For the better part of fifteen centuries, Christians read Scripture on two complementary levels--the literal and the spiritual--and their interpretation was regulated by the common doctrine passed down in the rule of faith. In the modern period, a gradual but significant shift occurred in Bible reading. The spiritual sense became marginalized in favor of the literal sense, which came to be equated with human authorial intent. Doctrinal traditions were barred from consideration, and the Bible came to be read and interpreted like any other book.
This brief, accessible introduction to the history of biblical interpretation examines key turning points and figures and explains the principles behind the often confusing biblical interpretations of the early church. The author, an expert on biblical interpretation and church history, examines the assumptions behind premodern exegesis that were obscured in the modern era, arguing for a recovery of the premodern spiritual habits of reading Scripture. This work will be useful as a supplementary textbook for courses in interpretation and church history.