The Prophets

Prof Schroeder prefaces her translations with a very helpful introduction in which she explains the characteristics of medieval exegesis and gives a brief life and life-setting of each of the authors that she has chosen.

This volume exemplifies what Prof Schroeder calls ‘the fascinating variety of approaches to biblical interpretation’ in the Middle Ages. Some commentators, such as Rabanus, spliced together chunks from the Fathers. A number, such as Albert and Aquinas, concentrated on the literal sense and sought (before Bibles were divided up into chapters and verses) to divide the text into sections and subsections. Nicholas of Lyra had, what was very unusual at the time, a good knowledge of Hebrew, and used it to expound the biblical text.

Prof Schroeder acknowledges that medieval exegesis, while at times positively instructive, also exemplifies how not to interpret the Bible. Etymologies were often fanciful. Medieval exegesis was often ‘anachronistic in its conflating past and present.’ Some comments are frighteningly anti-semitic. (Rupert of Deutz was a prime offender.) The least accessible feature of medieval exegesis for most readers today is its penchant for finding in the OT ‘spiritual senses’ (meanings not intended by the human writer but supposedly put there by God.) Thus most commentators saw Jeremiah as a type of Christ: like Jesus, he was sanctified in his mother’s womb (1.5), preached and suffered in Jerusalem and predicted the destruction of that city. Nicholas of Lyra took the obscure text ‘a woman will encompass a man’ (31.22) as referring to the Incarnation. Hugh of St Cher offered a sacramental interpretation of Balm in Gilead (8.21). How is one to know whether such meanings were divinely intended? Moralising interpretations are perhaps easier to defend. Take the exegesis of the carrion-eating birds of 7.33 as referring to ‘certain clerics rushing from church to church to acquire benefices’ (Hugh of St Cher). Is Hugh doing anything more here than saying, in effect, ‘Given what Jeremiah wrote for his contemporaries, what would he say to us now?’ Which surely is what all preachers do with texts written 2,000 years ago and more.    

Bernard Robinson, Newcastle

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Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017


Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Rev. Professor Michael Hayes editor of the Pastoral Review.

Many friends and readers of the Pastoral Review and The Tablet will have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hayes early on Easter Saturday.   Read More


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