The Senses of Scripture: Tradition and Theology


This course considers the literal and spiritual senses of Holy Scripture, sometimes called the quadriga, as articulated in church tradition. We will consider whether there really is a twofold literal and spiritual sense in Scripture, and if so what those are exactly, and how they are to be discerned and deployed in our exegesis.

Runs 1/10-19/3/22.

Auditing: participate in readings and live class sessions, but no graded assignments and no course credit
Full course part-time: individual classes on a for-credit basis; you can later apply them toward a Certificate or Degree
Full course full-time: for-credit courses (at least four per term) toward our Certificate or M.Litt in Classical Protestantism


This Systematics course is taught by Davenant Teaching Fellow Ryan Hurd, and will run from January 10 through to March 19 2022. The syllabus will be available soon.

After a period in which the “historical critical” method has dominated Reformed and evangelical biblical exegesis, there has recently been a renewed interest in other, more traditional kinds of interpretation. Books and conferences on “pre-modern exegesis”, or “the theological interpretation of Scripture” have become increasingly popular. Yet it can be hard to know where to start with this recovery.

This course invites students to consider the literal and spiritual senses of Holy Scripture (sometimes called the quadriga) as articulated in church tradition – especially in the era of the high medievals and neoscholastics. We will consider whether there really is a twofold literal and spiritual sense in Scripture, and if so what those are exactly. Students will consider what is literal and metaphorical in words, and how to define the supposed allegorical, anagogical, and moral aspects of Scripture’s spiritual sense.

The course lectures will cover these issues theologically, with readings consisting of extensive primary source examination of Thomas Aquinas’ theology and biblical commentaries. The goal is not only to learn what these senses are, but to be able to discern and deploy them properly in exegesis. For-credit students will be assessed with an essay on Paul’s famous allēgoreō in Galatians 4:21-31.

Ryan Hurd is a doctoral student at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen, a teaching fellow in systematic theology at The Davenant Institute.

Online only, runs 10 weeks, meeting 2 hr./wk. via Zoom. Students will also have the option to participate in class discussion on the Davenant Common Room Discord server. Register to reserve your spot and schedule will be set after a poll of participating students; if the class time does not fit your schedule, you will be eligible for a full refund.

This is a graduate-level course. Although a BA is not a necessary pre-requisite for this course, students should come prepared to do graduate-level work.