Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can the Literal Sense of Scripture be False?


From St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I.1.10 ad 3:

Objection 3: Besides these senses [of Scripture, namely, the literal or historical, the allegorical, the tropological or moral, and the anagogical], there is the parabolical sense, which is not one of these four.

Reply to Objection 3. The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively. Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense. When Scripture speaks of God's arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified by this member, namely operative power. Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.

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