FOUR SENSES OF SACRED SCRIPTURE
Technical problems with Google indexing have made it desirable to re-post all of our material. I hope you will find interest in reflecting with me, on the history of the Church over the centuries and during the life of the Blog which began on 14th December 2009. This post first appeared on 4th November 2010.
“The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.”
What is it all about? Catholics have long held that there are Four Senses in which Sacred Scripture can be understood: Literally and Spiritually which latter can be divided into Allegorical, Moral and Anagogical. This Catholic concern for the whole meaning of Sacred Scripture is part of the many things that separate fundamentalist organizations from the Church founded by Christ. (They are ultra literalist.)
The Catechism teaches us that the Holy Spirit has inspired and directed the human authors of Sacred Scripture, and in seeking to interpret the Scripture we must do so in the light of that same Spirit. To do so intelligently, we must take into account the culture and times of the authors, the literary genre they have adopted (e.g. historical, poetic, prophetic or apocalypse)
Vatican II also tells us that we must always consider that every part of Sacred Scripture must be considered in relation to the content and unity of the whole of Sacred Scripture and "the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God.” The Council also tells us that we must read Sacred Scripture within the Living Tradition of the whole Church, and also in a manner consistent with the coherence of the whole of the faith of the Church and the total plan of Revelation.
The Four Senses of Sacred Scripture are
Literal – that is to say, the direct meaning of the words discovered by exegesis and sound interpretation.
The Spiritual sense is of course based on the literal and has three divisions: the
Allegorical – in this sense we see the significance of past events in the light of Christ’s life: e.g. the Crossing of the Red Sea as a type of Christ’s victory or, alternatively of Christian Baptism.
The Moral Sense reveals the inspiration in the events of Sacred Scripture for us to act justly.
The Anagogical Sense can lead or inspire us toward Heaven e.g. seeing the Church on earth as a sign of the Heavenly Jerusalem
St.Augustine gets the last word: “But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me...”