Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 12th, 2016 by Joel Watts

St. Bonaventure on the depth (of meaning) of Scripture

The entire chapter is worth reading, but St Bonaventure (a mythic and a theologian (really, can you be one or the other?) writes regarding the proper senses/lens in reading Scripture as Christians:

1. Finally, there is depth in the Scriptures, deriving from their several figurative meanings. Many Scriptural passages have, besides the direct sense, three other significations: the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical. Allegory consists in this: that one thing signifies another thing which is in the realm of faith; moral teaching, or tropology, in this: that from something done, we learn another thing that we must do; anagogy, or lifting up, in this: that we are given to know what to desire, that is, the eternal happiness of the elect.

2. It is entirely logical for Scripture to have a threefold sense in addition to the literal: such amplitude consorts with its content, its hearer or disciple, its origin, and its end.

It consorts with its content, for Scriptural teaching is concerned with God, with Christ, with the works of salvation, and with the things of faith.—God is the Being covered by the Scriptures; Christ is the Power; the works of salvation are the action; and the things of faith are the sum of all three aspects.—Now, God is triune: one in essence and trine in the Persons; hence. Scripture, proceeding from Him, has a threefold [figurative] sense beneath one and the same literal text. Again, Christ being the one Word, all things are said to have been made through Him (Jn. 1:3), and all things shine within Him (Col. 2:3), so that His wisdom is both manifold and one. Next, the works of salvation, though many, are all fundamentally related to the one sacrifice of Christ. Finally, the light given forth by the things of faith as such varies with the state of the believer.

Scripture, then, answering to all these circumstances, gives us a number of meanings from a single text.1

This method of Scripture allows the Christian to encounter Christ, rather than merely consume data and plot points.

  1.  Saint Bonaventure, Breviloquium (trans. José De Vinck; vol. 2; The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal Seraphic Doctor and Saint; Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1963), 13–14.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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