• Greek: a leading out, explanation


The art and science of expressing the sense of the Sacred Scriptures. To accomplish its purpose, exegesis applies the science of hermeneutics. Apart from the fact that all ancient literatures are difficult to understand and can be approached successfully by the trained mind alone, the Bible has peculiar difficulties of its own. It is God’s written revelation to man and as such expresses Divine mysteries and all that is related to them. The history of Catholic exegesis in the patristic period contains no instance of continued explanations of the Sacred Text prior to Hippolytus. The Fathers of the first centuries in their apologetic writings did, however, make frequent use of proofs based upon Bible texts. The two schools of catechetics founded at Alexandria and Antioch soon devoted themselves to the exegesis of the Sacred Books. At Alexandria, Pantrenus, Clement, and especially Origen, established a system of interpretation. Origen admitted a literal, moral, and spiritual sense in the Scriptures, but not always all three in each passage. He erred by stressing the allegorical and mystical interpretation to the neglect and at times the exclusion of the literal sense. At Antioch more correct principles were applied since the grammatical-historical sense was given due prominence. Saint John Chrysostom and Theodoret are the chief glories of this school. Theodore of Mopsuestia (died 429) went to the extreme of practically rejecting the typical sense and denying that allegories could be inspired. The Syrian School of Edessa produced the great scholars Aphraates and Saint Ephraem. The Latin Church glories chiefly in Saint Augustine and the greatest of all biblical scholars, Saint Jerome. The post-patristic period in the Greek Church was famous chiefly for its compilations of excerpts from the Greek Fathers. These are called catenae because they are linked together in a continuous commentary. Among the Latins Bede followed a similar method. Walafrid Strabo is the author of the “Glossa Ordinaria” and Anselm of Laon of the “Glossa Interlinearis.” The scholastics devoted their attention to theological explanations of Holy Writ and the sequence of ideas. Philological studies began extensively to influence exegesis after Clement V had established chairs of oriental languages in the principal universities. The results of this enactment may be seen in the celebrated “Postilla” of Nicholas of Lyra (died 1340), a work which received notable additions by Paul of Burgos (died 1435). After the Council of Trent the Golden Age of Catholic exegesis produced important commentaries of more than 350 exegetes. Estius, Luke of Bruges, Tirinius, A Lapide, Menchius, Maldonado and Bonfrere may be explicitly mentioned. The 18th century saw the introduction into exegesis of more critical methods. Calmet was perhaps the greatest light of this century. Modern Catholic commentaries are numerous and marked by sane scholarship. The French commentaries of the Dominican Biblical School and the Latin “Cursus S. Scripturae” of the Jesuits merit special mention. Scriptural periodicals of importance are: “Biblica” (Pontifical Biblical Institute) ; “Revue biblique,” and “Biblische Zeitschrift.” These list and review new publications and make accessible to the reader the results of recent research.

MLA Citation

  • “exegesis”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 8 November 2013. Web. 20 January 2019. <>