History is the Foundation of Sacred Learning

“First you learn history and diligently commit to memory the truth of the deeds that have been performed, reviewing from beginning to end what has been done, when it has been done, where it has been done, and by whom it has been done.  For these are the four things which are especially to be sought for in history–the person, the business done, the time, and the place.”  Hugh of St Victor, Didascalicon, Bk 6, Chap. 3.

As we have seen previously, Hugh taught a trifold method of biblical interpretation. http://wp.cune.edu/matthewphillips/2012/11/20/hughs-hermeneutics/ However, he compared the exegesis of Sacred Scripture to building a house.  In order to establish a firm foundation Hugh exhorted his students to develop a thorough understanding of biblical history.  Then, upon this foundation the student of Scripture builds the metaphorical structure of intepretation through the use of allegory.  Lastly, one turns to moral instruction in Scripture and thereby paints the building with beautiful colors.

“But just as you see that every building lacking a foundation cannot stand firm, so also it is in learning.  The foundation and principle of sacred learning, however, is history, from which, like honey from the honeycomb, the truth of allegory is extracted.”  Ibid.

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