The Quadriga

Wednesday June 1                                 

R.C. Sproul mentioned the “quadriga,” a four faceted system of hermeneutics that developed in the Dark Ages. It included the literal, moral, allegorical, and analogical principles of interpretation. Let’s take them in order. The literal principle is that we take Scripture as literal unless there is a compelling reason to think there is some hidden meaning in it. Most evangelical scholars recognize this as being the most logical, most accurate, and with less potential for error. The moral principal can be eliminated very quickly. Morality does not determine the meaning of a passage of Scripture. Morality is germane to all of Scripture, but is not a principle of interpretation; it’s an application. On the other hand, the allegorical principle has a great deal to do with interpretation. There are lots of allegories in the Bible and it’s a legitimate way of transmitting truth. The problem is that there are many options. One man will say it means such and such and another man will say, no, it mans this. Too much is left to a finite, creative mind.   It’s so easy to go astray here. It is imperative to deal with other legitimate principles of Bible study—context, comparison with other passages of Scripture, cultural issues, etc. Failure to do so leads to chaos. A man can create meanings that totally contradict other Scriptural truth. And that is only dealing with passages of Scripture that ore correctly identified as allegories. When a scholar erroneously assumes a passage to be allegorical, he’s already in trouble. Analogies are much the same, but probably easier to identify and easier to interpret. So both allegories and analogies are legitimate principles of Bible study, but the potential for error is much greater. To sum up, the best of scholars are finite and capable of erroneous interpretations, but the errors diminish greatly when literal interpretation is applied.

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