Friday, June 12, 2009

Figural Reading Of Scripture

“Alongside ‘grammatical’ techniques early Christians used ‘figural’ reading practices (Dawson 2002). David Dawson has helped us to see how Christian figural techniques describe relationships between one scriptural text (usually from the Old Testament) and an aspect of the incarnate Word’s mission as described in the New Testament, using the former to inform a reading of the latter. Thus, for example, the relationship between the soul and God; the details of the life of Moses could be used as an allegorical resource for describing the stages of the Christian life. The phrase ‘an aspect of the incarnate Word’s mission’ used above requires further discussion. For early Christian readers the progress of purification or sanctification that constitutes Christian life is intrinsically connected to the life, activity and purpose of Christ, the incarnate Word. The ‘mystery’ of the incarnation includes the ‘mystery’ by which members of the Christian community are united to the person of Christ and purified towards the vision of God. Using a text from the Old Testament to illustrate the course and struggles of this mystery is of a piece with using Old Testament texts to illustrate Christ’s actions and life. The figural reader seeks figures within the text both to understand the incarnate Word and to participate in the divine speech and action in creation.”

-Lewis Ayres, "The Patristic Hermeneutic Heritage" in The Bible in Pastoral Practice: Readings in the Place and Function of Scripture in the Church.

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