Monday, December 06, 2010

Quotation from Karen Armstrong

I came across the following in Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life and found it interesting enough to share.

Christians in Europe were taught to interpret every sentence of the Bible in four ways: literally, morally, allegorically, and mystically.  (56-57)

From my experience in American churches, this is not how Biblical study is taught.  Although there is some nod to applying Biblical teachings "morally," I don't know that I've seen many churches that encourage allegorical interpretations, although those few still vastly outnumber the teachings that encourage mystical experiences.

Having said that, my experience is that all of the churches I've encountered would adamantly say that they do support all four interpretations with a literal interpretation over-riding all other interpretation.  In other words, mostly lip service is given in the liturgical service to morality--except that morality that agrees with their literal interpretation of the Bible--and even shorter shrift to allegory and mysticism.

My experience, however, is very limited.  But if I were to begin reading and interpreting the Bible again, I think it would be fun to layer my reading through these four filters.  Perhaps it would help me appreciate the text in a new way.

But not next year.  Next year, only books by women authors.

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