"...all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text) from Dei Verbum
Our Faith grew out of the Revelation of God to the Hebrew People. This must never be forgotten. The teaching of Christ was primarily for Jews and to Jews. Contrary to some false revisionist historians (tautology),Christ came in the Fullness of Time to the Jewish Nation, as a Jew.
His teaching methods are those of a Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbinic tradition, as I learned in a superb OT class I took many years ago, is rich in stories, analogies, even word games.
Christ, most of the time, spoke plainly to His disciples. His words are clear, indeed.
Today's Gospel from Matthew 5 proves this point. (Some priests chose the Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for today). Notice how Christ puts his words into context, the context of the Old Law. He uses simple, direct words, as well as imagery. He uses theology, referring to Satan.
This is good, solid rabbinic teaching.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”
Christ used midrash, as my teacher taught us. Midrash involves stories, parables, and exegesis
Christ taught in stories, in parables, which is also what the rabbis still do. He used our own Catholic ideas on the approaches to the Bible which we learn from St. Augustine--but from Christ first.
These are the approaches to the Bible found in PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, one of my favorite encyclicals and highlighted on this blog several times. Another great document helps us approach Scripture as Catholics, with a Catholic mindset, DEI VERBUM. These also can be found in the CCC.
Here are the main approaches we learned from Christ via St Augustine. I break these down into five.
1) Historical or Literal context--we learn and study the history surrounding a passage for clarity, such as the wars of Joshua--and from this we see a literal interpretation, such as in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
2) The Allegorical approach--the wars of Joshua represents as well spiritual warfare against evil; the Feeding of the Five Thousand is an allegory of Holy Communion, as so on.
3) The Exegetical approach is the looking for the meaning of the text--which could involve many layers of meaning, such as Joshua's obedience, his blessings from God, his gifts, the commands of God to go forth into the Promised Land as a vocation of the Hebrew People being fulfilled and so on; The exegetical meaning of the Feeding of the Five Thousand would involve looking at Christ as the Bread of Life, as the giver of food for the body and the soul, as the Messiah, as God, as Lord, and so on.
4) The Moral context, such as in the Joshua example, those who follow God and are obedient to Him in all things move from strength to strength morally. In the Feeding of the Five Thousand example, we see the moral of total reliance on Christ, and Christ's reliance on the Father, as He said He only does what the Father does, and so on--a lesson in Divine Providence.
5) The Anagogical sense or approach, which always points to the End Times, and is sometimes called the Eschatological approach. Joshua's success at conquering the Holy Land reminds us of the overcoming of sin in order to attain eternal life, and the fact that life on earth is a battle, but the war is won. Thus, at the end of time, we gain heaven through obedience. With the Feeding of the Five Thousand, we see a direct anagogical symbol of heaven, where we will be constantly "fed" by God.
The parables illuminated these five approaches to the Bible. And, as the simplest and most common form of Jewish teaching, allowed for interpretations as well, including the Messianic Secret, or other secrets Christ did not want to share with all until after His Resurrection. In a larger sense, even Christ's actions are parables, teaching, illuminating, paralleling spiritual truths, such as in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
Too many scholars forget the Jewish roots of Scripture and the fact that Jesus comes from the Jewish People.