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A History of Ambiguity$
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Anthony Ossa-Richardson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691167954

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691167954.001.0001

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Ambiguities of Type

Ambiguities of Type

(p.284) Chapter Seven. Ambiguities of Type
A History of Ambiguity

Anthony Ossa-Richardson

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes how the reading of secular poets like Homer and Vergil came to chime with an ongoing debate about the possibility of double senses—and therefore ambiguity—in Old Testament prophecy. It centres on the mid-eighteenth-century figures William Warburton and George Benson. According to earlier Protestant scholars, every passage in the Bible must have one and only one literal sense—that intended by the writer—and some Hebrew prophecies referred literally to Jesus. However, others had a literal fulfilment in the prophet's own era, as well as a mystical sense ratified by a citation in the New Testament. Whereas Catholic scholars in the tradition of Nicholas of Lyra described both meanings of such passages as ‘literal’, most Protestants maintained that the prophetic one was mystical or spiritual. In any event, it was precisely such additional mystical senses that set Scripture apart from other kinds of text. The chapter then considers how, in the 1760s, German scholars—keen readers of Benson and other English theologians—began to reach a rationalist consensus on the unitary sense of prophecy.

Keywords:   Homer, Vergil, ambiguity, Old Testament prophecy, William Warburton, George Benson, Protestant scholars, Hebrew prophecies, Catholic scholars, Scripture

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