Aquinas’s four–fold senses of scripture: Harnessing metaphysical analogy for theological exegesis

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Susanna Rizzo

Second Supervisor

Kevin Wagner


This thesis seeks to contribute to the integration of exegesis and theology called for by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his 1988 Erasmus address, “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis.” While much progress towards this integration has been made, limited attention has been given to Ratzinger’s recommended philosophical framework, the metaphysics of participation and analogy as formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas. This thesis builds on the contemporary revival in Aquinas’s approach to Scripture to propose a metaphysical framework for theological exegesis. This framework will be based on three claims. First, that the hermeneutic of faith adopted by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, among others, is essential for theological exegesis, but is unable to grapple with the tension between truth and history due to its metaphysical ambivalence. Second, that metaphysical analogy, especially as expressed in the analogy of being (analogia entis) of Erich Przywara, can bring opposing poles into a dynamic tension in which the recognition of similarities does not suppress the ever-greater dissimilarities. The structures of metaphysical analogy are thus suited to an inductive approach to Scripture, in which the historical and literary particularities of each text can be brought into dialogue with the participatory dimension of history and revelation. Finally, that metaphysical analogy underlies Aquinas’s teaching on the four-fold senses of Scripture and the pattern of interwoven biblical quotations found in his scriptural commentaries. Aquinas’s exegetical style can therefore be understood as an “analogy of Scripture” (analogia Scripturae). Engaging with Aquinas’s senses of Scripture within a framework of metaphysical analogy and participation can thus assist contemporary exegetes in developing new pathways towards Ratzinger’s desired integration of exegesis and theology.

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