Words and things
Posted October 16, 2007on:
What do we mean by symbolic language? Words signifying things, or things signifying other things? Often, it seems to me, people confuse these two. Not Nicholas of Lyra:
For God who is the author of this Scripture, not only employed words to signify certain things, but also things by words of signification. And so deeds of the Old Testament signified that which is done in the New Testament, just as the apostle says in 1 Corinthians, “All these things happened in a figure” [1 Cor 10:11]. Therefore, the sense which is signified by the words is properly called literal: but that which is signified by the things is called mystical.
I doubt Nicholas ever fell into the ‘Literally taking the bull by the horns’ trap!
He gives an example of what he means, using the fourfold categories of mediaeval exegesis:
An example of this is the name Jerusalem, which according to the literal sense signifies a certain city situated in the land of Judah; and because this city was chosen by God for divine worship, is honored in the mind of the righteous man, both in the church militant and also in the church triumphant. Therefore Jerusalem according to the moral sense in sacred Scripture signifies the faithful soul, according to the allegorical sense the church militant, and according to the anagogical sense the church triumphant.
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