The “Sensus Plenior” of Sacred Scripture 9781606080702

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998), a Sulpician priest, was Auburn Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Uni

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The “Sensus Plenior” of Sacred Scripture
 9781606080702

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PONTIFICAL THEOLOGICAL FACULTY OF ST. MARY'S UNIVERSITY

THE SENSUS PLENIOR OF SACRED SCRIPTURE A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF ST. JlURY'S UNIVERSITY, BAJ.TIMORE, MARYLAND, IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF SACRED THEOLOGY

BY

RAYMOND EDWARD BROWN, 5.S., M.A., 5.T.L.

WIPF & STOCK· Eugene, Oregon

Nihil Obstat: EDUARDUS

A.

CERNY,

S. S., S. T. D. Oensor Librorum

Imprimatur:

+ FRANCISCUB

P.

KEOUGII,

D. D., Archiepiscopu8 lJaltimorensis

Nov. 24, 1954

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that II, book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal and moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur a.gTee with the opinions expressed.

Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture By Brown, Raymond E. Copyright©1955 Society of St. Sulpice ISBN 13: 978-1-60608-070-2 Publication date 6/30/2008 Previously published by St. Mary's University, 1955

To THE PRIESTS WHO WERE MY TEACHERS IN THE SEMINARY

PREFACE The writer wishes to take this occasion to express his gratitude to all those who have made this dissertation possible. He is especially grateful to the Very Reverend Lloyd P. McDonald, S. S., Provincial of the Sulpicians in the United States, for having allowed him to complete his studies and to publish this work. Also he is thankful to the Very Reverend James A. Laubacher, S. S., Rector of St. Mary's Seminary, for having accepted him as a graduate student. and for many personal kindnesses. This dissertation profited greatly by the wise direction of the Reverend William F. Hill, S. S., who encouraged the writer's initial investigations, and of the Reverend Edward A. Cerny, S. S., under whose guidance the doctoral dissertatio:ri was written. :And, of course, he must not close without thank~g those who offered advice and encouragement, those who made· books available, and the very kind seminarians who aided in typing and proofreading:

R. E. B.

vii

TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION

PAGE ..................................................... xiii-xiv

CHAPTER ONE: THE SENSES OF SCRIPTURE....................... I. THE LITERAL SENSE. 1. Terminology and definition.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. Prob!ems '" ........... '.' . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II. THE 1. 2. 3.

1-28 1

7

TYPICAL SENSE. Terminology and dllfinition ......................... : . . . . Characteristics 9f types................................. Problems (A) Consciousness of the hagiographer.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (B) Relation of ~e typical sense to the words of the text (C) IS it really a sense of Scripture? ...... , .. .. . .. . .. (D) Types in the New Testament?......... ............ (E) Christ, the sole antitype?........................ ( F) The criteria for typology.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . (G) The probative value of types. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

13 15 16 19 19 20 22

III. THE CONSEQUENT SENSE. 1. Definition and validity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. Problems ...... , .... , ......................... ,.......

22 25

IV. ACCOMMODATION ....... , .... '...............................

27

CHAPTER Two: A BRIEF HISTORY OF EXEGESIS.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I. EARLY JEWISH EXEGESIS. 1. In the Old Testament ..... , .... , .................. ',' .. .. 2. Extra-biblical (A) In the Dead Sea Scrolls ......................... , (B) In Rabbinic sources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . •. . . . . .

29-67

II. NEW TESTAMENT EXEGESIS..... ................................

34

III. PATRISTIC EXEGESIS. 1. The Apostolic Fathers and Philo......................... 2. The School of Alexandria . (A) Clement ........ , .............. ; .... '," .... ... .. (B) Origen .................. : .. :.... ......... ...... 3. The School of Antioch (A) General history ....... '........................

10 11

30 31 32

36 39 40 44

(B) Theof'ia ................... ......................

45"

(C) Comparison with Alexandria..... .. . ......... .....

49

ix

x

Oontents 4. Subsequent Exegesis (Al St. Jerome .......................•............. (B) St. Augustine.. .. ............................... (C) St .. Cyril of Alexandria ..........................

PAGE 51 53 54

IV. EXEGESIS OF 'rIlE MIDDLE AGES. 1. Transitional period (6 th ·9 th centuries) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. The revival (11 th·12 th centuries) (A) The cathedral schooL............................ (B) The Victorines (Hugh, Andrew) ................... 3. Height and decline (l3th ·15 th centuries) (A) The Friars and Aristotelianism................... (B) Subsequent decline ..............................

60 61

V. EXEGESIS FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE PRESENT. 1. The Reformation and its aftermath (A') Reformation and Counter·Reformation........... .. (B) 17th·19 th centuries............................... ( C ) Cardinal Newman ............................... 2. The 20th century.......................................

63 64 65 66

CURRENT HERMENEUTICAL PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS .................................. I. PROBLEMS TO BE SOLVED BY AN ADEQUATE CLASSIFICATION OF SCRIPTURAL SENSES: 1. Properly classifying the exegesis of the past (A) New Testament exegesis ... , .................... , (B) Patristic exegesis ............................... 2. Properly classifying the exegesis of the liturgy. . . . . . . . . . . . 3. Properly classifying theological exegesis ....... , .. . . . . . . . . 4. The harmony between the two Testaments ..... , .. . . .. .. ..

55 57 58

CHAPTER THREE:

II. THE 1. 2. 3. 4.

SOLUTIONS PROPOSED TODAY: More inspirational use of the literal sense. . .. .... .. .. .. .. Reviving the typical sense.. . . . . . . . . . • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A plea for a "spiritual" sense...... .. .. .. ..... .. .. .. . .. . The introduction of the sensus plenior.... .. .... .. .. ......

68-87

68

71 73 74 77

80 80 83 87

CHAPTER FOUR: THE SENSUS PLENIOR ............................ 88-148 I. THE DEFINITION: 1.. The term "sensus plenior" ............................. 88 2. The background of the idea in the 19 th century. . . . . . . . . . . . 89 3. A working definition ............ , ., ................... " 92

II. THE PROOF: 1. A new classification is required for: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A) The exegesis of the past ( B) The exegesis of the liturgy

93

'Oonlents

xi PAGE

(C) The exegesis of theologians (D) Effecting a harmony of the two Testaments 2. Value of such proofs ....................• , ... ...........

III. THE 1. 2. 3. 4.

IV.

V.

95

DIVISION:

The General Sensus Plenior .................. ......... , .. The Typical Sensus PZenior. . . . . ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Prophetical Sensus PZenior.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Other possibilities .....................................

97 99 102 102

RELATIONS TO THE OTHER SCRIPTURAL SENSES:

1. To the literal sense.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (A) Depends on the definition of the literal sense.. . . . .. (B) Depends on the hagiographer's awareness of the

104 105

sensus pZenior .................................. a. Origen's explanation of this awareness. . . . . . . . b. Antioch's explanation: theoNa.............. c. Gribomont's explanation ......... '.' .. .. . .. .. (C) Summary and comment........................... 2. To the typical sense. (A) Depends on the definition of the typical sense.. .... (B) No interrelation' or complete correlation?......... (C) Summary and comment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3. To the consequent sense. (A) Observations of several authors.. . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . (B) Depends on the validity of the consequent sense..... 4. Conclusions and schema of senses .......... : . . . . . . . . . . . . .

105 107 108 111 112

OBJECTIONS TO THE

114 115 118 119 121' 122.

sensus pZenio.,.:

1. The fuller meaning is not within the text but is added on by new revelation...................................... Ans. (A) The pedagogical nature of revelation ...... ; . . . . . (B) The nature of the Hebrew language. . . . . . .. . . . . . .

2. It -overextends the. literal sense. Ans. (A) DanitHou's objection ........................... (B) Biet:berg;'s objection ........•.................. 3. It is not a scriptural sense since the human author was unconscious of it. Ans. (A) General notion of scriptural sellse.. .. .. ... .. .. .. (B) The instrumentality of the hagiographer......... 4. _It violates the notion of inspiration. Ans.(A) A study of Pope Leo's remarks on inspiration..... (B) Reasons against assuming that inspiration requires - complete awareness ........................... 5. It has no background in tradition or authoritative teaching

·123 124 125 126 127

129 131 134 136 ~37

xii VI.

Opnt(mts EXA.MPLES AND CRITERIA.

1. Examples proposed by various authors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. Criteria. (A) Criteria for the existence of a valid sensus plenior. . (B) The role of faith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (C) Criteria for determining the awaren.ess of the ha.giographer ...................................... _ CONOLUSION ..•.......•.....••.••.••.••....••.•...•. _ •.••• '. •. •• . . •. APPENDIX:

VARIOUS DEFINITIONS OF THE SENSUS PLFlNIOR....

DmLIOGRAPHY

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • . • . . . . . . . • . _ ••.........

PAGE

140

145 146 147 149 151, 154-161

INTRODUCTION Just some thirty years ago, in the late 1920's, Fr. Andres Fernandez, S. J., in an article on Hermeneutics, listed among the senses of Scripture 'a new classification called'the sensus plenior. For nearly fifty years previously there had been evidence that scholars were not satisfied with the usual division of scriptural senses into literal (in ,a very narrow sense) and typi