Thursday, 19 March 2009

Thomas à Kempis as canonical exegete?

Here is Thomas á Kempis on theological hermeneutics, taken from his The Imitation of Christ: Of the Reading of Holy Scripture (15th C.):

“Charity is to be sought in Holy Scripture and not eloquence. And it should be read with the same spirit that it was first made. We ought also to seek in Holy Scripture ghostly profit rather than curiosity of style, and as gladly shall we read simple and devout books as books of high learning and cunning. Let not the authority of thine author mislike thee, whether he were of great cunning or little: but let the love of the very pure truth stir thee to read. Ask not who said this, but take heed what is said. Men pass lightly away, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

Almighty God speaketh to us in His Scripture in divers manners without accepting of persons: but our curiosity oft hindereth us in reading of Scripture, when we will reason and argue things that we should meekly and simply pass over. If thou wilt profit by reading of Scripture, read meekly, simply, and faithfully, and never desire to have thereby the name of cunning. Ask gladly and hear meekly the sayings of Saints, and mislike not the parables of ancient Fathers, for they were not spoken without great cause.”

I think that's a great characterisation of the canonical approach, with its emphasis on the substance of the text, its res. I wonder what impact this could have on the guild of Biblical studies?
Udpate: Ben Myers of Faith and Theology has an excellent related quote by Autustine, in We don't interpret Scripture, Scripture interprets us.


Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

Have you read vol. 2 of Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics which looks at the Reformed approach to Scripture? It makes for interesting reading and I will be posting some extracts on my blog in the not too distant future.

Phil Sumpter said...

No, but I look forward to reading your extracts. Thanks for the tip.