Interpreting the Holy Bible

How the "Senses" of Scripture Provide the Foundation for a Proper Interpretive Stance

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Three realities- the text, the faith of the Church, and the Paschal mystery- thus interrelate and combine to produce the aim of interpretation: an understanding of the text. Any lessening or removal of one or more aspects invalidates the interpretive process. All must be vital components in order for true interpretation to take place.

"Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."(18) In order to properly interpret the Scriptures, both of these elements- the human and the divine- as well as their relationship to one another, must be respected. Through the use of "historical and philological" methods, especially the historical-critical method, the exegete is enabled to explain the intention of the human author- the Literal sense- within the text. To reduce the interpretive process to this, however, ignores the multi-faceted nature of the Scriptures. Beyond this level of the Literal sense exists the inexhaustible meanings that are possible due to the authorship of the Holy Spirit and the event of the Paschal mystery. In order to reach this level of the Spirit, understanding, not just explanation, is necessary. Separating these two levels would produce a false dichotomy; the exegete must respect the reciprocal relationship that exists between them. Thus, in order to reach an understanding of the Biblical text, it is imperative that the interpreter "places [himself] within the living tradition of the church..."(19) This living tradition is centered around the event of the Paschal mystery and is sustained by faith given by and directed toward the Spirit of God. By immersing himself into this living Faith, the Catholic exegete can discover the true meaning of the Scriptures, which is to assist in the elevation of man "to the participation of the divine nature."(20)

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