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Introducing Medieval Biblical Interpretation

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Does medieval hermeneutics have continuing relevance in an age dominated by the historical-critical method? Ian Christopher Levy asserts that it does. Levy shows that we must affirm both the irreversible advances made by the historical-critical method and the church's lasting commitment to the deeper spiritual senses beyond the immediate historical circumstances of the text.

In Introducing Medieval Biblical Interpretation, Levy explains that medieval exegetes, like modern practitioners of the historical-critical method, were attuned to the nuances of ancient languages, textual variations, and cultural contexts in which the biblical books were produced. Yet these early interpreters did not stop after establishing the literal, historical sense of the text. Presupposing as they did the divine authorship of Holy Scripture, medieval exegetes maintained that the God of history imbued events, places, and people with spiritual significance so that they could point beyond themselves to deeper salvific realities. There is much meaning to be discovered through the techniques of medieval hermeneutics.

This introductory guide offers a thorough overview of medieval biblical interpretation. An opening chapter sketches the necessary background in patristic exegesis, especially the hermeneutical teaching of Augustine. The book then progresses through the Middle Ages from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Spanning approximately one thousand years from late antiquity up to the eve of the Reformation, Introducing Medieval Biblical Interpretation examines the major movements, developments, and historical figures of the period. Rich in primary text engagement and comprehensive in scope, it is the only current, compact introduction to the whole range of medieval exegesis.

  • Evaluates the relevance of pre-modern interpretation for contemporary bible readers
  • Explains how medieval exegetes were attuned to the nuances of the ancient languages of Scripture
  • Argues for reconsidering their value for grappling with the meaning of the Bible
  • The Age of the Fathers
  • The Early Middle Ages
  • The Schools of the Eleventh Century: From Bec to Reims
  • The Monks of the Twelfth Century
  • The School of St. Victor
  • The Schools of the Twelfth Century: From Laon to Paris
  • Exegesis in the Universities of the Later Middle Ages
  • Applied Exegesis: The New Testament and the Medieval Papacy

Top Highlights

“Augustine’s christological reading of the Psalter is indicative of the way in which patristic exegetes, and their medieval successors, found Christ throughout the Old and New Testaments and in this way unified the Scriptures around not merely a theological theme but an eternal person.” (Page 26)

“For William, therefore, the Holy Spirit does not simply provide the requisite illumination to correctly interpret the Song. It is love itself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, that breaks open the text.” (Page 132)

“The three levels of Scripture correspond to a basic anthropological model whereby each human being is composed of flesh, soul, and spirit in ascending order.” (Page 13)

“per vocem ad intellectum, per intellectum ad rem, per rem ad rationem, per rationem pervenitur ad veritatem” (Page 142)

“Holy Scripture must also comprise these four causes: material, formal, efficient, and final” (Page 210)

This is not simply a book about the past. It is a sly way of showing how to interpret the Bible today. Ian Levy, a learned scholar thoroughly at home in medieval culture and thought, introduces contemporary Christians to the deep spiritual world that opens up when the Bible is read as the Word of God.

—Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity, University of Virginia

Levy writes of the Venerable Bede, 'Bede admits that while it is true that many before him have commented on [the book of Genesis], such works might prove too difficult for most readers and complete editions too expensive. He would summarize them, therefore, taking what could be most useful to nonexperts.' What Bede did for eighth-century readers Levy has done for twenty-first-century readers--taken a vast amount of information that often is available only to the specialist and made it easily and enjoyably accessible to non-experts. For those unfamiliar with medieval biblical interpretation, this volume is a readable yet rich introduction to the topic. It lays out the broad trajectory of medieval biblical interpretation and demonstrates its relevance for the Christian church today.

—Greg Peters, associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

With crisp writing and clear organization, Levy walks readers through the ancient and medieval centuries of biblical interpretation. He lets the medieval voices speak for themselves through ample selections from primary source material, which makes this volume especially suited for classroom use. Pointing out that biblical scholars married faith and reason--though not always in balance--Levy displays how the Bible has been interpreted and reinterpreted in different cultural, intellectual, and chronological contexts. It is the proverbial 'one book' you'd place in someone's hand

—Christopher M. Bellitto, professor of history, Kean University

In the Logos edition, this digital volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English Bible translations, and important terms link to a wealth of other resources in your digital library, including tools for original languages, dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and theology texts. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Ian Christopher Levy (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of historical theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Holy Scripture and the Quest for Authority at the End of the Middle Ages. He also edited and translated the Galatians and Romans volumes in the Bible in Medieval Tradition series.


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