I wrote an ironic theory about Apollonius Rhodus writing Iliad and Odyssey, as a parallel to the widely accepted idiocy that Ezra wrote the Pentateuch.
As the matter is sacred, even at the risk of spoiling a joke, I have to give serious credit to a scholar who credits Moses with the Pentateuch. Irony off here.
My credit will put his good achievement in the middle, surrounded by first a misunderstanding on his part, second (or third, after the credit) a criticism on his take on the sometimes so called « Apocryphs of the Old Testament » or sometimes rather Deuterocanonic Books. His name is Sylvain Romerowski, his book is called « D’où vient la Bible ? » and his problems which around the credit I will try to correct are connected with the fact he is a Protestant. When I first read his argument in favour of Mosaic authorship and then starting his discussion about deuterocanonic books, I first thought he was a Modernist Catholic. No such luck for them, he was a Protestant.
Part I, Divergent or Convergent Meanings ?
or Chuck Missler versus Reformers
Now for the correction, after discussing the canon he also gives some hints on how to interpret the Bible. One thing he rejects is the four senses, although he shows they have quite a patristic pedigree. His one argument against them is that a well written text to a reader reading it correctly cannot have divergent senses. There is one correct way of reading it.
He makes this point as against one Stanley FISH, « Is There a Text in this Class ? », Harvard University Press 1990. If it were impossible for readers with widely divergent backgrounds to read Stanley as he intended to be read, rather than in senses diverging from it, he would hardly have written the book at all.
Here I must give a credit to Stanley Fish on the issue there are interpretative communities. In Latin, in Hebrew (I presume) and in Modern Languages, there are three different standard ways of communicating a quote. Let’s take a famous one from Caesar.
On this occasion he said « veni, vidi, vici » / On this occasion he said « I came, I saw, I conquered. »
This is the modern procedure. The words are exactly the ones said (or an exact translation in case it was said in a different language), the quote is marked with quotation marks at the beginning and the end.
Homer has a similar procedure. I will not try to equal him in Homeric Greek, but will just give a fair prose translation :
Caesar, when the fair memories hastened to remind his thoughts of a battle, unleashed his tongue from the fetters of the teeth and said I came I saw I conquered, and having said these winged words awaited the worthy appraisal.
He gives a start which goes « unleashed his tongue from the fetters of the teeth and said » as his equivalent of first quotation mark, and he gives in lieu of ending quotation mark « and having said these winged words » plus some words about what he did next.
Holy Bible at least in Greek has a similar approach, « Jesus said » and then the words He said. If I recall OT passages correctly, the not-need of ending quotation marks usually depends on the words after the quote showing who answered or what happened after the dialogue.
Latin – the language of Caesar – has what is called « oratio obliqua ».
« Veni, vidi, vici » becomes « Caesar dixit se venisse, vidisse, vicisse. » Or for that matter, « Caesar dixit se, postquam et venisset et statim vidissed, mox vicisse. » Se is in accusative. The finite verb forms are changed to infinitive (Latin has both present, future and past such). But this is not so in subordinate clauses.
Now, there is a place, not in Holy Bible but in an encyclical of Pius XII where this has been missed.
Quemadmodum autem in biologicis et anthropologicis disciplinis, ita etiam in historicis sunt qui limites et cautelas ab Ecclesia statuta audacter transgrediantur. Ac peculiari modo deploranda est quaedam nimio liberior libros historicos Veteris Testamenti interpretandi ratio, cuius fautores Epistulam haud ita multo ante a Pontificio Consilio de re biblica Archiepiscopo Parisiensi datam ad suam defendendam causam immerito referunt. Haec enim Epistula aperte monet undecim priora capita Geneseos, quamvis cum historicae compositionis rationibus proprie non conveniant, quibus eximii rerum gestarum scriptores graeci et latini, vel nostrae aetatis periti usi fuerint,nihilominus quodam vero sensu, exegetis amplius investigando ac determinando, ad genus historiae pertinere;eademque capita, oratione simplici ac figurata mentique populi parum exculti accommodata, tum praecipuas veritates referre, quibus aeterna nostra procuranda salus innititur,tum etiam popularem descriptionem originis generis humani populique electi . Si quid autem hagiographi antiqui ex narrationibus popularibus hauserint (quod quidem concedi potest), numquam obliviscendum est eos ita egisse divinae inspirationis afflatu adiutos, quo in seligendis ac diiudicandis documentis illis ab omni errore immunes praemuniebantur. Quae autem ex popularibus narrationibus in Sacris Litteris recepta sunt, ea cum mythologiis aliisve id genus minime ae quanda sunt, quae magis ex effusa imaginatione procedunt quam ex illo veritatis ac simplicitatis studio, quod in Sacris Libris Veteris etiam Testamenti adeo elucet ut hagiographi nostri antiquos profanos scriptores aperte praecellere dicendi sint.
Have you noted « Haec enim Epistula aperte monet » followed by accusative « undecim priora capita Geneseos, » followed, after some subordinate clauses (which the type of inderect speech does not change to accusative with infinitive), by the words leading up to an infinitive « nihilominus quodam vero sensu, exegetis amplius investigando ac determinando, ad genus historiae pertinere ». Likewise « eademque capita » (the same chapters, accusative) « tum praecipuas veritates referre » (infinitive) « tum etiam popularem descriptionem originis generis humani populique electi ».
All this is then the words of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to the Archbishop of Paris. Here comes the thing : the Pope just had introduced this by saying these words had been abused to an all to free exegesis of historical sense. He now comes with his own words, not referring the following accusative with infinitive (which is not reserved for indirect speech !) to the answer to Paris, but to the new heading, said on his own account « numquam obliviscendum est » (it must never be forgotten) … I will spare you the grammatical analysis, but the translation of a EWTN has as finale of the paragraph : « If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents. »
So the Pope is conceding part of what he just cited and reminding of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. You can of course see that unfamiliarity with the accusative and infinitive may have given rise to misunderstandings going the way of liberal theology, when taking certain things as said on the Pope’s own account.
But when this has been said, such discrepancies of interpretative praxis are on a level which can easily be learned and therefore be guarded against misunderstandings.
Therefore, I must agree with Sylvain against Stanley that in the end, any work made accessible to any public (excepting perhaps people living in very rude conditions and unknowledgeable of culture, and even here God can have adapted their understanding to His word) can and should be read with all of the originally intended sense intact.
Now, the problem with Sylvain’s position is that there are other works than the Bible that have more than one convergent sense.
The today most famous allegories are perhaps Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and Animal Farm by George Orwell. They do have the sense – as tall and entertaining stories – of the words written on the page. They very obviously also have another sense altogether. But not a divergent one, rather a convergent one on another level. It is on this other level that the works are if not true in every detail at least intended to be so. The Pig Napoleon has never existed on any farm, except in the fantasy of George Orwell, but Stalin has very definitely existed at the same time when George Orwell wrote. The City of Destruction has never had physical city walls, even Babylon is not quiet the same thing, but the state of mortal sin does exist and does require leaving it before it is too late.
This is allegory verses history, and in these works only allegory is true, whereas history as such is false. Made up. A fable.
Now, this procedure was also current in ancient times. At least it had been current to reinterpret Homer allegorically, when his statements about the gods made no sense to the philosophical spirit of the readers in Alexandria. It can be argued that Apollonius Rhodus was so familiar with this procedure that he used it backwards and adapted his fable to allegorical interpretations in advance (let us not go into which ones!) So, this procedure was already familiar to Hellenistic Jews at least in the time of the New Testament. And it was on more than one occasion used to interpret the Old Testament by New Testament writers.
Not quite for the same motive as people disenchanted with Homeric pagan theology still refused to give up Homer as an author. No, but because just as a human author can adapt a fable to an allegoric purpose, so God who is almighty over real history and wiser than any human author can do so with real history for an allegory of real prophecy.
One had not yet come to writing full scale allegories, I think, like Pilgrim's Progress or Animal Farm. Not before Psychomachia by Prudentius I think (I consulted CSL's The Allegory of Love, and it has one chapter about allegory and one about courteous love before getting into definite portions of the main subject, where they are intertwined). But one had definitely come to interpreting long works as, though united in a story, having in each or at least more than one location an allegorical meaning. And this is what the theory of the four senses, at least as far as the allegoric sense is concerned.
Therefore the senses are not divergent but rather convergent on different levels. One of them, the moral sense, is actually not unknown to Protestants. As a child within the Protestant communities, I heard some preach over the courage of Daniel or the coping of Ruth and their confidence in God really being applicable to us, a model for us.
One major difference would be that in four senses reading, the moral sense might be an allegorical one (as when Origen gives a moral sense for Joshua's routing of armies under the Solar Miracle : so we must fight our sins and rout our vices under the Sun of Justice who is Christ, similar for the Psalm 137), whereas to deniers of the allegoric sense, the moral sense would often enough be simply parallel in a literal sense. Puritan readings of Joshua have encouraged them to bad treatment of both Irish and Red Indians.
There are other issues, where later-than-the-Reformers Protestants would agree, there are more than the Literal senses to the Bible. Have you heard Chuck Missler recite Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan*, Mahalalel*, Jared, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah and then give the translations? Man (is) Appointed Mortal Sorrow (but) The-Blessed-God Will-Descend**, Teaching (that) His-Death-Shall-Bring (to?) the Despairing Rest. I would of course agree to it, except Henoch is not just "teaching" but "initiating", and Christ (who is the Blessed God who after this prophecy really did Descend) not just taught this, but initiated this blessing by the First Holy Mass on Maundy Thursday.
So where did Reformers rejecting the Four Senses get the curious idea that the other than literal senses were divergent senses?
The fact is, much of Catholic or Orthodox, much of Monophysite and I suppose also Nestorian statements about the Blessed Virgin Mary are really Biblical if you take certain Old Testament passages as Allegoric prophecies about Her.
The first OT statement about the Blessed Virgin is in Genesis 3. "I will put enmities between the woman and thyself, between her seed and thy seed". Sinning means being a slave of the old serpent. Enmity is incompatible with slavery, since slavery is a kind of peace. Therefore, God putting enmities between the old serpent and the woman means there must be one woman who is sinless. That one sinless woman is not Eve, obviously, she just came from sinning. Of course Eve also became an enemy of the serpent by doing penance. But the Blessed Virgin Mary fully fulfilled this part, just as there is enmity between Christ (the woman's seed) and Antichrist (the serpents' seed, see Apocalypse 19), there is enmity between her and Satan.
Now, such statements, and others meaning we do right to confide in her mediation (an allegoric reading of Esther, for instance), are in themselves not at variance with any literal statement in all of the Old or New Testament.
But they are at variance with a misreading of some such, namely for instance when Jeremiah condemns the idolatry of "the queen of heaven", meaning not the Jewish Queen-Mother of the Heavenly Jerusalem which we honour in Mary, but rather the false "queen" of "heaven", Ishtar. Refomers very sadly thought this word, to be taken literally, would also forbid honouring the Blessed Virgin as the Queen of Heaven, and therefore they came up with this cock-and-bull argument or pilpul against, on one hand what Protestants have called Mariolatry and on the other hand the very known connexion of this to the Allegoric Sense and therefore the Allegoric Sense as such, also.
Let this suffice against Sylvain Romerowski's attack on the Four Senses, which is in the Interpreting the Bible chapters.
Hans Georg Lundahl
UL of Nanterre
San Lorenzo Giustiniani
First Patriarch of Venice***
* Kenan is often spelled Cainan in Catholic Bibles. Probably because the Hebrew sound of èè no longer corresponded to the Greek letter η but instead was the new pronunciation of the earlier diphthong αι - as if a transliteration into Irish English had written it Keanan or as if a transliteration into other modern English had written it Kaynan (Tea/Tay, remember!). Mahalal-El is respelled Malaleel, with a vowel collide representing the h, but this displaced in relation to the Ls. ** Chuck Missler did not use the one verb "descend" but the verb and particle "come down". They mean the same thing and the Hebrew has in Jared no separate particle meaning "down" but rather a Perfect (or Prophetic Future) third person singular masculine (if I looked with sufficient correctitude at my mother's Hebrew studies) of a verb which has down in its stem meaning - a but like descend, though in Latin "de" actually means "down from", "down off" later only "from", "off". *** That is, first bishop of Venice to actually have been elevated into a Patriarch. He was canonised by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690 and himself lived on earth to January 8 1456. The date is when he was forced to become Patriarch, he did not want the post.