Literal Sense and Spiritual Intelligence in St Thomas Aquinas's Biblical Hermeneutics

One of the key issues in biblical hermeneutics is that of the biblical sense. Both in the theological tradition and in contemporary biblical hermeneutics, there has been a confusion about the literal sense and the spiritual sense. Consequently (1) the interpreter does not know which one to look for in his exegesis, and (2) the production of a division between what Scripture meant historically (literal sense) and what it means for the faith of the believer (spiritual sense).

St. Thomas Aquinas offers two key concepts that can help overcome such confusion: a literal sense of the divine author, and the spiritual intelligence of this literal sense. Contemporary biblical hermeneutics understands the literal sense to be the sense of the human author. Against this it is necessary to recover with St. Thomas a literal sense of Scripture that is proper to its principal author, God, and to its human author, a true author elevated in his intelligence and transcended in a certain way by the action of God signifying. On the other hand, we need a ‘spiritual’ understanding of Sacred Scripture which does not reduce it to the measure of human reason. With St. Thomas, we can also offer an explanation of this true intelligence of meaning which harmonizes the human way of receiving revelation with its supernatural nature.