter. Who does not see then that the expression "nothing bodily," must be taken in both clauses comparatively; "nothing merely outward and bodily?" And in all candour the same qualification should be adopted in all similar cases, whereever the context, or his opinion otherwise known, does not oblige us to understand him as going further. For example, a little further on in Genesis, having to explain a phrase, which seems tautological he says65, "As I have often had occasion to observe, in these things not histories are related, but mysteries are framed and put together :" evidently meaning not so much histories as mysteries and implying that details, which might appear triffling or irrelevant considered only in themselves, are often amply accounted for when you go to the secondary sense : a rule of sacred criticism, which is surely no way objectionable.

So again, in a fragment of a later part of his commentary on Genesis66, remarking on the fear expressed by the sons of Jacob, lest "Joseph should take them for bondsmen and their asses," he says, "It is improbable what is told of the sons of Jacob, that when they imagined themselves in so evil case they should have thought at all of their asses : except the expression is used allegorically." By which, we may understand him not to deny the fact of their so speaking, but to account for their being directed to such expressions.

Also in the account of the destruction of Ai, he says67 : "When the Jews read these things, they make themselves cruel, and after human blood," "putantes quia et sancti ita percusserunt eos qui habitabant Ai:" i. e. acting upon the idea that the saints did so and so; not as if the idea were a false one, but as if they reasoned wrongly about it: for a sentence just before shews that this is one of the places to be expounded comparatively. He had said, "These68 things which follow, belong rather to the truth of the mystery than of the narrative."

It may be as well to note here, that the word m n ¢ q o z , or fabula, for applying which to certain Old Testament histories, Origen has been very sharply censured, both in ancient and in modern times, did by no means imply, in his acceptation of it, the falsehood of the history so denominated. For he uses it of the history of Lot and his daughters, which he calls "famosissima fabula69" and yet it is clear from the whole context, that he believed the narration and reasoned on it as real. We ought not, therefore, to be too much startled, when we find him using the word fables, concerning the history of Paradise, and of man before the Fall : though it cannot be denied, that on this particular point he has trespassed on the honour of the letter, and has taken occasion from the evident figure contained in certain phrases (such as "they heard the voice of God walking in the garden,") to affirm that the whole of what then took place is told only in symbol and parable : not (observe) denying that it conveys a real history, but that the said history is throughout written, as it were in hieroglyphics. We are not of course called on to justify this proceeding, but it is desirable, on many accounts, to observe how far the error went.

(20.) We may just mention two other instances, on the former of which the accusers of Origen have very generally delighted to dwell. Both of them, however, a candid construction might perhaps solve on the principle now under consideration : viz. by supposing him rather to assert the superior importance than the exclusive truth, of the mystical interpretation. They both occur in the process of harmonizing the Gospels : the former in the accounts of our Lord’s going down to Galilee, in the early part of His ministry ; the other in those of His anointing, whether that occurred once, twice, or three times.

In the first instance, which has been already quoted for another purpose, Origen’s70 remark is, or appears to be (for there is an evident mutilation of the text):

"The very truth about these things must needs be stored up in the mystical exposition. If the discrepancy could not be solved, our faith concerning the Gospels must needs be impaired; as though they were either untrue, or uninspired, or as narratives not felicitously arranged."

Then having stated the difficulty, and challenged the opponents of the mystical sense to solve it on any other hypothesis, he remarks in general on the Gospel narratives.

"There are many other cases in which minute inquiry into the apparent historical discrepancies of the four Gospels will lead to one or other of these results; either the inquirer, feeling a kind of giddiness, will give up task of verifying them all in the strict sense, and will take up with one or other of them as it may happen; or receiving the whole four, will admit also that their truth does not lie in the outward and bodily characters wherein they are written."

To make his meaning plainer in this first clause, he puts the case71 of four persons, favoured with visions, relating the same Divine interposition, but varying in such a minute circumstance as this ; that the one saw the heavenly form sitting, the other standing ; yet each with truth represents that which his own mind perceived. And considering that the doings of our Lord on earth were a series of Divine visions, he says,

"Why should we blame the Evangelists, for sometimes giving, as it were, each a turn of his own to the things done by our Lord, according to His miraculous and most inconceivable power ;—sometimes interweaving into their narrative, in language taken from sensible things, what was revealed to them in a sense purely spiritual? Why should we blame them, though for edification’s sake they transpose facts, relating a thing in such a connexion, as to make it seem to have happened in one place or time, when in fact it happened in another?"

And then he makes the observation so severely censured :

"It was their purpose, when circumstances allowed, to speak truth both spiritually and literally; but where both could not be, to prefer the Spirit to letter, the spiritual truth being often preserved in what we may perhaps venture to call the literal and bodily falsehood."

In the other passage to be considered together with this72, he first states strongly the discrepancies of the literal sense, on the supposition that the several accounts of the woman anointing our Lord all relate to the same event; and the consequent reasonableness of supposing that they related to several persons and events. Then he adds, in a way which is readily understood as implying that he is now come to the solution which himself prefers,

"Perhaps some one rather bolder than ordinary will say, whether historically it were some one woman only who did an act of this kind, or whether you choose to suppose another, or a third, still, I say, first, that the main object of the Evangelists had respect to certain mysteries; secondly, that they were not so very anxious to relate according to historical truth, as to set forth the mysteries which arose out of the history. On which account, also they added certain discourses, suitable to, and in harmony with, the meaning of those mysteries."

(21.) Now concerning both these passages, let it not thought mere partiality, if we construe them as affirming more than a comparative exclusion of the literal meaning, a to enforce attention to the spirit, a deprecation of any unbelief or skepticism on account of literal difficulties very nearly to what is commonly said among ourselves, objections are alleged against the Scriptures from geological, astronomical, or other like incongruities, their letter. They are objections, people say, of a wrong kind ; it was not the object of the Scriptures to teach those matters. So here, comparatively speaking, we may understand this Father to say, "It was not the object of the Evangelists, simply to teach what happened to our Lord on earth, but to teach it with a view to the heavenly and Divine truths concerning Him."

Just as of the history at the beginning of Exodus he says73, "These things are not written for us," ad historiam, "as mere matters of history : neither are we to suppose that the divine books are relating the doings of the Egyptians." It is evident from the context, that he here means, "simply relating, for relating’s sake :" that he is far from denying the verity of the letter, however he may seem to undervalue its importance. In such cases be may be regarded as endeavouring to account, not so much for any supposed untruth in a narrative, as for its being constructed in a way to make it look untrue.

A case very much in point would be the statements, undoubtedly conflicting at first sight, of the process which our Lord adopted for healing the blind men at the gate of Jericho. Origen would say, and has said74, that such appearance of disagreement did not come of itself; that it was framed on purpose, draw attention to the moral and mystery of the transaction ; which, in, every such case, will be found to be wonderfully brought out, by a search wisely instituted to remove the historical difficulty.

(22.) A further mitigation of the censure due to him on this head may be derived from a remark of his Editor, De la Rue, who was at least enough on his guard against an editor’s partiality for his author. He states it as a strange, yet certain fact, that Origen perpetually confuses the literal interpretation of a passage as distinct from the mystical, with the literal sense of the words as distinct from the metaphorical75. "Quod pæne incredibile videtur, Origenem latuit discrimen quod literam inter et verborum literalem sensum intercedit." It would have been a guarded, and perhaps a more correct manner of speaking, had he said only, that Origen sometimes writes as if he were not aware of this difference.

To make the thing plain by example: among other instances of the New Testament having, as well as the Law, a letter which killeth, Origen alleges76 the precepts of our LORD, "If any man hath a purse, let him take it, and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one :" and "salute no man by the way ;" and e ìs i n e ¢ u n o u c o i o ì¢ e ¢ u n o ¢ u c i s a n e ¢ a u t o ùz òi a t h n b a s i l e ía n t v n o ¢ u r a n v n . These passages, all men will allow to be figurative ways of expressing a real precept. Now his oversight was, that he applied the same principle to passages, which seemed to him fraught with historical difficulties: as in the account of Sarah and Abimelech, of Issac and Rebecca, and the midwives of Egypt ; where his expressions are such as these : "If any one chuse to understand this merely according to the letter, he ought to seek his hearers rather among Jews than among Christians77," and "think you that these are no better than tales, and that the Holy Ghost is merely relating histories78?" and "of we take what is written concerning the midwives according to the historical narrative, it appears that such and such a thing cannot stand79." Yet if, the several histories be examined, it will be seen that to deny the truth of the fact is by no means necessary to his argument : the ends of which are sufficiently answered, by supposing him to deny, that this or that turn of expression was designed to be taken literally. Nay even according to his unfriendly editor’s statement, if he were not sufficiently aware of the distinction between phrases mystical and merely metaphorical, he was very likely to mean the milder assertion, i. e. that the figurative expression was designedly made paradoxical, when he seems to advance the stronger, i. e. that it wanted the foundation of literal truth.

For these and other like reasons, even though the school of Origen were a fair specimen of the old ecclesiastical interpretation, it would not follow that that interpretation could be charged with denying the letter, except in rare and difficult cases, where, as he has himself said, we miss altogether the historical meaning: "defectum patitur historialis intelligentia80."

(23.) But the matter is thrown out of all doubt, when we add to what has been said, the fact that the Church has virtually disowned all responsibility for the peculiar opinions of this renowned Father; partly by the sentence of a general Council, partly by the deliberate judgment of some of her chief lights of later days. It is in some respects unfortunate, that that portion of the fifth general Council, which contained the proceedings against those called Origenists, has not come down to our time: but in the decisions of the Council, it is to be observed, that no mention is made of the denial of the letter of Scripture, as one of the supposed errors of Origen. The errors which were maintained in his name,—most of which may be described as mere conjectures, expressed as conjectures by him, and afterwards advanced to the rank of tenets, philosophical or theological, by speculators who made the most of so high a sanction ; such as the pre-existence of souls, the manner in which the merits of the Redeemer may be applied to angelic natures, the supposed universal renovation, and the like:—these errors are enumerated in fifteen articles81 ; but the alleged abandonment of the literal sense of the Bible does not appear among them. However, the whole affair, coming as it does at the conclusion of three centuries of dispute, shows that there was no such blind deference to his authority, then or at any former time, as may render the Church liable on his account, to the charge of disparaging the letter of Holy Scripture.

(24.) The opinions of the most celebrated Fathers are collected by the Benedictine editor, in his preface to the second volume82. Such as the sentiment of St. Basil, in a passage quoted above83: "I know laws of allegory, though not by my own invention, yet by acquaintance with the labours of others : according to which, they who will not receive the ordinary sense of what is written, in the account of the Creation for example, affirm water not to mean water, but some other nature : and plants and fishes they expound at their own pleasure; and the formation of creeping things, and of wild beasts, they pervert according to inventions of their own, much like those who profess to interpret dreams." St. Chrysostom again, as cited by De la Rue, remarks, that the geographical situation of Paradise, "eastward in Eden," may have been purposely inserted by the Sacred Spirit, "to prevent those who are inclined to useless talk from deceiving the ears of the simple, by stating that Paradise is not in earth but in heaven, or putting about any other the like mythological dreams84."

It is to be observed, that neither these Fathers, nor St. Augustine when he expresses similar sentiments, make any mention of the name of Origen : although Augustine, in more than one passage; condemns him by name, for the same doctrinal errors which were afterwards censured in the second Council of Constantinople. But they seem to have observed a kind of tenderness towards him, which makes their express warnings the more striking, and at the same time leaves room to suppose, that, according to the view which has been taken above, they might regard him as leading others to deny the letter of the Bible, than as being himself guilty of such an error on any large scale.

St. Jerome and Epiphanius, as is well known, were less scrupulous in their attacks on Origen, probably (at least in part) as living among persons who were continually pushing his speculations into heresy. Nothing can be more express than protests against him85, addressed to John, Patriarch of Jerusalem, for turning the Scriptures into mere allegory, as far as the history before the fall was concerned.

Yet, as is often sarcastically alleged by the detractors of Ancients, not even Origen himself abounds more in mystical and figurative interpretations than did these two distinguished Fathers, St. Jerome and St. Augustine. Are we to conclude that such men wrote at random, and did not know their own mind on such a very serious point, as a rule of interpretation extending through the whole Scriptures? Must we rather conclude, that their censure of Origen as an allegorist, which, generally speaking, we may accept as the censure of the Church, went thus far, and no further? viz. to blame him for supposing that the literal sense would ever entirely vanish, however impossible it may be for us at times to ascertain it, however inferior it may generally or always be, in comparison with the mystical sense: to blame him, again, for objecting to it, as he sometimes occasionally does, (contrary however to his own declared rule) on grounds not flowing from the analogy the faith as held and interpreted by the Church, but such as we should call rationalistic ; such as a thing being to our minds inconsistent with the majesty of the Deity. Lastly, and perhaps principally, we may understand them to blame him for too great boldness and luxuriance, in advancing interpretations, not in any way received by tradition, but devised by his own thoughts. But not in an sense can they be said to condemn him simply for maintaining the double sense of the old Scriptures, in the very way, wherein, as we have seen, the whole body of Christian writers, from St. Barnabas and St. Clement downwards, had maintained it.

(25.) And this is true not only of Jerome and Augustine, whose love for allegory is well known, but also of the other two names, Basil and Chrysostom, who are comparatively remarkable for reserve in such interpretations. Yet Basil, on the Psalms, repeatedly refers to our Lord expressions, which would be commonly interpreted of the Psalmist only. And Chrysostom (to say nothing of his practice) in the very passage which is cited from him so decidedly condemning Origen, points out the necessity of understanding all things q e o t r e p v z 86.

"‘The Lord God Paradise.’ Consider, beloved ; if we do not understand these things in a sense becoming the Almighty, we shall needs be carried over a deep precipice. For what can they say concerning this word, ‘planted,’ who dare to take all the words concerning the Deity in a human sense? Did God need tools and husbandry, and other such process, to adorn Paradise? God forbid .... Against this, [as against the mere allegory,] let us stop our ears, and follow the rule of the Scripture. And when thou hearest, ‘God planted a garden in the East,’ take care to conceive of the word ‘planted’ in a divine sense concerning God, that He gave order for such a thing to be ; but as to the next word, believe thou that Paradise really was formed, and in where the Scripture hath pointed it out. For not to believe the things set down in the divine Scripture, but rather to introduce other things of one’s own mind, must, I conceive, bring extreme danger to those who venture on such a proceeding."

On the other hand, in his exposition of the 47th Psalm87, he says, speaking of the verse, "O clap your hands, all ye people;"

"With reason one might one take this Psalm according the mystical sense, rising above the literal meaning. For though it takes its beginning and prelude from things sensible, it guides the hearer to the things, which are merely spiritual. For, as I have said before, so now I say again, some we must take as they are said, some contrary to the e. g. when it is said, the wolf shall lie down with the lamb. Some in both senses ; as the sacrifice of Abraham, and the first paschal lamb."

Compare this passage with the former, and it will be plain that while St. Chrysostom was earnest in condemning the too free speculations of a later age, there was nothing contrary to the mode of exposition, which, as we have seen, was adopted by the Fathers before Origen.

On the whole, we may assume that the Mysticism of the ancient Church (whatever might be said of some individuals) was very far from interfering with the truth of the history. The next point will be to show, that neither did it interfere with moral truth, i. e. it did not, by prophetical exposition, of certain questionable parts of the Patriarchs’ conduct, annul or confound the judgement of the well-informed moral sense, as to the rectitude such conduct. This however must be made matter of separate investigation.

  1. In 1631
  2. Pref.. § 2. ed. 1714.
  3. Pref. p. xxxii
  4. Bishop Law, as quoted by Middleton, p. 57.
  5. Bp. Van Mildert, B. L. 239, ap. Horne, Introd. ii. 724; Macknight, oil St. Paul’s Ep. iv. 439.
  6. Pref. p. 8, 9.
  7. Whitby, pp. 201-3
  8. Ibid. Pref. lxxvi-lxxviii.
  9. p. 57
  10. C. xvi.
  11. C. xii.
  12. Ep. S. Barnab. C. ix.
  13. For example, S. Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 84 ; S. Ambr. de Fide, i. init. and § 121; S. Aug. Quæst. in Jud. 37; S. Hil. de Synod. 86.
  14. Compare Gen. 17:27; 14:14
  15. See Isai. 56:7; Jer. 7:11.
  16. Strom. vi. 11.
  17. In loc. S. Barn.
  18. De Doct. Christ. ii. 22.
  19. De Civ. Dei, xviii. 43.
  20. Heb. 9:15-20.
  21. S. Aug. ubi sup.
  22. Prolog. in Gen. t. ix. p. 10. Ed. Vallars. Venet. 1770.
  23. I Cor. 12:28.
  24. De Cor. Mil. c. 3.
  25. De S. S. Interp. p. 9.
  26. See S. Jerome on Ezek. ix.4. t. v. pars i. P. 95,6
  27. S. Barnab. Ep. c. xi.
  28. Opp. p. 312—314.
  29. Free Inquiry, &c. p. 29.
  30. p. 367 c.
  31. 2 Apol. p. 90. B.
  32. Lamentations 4:20.
  33. Ep. 86. Ed. Fell, p.231.
  34. C. xxiii. 29.
  35. 1 Ep. ad Cor. c. xii.
  36. i. 18.
  37. iv. 37.
  38. Dial. cum Tryph. p. 338. D.; Ed. Paris 1636.
  39. De Civ. Dei, xvi. 2.
  40. See Warburton, Int. to Julian, Works, iv. 340, 341. Ed. 1788.
  41. In Joan. t. x. c. 2.
  42. Hom. 2. in Gen. § 3.t.ii. 63. A. Ed. Bened. 1733.
  43. Comm. In Matt. xiv. § 11 t.iii. 629. B, C, E.
  44. In Matt. xv. § 31 t.iii. 699. B.
  45. Ep. 137. § 18, t. ii. p. 310.
  46. III. 5.
  47. Hexaëm. ix.
  48. Hooker, E. P. v. 50. 3.
  49. t. iii. pars 1. p. 90; Ed. Bened. 1702
  50. Whitby, Pref. in Diss. de Interp. S. S. p. lviii.
  51. De Genes ad lit. viii. 4.
  52. Ibid. 5.
  53. De Princip. iv. 6. t. i. 161.
  54. § xi. t. i. 168.
  55. § i. t. ii, p. 205.
  56. In Matt. Hom. xiv. § 12, t. iii. p. 630. D.
  57. Strom. vi. c. xv. § 132.
  58. Apol. pro Orig. p. 36; D. ad calc. Orig. Ed. Bened. t. iv.
  59. In Matt. xii. 30. ; tom. Iii. 549. A.
  60. In Gen. Hom. 2. t. ii. p. 59—63.
  61. Ibid. 7, § 2 ; t. ii. p. 78. C, D.
  62. Ibid. 11, § 2 ; t. ii. p. 90. C.
  63. Ibid. 8. 10. t. ii. p. 83.
  64. Ibid. § 9.
  65. Ibid. 10. 4. t. 11. p. 88.
  66. On c. 43, 13. t. ii. p. 48. E.
  67. In Jesu Nave Hom. viii. 7. t. ii. p. 417. B, C.
  68. Ibid. § 6.
  69. In Gen. Hom. v. 3. t. ii. p. 74. F.
  70. In Joan. Comm. x. 2. t. iv. 162. B.
  71. Ibid. § 3, 4
  72. In Matt. Comm. Series, § 77. T. iii. p. 892, 3.
  73. In Exod. I. § 5. t. iii. p. 131. E.
  74. Comm. in Matt. tom. 16. § 12. t. iii. 732.
  75. Pref. in t. ii. p. xvil.
  76. Comm. in Matt. t. xv. 2. tom. iii. 653.
  77. In Gen. Hom. vi. i. t. ii. p. 76, D.
  78. In Gen. Hom. x. 2. t. ii. p. 87. F.
  79. In Exod. Hom. ii. 1. t. ii, p. 133. E.
  80. Hom. in Gen. vii. 5. t. ii. 80. B.
  81. Vid. Harduin. Concil. t. ii. p. 286—288.
  82. P. xxiii.
  83. Hexaëm. Hom. ix. § i.
  84. In Gen. Hom. xiii. t. i. p. 80.
  85. Epiph. Epist. ad Joan. Ierosolym. ap Hieron. t. i. 247, &c.; Ed. Vallars. 1766; Hieron. contra Joan. Ierosol. § 7 ; t. ii. 413.
  86. Hom. 13, in Gen. t. i. p. 80, lin. 29, Ed. Savile.
  87. t. i. 652, 16.
  88. In Esai. lib. i. 4 ; t. i. p. 113.
  89. T. i. p. 2. C. ed. Aubert. Paris. 1638.
  90. Contra Celsum, iv. 48, 43, 45.
  91. Ibid. § 44; p. 537, B
  92. Ibid. § 48; t. i. p. 540
  93. De Civ. Dei, viii. 7.
  94. Ibid. cap. 10
  95. Contra Celsum. Iii. 75.
  96. Strom. i. 99 ; vi. 44.
  97. Ibid. i. 38 ; vi. 45.
  98. Ibid. i. 73.
  99. Ibid. vii. 87.
  100. Contr. Faust. Lib. xxii. 26.
  101. Ibid. xxii. 27.
  102. Ibid. xxii. 73
  103. Quæst. in Jud. xlix. 4. t. iii. p. i. 456. D.
  104. Contr. Faust. xxii. 74.
  105. Ibid. § 79.
  106. In I Reg. qu. 34. t. i. 379. Ed. Schulze
  107. Comm. in Hos. t. iii. 13. C.
  108. Contr. Faust. xxii. 23.
  109. Lib. iv. 29. (1 Cor)
  110. de Mendacio 32. t. vii. p.341.E.
  111. Contr. Faust. xxii. 24.
  112. Lib. iv. § 37, p. 333.lin. 32. Ed. Grabe.
  113. Ibid. iv. 37, p. 336. 26.
  114. Contr. Cels. iv. 43. t. i. p. 537. C.
  115. Apol. p. 40. D. t. I ; Paris, 1609.
  116. Contr. Mendac. ad. Consent. c. 24, t. vi. 337 D
  117. De Jacob et vita beata, II. 6; t. i. 546
  118. In Gen. Hom. 43 ; t. i. 415. 7. Ed. Savil.
  119. De Jacob et vita beata, II. 9; t. i. 546
  120. Ap. Galland. Bibl. Patr. t. ii. 485. B.
  121. Serm. iv. § 16 ; t. v. 13. D.
  122. Ibid. § 15—2, 23
  123. Ibid. § 21.
  124. Ibid. § 24.
  125. Contr. Faust. xxii. c. 59.
  126. Lib. iv. c. 38.
  127. e. g.
  128. St. John Chrysostom in Gen. Hom. 29, t. i. 226. Ed. Savil
  • Ep. 63. Ed. Fell. p. 149
  • Contr. Cels. iv. 45; in Gen. Hom. V. 5.
  • In Gen. Hom. V. § 4, 5.
  • St. Augustin, Contr. Faust. xxii. 43 ; St. Irenæus. iv. 51; St. Ambrose. De Abraham. i. 56.
  • Lib. iv. 45. p. 345. Ed. Grab.
  • Ibid. p. 346.
  • Ibid. iv. cap. 50.
  • Ibid. iv. cap. 51.
  • Ibid. iii. 37.
  • Contr. Faust. xxii. 36.
  • Genesis 20:13
  • Quæst. in Exod. 141. t. 3. pars i. 347 : comp. Theodoret on Exod. qu. 66. t. i. 170.
  • In Num. qu. 37. t. i. 245
  • In Gen. qu. 90. t. i. p.98.
  • Ibid. qu. 95. p. 103.
  • in 3 Reg. qu. 43. t. i. 487—490
  • Contra Mendac. ad Consent. § 26. t. vi. 339 : compare his correspondence with St. Jerome. t. ii. 64, 131, 148, etc.
  • Contra Faust. 1. xxii.
  • In Gen. qu. 56, 70, 95.
  • T. i. 823, etc.
  • Ep. 68.
  • Contra Faust. xxii. 41. t. vi. 273.
  • Ibid. § 82. p. 292-3.
  • e. g.
  • Whitby, p. 8 ; 345 ; & Pref. p. ix.
  • De Div. Servand. § 29. p. 952. Ed. Potter.
  • Lib. iii. 19. p. 244. Ed. Grab.
  • p. 272. C. Ed. 1736
  • In Joan. tom. x. 18. t. iv. 190. D.
  • In Luc. lib. ix. 5.
  • In Joan. Tract. 51. § 5. t. iii. pars. i. p. 462. A.
  • In Joan. x. t. iv. 189. E.
  • Works. xv. 77. Ed. Heber.
  • "Ride on triumphantly : behold we lay
    Our lusts and proud wills in Thy way.
    Hosanna ! welcome to our hearts. Lord here
    Thou hast a Temple too, and full as dear
    As Sion, and as full of sin.
    Nothing but thieves and robbers dwell therein—
    Enter, and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor," etc.

  • T. iv. 187. D.
  • De Bapt. c. 9.
  • P. 998. Ed. Potter.
  • Agam. 689, Ed. Butler,
  • t íz p o q ’ w n o m a x e n w d ’

    e z t o p a n e t h t u m w z ,

    m h t i z o n t i n o u k o r v m e n ,

    p r o n o i a s i t o u p e p r w m e n o u

    g l v s s a n e n t u c a n e m w n ; k . t . l .

  • In Joan. tom. ii. 27. t. iv. p. 86.
  • Ibid. vi. 24. t. iv. 140. C.
  • Ibid. p. 141. B.
  • Ep. 108. § 10 ; t. i. 698 C.
  • 699. D ; 700. A.
  • Comm. in Ezech. lib. ix. c. 28 ; t. v. pars i. p. 339. D.
  • S. Clem. Protrept. c. i. 10.
  • Serm. 279. 2. t. v. 788. E
  • In Epist. ad Rom. lib. x. 14 ; t. iv. p.679. D.
  • In Act. Apost. Hom. 21, t. iv. p. 732. 1. 33.
  • Strom. v. § 33.
  • In Matth. tom. xi. 2 ; t. iii. 477. B.
  • In Luc. lib. vi. 80.
  • In Joan. tr. 24-5.
  • De Div. Quæst. 61 ; tom. vi. 24. F.
  • Nihil vacuum, neque sine signo apud Deum. Iren. iv. 21 ; ed Bened. It seems to have been a sort of Christian Proverb.
  • Orig. ubi supra.
  • Strom. v. 81.
  • Quæst. Evang. i. 12 ; Serm. cxi. t. v. 392.
  • In Luc. vii. 187, etc.
  • In Joan. i. 6.
  • iv. 39.
  • In S. Luc. x. 47.
  • In Jerem. Hom. xviii. 13. t. iii. 256. C.
  • In Luc. lib. ix. 48.
  • In Rom. ii. 5. t. iv. 480. B.
  • In Joan. t. ii. 29. tom. iv. 89. D.
  • In Ep. ad Rom. lib. vii. 4. t. iv. 597, 598.
  • De Div. Servand. 29.
  • In Matt. xv. 27. t. iii. 692.
  • Strom. i. 23.
  • Quæst. in Matth. v. t. iii. pars 2, p. 201. C. ; in Ps. 90. Serm. 2. § 7, t. v. 733. E.
  • De Unit. Eccl. t. i. 110. Ed. Fell.
  • Pædag. i. 26.
  • In Joan. vi. 3, t. iv. 108. C.
  • De Doctr. Christ. ii. 46.
  • Ibid. ii. 45.
  • Hexaëm. ii. 3.
  • Lib. iii. 8, t. i. 41.
  • Comp. St. Amb. Hex. vi. 8 ; ii. 7.
  • Hexaëm. v. 7. T. i. 47. C. Ed. Bened. 1721.
  • Ibid. vi. i. t. i. 50. E.
  • P. 333. Ed. Grab.
  • de Libero Arbitrio, ii. 41.
  • Ibid. 43
  • De Trin. vi. 12.
  • Hex. vi. 6.
  • Ibid. i. 16.
  • Ibid. § 21
  • Ibid. ii. 15
  • Ibid. iii. 2-6.
  • Ibid. § 24.
  • Ibid. v. 2. t. i. 41. D.
  • Ibid. v. 5. p. 44. B.
  • Ibid. iii. 36.
  • Ibid. v. 6. t. i. 45. A.
  • Ibid. v. 7. t. i. 46, 47.
  • Ibid. iii. 69.
  • Ibid. § 71
  • Ibid. iv. 7.
  • Ibid. § 32.
  • Ibid. § 22.
  • Ibid. viii. 8. t. i. 78. E.
  • Ibid. v. 62
  • Ibid. vi. 26, 27.
  • De Civ. Dei, xi. 26.
  • Ibid. § 28.
  • Ibid. § 28.
  • Hex. vi. 58.
  • i. e.
  • when people cross themselves
  • Hex. vi. 68.
  • Ibid. § 69.
  • Ibid. § 74.
  • Ep. 63. p. 153, 154. Ed. Fell.
  • Hex. v. 79.
  • Ibid. v. 64, 65.
  • Kirby and Spence, Introd. Entomology, vol. ii. 46.
  • Heb. viii. 2 ; ix. 24.
  • iii. v. 17.
  • Ibid. ii. vii. 1.
  • t. i. 113, 27. Ed Reiske.
  • I. i. 2.
  • Isaiah lxv. 17 ; Rev. xxi. 1.
  • De Doctr. Chr. iii. 35. t. iii. pars i. 42. D.
  • Ibid. § 38.
  • Ibid. ii. 7.

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