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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the controversy over the literal (historical) and allegorical senses of scripture, a subject that dominated Catholic–Protestant polemic. It argues, first, that post-Reformation thought (c.1560–1620) in the writings of major biblical scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, broadened the category of the literal to incorporate what in previous centuries was considered the ‘spiritual sense’. Shuger explores the motives for and implications of this shift. The chapter moves on to explore the claims of recent scholarship, which have suggested that Calvin took his historicist-literalist approach from medieval Jewish exegesis, but have not taken into account the view held by (apparently) all modern students of medieval Jewish exegesis: namely, that to a significant extent medieval Jewish exegetes crafted this historicist-literalist approach as a polemical move in Jewish-Christian debate. Shuger demonstrates the complexity of the ‘literal sense’, and undermines any straightforward narrative of post-Reformation Protestant literalism.

Keywords: Calvin, exegesis, literal and spiritual exegesis, Jewish and anti-Jewish interpretation, Isaiah, Hebraicism, Lancelot Andrewes

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