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DISPUTATION IX ON THE MEANINGS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

The legitimate and genuine sense of the holy Scriptures is, that which the Holy Ghost, the author of them, intended, and which is collected from the words themselves, whether they be received in their proper or in their figurative signification; that is, it is the grammatical sense, as it is called. II. From this sense, alone, efficacious arguments may be sought for the proof of doctrines. III. But, on account of the analogical similitude of corporeal, carnal, natural, and earthly things, and those belonging to the present life, to things spiritual, heavenly, future and eternal, it happens that a double meaning, each of them certain and intended by the author, lies under the very same words in the Scriptures, of which the one is called "the typical," the other "the meaning prefigured in the type" or "the allegorical." To this allegorical meaning, we also refer the analogical, as opposed in a similar manner to that which is typical. IV. From these meanings, that which is called "the ethiological" and "the tropological" do not differ, since the former of them renders the cause of the grammatical sense, and the latter contains an accommodation of it to the circumstances of persons, place, time, &c. V. The interpretation of Scripture has respect both to its words and to its sense or meaning. VI. The interpretation of its words is either that of single words, or of many words combined; and both of these methods constitute either a translation of the words into another language, or an explanation [or paraphrase] through other words of the same language. VII. Let translation be so restricted, that, if the original word has any ambiguity, the word into which it is translated may retain it: or, if that cannot be done, let it have something equivalent by being noted in the margin. VIII. In the explanation [or paraphrase] which shall be made by other words, endeavours must be used that explanatory words be sought from the Scriptures themselves. For this purpose, attention to the synonymy and phraseology will be exceedingly useful. IX. In the interpretation of the meanings of the words, it must be sedulously attempted both to make the sense agree with the rule or "form of sound words," and to accommodate it to the scope or intention of the author in that passage. To this end, in addition to a clear conception of the words, a comparison of other passages of Scripture, whether they be similar, is conducive, as is likewise a diligent search or institution into its context. In this labour, the occasion [of the words] and their end, the connection of those things which precede and which follow, and the circumstances, also, of persons, times and places, will be principally observed. X. As "the Scriptures are not of private or peculiar explanation," an interpreter of them will strive to "have his senses exercised" in them; that the interpretation of the Scriptures, which, in those sacred writings, comes under the denomination of "prophecy," may proceed from the same Spirit as that which primarily inspired the prophecy of the Scriptures. XI. But the authority of no one is so great, whether it be that of an individual or of a church, as to be able to obtrude his own interpretation on the people as the authentic one. From this affirmation however, by way of eminence, we except the prophets and the apostles. For such interpretation is always subjected to the judgment of him to whom it is proposed, to this extent -- that he is bound to receive it, only so far as it is confirmed by strength of arguments. XII. For this reason, neither the agreement of the fathers, which can, with difficulty, be demonstrated, nor the authority of the Roman pontiff, ought to be received as the rule of interpretation. XIII. We do not wish to introduce unbounded license, by which it may be allowable to any person, whether a public interpreter of Scripture or a private individual, to reject, without cause, any interpretations whatsoever, whether made by one prophet, or by more; but we desire the liberty of prophesying [or public expounding] to be preserved entire and unimpaired in the church. This liberty, itself, however, we subject to the judgment of God, as possessing the power of life and death, and to that of the church, or of her prelates who are endowed with the power of binding and loosing.

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