Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 25
Chapter 25.—The Same Word Does Not Always Signify the Same Thing.
And when it is shown to be figurative, the words in which it is expressed will be found to be drawn either from like objects or from objects having some affinity.
35. But as there are many ways in which things show a likeness to each other, we are not to suppose there is any rule that what a thing signifies by similitude in one place it is to be taken to signify in all other places. For our Lord used leaven both in a bad sense, as when He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” 1881 and in a good sense, as when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” 1882
36. Now the rule in regard to this variation has two forms. For things that signify now one thing and now another, signify either things that are contrary, or things that are only different. They signify contraries, for example, when they are used metaphorically at one time in a good sense, at another in a bad, as in the case of the leaven mentioned above. Another example of the same is that a lion stands for Christ in the place where it is said, “The lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed;” 1883 and again, stands for the devil where it is written, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” 1884 In the same way the serpent is used in a good sense, “Be wise as serpents;” 1885 and again, in a bad sense, “The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty.” 1886 Bread is used in a good sense, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven;” 1887 in a bad, “Bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 1888 And so in a great many other cases. The examples I have adduced are indeed by no means doubtful in their signification, because only plain instances ought to be used as examples. There are passages, however, in regard to which it is uncertain in what sense they ought to be taken, as for example, “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red: it is full of mixture.” 1889 Now it is uncertain whether this denotes the wrath of God, but not to the last extremity of punishment, that is, “to the very dregs;” or whether it denotes the grace of the Scriptures passing away from the Jews and coming to the Gentiles, because “He has put down one and set up another,”—certain observances, however, which they understand in a carnal manner, still remaining among the Jews, for “the dregs hereof is not yet wrung out.” The following is an example of the same object being taken, not in opposite, but only in different significations: water denotes people, as we read in the Apocalypse, 1890 and also the Holy Spirit, as for example, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water;” 1891 and many other things besides water must be interpreted according to the place in which they are found.
37. And in the same way other objects are not single in their signification, but each one of them denotes not two only but sometimes even several different things, according to the connection in which it is found.
Matt. 16:6, Luke 12:1.566:1882
1 Pet. 5.8.566:1885
2 Cor. 11.3.566:1887
Next: Chapter 26
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