Friday, 22 February 2008
The Literal and Spiritual Sense of Scripture
This post inaugurates the second section of my overarching thread dealing with the theological exegesis of Brevard S. Childs. An overview of the total structure can be seen in my programmatic statement here.
I have already established here that a theological approach to Scripture must first classify the text as a “witness” to divine truth. This introduces a distinction between the mere verbal sense of the individual texts and the reality to which they give partial access. When the verbal sense of the text is provisionally relabelled the literal sense and the ultimate referent the spiritual sense, we can see the continuity of Childs' approach with traditional Christian exegesis. Theological reflection must ultimately be on the text's subject matter, so that the basic thrust of theological interpretation is from the literal to the spiritual. This move also gives the concept of allegory a new currency, as long as allegory is understood to be a means of moving to the text's ultimate subject matter while respecting the literal sense of text itself (i.e. its “integrity” or its “own voice,” what Seitz calls its “per se witness”). For how these two dimensions of the text relate to each other, stay tuned!