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Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture: Volume 2 (Ressourcement) [Paperback]

By Henri De Lubac (Author)
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Item description for Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture: Volume 2 (Ressourcement) by Henri De Lubac...

The famous Jesuit cardinal sought to revitalize Catholic theology by studying patristic thought. This volume probes the intricate meanings of fourfold allegory.

Publishers Description
Originally published in French as Ex g se m di vale, Henri de Lubac's multivolume study of medieval exegesis and theology has remained one of the most significant works of modern biblical studies. Available now for the first time in English, this long-sought-after second volume of Medieval Exegesis, translated by E. M. Macierowski, advances the effort to make de Lubac's major study accessible to the widest possible audience.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   452
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.24" Width: 6.24" Height: 0.96"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 4, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Series  Ressourcement  
ISBN  0802841465  
ISBN13  9780802841469  

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Henri De Lubac has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Ressourcement: Retrieval & Renewal in Catholic Thought

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Reviews - What do customers think about Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture: Volume 2?

A successful ressourcement of the Fathers  Jan 9, 2005
"There are people who take great pains to twist the sense of the divine scriptures, and make everything written therein serve their own ends," the fourth-century Antiochene biblical scholar, Theodore of Mopsuestia once observed. "They dream up silly fables in their own heads and give their folly the name of allegory. They misuse the apostle's term as a blank authorization to abolish all meanings of divine scripture." The employment of allegory in scriptural exegesis as a bone of contention is not a new debate, but it seems not unreasonable to think that contemporary misunderstandings of it are not much less prevalent than in Theodore's day - a gap which the conciliar ressourcement movement sought eagerly to fill by returning to patristic sources. One of the earliest fruits of the ressourcement effort, Henri de Lubac's four volume Medieval Exegesis, is finally finding its way into English translation four decades later - but is no less welcome for the delay.

The latest volume now available in English, The Four Senses of Scripture, simultaneously presents vast learning with conceptual esotericism that is at times difficult to fully overcome without familiarity with the first volume in the series, let alone some minimal scholarly familiarity with the field of study. But that Volume 2 succeeds at a ressourcement of patristic and medieval scriptural exegesis - the "Queen of Arts" - is not open to dispute. De Lubac's familiarity with and employment of original sources is little short of staggering (with no less than 200 pages of footnotes, roughly half the throw weight of the book). St. Jerome once famously asked: "Has anyone read everything that Origen wrote?" It is hard to think that de Lubac has not, or at least of what survives, at any rate, and after reading The Four Senses of Scripture, it seems hard to disagree with Lawrence Cunningham's observation that "there seems to be nothing that de Lubac did not read in the period."

Nonetheless The Four Senses of Scripture is at heart what its title purports to be: a broad overview of the four "senses" of Scripture in patristic and medieval exegesis, which de Lubac presents in the most commonly used terms when exegesis reached its medieval maturity: 1) the literal or historical; 2) allegory; 2) tropology; and 4) anagogy. De Lubac opens with what almost amounts to an introductory chapter on the nature and development of the senses of scripture in (primarily) patristic scholarship, though much of it is devoted to defending it against Reformation and modern misunderstanding, i.e., of "metamorphizing biblical history into philosophy" in the vein of Philo (p. 13-14). The difficulty is the one shared in large measure by Theodore: the employment by Fathers such as Origen of allegorical tools developed by pagan philosophers to discover philosophical insights into what was increasingly perceived as fantastical and obviously fictitious legends of Greek mythology. Too often the presumption was (and still is) made that Faithers like Origen were attempting to similarly service Christian and Jewish Scriptures because they employed some of the same exegetical tools. De Lubac is blunt in asking the question being begged: "Is it necessary to admit that a considerable part of this exegesis had sold biblical history short or just treated history as pagan philosophy treated Greek mythology?" (p. 15) De Lubac's answer is equally blunt: "Absolutely not." De Lubac makes clear that Christian and pagan allegory use analogous procedures, but "are two opposed methods, from two opposed doctrines" (p. 19) - the fundamental difference being that Christian scholars clearly and adamantly viewed Scriptures as being grounded in historical fact, not, a la Homer, mythological fiction. De Lubac notes the delicious irony that if one truly wants to find Christian imitators of the ancient allegorizing pagan mythologists, one must turn to the last century and a half; if anything, the strictly historical parts of the Bible for Origen "would be much larger than for us." (p. 14) Yet, notes de Lubac, many of these same late 19th and early 20th century biblical scholars (Bauer, Wellhausen, Bate, Frank, Margival, Guy, etc.) had difficulty coming to grips with this fundamental distinction. It is a point of minor frustration that de Lubac declines to explore more fully how this line of thinking came to be - even if it is, concededly, not strictly intrinsic to his purpose at hand.

Fundamental to de Lubac's work is his development and conceptual division of the four senses of scripture - a development which originally took the cruder form of a tripartite formula which by its analogous division into body (the letter), the soul (the tropological or moral sense), and spirit (the mystical or allegorical sense), which never formed a real framework but did offer "great pedagogical advantage" for preachers (p. 28). A more developed, fourfold division which was (argues de Lubac) implicit in many of the Fathers was dictated by the demands of the Medieval Church: the two senses which address "things below" or man's relation to man (history and tropology); and "divine and heavenly things," or man's relations with God (allegory and anagogy) (p. 31-32) - a system first seen in the Venerable Bede (7th century) and fully fleshed out by the scholastics. At root, however - and in a manner which de Lubac fails to fully reconcile with the aforesaid quadripartite framework in a fully satisfactory way - are the two basic senses first addressed in the second chapter of Volume 1 of The Four Senses: which is to say, roughly, the literal and the spiritual.

It remains for the subsequent four chapters (7-10) to fully explore each of the four senses. The first line of Hugh's well known formulation - littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria ("the letter teaches events, allegory what you should believe") provides a launching point for both chapters on history and allegory. As with the first chapter, that on history is a kind of defense against misunderstandings as it is a positive development: While the Fathers (and Medievals) never had the modernist conception of history - "immense interest in it for its own sake (p.80) - they were emphatic that "Scripture delivers us facts (p .44); that the ancients "never evacuated reality" from these facts, whether they were scandals or miraculous accounts (p. 69); that the Word of God is not only history but as such the foundation for exegesis, without which it could not exist (p. 77). De Lubac's description of the typical modernist approach to Scripture - a "book which interests them, but which does not concern them" - is the precise opposite of the ancient attitude (p. 81-82). As for allegory, de Lubac is forced to concede "an intemperate use" yet he argues that it never adds up to a "biblical docetism" (p. 57) - allegory, rather, is the sense which reflects the mystery that history requires (p. 84). Allegory is the inner mystery inside the husk of history - the allegoria facti at dicti mysterium (p. 88) which reveals the future, the interior life, and the celestial or heavenly reality. Before concluding by tracing the medieval supersession of the Augustinian notion of allegory as understanding by the Gregorian notion of edification of faith (p.116-119), De Lubac expands on these distinctions by following the Fathers in heaping on the analogies: if the letter equals the flesh it is but the milk which the new Christian can imbibe; the bread of allegory represents the solid food of spirit and divinity which the more mature Christian can fully absorb (p. 107) - even if, as de Lubac notes, the latter is in a sense the foundation of the former as opposed to the other way around.

The final two chapters take up the remaining senses of Scripture. Tropology - the sense relating to the moral life - is taken up into Honorius's twofold conception of joining soul to spirit and us to Christ by charity (p.132); a mystery accomplished by interiorizinf within us every day (quotidie) and embodied by role in three Old Testament figures, Noah (governs Church well), Daniel (the continent with their holy desires) and Job (married folk living amidst the trials of the world). De Lubac's treatment of anagogy is necessarily treated as an eschatological discussion, given Aelred's excellent description of it as "a sense of the things above" (p. 180). De Lubac posits two anagogies to match the two tropologies: the first is the objective, doctrinal formulation; and the other subjective - "the one is defined by its object, and the other by the manner of apprehending it" (p. 181). If there is a weakness in these chapters it is the same as in those treating the other senses: the lack of in-depth examples - a frustration (in fairness) not shared by de Lubac's likely intended audience, which is to say scholars in the field.

These few quibbles aside, it is difficult in sum to view Volume 2 of The Four Senses of Scripture as anything but a staggering achievement of scholarship, if necessarily merely a part of a larger whole which may limit its full utility. And if we cannot help but smile when de Lubac avers that "it is useless to multiply citations" (p. 92) before proceeding to fill pages and endless footnotes doing precisely that, it is the respectful and awed smile of enormous respect for the tremendous achievement which The Four Senses of Scripture represents.
Medieval Exegesis And The Four Senses of Scripture (vol. 1).  Apr 20, 2003
_Medieval Exegesis_ by Henri de Lubac is a four volume work in the Ressourcement (retrieval and renewal) series of Catholic thinkers. This book is the first volume of that work translated from the French. The Ressourcement movement within Roman Catholicism consisted of several important thinkers who attempted to retrieve and renew Catholicism by returning to its earliest Christian sources. These thinkers included individuals such as Henri de Lubac as well as Jean Danielou, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Louis Bouyer, and were associated with the famous theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Their movement played an important role in the theological developments of the Second Vatican Council and influenced the work of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

This first volume of _Medieval Exegesis_ attempts to trace the origins of the fourfold interpretation of Holy Scripture (interpretations of Scripture in terms of history, allegory, anagogy, and tropology). The book focuses on hundreds of different early and medieval Christian thinkers and especially the work of the early Christian Platonist Origen who devised this fourfold means of interpretation. The book discusses fully the nature of interpretation ("the Queen of the Arts") and the need for spiritual discipline in the light of patristic theology. The book then turns its attention to the patristic sources including Clement of Alexandria, Saint Augustine, Gregory, Cassian, and Eucher, but especially Origen. The book fully explores Origen as understood in both the Greek and Latin churches and deals with the troublesome issue of his alleged heresy. For quite some time, a debate existed in the church as to the status of Origen's soul due to his drift into heresy concerning certain aspects of biblical interpretation. This book restores Origen's place among early theologians and especially his fourfold sense of mystical interpretation of Scripture. The book concludes with a discussion of the unity of the two testaments: Old Testament and New Testament. As many of the saints had testified to, the Old Testament reveals the New, and the New Testament is revealed in the Old. The author concludes with a final discussion of the need for the Spirit to enlighten the exegesis of Scripture. This book (expertly footnoted with reference to many Christian thinkers) provides an excellent introduction to the thought of Henri de Lubac as well as to the understanding of scriptural exegesis and interpretation as it existed in the medieval world and as it is proclaimed still today.

Informative and manageable history of the four-fold sense.  Aug 10, 1999
De Lubac's work on the four-fold sense of Scripture is one that informs the reader of the history and the (very basic) method of biblical interpretation. His historical tracing of the method through the Fathers of the Church, particularly through Origen (including his discussion of the supposed "heresy" of Origen) is clear and, perhaps, the high point of this volume.

At times a bit dry, De Lubac tends to run on, burying the reader with countless examples. His scholarship is vast, but his presentation can be a bit overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, this book is, with good reason, a standard on the subject, and would be recommended for anyone -- Catholic or Protestant -- who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the trends in biblical interpretation that have developed in the process of bringing us to where we are today.


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