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Exegesis, Biblical


By Biblical exegesis is meant the exposition of a passage or a book of the Sacred Scriptures. After an introductory section treating of the nature and forms of Biblical exegesis, this article offers an account of its history to show how the Bible was interpreted throughout the centuries.

Since the Bible as a divinely inspired book is a unique work of literature, its exegesis differs in many respects from the interpretation of other ancient documents.

Nature. On the one hand, the Sacred Scriptures are the products of many human authors who lived at various times over at least a millennium and wrote in several different literary genres; on the other hand, all the Scriptures were written under divine inspiration and so have God as their principal author. Therefore, Biblical exegesis employs not only the sciences that are used in the study of other ancient documents that come from a culture differing considerably from the modern, such as philology, history, archeology, and so forth, but also the theological disciplines that enable the exegete to obtain a deeper understanding of God's word and revelation as contained in the Scriptures. A synthesis of the theological exegesis of the Bible forms the basis of biblical theology. Sciences that are auxiliary to Biblical exegesis are the rules of interpretation or Biblical hermeneutics (see section 3, below) and the study of each book as a whole, which is the subject of biblical introductions.

Forms. Even a translation of the Scriptures is, to a certain extent, a form of exegesis; for unless a version is extremely literal, it involves a considerable amount of interpretation in the sense of explanation. The more free or paraphrastic a translation is, the more exegetical it is. Short exegetical notes, usually written on the margin of the page of a Bible, are known as Biblical glosses. In former times an exegetical note, especially if rather long, was known as a scholium. A collection of exegetical notes excerpted from the writings of the Church Fathers form so-called Biblical catenae.

The fullest form, however, of Biblical exegesis is that of biblical commentaries. The scope of a strictly scientific commentary is to set forth as faithfully as possible the thought of the author by using all available scientific means insofar as they apply, such as textual criticism, literary criticism (to ascertain the specific type of literary genre in which the book is written; see form criticism, biblical), philology (see biblical languages), geography (see palestine), history, and so forth. But since every book of the Bible is not only a human document but also a record of God's revelation, a genuine commentary should set forth also the religious message or kerygma of the book. Moralizing conclusions, however, that do not flow directly from the Biblical text belong to homiletics rather than to exegesis. In the Middle Ages such moralizing notes were often called postils or in Latin postillae, from the full phrase post illa verba textus (after the words of the text).

Bibliography: r. schnackenburg and k. h. schelke, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg, 195766) 3:127374. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 106971.

[l. f. hartman]

History of Exegesis

In the various periods of history, ever since the Bible was accepted as the inspired word of God, men have endeavored to explain and interpret its meaning through what is known as Biblical exegesis. But every age has had its own characteristic exegesis.


Modern stress on the essential unity of the Bible has drawn attention to the necessity of understanding how and to what extent the OT is used in the NT. The reader of any Bible edited with copious marginal references to OT texts knows how extensively NT writers cite the OT directly or indirectly.

Quotations from the Old Testament. In the NT there are more than 200 direct quotations from the OT, more than half of which, 118, are found in the Pauline Epistles (see L. Venard, Guide to the Bible [TournaiNew York 195155, rev. and enl. 1960] 1:679). If references of all kinds are counted, the total number is about 350, of which about 300 are cited according to the Septuagint (LXX) version. Matthew's manner of quoting the OT is noteworthy; when he is using Greek sources (i.e., when he depends on Mark) he retains their Greek wording; when working independently, he generally quotes an OT text according to the Hebrew, though on occasion the influence of the LXX can be traced. For example, in Mt 21.16 Psalm 8.3 is cited according to the LXX for apologetic reasons; see A. Wikenhauser, New Testament Introduction, tr. J. Cunningham (New York 1958) 195. Except for the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who always quotes the LXX exactly, most NT authors show little concern for exactness in their quotations. Their practice of free rendering of OT texts must not be ascribed to memory lapses, but rather to common literary custom or, as in many Pauline texts, to an exegetical purpose; see E. Ellis, Paul's Use of the OT (London 1957) 1415. Some NT writers use interesting combinations in their OT quotations. Paul, for instance, uses three types of combined texts: (1) OT texts strung together to form a single quotation [e.g., Rom 3.1018 is composed of Ps 13 (14).13; 5.10; 139 (140).4; 9B (10).7; Is 59.78; Ps 35 (36).2]; (2) chain quotations or hāraz (e.g., Rom9.2529); (3) looser midrashic commentary (e.g., Romans ch. 911; Galatians ch. 3). See Ellis, op. cit., 11, 186 for charts of Pauline combinations.

Interpretations of Old Testament Passages. The NT interpretation of the OT reveals the following characteristics: (1) the allegorical method, so venerated by interpreters of ancient literature and so extensively used by the Alexandrian Jew Philo, is employed only infrequently by NT writers. Paul expressly says that his interpretation of the story of hagar and ishmael (Gn 21.921) is by way of allegory (Gal 4.2131). The story of Melchizedek (Gn 14.1820) receives similar treatment in Heb 7.110. Such examples, however, are rare. The allegorical method is not characteristic of NT interpretation of OT texts. (2) Though their interpretations were generally literal in the wide sense of being based on the literal meaning of the OT text, NT writers exercised a great deal of freedom with respect to the original historical sense of the OT text quoted. Nevertheless, these writers were always conscious of the OT as history, and it is not likely that they ould ever be unmindful of the historical setting of the OT texts they used; see C. H. Dodd, The Old Testament in the New (Philadelphia 1963) 8. (3) Literary allusions to OT words, phraseology, and imagery abound, reflecting the NT writer's familiarity with the OT. (4) OT texts are sometimes cited by way of illustration or analogy, as Dt 21.23 in Gal 3.13. (5) OT texts, especially from the Prophets, are sometimes cited as direct proof of a NT writer's argument. Such is the use of the Servant of the Lord Oracles from Is 42.14; 49.17; 50.411;52.1353.12 (see suffering servant, songs of the).

For St. Paul's exegetical method and relation to rabbinical exegesis, see especially: W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London 1948, rev. ed. 1955, repr.1964) and J. Bonsirven, Exégèse rabbinique et exégèse paulinienne (Paris 1939). From his study of the NT writers use of the OT, C. H. Dodd [According to the Scriptures (London 1952)] concludes that individual passages cited are often only pointers to the OT total context, which is really the basis of the argument.

[l. f. hartman]


A natural division of the Jewish exegesis of the OT is between that of the Talmudic period (from the beginning of the 1st to the end of the 8th Christian century) and that of the Middle Ages (from c. 800 to c. 1300).

Talmudic Period. The object of the rabbinical exegesis from the 1st century b.c. to the end of the 8th Christian century was twofold: (1) to determine precisely the true meaning of the text, and (2) to establish the Biblical basis for the halakah or system of jurisprudence composed of traditional legal decisions, commandments of the ancient Fathers, and prescriptions of the Scribes, and to support the haggadah or nonjuridical interpretations and traditions forming an immense literature that was historical, folkloristic, and homiletic in character (see A. Vincent, 4269; J. Bonsirven, Dictionnaire de la Bible suppl. ed. L. Pirot, et al. [Paris] 4:561569; and A. Robert and A. Tricot, Guide to the Bible [TournaiNew York 195155] 684693, especially the translator's notes). To achieve the first object required a literal exegesis, and in fact this became characteristic of Jewish juridical commentaries of the 2nd century of the Christian Era. However, the use of texts as proofs sometimes led to an abuse of the literal sense.

Jewish exegesis is found in a great body of rabbinical literature, which is composed of the following: (1) the mishnah and its additions in the tosephta (explanatory notes on oral traditions not included in the Mishnah); (2) the gemarah, written in Aramaic, which commented on, applied, and widely extended the teaching of the Mishnah, as well as incorporating non-Mishnah material; and (3) the midrashim (see midrashic literature), which were rabbinical commentaries on either the legal texts of the Bible (halakah) or on the historical or moral texts (haggadah). The Mishnah and its commentary, the Gemarah, comprise the talmud. See Vincent, 54; and A. Robert and A. Tricot, Guide to the Bible, rev. and enl. ed. (TournaiNew York 1960) 1:685687, footnotes.

The Torah (Mosaic Law) was always considered to be the basis of all prescriptions applied to new circumstances of Jewish life, no matter how far removed from the Law these appeared to be. They were linked to the Law by certain logical rules. Hillel had these seven: (1) from the less to the greater and from the simple to the difficult, (2) from like to like by analogy, (3) according to one passage in the Law, (4) according to two passages in the Law, (5) from the general to the particular and from the particular to the general, (6) explanation of one text by another, and (7) explanation of a text by the context. Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha (d. c. 135) increased these seven to 13; to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yose (d. c. 150) 32 are attributed. See Vincent, 46. In spite of its well-known defects, Talmudic exegesis contains much that is of permanent value to Biblical scholarship, as some of the early Fathers, as well as the scholastic and Reformation exegetes, were well aware. Historians of exegesis are not unmindful of the contribution of early rabbinical exegesis to the treasury of Christian interpretation.

Middle Ages. Biblical exegesis in the strict sense, as distinct from the use that the Talmudic rabbis made of the Bible, began among the Jews in the 9th century primarily as a reaction against the Karaites, a Jewish sect that arose toward the end of the 8th century. The Karaites rejected the traditional teachings of the Talmud and demanded a return to the Bible understood in the literal sense. The orthodox rabbis were therefore forced, in defense of traditional Judaism, to study the Hebrew Scriptures and explain their literal sense (p eš - ) in conformity with orthodox Judaism. A contributing factor was the contact that the rabbis of the time made with Arabic scholars, particularly in Spain, whose grammatical and lexicographical studies in connection with the study of the qur'Ān led the Jewish scholars to make similar studies of the Hebrew Bible. An additional reason for the improvement in Jewish exegesis in the Middle Ages was the growing interest among Jews as well as among Muslims and Christians in Aristotelian philosophy, which led to a more rational method in the study of the Sacred Scriptures.

The pioneer of the new Jewish exegesis was the archopponent of the Karaites, Gaon saadia ben joseph (822942). The study of the Scriptures was only one of is many fields of interest, but here, besides his Arabic translation of the Bible, he produced the first Hebrew dictionary and the first Hebrew grammar. In the East, however, where he lived, he had no scholarly successors. His influence was felt, instead, in Spain and later in France. Spanish Jewry of the Middle Ages had several important Hebrew philologists, such as Menachem ben Saruk (c. 910c. 970), Dunash ben Labrat (c. 920c. 990), Judah ben David Hayyuj (c. 940c. 1010), and especially Jonah Marinus (Abūl Walīd Merwān Ibn-Janah; c. 990c. 1050), the greatest Hebrew grammarian of the Middle Ages.

The medieval Jewish exegetes built on the work of these philologists. The most important of the commentators in Spain was Abraham ben Meïr ibn ezra (c. 10921167). On the whole, his Biblical commentaries are based on the literal sense, often arrived at by philological or grammatical arguments. A product of the Spanish school, though he spent most of his life in Egypt, was the renowned Jewish scholar maimonides (Moses ben Maimon; 11351204). Although he wrote no commentary, in his works, particularly his Guide to the Perplexed, he explained many Biblical passages according to philosophical or even rationalistic principles. The influence of the Jewish exegetes of Spain soon reached France. At Troyes in northern France the renowned Talmudist, rashi (Rabbi Shelomoh ben Yishaq; 10411105), produced popular commentaries on almost all the books of the Hebrew Bible. The commentaries of his grandson, Samuel ben Meïr, known also as Rashbam (c. 1085c. 1160), though more diffused, are of greater scientific value. At Narbonne in southern France the imchi (imi) family, Joseph (c. 1105c. 1170) and his sons Moses (d. 1190) and particularly David (c. 11601235), wrote Biblical commentaries that are still valuable for their philological and grammatical observations. The commentaries of the Spanish Jewish scholar, namanides (Moses ben Naman, known also as Ramban; c. 1195c. 1270), though containing much valuable material, indulge too often in mystical, cabalistic speculations. After the 13th century medieval Jewish exegesis fell almost completely under the spell of the cabala, and the works of this period are thus practically worthless from an exegetical viewpoint. But the writings of the earlier Jewish lexicographers, grammarians, and exegetes proved extremely useful to the Christian Hebraists of the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance [see hebrew studies (in the christian church)], and they still merit study by modern Biblical scholars.

[l. f. hartman]


The history of exegesis in the patristic period (extending to the beginning of the 7th century) can best be treated by considering separately the Fathers before Origen, Origen, the school of Alexandria, the school of Antioch, and the Latin Fathers (see patristic studies).

Before Origen. The Apostolic Fathers left no Biblical exegesis in the strict sense. They used the Biblical text either to support their exhortations to lead a fruitful Christian life or, as in the case of Pope St. clement i in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c. a.d. 98), to form a spiritual mosaic of scriptural texts. Generally, the Apostolic Fathers did not attempt to prove their teaching from Biblical texts. A notable exception, however, was the author of the Epistle of barnabas, who had recourse to an allegorical and typical interpretation of the OT to prove that the Jews failed to understand properly God's will and the Mosaic Law, even its clearest precepts; for example, God's inspired precept regarding abstinence from certain meats really commanded the Jews to flee from the particular vices signified by impure animals (see G. Bardy, Guide to the Bible, [TournaiNew York 195155; v.1, rev. and enl. 1960] 1:695). The Christians, said the author, were the first to understand the OT properly.

The Apologists of the 2nd century, in addressing unbelievers, could hardly appeal to the OT as proofs of their teaching but had to be content to urge the antiquity of the OT over pagan works. Although it was not characteristic of the Apologists, St. justin martyr (d. c. 165) used arguments from the Prophets effectively in both his first Apology and his Dialogue Against Trypho. Secondcentury heretics attacked this type of proof by trying to underscore the apparent contradictions between the teaching of the OT and that of Jesus; hence the origin of Marcion's Antithesis and Apelles's Syllogisms. St. irenaeus (c. 140c. 202) in his Adversus Haereses and tertullian (c. 160c. 230) in his Contra Marcionem and in other works defended the OT against the heretics. Heracleon (2nd century), a Gnostic, wrote the oldest commentary on St. John, using principally the allegorical method. Ptolemy, another Gnostic, in a Letter to Flora, was probably the first one to attempt to place exegesis on a firm, scientific foundation. (For the light shed on Gnosticism by the discovery of numerous Coptic texts near Nag' Hammâdi in Egypt, see chenoboskion, gnostic texts of.)

Origen. The first Biblical scholar to study critically the LXX was Origen (c. 185c. 254), one of the most important figures in the early history of exegesis (see origen and origenism). His many exegetical writings appear in scholia (simple notes on difficult or obscure passages; see scholium), commentaries, and homilies. He wrote scholia on the first four books of the Pentateuch, on Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, Matthew, John, Galatians, and Revelation. He commented on Genesis ch. 14, on everal Psalms, twice on the Canticle of Canticles, and on Matthew, Luke, John, and the Pauline Epistles except 1 and 2 Corinthians and Timothy. In 1941 at Tura, a few miles south of Cairo, a papyrus containing fragments of the original Greek of Origen's commentary on Romans was discovered. His homilies, about 200 of which have been preserved, were delivered at Caesarea in Palestine.

Unlike his predecessors, Origen set down his ideas on hermeneutics, especially in the fourth book of his De principiis. Applying Plato's threefold distinction of body, soul, and spirit to the senses of Scripture, Origen taught that Holy Scripture contained (1) a corporeal or historical sense, which seems to be simply the ordinary proper literal and historical sense that the Biblical text directly conveys; (2) the psychic or moral sense, generally ignored by Origen in practice, which seems to be concerned with moral correction and is often indistinguishable from (3) the spiritual sense, which embraces all other senses that can be derived from the Biblical text. Origen never claimed that all Scripture contained this threefold sense. He believed that it was possible for the sacred author to err, on rare occasions, regarding the corporeal sense, which would then have to be rejected. Again, allegory was not present in every text. Origen thought that the corporeal sense was sufficient for the needs of the simple faithful, but that the perfect sought a deeper meaning hidden beneath the words. At times his allegory is exaggerated, but he made a permanent contribution to textual criticism, typology, and the allegorical method which was to characterize the exegetical school of Alexandria.

School of Alexandria. The foundation of this first Christian theological school (see alexandria, school of) is commonly attributed to St. pantaenus, of whom very little is known. He was born in Sicily and became a convert to Christianity from Stoicism and taught at the exegetical school of Alexandria toward the end of the 2nd century (c. 180).

Clement, Dionysius, and Eusebius. Pantaenus was succeeded by his pupil clement of alexandria (c. 150c. 215), a scholar of vast erudition, who was strongly influenced in his exegetical method by the allegorical one of Philo. Clement believed that it was of the very nature of higher truths that they should be communicated only through symbols. He acknowledged three senses of Scripture: the literal, the moral, and the prophetical or allegorical. He believed that all Scripture must be interpreted allegorically. His major works, Stromata, Paedagogus, and Protrepticus are remarkable for their wealth of Biblical erudition.

St. dionysius (c. 190265), Bishop of Alexandria from 247 to 265, stated his exegetical principles in a work entitled On the Promises, written in response to an attack on the allegorists by a certain Bishop Nepos. St. Dionysius confessed that much in Revelation was beyond his comprehension, but he did not doubt that it contained many profound and hidden senses. It seems that Dionysius wrote commentaries also on Ecclesiastes and Luke.

eusebius of caesarea (c. 260c. 339) as a historian was inclined to the literal sense in his exegesis, but he had received training in the allegorical method from pamphilus (d. 310), a pupil of Origen. In his commentaries on Isaiah, the Psalms, and Luke, Eusebius was generally free from allegorical exaggerations.

Athanasius and Didymus. Of the works of St. athanasius (c. 295373), who was more a defender of orthodoxy and a shepherd of souls than a professional exegete, we have only fragments, a commentary on the Psalms, and a little work titled Interpretation of the Psalms, which reveals his ideas on how to profit best from a prayerful study of the Psalter.

didymus the blind (c. 313c. 398), for many years the head of the school of Alexandria, wrote commentaries on a large number of the books of the OT and the NT, which were highly praised by St. Jerome. The fraction of these commentaries that has been preserved reveals these characteristics: there are two senses of Scripture, the literal and the spiritual; the OT must be interpreted allegorically and, whenever possible, messianically, if it is to be fully understood: his interpretation of the NT is generally according to the literal sense. As a true disciple of Origen, Didymus had learned from experience to control prudently all allegorical applications. G. Bardy (A. Robert and A. Tricot, Guide to the Bible, rev. and enl. [TournaiNew York 1960] 1:700) suggests that the commentaries of Didymus on Genesis, Job, and Zechariah have apparently been recovered through the discovery of the papyri at Tura (see above).

Cappadocian Fathers. Among the great Cappadocians who were strongly influenced by Origen and the Alexandrians were St. basil (c. 329379), St. gregory of nazianzus (c. 330c. 390), and St. gregory of nyssa (c. 335394), the younger brother of Basil. St. Basil used Scripture primarily for the instruction and edification of the faithful. His homilies On the Hexameron as well as those on various Psalms reflect his intention to use the Bible to nourish the spiritual life of his hearers. St. Gregory of Nazianzus used Scripture in much the same fashion. He was above all else a theologian, and he treated the Scriptures primarily as a locus theologicus in his conflicts with the Arians and Apollinarists. The finest exegete of all the Cappadocians was the highly gifted St. Gregory of Nyssa. Although he was an allegorist to the core, he nevertheless knew how to use effectively the literal sense when necessary, e.g., in his De hominis opificio nd Explicatio Apologetica in Hexaemeron. His other works include homilies on Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Lord's Prayer, and the Beatitudes, as well as a homily on the titles of the Psalms, in which he observes that Holy Scripture does not narrate historical facts for their own sakes but in order to teach man how to live virtuously.

Cyril. St. cyril of alexandria (d. 444), the great opponent of the Nestorians, was a thoroughgoing allegorist in both his Adoration and Worship in Spirit and Truth and Glaphyra. The former was written to prove the complete harmony between the OT and the NT, whereas the latter interpreted typically (especially with regard to the person of Christ) passages selected from the Pentateuch. In his commentaries on Isaiah and the Minor Prophets, Cyril leans more toward the historical literal sense, but not always with complete success. His commentary on St. John's Gospel is concerned mainly with doctrinal content and the refutation of heresy.

School of Antioch. The foundation of the Antiochian school (see antioch, school of) at the end of the 3rd century is generally attributed to St. lucian of antioch (c. 240317), famous for his role in establishing the Greek textus receptus. We know nothing of the exegesis of Lucian. The school's history may be divided into three periods: (1) From Lucian to the coming of Diodore of Tarsus (i.e., from c. 280 to 360), (2) from Diodore to Theodore of Mopsuestia (i.e., from 360 to 428), and (3) the period of decline (i.e., from 428 to 500). The exegetical principles of Antioch were directly opposed to those of its rival, Alexandria. Antioch insisted upon expounding the literal and historical meaning of the text. The typical sense (theoria ) was acknowledged and carefully determined. The allegorical method of Alexandria found little welcome at Antioch.

The following are the more important Antiochians: St. eustathius of antioch (d. c. 335), in his On the Witch of Endor, attacked the allegorical method of Origen. diodore of tarsus (c. 330c. 392), the teacher of St. John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia and one of the most illustrious of the Antiochians, wrote many exegetical works on the books of the OT and the NT. His exegesis is strictly literal, though he accepts the typical when it is well founded upon the literal and historical sense. The exegesis of St. john chrysostom (c. 349407) is found chiefly in this great preacher's homilies. He never formulated any rules of interpretation, but he accepted the literal sense, both proper and improper (i.e., allegorical) and the typical. He was concerned primarily with what he could draw from the sacred text for the good of souls.

theodore of mopsuestia (d. 428) is the best-known Biblical pupil of Diodore. The Council of constantinople ii (553) condemned some of Theodore's opinions on the nature of inspiration and the books to be excluded from the Canon and his restriction of the number of messianic Psalms to four [i.e., Psalm 2; 8; 44 (45); 109 (110)]. Even today it is difficult to evaluate properly his exegetical works. He is well known for his boldness and strict adherence to the literal and historical sense. He explained his exegetical principles in two works now lost: De allegoria et historia and De perfectione operum contra allegoricos. (But on these works see the translator's note three in A. Robert and A. Tricot, Guide to the Bible [TournaiNew York 1960] 1:702.) On the exegetical method of Theodore of Mopsuestia see especially the two works of R. Devreese: "La Méthode exégètique de Theodore de Mopsueste," Revue biblique 53 (1946) 207241, and Essai sur Theodore de Mopsueste, Studi e Testi 141 (1948).

theodoret of cyr (d. before 466) deserves special mention for his solid interpretation of the Scriptures, which had enduring popularity. He claimed no originality but composed his commentaries only after assiduously studying the best of patristic exegesis. But he was, in fact, far more than a mere copyist and compiler. His many works were often cited in the Biblical catenae as authoritative. Faithful to the Antiochian school, he was principally concerned with the literal sense; yet a good deal of solid typology is often expounded in his works. He wrote commentaries on the Psalms, on the Song of Songs, and on all the Prophets, and he considered special questions on the Octateuch and the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. His exposition of the Pauline Epistles is considered by some to be second only to that made by St. John Chrysostom. Theodoret was the last of the great Antiochians.

Others associated with the School of Antioch were: St. ephrem the syrian (c. 306373), who wrote commentaries in Syriac on all the books of the Bible; apollinaris of laodicea (d. c. 390); severian of gabala (d. after 408); and Polychronius of Apamea (d. c. 430), the brother of Theodore of Mopsuestia. adrianus (fl. 1st half of the 5th century) composed an Introduction to Holy Scripture that set forth the principles of the Antiochians. The insistence of the Antiochians on the historical literal sense proved to be the correct position for sound exegesis according to the mind of the inspired author.

Latin Fathers. The exegetical principles of both Antioch and Alexandria found adherents among commentators of the West. Since no exegetical schools existed there during the patristic period, the following order of authors is simply chronological. tertullian (d. after 220), who gave the West its theological Latin, wrote no commentaries on Sacred Scripture, but he frequently interpreted iblical texts in his writings, generally in the literal sense. St. hippolytus of rome (d. c. 236) wrote many works in Greek that exhibit Alexandrian influence. One would expect allegory in his commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, but it appears also in his work on Daniel. St. victorinus of pettau (d. c. 303) commented on many books of the OT and the NT. However, only his work on the Apocalypse has survived. The influence of Origen is reflected also in the works of St. hilary of poitiers (d.367), whose exegesis is strongly allegorical. A commentary of his on Matthew and another on the Psalms (partly preserved) are extant. A part of his Tractatus mysteriorum, a work on OT prophecies, was recovered in 1887. St. ambrose (d. 397) composed no commentaries in the strict sense on the books of the Bible. His exegesis, found chiefly in his many homilies on various books of the OT and NT, is allegorical and well balanced, and it reflects the preacher's concern for the formation and salvation of souls.

St. jerome (d. 419 or 420) is the patron of Biblical studies. His Latin translation of the Bible, his many commentaries on the OT and NT books, especially on the prophetical books, and his knowledge of the principal Biblical languages and of the country and customs of the Holy Land itself have merited for him a special place in the history of Biblical studies. His exegesis, at first strongly allegorical, became more and more literal. We have his commentaries on Ecclesiastes and the Prophets in the OT and on Matthew, Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, and Philippians in the NT. An unknown author referred to as ambrosiaster or Pseudo-Ambrose composed an excellent literal commentary on the Pauline Epistles c. a.d. 380, probably at Rome. Tyconius the Donatist wrote the first Latin treatise on Biblical hermeneutics, Liber Regularum, c. a.d. 370.

St. augustine (d. 430) used allegorical and mystical interpretations in his preaching, but he preferred literal exegesis in his theological writings. Though he himself was not well equipped for scientific exegesis, he insisted upon the necessity of learning, and especially of philological training, for the proper study of the written word of God. He interpreted the first few chapters of Genesis four times: De Genesi contra Manichaeos libri 2 (c. 389); De Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber (c. 393), more literal than the previous work; the story of creation, allegorically interpreted, in the last three books of his Confessions (c. 400); and De Genesi ad litteram libri 12 (c. 401), his major work on Genesis. Other important exegetical works of Augustine include: several books of Quaestiones and Locutiones on the Heptateuch; Enarrationes in Psalmos, probably his best exegetical work; De consensu Evangeliorum, a study of parallel passages in the Gospels; Quaestiones on the Gospels and on certain texts in Romans; and (in treatises or homilies) the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel of St. John, Galatians, and the beginning of Romans. In his De doctrina christiana he set forth his ideas on the nature of exegesis and on the relation of Scripture to theology.

Worthy of mention are also St. peter chrysologus (d. c. 450), who expounded allegorically many NT passages in 176 homilies; Cassiodorus (d. c. 580), who interpreted the Psalms and the NT literally; and the long influential St. gregory the great (d. 604), who interpreted allegorically Job (Moralia ), Ezekiel, and the Gospels and whose primary interest in exegesis was pastoral.

[l. f. hartman]


Medieval exegesis of Scripture comprehends the Biblical hermeneutic employed by Western theology from about the year 600 to 1500 as well as the Biblical literature, e.g., commentaries, which is the product of this hermeneutic. It poses two questions: How did the medieval theologians interpret Holy Scripture, and in what literary form did they express their exegesis? Because in the course of the Middle Ages the level of culture was so diversified century by century and nation by nation, the extant exegetical literature, of which the larger portion is still unedited, is of very uneven quality. Owing to its rich variety, it is impossible to characterize it accurately in universal terms. Certain traits, however, are clear and salient. It is mystical, in that it held the superiority of the spiritual sense of Scripture over its literal; conservative, in its rigid adherence to the patristic tradition; functional, in its concept of Scripture as the book par excellence for both theological and spiritual formation and for the edification of the Christian faith; and Latin, in that it rested on the text of the Biblia Vulgata Latina and the Latin Fathers and used Latin as its literary medium.

Sense of Scripture. Medieval exegesis is firmly rooted in the patristic tradition, which it developed in its own characteristic spirit. Its ultimate inspiration was the school of Alexandria and the hermeneutic of origen (d. c. 254), who, under the influence of the Neoplatonism of philo judaeus (d. c. 50), taught that a multiplicity of senses (meanings) can be found in the sacred text. "For just as man," he wrote, "consists of body, soul and spirit, so in the same way does the Scripture, which has been prepared by God to be given for man's salvation" (De Principiis 4.2.4). Thus, according to Origen, the sense of Scripture is threefold: somatic, psychic, and pneumatic. That is, a given text of Scripture may simultaneously yield three different levels of meaning: the literal, the moral, and the spiritual. The transmission of this doctrine to the medieval world was largely indirect, through the atin Fathers, since Greek was a virtually unknown language in the Western Church of the early Middle Ages. For example, the teaching of eucherius of lyons (d.449) in his Formulae spiritalis intelligentiae attests to the influence of Origen in the West, when he wrote: "The body of Sacred Scripture, as it is handed down, is in the letter; its soul is in the moral sense, which is called tropicus; its spirit is in the higher understanding, which is called anagogic." The concept of the senses of Scripture that John cassian (d. 435) presents in his Collationes (8.3) substantially agrees with this teaching. But it is perhaps St. gregory the great (d. 604) who must be regarded as the principal initiator and greatest patron of the medieval doctrine of the four senses. In the second book of his homilies on Ezekiel (Hom. 9, n. 8) he explains the functional character of the tetrad of Biblical senses in this way: "The words of Holy Scripture are square stones, for they can stand on all sides, because on no side are there rough spots. For in every past event that they narrate, in every future event that they foretell, in every moral saying that they speak, and in every spiritual sense they stand, as it were, on a different side, because they have no roughness." These two conceptions of the multiple (threefold and fourfold) senses of Scripture dominate medieval exegesis. The fourfold sense was generally preferred to the threefold, to which it was reducible, and the spiritual was invariably preferred to the literal sense. Augustine of Dacia, OP (d. 1282), of the school of St. Thomas, epitomized this medieval hermeneutic in his celebrated distich:

Littera gesta docet, quid credis allegoria, Quid agis moralis, quo tendis anagogia.

This fourfold division of the senses (the literal, the spiritualincluding the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogic) of Scripture invaded all areas of medieval life. It was especially appreciated because it harmonized with the Neoplatonic sacramental concept of the universe: the visible (literal) both concealing and revealing a deeper, invisible reality (spiritual). It was also employed as a basic program in library classification (at Salvatorberg), in preaching (Robert de Basevorn), and in education (Hugh of Saint-Victor). It remained classical in Biblical studies until the coming of the Protestant Reformers and the Renaissance humanists, who rejected it with derision in favor of a more direct, historical, literal exegesis. But as late as the end of the 16th century there were still Catholic theologians, e.g., Francisco de toledo (d. 1596), who believed that the doctrine of the fourfold sense of Scripture was to be held de fide.

Literal Sense. For the medieval exegete historia and littera are almost synonymous. Both are to be treated with reverence as the foundation of the higher spiritual sense. Fundamental, therefore, to medieval exegesis is the literal interpretation of Bible history, which included both the past event as well as its inspired narration. For the exegete knew that divine revelation was manifest to mankind in and through historical events and that Scripture was the inspired record of these saving events. His approach to Bible history was religious and theological rather than scientific and critical, though in the high Middle Ages the emphasis began to shift toward the learned element of exegesis. Holy Scripture represented the source book of faith in Christ who was the Lord of history. Literal exegesis was ordered to the discovery in the sacred text of the res gesta, divine revelation as a past event. For example, the literal exegesis of the Passion narratives [see passion of christ, i (in the bible)] concluded to the death of Jesus as a historical event. It avoided its theological significance as pertaining to the spiritual rather than the literal sense of the text. For the medieval exegete history and the historical sense were superficial, exterior, sensible, and though it was a fundamental sense, a deeper, more mystical, theological sense was sought. Once the ultimate meaning or significance of the res gesta (the historical event) was grasped, exegesis passed into the spiritual order. To remain on the level of the historical and the literal would be unworthy of the exegete. It would be a betrayal of the primary function of Christian exegesis, the discovery and exposé of the mystery of Christ that must be sought on a higher level than littera. Therefore, abandoning the letter (the Jewish exegesis of the Old Law), the Christian exegete turned to the spirit (the Christocentric exegesis of all Scripture). The movement was from the literal to the spiritual sense, from history to allegory; and the validity of this motion was persuaded by the Pauline text: "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3.6).

Spiritual Sense. The central task of spiritual exegesis is to uncover the deepest meaning of the res gesta that literal exegesis has discovered in the text. Its function is completed in answering three questions: (1) What is the theological (allegorical) meaning of this historical event?(2) What is its moral (tropological) meaning? (3) What is its eschatological (anagogic) meaning? The method is well illustrated by the traditional exegesis of the word Jerusalem: in the literal sense it is the city of the Jews; in the allegorical sense, the Church on earth; in the tropological sense, the virtuous Christian; and in the anagogic sense, the Church in heaven. Discernible in the spiritual sense is an ascending order, from letter to spirit, from the terrestrial to the celestial, from reading to contemplation, from event to reality. Based on history, it rises to faith; through faith Christian virtue is born; by Christian virtue eternal life is attained. These three spiritual senses make up the mystical order. They involve a conversio, allegory from the past Christ to the present Christ; tropology, a life eform by the act of Christ; anagogy, a renewal of the present in virtue of the future. Allegory demands a conversion of thought, tropology of morals, anagogy of desires. Allegory builds up the faith, tropology charity, anagogy hope. Allegory yields the sense of dogma, tropology of morality, anagogy of mysticism. Spiritual exegesis, therefore, was essentially ordered to the religious experience.

Despite the apparently systematic character of this hermeneutic, it tended in the course of the Middle Ages to disintegrate. Its understanding of the sacred text was frequently capricious, arbitrary, subjective, and tortured, and in the course of time it tended to drift more and more away from the sacra pagina into an uncontrolled mysticism. By the eve of the Reformation it was exhausted, ready to be replaced definitively by a hermeneutic resting on and tied to the literal (historical) sense of the text.

[r. e. mcnally]


The history of medieval exegesis unfolds in two successive stages of development: the monastic (c. 6501200) and the scholastic (c. 12001500), which are distinctively different in method, scope, and purpose. In the monastic phase, Biblical studies were ordered to meditatio and contemplatio. The Bible stood in the center of the monastic liturgy, which was the core of the spiritual life. In the scholastic, quaestio and disputatio were fundamental to Biblical studies. Up to about 1250 Biblical studies dominated the academic program of monastery and university.

General Characteristics. The monastic approach to Scripture was pious and volitional, whereas the scholastic, learned and intellectual. Representative of the former is the first sermon of St. bernard of clairvaux (d.1153), In Cantica Canticorum (Patrologia Latina 183:785789), while peter lombard's (d. 1160) prologue to his Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul [Miscellanea Lombardiana (Novara 1957) 11012; Patrologia Latina 191:1297] illustrates scholastic exegesis. For both monk and schoolman the Bible was the regina scientiarum, not only because it contained God's inspiration and revelation, but also because it was the deposit of all true wisdom and piety, the focus of all true education and learning. Its exegesis was an almost infinite task because of its mira profunditas, that wondrous profundity, which scarcely any man could ever fathom. But the exegete's progressive uncovering of this profound deposit of truth made possible the progressive development of dogma. Education was ordered to preparing the exegete; and the task of exegesis, the interpretation of Scripture, coincided with the task of theology. Up to the end of the 13th century the terms theologia and Sacra Scriptura coalesced in meaning. This is illustrated by the way these expressions were used interchangeably. Thus St. thomas aquinas (d. 1274) wrote: "Haec est theologia quae sacra scriptura dicitur" (In Boeth. de Trin. 5.4), and St. Bonaventure: "Sacra scriptura quae theologia dicitur" (Breviloquium. Prologus ). Exegesis was accepted only inasmuch as it corresponded to the faith of the Church. Of Scripture, hugh of amiens (or Rouen; d. 1164) wrote: "Legit et tenet Ećclesia" (Dialogi 5.12). The Church reads the Holy Scripture, which it holds as its own. It is in terms of this ecclesial point of view that the medieval exegete held the formula: Sola Scriptura. All revelation is contained in Scripture, if one listens to it in the sense in which the Church reads itin fide Catholica tracta," as St. augustine (Gen. ad litt. 12.37.70) had written.

Irish Monastic Exegesis. One of the most important centers of early medieval exegesis was Ireland, which by the middle of the 7th century had acquired a reputation for learning surpassed only by Visigothic Spain. The high excellence of Ireland is well attested by St. bede the Venerable (d. 735), who mentions the number and quality of the young Anglo-Saxons who went there to study the Bible. Representative of the most original Biblical scholarship of early Ireland is the pseudo-Augustinian work (c. 650) De mirabilibus sacrae Scripturae (Patrologia La-tina 35:21492200), which in its historico-literal approach to the sacred text shows the continuing influence of Antiochene hermeneutics. In fact, from the extant Biblical commentaries of early Ireland it appears that certain of its scholars, with a marked penchant for the learned and the critical, preserved the tradition of Antioch long after it had ceased to be influential elsewhere. In commenting on the sacred text, the Irish stressed the quaestio, patristic literature, natural science, and philology. Of the tres linguae sacrae, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, only the last was known; there is no evidence in Irish exegesis of a mastery of Hebrew or Greek. Moreover, despite their scientific pretensions, much of their Biblical literature shows the strong influence of the spiritual element of Alexandria, at times even to the point of fantasy. By establishing Continental centers of learning (e.g., the Abbeys of St. gall, bobbio, Peronne, wÜrzburg, luxeuil) they helped to prepare the subsequent carolingian renaissance of Biblical studies. Outstanding among the early Irish students of the Bible was john scotus erigena (d. c. 877), one of the few scholars (besides Sedulius Scotus of Liège and hilduin of saint-denis) of that day who had a good knowledge of the Greek language.

Benedictine Monastic Exegesis. The Irish monastic movement, which had been initiated by St. columban (d. 615), yielded in the course of the 8th century to Benedictinism, under whose aegis a network of monastic schools (e.g., the Abbeys of reichenau, fulda, corbie saint-riquier) spread across Europe. True to its tradition, the Benedictine Order concentrated on Biblical studies, even in the face of serious intellectual obstacles. Of necessity, exegesis rested solely on the corrupt text of the Vulgata latina of St. Jerome, which, even after the Carolingian revisions (e.g., of alcuin, c. 800), was still far from perfect. Rare was the scholar who was able to read the Greek text of the NT, and the Septuagint was for all practical purposes an unknown book. By the year 700 Greek had disappeared from the West; and since there had never been in Latin Christendom a strong Hebrew tradition, this important Biblical language played no part in early medieval exegesis. The exegete, therefore, was forced to rely on commentaries such as St. jerome's Quaestiones hebraicae in Genesim, from which various isolated Hebrew and Greek words might be excerpted to support his exegesis. At times, if he was fortunate, he might enjoy the assistance of a Jewish scholar of Hebrew. Early medieval exegesis, therefore, was built neither directly nor immediately on the Biblical languages, nor was it guided by historical, textual, or literary criticism.

Decisive in early medieval exegesis were the Fathers of the Church, authorities par excellence by reason of the official character of their witness to the ancient Christian tradition. But the exegete approached them with a reverence that was disproportionate. Too frequently his reliance on them was servile, unreasoned, narrow, rigorous, and at times simply mechanical even to the point of obscurantism. The intellectual heritage of the Fathers was neither fully transmitted to the medieval world nor fully understood by it. Certain of the works of a few Greek Fathers, such as St. john chrysostom, St. gregory of nyssa, Origen, and eusebius of caesarea, were disseminated in the Latin translations of St. Jerome, rufinus of aquileia, eustathius of antioch, dionysius exiguus, the school (Vivarium ) of cassiodorus. But in general, the writings of the Greek Fathers were not well known. However, a much larger portion of the corpus of the Latin Fathers was transmitted to the early Middle Ages. Here interest centered especially about the works of the golden tetrad: St. ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great. But many early medieval Bible students were acquainted with these Fathers only partially, through florilegia, Biblical catenae, or collections of sententiae (e.g., Liber scintillarum of Defensor of Ligugé). Their knowledge of the Fathers derived from isolated citations and was in consequence out of context. Thus, until St. anselm of canterbury (d.1109), no scholar comprehended the theology of St. Augustine as a system of thought. When a Biblical problem was posed, it was solved by citing patristic authorities, generally without identification. Frequently, spurious Bible commentaries were circulated under the names of the Fathers (e.g., Pseudo-Jerome, Expositio quattuor evangeliorum; Patrologia Latina 30:531590) and were used as such. The result at times was naïve and simplistic.

Biblical apocrypha such as The Book of Henoch, The Assumption of Mary, The Lord's Letter, and The Acts of Pilate also were a factor in early medieval exegesis. Rejected by the Church, they enjoyed no dogmatic authority; their use seems to have been largely confined to supplying those imaginative situations and concrete details of which Scripture is silent.

Exegesis of Carolingian Renaissance. Carolingian Biblical literature can be divided into four general catagories: (1) collections of quaestiones, e.g., Wicbod's Liber quaestionum (Patrologia Latina 96:110568); (2) collections of sententiae, e.g., smaragdus's Expositio comitis (Patrologia Latina 102:15552); (3) Biblical homilies, e.g., remigius of auxerre's Homiliae duodecim (Patrologia Latina 131:865932); and (4) the continuous sustained commentary on the text, e.g., Bede's In Marci evangelium expositio (ed., D. Hurst, Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 120:431648). These literary forms, rooted in the patristic tradition, remained despite subsequent development basic to the Middle Ages.

In the early medieval period St. Bede the Venerable stands out as the most competent master of exegesis, Bl. rabanus maurus (d. 856) as the least original but the most prolific. The exegetical work of St. paschasius radbertus (d. c. 860), with his fine sense of the literal, and that of John Scotus Erigena (d. c. 877), with his philosophical acumen, is marked by a fresh, advanced approach to the text of Scripture. In these two exegetes the distant future is foreshadowed. The last days of the Carolingians saw the rise of the school of Auxerre under haimo (d. c. 865), heiric (d. c. 876), and his pupil Remigius (d. c. 908). The work of the first two shows that "theological discussion was becoming a normal part of exegesis," while Remigius is significant for his contribution to "the development of Biblical scholarship" (B. Smalley). In the whole period between 650 and 900 Bible exegesis had made imperceptible but important advances: preservation of the patristic, development of criticism, and discussion of the sacred text in terms of theological problems.

Exegesis of Cathedral Schools. The period from 900 to 1028 forms an interim in the progressive development of Biblical studies. The acute crisis in which civilization had been caught at this time was not conducive to serious study. Furthermore, Cluniac monasticism (see cluniac reform), so dominant in the religious life of this century, inclined to the liturgical usage of Scripture ather than to its scientific study. In the course of the 10th century the new cathedral schools (e.g., Chartres, Avranches, Paris, Rheims, Tours) tended more and more to take over leadership from the old monastic schools, though the abbey of bec (Normandy), in the theological tradition of lanfranc (d. 1089) and St. Anselm (d. 1109), continued supreme. However, in the new cathedral schools, where a vigorous intellectual life was flourishing, academic interest centered, not in Biblical exegesis, but in the arts and sciences. Still, the heavy stress that was placed on secular studies, especially on dialectic, served as a fundamental preparation for the subsequent development of exegesis. By putting at the service of exegesis logic (dialectic), philology (grammar), and criticism (hermeneutic), the school of Chartres under its celebrated master, fulbert (d. 1028), formulated a program of study that flowered later on in the century.

Exegetical School of Laon. The first half of the 12th century is marked by the rise of two schools of the highest importance in the history of medieval exegesis: the school of anselm at Laon (d. c. 1117) and the School of St. Victor at Paris. As early as 1100 the school at Laon was a thriving center of learning with a reputation sufficiently high to attract Biblical students from all over Europe. The contribution of this school of exegesis is to be sought principally in Anselm's conception of scientific method: theological and Biblical systematization. The fruition of the program, insofar as it touches theology, came to fullness in the Liber Sententiarum of Peter Lombard (d. 1160), a student of Anselm; to perfection in the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas (d. 1274), who had commented on the Sentences of Peter. The Biblical systematization of this school is incarnate in the so-called Glossa ordinaria, which is basically the work of Anselm. As it stands today, this glossary (marginal and interlineal) on the whole Bible (individual words, phrases, texts, etc.) represents a compilation that was originally based on authentica (the Fathers) but later conflated by magistralia (the Doctors). In time (13th14th centuries) it became one of the most important handbooks for Biblical studies, in fact the backbone of the academic lectio.

Exegetical School of Saint-Victor. The school of Saint-Victor (Victorine school) was founded about 1110 by william of champeaux (d. 1121), a student of Anselm of Laon. Its most distinguished master, hugh of saint-victor, lectured there from 1118 until his death in 1141; and by the new program of Biblical studies, which he devised on the basis of St. Augustine's De doctrina Christiana, he exerted considerable influence on the development of exegetical method. For Hugh the study of the Bible was to rest on a profound, exact, almost universal education. His Didascalion, which presented a full academic propaedeutic to exegesis, put scientia at the service of biblica. This signified a new understanding of the function of lectio. Instead of sharply distinguishing the literal and the spiritual senses and considering the latter as culminating in perfect anagogy (contemplation), Hugh joined history (literal) and allegory (doctrinal) in distinction to morality. In forging this link he emphasized the historical foundation of doctrine; but while insisting on the literal sense as primary and basic to exegesis, he did not exclude the spiritual; for the finality of Bible study is simultaneously realized in knowledge (history and doctrine) and in virtue (morality and contemplation). The task of exegesis is triple: to explain letter, sense, and sentence. On the right understanding of these elements the right exegesis of the text rests. One of the most learned Victorines was andrew of saint-victor (d. 1175), whose exegesis (e.g., on the Octateuch) is characterized by its preoccupation with the literal and historical, especially with Hebrew learning. The relatively slender influence of his work, which is the product of an original, objective, critical mind, was out of proportion to its intrinsic value.

Biblical Moral School of Exegesis. The Victorine tradition was continued and developed by "the Biblical moral school" of peter comestor (d. 1179), peter cantor (d. 1197), and stephen langton (d. 1228). For them the spiritual sense is still paramount; but their interest is more in the direction of tropology (moral) than allegory (doctrine), of the practical (homily) more than the speculative (theology). By about 1150 exegesis was in transition from old to new style. St. Bernard stands out as the last great representative of the monastic tradition, while in gilbert de la porrÉe (d. 1154) and Peter Lombardboth students of Anselm of Laonthe new learning of the university is foreshadowed. Both the traditional method and function of exegesis were being seriously questioned by dialecticians such as peter of poitiers and Adam of the Petit Pont (d. 1181). robert of melun (d. 1164), author of the Summa sententiarum, ridiculed the slavish adherence with which the exegetes clung to the Glossa, while Peter Comestor criticized the Liber sententiarum of Peter Lombard for its excessive dialectic. The Biblical ferment of the mid-12th century would grow into the revolution of the following century, when theology and exegesis would separate as distinct intellectual disciplines.

[r. e. mcnally]


High Middle Ages. The legacy of the 12th century is the intellectual setting that it created for Bible study. First, under the inspiration of Peter abelard (d. 1142) exegesis dared to submit the traditional patristic authorities to a rigorous, critical examination. Second, in posing new quaestiones on the basis of textual criticism and probing dialectic, it forced exegesis to reconsider its function, especially in relation to theology. Third, it put at the disposal of exegesis a valuable new learned literature, e.g., the Historia scholastica of Peter Comestor, the Liber sententiarum of Peter Lombard (both of which Stephen Langton equated in importance), the Glossa ordinaria of Anselm, and a series of handbooks for Biblical studies.

From the high Middle Ages on, exegesis was an academic exercise of the schola, the studium generale, and the university. Students (auditores ) gathered about the master (lector ) to hear his exposé of the sacra pagina. Their edited transcriptions of the lecture formed the reportatio, the source of much modern knowledge of medieval exegesis. The scholastic method of Biblical interpretation was rooted in the old monastic lectio, the reading and commenting on Scripture. The quaestiones that were posed were answered by citations from the Fathers. Later the Glossa provided a standard, traditional interpretation. But in the course of the 12th century the early schoolmen developed a more critical approach to exegesis. The new questions that they posed required a more intensive and learned treatment. In all probability the disputatio grew from the tension between lectio and quaestio. In the second half of the century the disputatio extended its scope, becoming more theological, speculative, and dialectical, and tending to drift from the sacred text that it was designed to interpret. Under the influence of Aristotelian dialectics the quaestiones became more refined and sophisticated, the disputationes more subtle and metaphysical. By the time of Stephen Langton disput atio had almost completely broken off from lectio to find in the Liber sententiarum of Peter Lombard a new center of interest and discussion. By about 1250, at Paris and Oxford, it had definitively separated from lectio. While the exegete was left free to concentrate on the text of Scripture, the theologian assumed an independent role and a new theological method: the application of metaphysics to the content of revelation to make it intelligible and systematic. (see theology, history of.)

Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries the Fathers were still cited by the exegete (e.g., St. Thomas's Catena Aurea ), at times side by side with such authors as Plato, Cicero, Averroës, and others. With the coming of the university system in the early 13th century, exegesis became systematic, especially since Scripture was divided into chapters. Frequently the contents of Scripture were reduced to categories; e.g., materia, modus, utilitas, and intentio of the author; or according to the causes: materialis, formalis, finalis, and efficiens. More and more the literal sense was cultivated without neglecting the spiritual. St. albert the great (d. 1280) insisted on the primacy of the literal sense as the basis of the spiritual, which he conceived as an expository commentary useful for pedagogy. His disciple, St. Thomas Aquinas, faithful in general to traditional exegesis, approached the sacred text from the point of view of its doctrinal content. Perhaps his greatest legacy to exegesis was his Expositio continua, a sustained gloss on the Gospels that ranks with the Glossa ordinaria of Anselm and the Glossaria of Stephen Langton. St. bonaventure (d. 1274) admitted a manifold sense of Scripture but restricted its extension, refusing to see in the sacred text infinite mystical meanings. While accepting the validity of literal and spiritual senses, he insisted that their occurrence and interpretation should be verified in each case.

Late Middle Ages. In the late Middle Ages the postilla (post illa verba of the text) was developed as a more complete, flowing, detailed, integrated commentary on the text. At the same time, philology was stressed as an indispensable auxiliary to exegesis. Conspicuous here was roger bacon (d. 1292), whose Compendium studii developed the character of the relation of philology to exegesis as fundamental for scientific progress. His axiom is significant: Notitia linguarum est prima porta sapientiae. Philology is not to dominate but to serve exegesis, as dialectic was serving theology. The exegete must interpret Scripture on the basis of the original languages rather than of imperfect Latin translations. In 1311 the Council of vienne ordered the cultivation of Hebrew studies for exegesis [see hebrew studies (in the christian church)]; in the course of the 15th century Greek became more common in Biblical studies.

In the history of medieval exegesis no one since St. Jerome (d. 420) knew the Hebrew Old Testament as perfectly as nicholas of lyra, OFM (d. 1340), master of Hebrew, Jewish, and Arabic literature. The critical and independent skill with which he explored the sacred text in his commentaries (e.g. Postillae perpetuae in Vetus et Novum Testamentum ) mark him out as an original scholar. While ready to consult the patristic tradition in his exegesis, he refused to be bound by it. "The writings of the Fathers," he wrote, "are not of such great authority that no one is allowed to think in a contrary sense in those matters which have not been determined by Sacred Scripture itself." But the authentic Catholic spirit that animated his work is beyond question. He knew how to distinguish the scholastic from the ecclesial, the academic from the authoritative, to reject unfounded traditional exegesis, and to repudiate the arbitrary mystical senses in favor of the literal and historical. The influence of his spirit on the Reformers gave rise at a later date to the saying: Si Lyra non lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset (If Lyra ad not played on his lyre, Luther would not have danced).

With the coming of the Reformation and humanism, which employed the disciplines of the new learning, criticism, philology, and history, the usefulness of medieval exegesis as a hermeneutical system was virtually terminated. Face to face with this new critical spirit and its scientific technique, medieval exegesis ceased to be relevant and was discarded.

[r. e. mcnally]


Renaissance Exegesis. The 14th century produced almost no exegetical works of permanent value. Three outstanding writers of the period were: the Dominicans Meister eckhart (d. 1327) and nicholas trevet (d. c. 1330) and the Franciscan Nicholas of Lyra (d. 1349). Eckhart wrote two commentaries on Genesis, one literal and the other allegorical, as well as expositions of Exodus, Wisdom, Sirach, and 1 Corinthians and a very long commentary on John. More philosophical and theological than exegetical, these works are heavily indebted to the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Nicholas Trevet revealed his good knowledge of Hebrew in his strictly literal commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Chronicles, and the Psalms.

Nicholas of Lyra's exegesis reflected the beginnings of a new scientific approach to exegesis which, after many vicissitudes in succeeding centuries, would eventually prevail. His best known work, Postillae perpetuae in Vetus et Novum Testamentum, exercised wide influence. The Postillae, which completed and renewed the Glossa Ordinaria of Anselm of Laon, was almost exclusively literal in its interpretations (see Spicq, 336). Lyra refused to accept the interpretations of the Fathers unless, in his judgment, they conformed to the literal sense of the text. During the course of the Middle Ages, Biblical exegesis had made great progress over previous centuries. It had become more and more theological and more than ever before concerned with the literal sense intended by the sacred author. The future would remedy the period's two chief defects: an imperfect knowledge of philology and an inadequate sense of the Bible as the record of God's intervention in history.

The decline in the 15th century of scholastic exegesis and the return to allegory and moralizing is reflected in the works of Jean gerson (d. 1429) and denis the carthusian (d. 1471).

In the 16th century profound changes in Biblical studies took place, caused by the new emphasis on the study of Greek and Hebrew, the improvement in basic scriptural tools, and the exegetical principles of the Reformers, which were partially followed and partially controverted by 16th- and 17th-century Catholic exegetes.

Biblical Philology. Through the efforts of Johann reuchlin (d. 1522), the two Johannes Buxtorfs (fatherd. 1629; son d. 1664), and the Anglican John Lightfoot (d. 1675), Biblical scholars were provided with better Hebrew grammars, dictionaries, Hebrew and Aramaic concordances, and a better knowledge of rabbinical literature. The works of such scholars as Desiderius erasmus (d. 1536), Santes pagnini (d. 1541), and Robert estienne (d. 1559) enriched the field of textual criticism. The publication of the first polyglot bibles (at Alcalá, 151417; Antwerp; 156972; Paris, 162845; and London, 165357) made easier the comparison of different Biblical texts. The principles to be followed in the restoration of the Hebrew text were set forth by the Protestants Jacques Cappel (d.1624) and his brother Louis (d. 1658) in their Critica Sacra (1634).

Reformation Exegesis. The translation of the Bible into German by Martin luther (d. 1546) is an admitted literary masterpiece. However, neither his OT commentaries nor those of Huldrych zwingli (d. 1531), Philipp melanchthon (d. 1560), or John calvin (d. 1564) made any advance over similar works of their predecessors. The Reformers' polemical aims rendered objective, scientific exegesis difficult. They admitted the inspiration of the Bible but claimed that one's private judgment was sufficient to arrive at its evident sense. Rationalistic exegesis, the logical consequence of this principle, was soon evident in the writings of Hugo grotius (d. 1645) in his Annotationes in Vetus Testamentum and in those of Jean le clerc (d. 1736) in his Moysis libri quinque.

Catholic OT commentaries of the period include: Tommaso de Vio cajetan (d. 1534), who commentated on all the OT except the Song of Songs, the deuterocanonical books, and the Prophets, and whose exegetical principles involved him in a celebrated 16th-century controversy [see T. A. Collins, "Cajetan's Fundamental Biblical Principles," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 17 (1955) 363378]; Johannes maldonatus (d. 1583), whose OT exegesis was not equal to that of his famous Gospel commentaries; St. Robert bellarmine (d. 1621), who wrote an excellent commentary on the Psalms; Cornelius a lapide (d. 1637), whose voluminous commentaries on all the OT books except Job and the Psalms enshrine what is best in patristic exegesis and provide useful homiletic material; Jacques Bonfrère (d. 1642), who wrote commentaries on the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Chronicles; and, last but not least, Simon de Muis (d. 1644), whose Commentarius litteralis et historicus in omnes Psalmos et selecta Veteris Testamenti cantica cum versione nova ex Hebraico is surprisingly modern.

For the history of exegesis, however, the most significant 17th-century Catholic Biblical scholar was Richard simon (16381712), called the founder of Biblical historical criticism. In his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament Simon showed his keen awareness of the problems raised by the careful study of the Pentateuch, and he was the first to perceive the organic development of the OT books. His views were bitterly opposed by some as scandalous and a danger to the faith. Despite some serious defects, Simon's work won for its author a permanent place in the history of exegesis.

Eighteenth-Century Exegesis. The 18th century made little positive contribution to the history of exegesis. The works of Augustin calmet (16721757) reached a new peak in Catholic exegesis, but they lacked originality. His literal commentaries on the books of the OT and the NT were solid works of great erudition and exercised great influence especially in France. Textual criticism received contributions from Charles F. Houbigant (d.1784), Bernard de montfaucon (d. 1741), Pierre saba-tier (d. 1742), Benjamin Kennicott (d. 1783), Robert Holmes (d. 1805), and Giovanni Battista de rossi (d.1831).

[l. f. hartman]


A new era began with Jean astruc's (d. 1766) Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il parait que Moise s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Genese (1753). The 19th century would see this literary dissection (of the Pentateuch especially) carried to extremes. Only the principal authors and their proposals can be noted here.

Literary Criticism of Pentateuch. Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (d. 1827) offered the documentary hypothesis, which added other sources to the Yahwistic and Elohistic ones. Alexander geddes (d. 1802) proposed the fragment hypothesis in 1792. G. H. A. Ewald (d. 1875) countered with the supplement hypothesis, according to which a fundamental historical document (Grundschrift ) was supplemented by several other sources. Hermann Hupfeld (d.1866) further extended the documentary hypothesis in 1853 by distinguishing three basic documents: a basic source called First Elohist, a Yahwistic source, and a Second Elohistic one. In 1854 Eduard Karl August Riehm (d.1888) proposed Deuteronomy (D) as a fourth source, and in 1869 Theodor Noeldeke (d. 1930) extended the Documentary Hypothesis to the whole Hexateuch. He proposed three sources from the 10th and 9th century b.c. according to the following chronological order: (P) Priestly Code or First Elohist; (E) Second Elohist; (J) Yahwist, and a fourth source (D), dating from just prior to the reform of Josia (621 b.c.). Noeldeke suggested that the Pentateuch attained its final form under Ezra, who successfully promulgated it.

Wellhausen School. The brilliant Julius well-hausen (d. 1918) championed the ideas of E. G. E. Reuss (d. 1891) and Karl Heinrich Graf (d. 1869) in proposing his own widely accepted hypothesis. The classic Well-hausen thesis of the literary sources of the pentateuch reads as follows: a 9th-century b.c. Yahwistic and an 8th-century b.c. Elohistic source (the latter reflecting the religious traditions of the Northern Kingdom), a fusion of J and E by the Prophets, Deuteronomy, and the Priestly code. S. R. Driver (d. 1914) in England, Léon Gautier (d.1897) in France, and many leading scholars in Germany promoted the Wellhausen thesis. A pivotal point in the Wellhausen school was the conclusion that the principal codes of Law were composed after, not before, the period of the Prophets, who were the real founders of Israelite monotheism, fraudulently attributed to Moses. The solemn promulgation of the Law was deferred until after the Babylonian Exile. For a fuller history and elaborate bibliography of the history of OT criticism, see J. Coppens, The Old Testament and the Critics, tr. E. A. Ryan and E.W. Tribbe (Paterson, N.J. 1942).

In applying their theories to the whole of the Bible members of the Wellhausen school distinguished the literary history of the Israelites into three periods: (1) that of the ancient Prophets, (2) that of the composition of the various codes of the Torah (admitting that some parts of these codes, e.g., the Book of the Covenant, may well have been contemporaneous with the work of the Prophets), and (3) that of the didactic and apocalyptic literature (see Coppens, op. cit. 3536). Wellhausen himself as well as others, notably, Abraham Kuenen (d. 1891) in 1869, Bernhard Duhm (d. 1928) in 1873, and B. Stade in 1905 and 1911, added to the documentary theory a reconstruction of Israel's religious history founded upon the philosophy of G. W. F. hegel (d. 1831) as applied to Israel's religion by certain scholars of the school of W. M.L. De Wette (d. 1849), especially J. K. Wilhelm Vatke (d. 1882). According to this school, the history of Israel's religion ought to conform to an evolutionary pattern alleged to be observable in all human history. It was claimed that the religious experience of Israel began with an animism or polydaemonism, evolved into a national henotheism, and finally, under the impetus of the great prophetical movement, as mentioned above, it developed into the ethical monotheism of the exilic and post-exilic periods (see G. E. Wright, ed., The Bible and the Ancient Near East [New York 1965] 35).

Post-Wellhausen research has considerably altered many positions originally assumed concerning the dates assigned to the four classic sources (J, E, D, P), the unity of these documents and their relative chronology, and the late date assigned by Wellhausen for the origins of all the Deuteronomic or sacerdotal laws. These researches were carried on especially by K. F. R. Budde (1890 and 1902), Immanuel Benzinger (1921), Rudolf Smend (1921), Gustav Holscher (1923), and Otto Eissfeldt (1925), among others. More recently, Gerhard von Rad, R. H. Pfeiffer, P. Romanoff, and Sigmund Mowinckel have sought for other special sources for certain parts of the Torah.

Study of Predocumentary Traditions. At the turn of the century a new phase of critical scholarship began with the work of Hermann gunkel (d. 1932) and H. Gress-mann (d. 1927), who turned their attention to the study of the individual units of tradition contained within the various documents. It became quickly apparent that the dating of a given document by no means dated the material or traditions contained therein. The modern study of the Patriarchs clearly demonstrates this (see R. de Vaux, Revue biblique 53 [1946] 321348; 55 [1948] 321347; 56 [1949] 536). The new attention being paid to the Biblical traditions in their pre-literary form makes it abundantly clear that, whereas documents containing these traditions may be arranged chronologically, the material they contain cannot be as easily arranged chronologically, and as a consequence they cannot be confidently used to support an evolutionary theory of the development of Israel's religion.

As John Bright has noted (G. E. Wright, ed., op.cit. 78), all this has led scholars to abandon classical Well-hausenism without abandoning the documentary hypothesis, which stands or falls independently of Wellhausen's views; "and, so far at least, it seems in general to have stood." Opposition to Wellhausen, in whole or in part, came from several outstanding scholars, including E. König (d. 1936) and R. kittel (d. 1929). The search for the oral and written sources of the OT books continues.

Catholic Reaction. Catholic scholarship showed little interest in these literary problems until the end of the 19th century. M. J. lagrange (d. 1938) faced the problem squarely in 1898 with his "Les Sources du Pentateuque" [Revue biblique 7 (1898) 1032]. In his last published article, "L'Authenticité mosaïque de la Genèse et la théorie des documents" [Revue biblique 47 (1938) 163183], he acknowledged the existence of documents and proposed that E was used by Moses who sketched the outline for J, which was written by an associate. P was a sort of Summa containing only essentials. Many Catholic OT scholars now agree that the documentary hypothesis is valid in principle as at least a partial answer to the problem of the origin of the OT books.

Rationalistic Criticism. In the 19th century another strong current, which came from the 18th century, was rationalistic criticism. Among its principal exponents were: G. E. lessing (d. 1781), who divorced religion from the Bible; J. S. Semler (d. 1791), who taught that Scripture accommodated itself to contemporary prevailing beliefs; I. kant (d. 1804), for whom exegesis meant extracting from the Bible ethical truths only; and G. W.F. Hegel, who held that each religion, with its own legends, images, and myths, reflects a stage in a religious evolutionary process; consequently, OT narratives should be interpreted merely as the myths of Israel's religion. The theory of Israel's religious evolution from lesser forms was strengthened by the works of E. B. Tylor (d. 1917) in 1871, H. spencer (d. 1903), J. Lippert (d.1909) in 1881, B. Stade in 1884, and F. Schwally in 1892. Monotheism, the last stage in Israel's religious evolution, was attributed to the work of the Prophets. The panbabylonian school of Hugo Winckler (d. 1913), Friedrich Delitzsch (d. 1922), and others (see panbabylonianism) attributed it to a hidden monotheism in Mesopotamia (see A. Robert and A. Tricot, Guide to the Bible, rev. and enl. [TournaiNew York] 1:713722).

Twentieth-Century Exegesis. At the turn of the 20th century, despite variety concerning details, there was substantial agreement on most OT problems among all leading scholars (see H. H. Rowley, "Trends in OT Study," The Old Testament and Modern Study [London 1961] xvxxxi). After World War I, however, a greater variety of positions on fundamental points emerged. Scholars now recognized a far greater unity in the Bible than before. This led to a renewed interest in the biblical theology of the OT (see R. C. Dentan). During the mid- 20th-century there arose new knowledge, new approaches to old problems, new applications of older principles, and new tests of conclusions long since held sacred. A host of new OT scholars won a permanent place in the history of exegesis (W. F. albright, J. Bright, M. Burrows, W. Eichrodt, F. V. Filson, A. Gelin, H. W. Hertz-berg, R. A. F. MacKenzie, J. L. McKenzie, S. mowinckel, J. Lindblom, M. Noth, G. von Rad, H. H. Rowley, P. W. skehan, R. de Vaux, and A. Vincent, to name but a few). There was a gradual tendency among 20th-century exegetes to adopt a more conservative opinion on many OT problems.

During this period Catholic Biblical scholarship came of age. Inspired by the directives of the Church, Catholic scholars in both Europe and America won for themselves honored places in Biblical studies. New Catholic Biblical societies were formed, new scientific journals founded, scholarly Biblical faculties erected, and many praiseworthy Catholic OT works continued to appear.

Among the tendencies evident in modern OT studies, the following may be noted: in Pentateuchal criticism new stress was placed on the oral traditions behind the main sources, new sources were discovered, and reconsideration was given to the dates assigned to the old sources; there also existed a widespread tendency to interpret as rituals many historical and prophetical texts as well as many Psalms; there was a strong proposal from the Scandinavian school that the traditio-historical method of investigation were more fruitful than literary criticism in solving various OT problems.

[l. f. hartman]


The exegesis of the principal reformers, M. Luther, J. Calvin, and P. Melanchthon, had ignored the interpretation of the Church and was subjective and mystical in character and far removed from traditional historical enquiry.

Rationalistic Exegesis. The rationalists, in the name of the "enlightenment," sought to emancipate themselves from the "darkness" of Christian revelation. Their fundamental principles denied the existence of the super-natural and affirmed that only what is rational is real. In France, England, and Germany charges of fraud and deception were hurled against Christ and His Apostles. H.S. reimarus (d. 1768) attributed the beginnings of Christianity to the Apostles, who had idealized the person and teachings of Christ. Heinrich E. G. Paulus (d. 1851) claimed that the Gospels narrated the testimony of witnesses more or less subject to hallucinations. In his Life of Jesus (1835) D. F. strauss (d. 1874) held that the Gospel texts, which the rationalists found so difficult, were really mythical in origin. F. C. baur (d. 1860) tried to reconstruct the history of the early Church before the appearance of the Gospel myths. Bruno bauer (d. 1882) maintained that Christ's very existence was a myth. All these writers used Hegelian philosophy as a foundation for their rationalistic exegesis (see hegelianism and neo-hegelianism).

Reaction to these extreme positions came from J. Ernest renan (d. 1892) and especially such liberal Protestants as Bernhard Weiss (d. 1918), Karl Theodor Keim (d. 1878), E. G. E. Reuss (d. 1891), Albert Reville (d.1906), H. J. holtzmann (d. 1910), and A. von harnack (d. 1930). The liberals themselves, however, were opposed by those who wished to free the study of Christ and the Gospels from all philosophies, e.g., Johannes Weiss (d. 1914) and William Wrede (d. 1906). Another strong current at the turn of the 20th century was syncretism, which sought to trace Christian teachings back to various elements in Near Eastern religious speculations, especially those derived from Hellenism. For good summaries of NT trends in the 20th century, see A. Hunter; R. H. Fuller. Only the highlights can be noted here.

Quest for the Historical Jesus. Most influential was the eschatological approach of Albert Schweitzer (d.1965), in his Von Reimarus zu Wrede [1906; The Quest of the Historical Jesus, tr. W. Montgomery (New York 1961)], which forced NT scholars to face the problem of eschatology in the Gospels. In his detailed story of the quest for the historical Jesus in the 19th century Schweitzer had revealed the aim of the search: to discover the original teachings of Jesus and through these teachings to test the authenticity of the Church's version of Christianity. The historio-critical method that was used promised objective and scientific results, but unfortunately the method (as it had been used especially by Wrede and Wellhausen) demonstrated quite clearly that the liberals had not reconstructed a very scientific portrait of the historical Jesus after all (see Fuller, 2627).

Form Criticism. A new and somewhat original approach to the study of the Gospels strongly supported this conclusion. Biblical form criticism focused its attention upon the several literary forms or types found in the Gospel narratives. Through an analytical and comparative study of these various literary forms the form critic hopes to be able to retrace the preliterary history of the Gospel traditions. The studies of M. Dibelius, Die Form-geschichte des Evangeliums (Tübingen 1919), Eng. tr. byB. L. Woolf, From Tradition to Gospel (London and New York 1934); K. L. Schmidt, Der Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu (Berlin 1919); R. Bultmann, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (Göttingen 1921), Eng. tr. of 3rd ed., 1957, by John Marsh, History of the Synoptic Tradition (New York 1963); and M. Albertz, Die synoptischen Streitgesprache (Berlin 1921) showed that the Synoptic Gospels were not written as biographies of Jesus but rather to enshrine the faith of the early Church. The critics claimed that the Gospels could not be used as a source for the reconstruction of the portrait of the historical Jesus because they had been written on a theological rather than an historical basis. These critics claimed further that any quest for the historical Jesus, taking that word historical in its usual modern sense, would prove to be in vain. Dialectical theologians, such as Karl Barth and Martin Kähler, maintained it was unnecessary, since the object of our faith is not the Jesus of history but the Jesus of faith, whose saving action is proclaimed in the kerygma. For a balanced judgment and bibliography of form criticism, see A. Wikenhauser, New Testament Introduction (New York 1958), Eng. tr. by J. Cunningham, 253277.

Demythologizing. In 1941 Rudolf Bultmann delivered his now famous lecture, Neues Testament und Mythologie, in which he offered an outline of a program to demythologize the NT (see demythologizing). Much scholarly literature has been published in the course of the debate concerning NT myths (H. W. Bartsch, ed., Kerygma and Myth I [London 1960], Eng. tr. by R. H. Fuller, for "New Testament and Mythology" [144] and bibliography [224228]). For a dozen years (194153) a most heated debate raged over Bultmann's aims and methods.

The New Quest. The debate, while hardly finished, occasioned a return to the quest of the historical Jesus. This began in 1953 when Ernst Käsemann, one of Bultmann's outstanding pupils, delivered a lecture in which he turned his attention to the old problem of the Jesus of history. The story of this new quest, as well as an evaluation of contributions by Käsemann, G. Bornkamm, H. G. Conzelmann, and others has been well told by J. M. Robinson in A New Quest of the Historical Jesus (London and Naperville 1959); see also Fuller, 2553.

Synoptic Studies. Modern studies in the Synoptic Gospels exhibited a significant shift of emphasis in many areas (see synoptic gospels). Formerly little attention was paid to the Evangelists' personal contributions to their Gospels. As Fuller (71) remarked, the Synoptic Evangelists were considered more as simply collectors of oral traditions, as men standing at the end of a pipeline collecting in a bucket what came through, arranging it a little, perhaps, but making little personal contribution to NT theology. By the mid-20th century more attention was paid to the distinctive interpretation each Evangelist applies to the traditions at his disposal and the principles that guide him in the arrangement of these traditions for his own kerygmatic purposes. The problem of distinguishing the main strata or layers of Synoptic material remained only partially solved and continued to invite new and improved solutions. The Synoptic problem intrigued a new generation of NT scholars, as it always did in the past. The scholars in the forefront of modern studies in the Synoptic Gospels were G. Bornkamm, R. Brown, J.M. Robinson, H. G. Conzelmann, and W. Marxsen, among many others. For further details, especially concerning the Lucan writings, see Fuller, 70100.

Johannine Studies. In Johannine studies, too, a remarkable change took place during the 20th century. No longer were commentators concerned primarily with the questions of authorship, date, and provenance. The earlier critics were intent upon studies of vivisection, partition, and rearrangements of the original order of the Fourth Gospel. Many now agreed with C. H. Dodd that it is "the duty of an interpreter at least to see what can be done with the document as it has come down to us before attempting to improve upon it."

Other modern positions on principal Johannine problems may be stated briefly. (1) Regarding authorship, most scholars were content to attribute the Fourth Gospel to an unknown disciple of the Apostle (so, more or less, C. H. Dodd, C. K. Barrett, and R. Bultmann), although R. H. Lightfoot noted that no one has shown it is impossible that the Apostle John was the author. (2) Regarding the date, the general tendency was toward a.d. 100 or even earlier. (3) On the question of John's relation to the Synoptics there was a shift from the older position that claimed John knew and used at least Mark and Luke to the total rejection of any dependence (so Dodd and Bult-mann but not Barrett). B. Noack in Zur Johanneischen Tradition (Copenhagen 1954) and S. Schulz in Untersuchungen zur Menschensohn-Christologie im Johannes Evangelium (Göttingen 1957) made important contributions to the study of pre-Johannine material imbedded in the Johannine discourses (see Fuller, 112115). (4) Whereas the older view of an Aramaic origin for the Fourth Gospel was received indifferently, few modern scholars rejected entirely M. Black's contention that there are Aramaic logia enshrined in the Fourth Gospel's discourses (see M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts [Oxford, 2nd ed. 1954]). (5) Various proposals were offered in the important study of the sources of Johannine theology. The more important sources suggested were: the OT and rabbinic literature (the conservative view), Greek philosophy and Greek religion (the older liberal view), the OT plus Greek influences by way of Hellenistic mysticism (so Dodd, Barrett, and others), and gnosticism (so Bultmann and his school with variations in details) (see Fuller, 118125).

The discovery of the dead sea scrolls opened up new avenues of approach to many Johannine problems. More recent studies arising from the material of the qumran community seemed to tend, at least in some measure, toward conservative positions in the questions of authorship, date, and provenance.

Pauline Studies. At the beginning of the 20th century the great problem concerning the Pauline Epistles was their authenticity. A century later only the Ephesians and the Pastorals are considered by some to be doubtfully authentic. The old question of the meaning of the term galatia is still being debated, though the weight of critical scholarship seems to be on the side of the defenders of the South-Galatian theory, who claim Paul used the term politically (see galatians, epistle to the). The provenance of the captivity epistles, the destination of the 6th chapter of Romans, and the literary unity of 2 Corinthians still exercise NT scholars.

Especially in the mid-20th century new and signifi-cant studies were published, including R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, tr. K. Grobel (2 v. London 195556), which devoted more than 300 pages in v. 1 to an anthropological treatment of Pauline thought; J. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, tr. F. Clarke (London and Richmond 1959), which stressed the concept of salvation history in Paul's writings [see C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last (New York 1962) for a similar treatment and R. H. Fuller, 5468 for an appraisal of both Bultmann and Munck]; and R. Schnacken-burg, New Testament Theology Today, which was widely consulted for all modern aspects of NT theology.

Catholic Exegesis. In the period following the Council of Trent Catholic exegesis was understandably characterized by a strong apologetic spirit, prompted by the polemical writings of the Protestants. Until about the middle of the 19th century Catholic exegetical works were, for the most part, little more than excellent compilations of Patristic citations fashioned into a strong defense of the chief doctrines of the Church and providing a treasury of homilectic source material. There were, of course, notable exceptions. J. maldonatus (d. 1583) composed excellent commentaries on the Gospels, which supplanted all previous Gospel commentaries (see J. M. Bover, "El P. Juan Maldonado, Theologo y escriturario," Razón y Fe 34 [1934] 481504). G. estius (d.1613) wrote outstanding expositions of the Pauline and Catholic Epistles, which became classics. The NT commentaries of Cornelius a Lapide (d. 1637) were, like his OT works mentioned above, mosaics of Patristic quotations and references (see R. Galdos, "De scripturisticis meritis Patris Cornelii a Lapide," Verbum Domini 17 [1937] 3944, 8896).

From the middle of the 19th century Catholic Biblical works of a more learned and scientific nature began to appear. Many now-famous collections had their beginnings after the mid-19th century: Cursus Sacrae Scripturae, Étude Bibliques, Exegetisches Handbuch zum A.T., Die Hl. Schrift des N.T., Die Hl. Schrift des A.T., Verbum Salutis, Herders Bibel Kommentar: Die Hl. Schrift für das Leben erklart, La Sainte Bible (Pirot-Clamer), Regensburger Neues Testament, and Die Echter-Bibel. Also many biblical periodicals under Catholic auspices made their appearance at this time: Revue Biblique, Biblische Studien, Biblische Zeitschrift, Biblische Zeitfragen, Alttestamentliche Abhandlungen, Biblica, Verbum Domini, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Revista Biblica, Estudios Biblicos, Cultura Biblica, Biblische Warte, Lumière et Vie, Bible et Vie Chrétienne, and The Bible Today. Evidence of the vitality of Catholic Biblical studies in the 20th century could be found in Catholic scholars' active participation in both national and international Congresses, whether sponsored by Catholic organizations or others.

Credit for the impetus given to Catholic Biblical studies must be accorded first to the Roman Pontiffs, Leo XIII for his encyclical providentissimus deus, Benedict XV for his encyclical spiritus paraclitus, and especially Pius XII for his encyclical divino afflante spiritu. With full support and encouragement from the Church a new generation of highly equipped NT scholars emerged from such centers of Biblical studies as Rome, Jerusalem, Louvain, Paris, and Washington, D.C. Among the more familiar names of Catholic NT scholars of the latter half of the 20th century are those of B. M. Ahern, P. Benoit, M. E. Boismard, R. Brown, S. Lyonnet, B. Rigaux, K. H. Schelkle, R. Schnackenburg, C. Spicq, D. M. Stanley, B. Vawter, and A. Voegtle, to mention but a few. These and other outstanding scholars faced the more difficult problems of NT exegesis and made significant contributions to such questions as the historicity of the Gospels, the nature of the Evangelical parables, the unfolding and development of Pauline thought, and many thorny questions concerning the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, as well as such problems as the relation between the Bible and tradition as sources of revelation and the nature of Biblical inspiration.

In discussing the 20th century as a whole, special mention should be made of the rise of Biblical scholar-ship among American Catholics, who, after slow beginnings, made great progress. The Catholic Biblical Association of America (1936), especially under its executive secretary L. F. Hartman (1948), and The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1939) under a series of capable editors (W. reilly, M. gruenthaner, E. F. Siegman, R.E. Murphy, and B. Vawter) received deserved praise for their efforts in behalf of the study of the Bible in America.

Bibliography: Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," Origins 23, no. 29 (Jan. 6,1994) 497524. r. m. grant, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible (rev. ed. New York 1963). a. vincent, Judaism, tr. j.d. scanlan (London 1934). w. bacher, Die exegetische Terminologie der jüdischen Traditionsliteratur (Leipzig 1899). w. bacher, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer (New York 190106) 3:164174. m. mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud (New York 1925) 115187. s. rosenblatt, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Mishnah (Baltimore 1935). b. smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (2nd ed. New York 1952; repr. Notre Dame 1964). c. spicq, Esquisse d'une histoire de l'exégèse latine au moyen âge (Paris 1944). r. c. dentan, Preface to Old Testament Theology (rev. ed. New York 1963). h. h. rowley ed., The Old Testament and Modern Study (Oxford 1951). r. h. fuller, The New Testament in Current Study (New York 1962). a. m. hunter, Interpreting the New Testament, 19001950 (Philadelphia 1951). e. kÄsemann, Essays on New Testament Themes, tr. w. j. montague (London 1964). w. klassen and g. f. synder, eds., Current Issues in New Testament Interpretation (New York 1962). r. schnackenburg, New Testament Theology Today, tr. d. askew (New York 1963). a. allgeier, "Exegetische Beiträge zur Geschichte des Griechischen vor dem Humanismus," Biblica 24 (1943) 261288. b. altaner, "Zur Kenntnis des Hebräischen im Mittelalter," Biblische Zeitschrift 21 (1933) 288308. b. bischoff, "Wendepunkte in der Geschichte der lateinischen Exegese im Frühmittelalter," Sacris erudiri 6 (1954) 189281. m. d. chenu, "Les Deux âges de l'allégorisme scriptuaire au moyen âge," Revue de théologie ancienne et médiévale 18 (1951) 1928. h. de lubac, Exégèse médiévale, 2 v. in 4 (Paris 195964). a. kleinhans, "De studio Sacrae Scripturae in ordine Fratrum Minorum saeculo XIII," Antonianum 7 (1932) 413440. m. l. w. laistner, "Antiochene Exegesis in Western Europe during the Middle Ages," Harvard Theological Review 40 (1947) 1931. a. landgraf, "Zur Methode der biblischen Textkritik im 12. Jahrhundert," Biblica 10 (1929) 445474. j. leclercq, L'Amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu (Paris 1957). p. mandonnet, "L'Enseignement de la Bible selon l'usage de Paris," Revue thomiste NS 12 (1929) 489519; "Travaux des Dominicains sur les Saintes Écritures," Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed. f. vigouroux 5 v. (Paris 18951912) 2.2: 146382. r. e. mcnally, "Medieval Exegesis," Theological Studies 22 (1961) 445454; The Bible in the Early Middle Ages (Woodstock Papers 4; Westminster, Md. 1959). b. smalley, English Friars and Antiquity in the Early Fourteenth Century (New York 1960). f. stegmÜller, Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, 7 v. (Madrid 194961).

[l. f. hartman]

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"Exegesis, Biblical." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 15 Aug. 2018 <>.

"Exegesis, Biblical." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (August 15, 2018).

"Exegesis, Biblical." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.