While much of this is quite correct, I do have two concerns about the framing of the issue here: 1) that allegory is presented as in opposition to a literal reading and 2) that medieval world had a normative ‘allegorical’ understanding of scripture. 1/
Ancient and medieval authors typically viewed these levels of interpretation as mutually reinforcing. As a result, it is not correct to say that an allegorical reading (as opposed to a literal) had normative force. 2/
Rather, so the typical theory goes, the allegorical reading is built upon the literal, since allegory describes the signification of things, which are themselves determined by the literal level. 3/
This point is well illustrated in Aquinas’s ST (who I will use for convenience throughout): "all the senses are founded on one—the literal—from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory”. (ST 1.1.10.ad1) 4/
What is more, among the fathers, Augustine is unusual for in his allegorising of the days of Genesis 1 as modes of angelic cognition. Rather, as Aquinas notes, on the question of whether the Days of Genesis 1 represent just 1 day: 5/
“On this question Augustine differs from other expositors. His opinion is that all the days that are called seven, are one day represented in a sevenfold aspect; while others consider there were seven distinct days, not one only.” (ST 1.74.2) 6/
And, indeed, directly literal interpretations of the book of Genesis more generally are entirely the norm (cf. Origen’s concern about how Noah’s ark was shaped or how it could accommodated aquatic animals). 7/
These readings are not viewed as in variance with allegorical readings. Cf. Hugh of Saint Victor, who spends like two chapters disagreeing with Origen’s literal reading and giving his own theory, then 3.5 books discussing all manner of allegorical interpretations of the Ark. 8/
Circling back, the hallmark of medieval exegesis is not allegory, but hermeneutic flexibility. There is not the sense that the biblical text must have a single determinate meaning. 9/
Nor is it true that allegory can give *any* reading, but it is measured not by objective features of the text but harmony with tradition. 10/
This is why Aquinas suggests that only the literal level can found arguments and that “nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.” (ST 1.1.10.ad1) 11/
This brings me back to my second initial concern, that we shouldn’t frame this as a teleological narrative towards a historical-critical reading. (This is the whole basis of de Lubac’s criticism of Smalley.) 12/
Rather, concern about the objective nature of the allegorical level is a major medieval concern, developing significantly already in the 12th century. (This likely develops out of the interaction of Christian and Jewish exegesis in northern France from the late 11th century.) 13/
And the eclipse of the allegorical level is evident already in Aquinas, not only in his insistence on the argumentative and doctrinal priority of the letter, but his folding allegory into it. 14/
We see the development of the double literal reading in Aquinas: “The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively. Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense.” (ST 1.1.10.ad3) 15/
This has significant later medieval developments, but the significance of the reformation is that it demanded determinate readings, either to render the text intelligible outside of Catholic tradition or to affirm the absolute authority of the Church in exegesis. 16/
On the broader relationship of this to interpretations ad physicam etc. see Lindberg’s comments on the change with Galileo. jstor.org/stable/3166822 17/
Anyways, this thread has become super massive, and I really don’t want it to read as overly critical, since your points in context are definitely salient and largely correct. /18
I just want to highlight that we shouldn’t re-inscribe modern conceptions of exegesis into medieval texts, as to construct a teleological narrative, or use the Middle Ages as a simplistic foil for modern fundamentalism. /19

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