Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 9. Middle Ages (I)

by | May 6, 2011 | Hermeneutics, Historical Theology

Introduction: Gerald Bray opens his discussion of Medieval interpretation as follows:

The medieval period of biblical interpretation is one of the most complex and difficult of all, and it has not received the attention it deserves from theologians or biblical scholars. Most of the work in this field has been done by medievalists, who cannot escape the all-pervasive role which the Bible played during those centuries. But medievalists have their own agenda, and it is not always possible for a theologian to gain ready access to their work. There is also the fact that centuries of training have made Protestant scholars particularly wary of the medieval period, which they have been inclined to think of as an age of darkness. As most modern biblical scholars have been Protestants, this prejudice has contributed to the relative neglect of medieval exegesis.[1]

Not only do Bray’s statements seem to reflect reality, they are peculiarly true of me. I have been trained to think of the Middle Ages as the dark era of Christian interpretation and, thus, unhelpful and unnecessary for anything good. Certainly the rise of Islam during the eighth century had its ill effects upon Western culture at large and Christian interpretive methods in particular. The old Mediterranean culture broke up and neither Greek nor Latin were universal languages. During the Middle Ages Western Christians maintained Latin while those in the East did not. Some time in the ninth century Charlemagne (Holy Roman Emperor, crowned as such by Pope Leo III) “sponsored a revival of learning, which officially recognized that the ancient world had disappeared. Latin now had to be learned as a foreign tongue, even in Italy…”[2] This and other factors, such as illiteracy and a distinctly monolithic, “Christian” culture made the common Christian entirely dependant upon professional scholars who taught the clergy and, especially, the papacy (“Church”) as the final word on interpreting the Bible.

The Middle Ages should not be viewed as a single-minded, monolithic era culturally, philosophically, or theologically. There were phases of development occurring at different places and at different times.[3] Due to this reality, various men contributed various things at different times which ended up creating the Late Middle Ages, which is what most view as the Middle Ages come to maturity and against which the Renaissance and Reformation protested.


[1] Bray, Biblical Interpretation, 129.

[2] Bray, Biblical Interpretation, 129.

[3] Cf. Bray’s four phases of periodization in Bray, Biblical Interpretation, 131-33.

Follow Us In Social Media

1 Comment

  1. Cam Prather

    Thank you Dr. Barcellos! I’m looking forward to this series!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Historical Overview of Hermeneutics (From Richard Barcellos at MCTS Blog) | 1689reformedbaptist - [...] http://www.mctsowensboro.org/2011/04/brief-surv-of-hist-herm-8-antioch/ http://www.mctsowensboro.org/2011/05/brief-surv-of-hist-of-herm-9-middle-ages-i/ http://www.mctsowensboro.org/2011/05/brief-surv-hist-of-herm-9-mid-ages-ii/ [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe via Email

Sign up to get notified of new CBTS Blog posts.


Man of God phone
Why is Theonomy Unbiblical?

Why is Theonomy Unbiblical?

Before critiquing theonomy, we need a good definition. Some people today who use the word “theonomy” don’t mean anything more than “God’s law” because the etimology of the word theonomy is “theos” which means God, and “nomos” which means law. They only want to affirm that God’s law is supreme over man’s law. And they’re right about that. God’s transcendent moral law is the norm that norms all norms. Governmental laws should always be consistent with God’s law and human law must never violate God’s law.

But in this post, I’ll be using the word “theonomy” in a more technical sense, which is rooted in the historic usage of the term.

A Post-Logue to #DatPostmil? Blog Posts

A Post-Logue to #DatPostmil? Blog Posts

It is always a humbling and learning experience to read the responses to a blog series on a controversial subject. Iron does sharpen iron, as the Bible says, and I learn much from those responses. Some postmils have taken a little umbrage at my description of Postmillennialism as a millennium involving a distinct, golden age following the one in which we live.

John Owen—A Caveat, parts 1-13

John Owen—A Caveat, parts 1-13

  Part 1 Caveat comes from the Latin cavere.  The verb in Latin means to be on guard.  I am using its English descendant caveat to mean a warning or caution.  Such is my esteem for John Owen that I prefer the softer idea of caution. John Owen has attained (and not...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This