We do not simply interpret God’s word. His word interprets us.
Figural interpretation has been a trademark of Anglican devotions from the beginning. Anglican readers—including Tyndale, Cranmer, Hooker, and Lewis—have been figural readers of the Bible. By paying attention to how words, images, and narratives become figures of others in Scripture, these readers sought to uncover how God’s word interprets all of reality. Every verse shines the constellation of God’s story.
Edited by David Ney and Ephraim Radner, the essays in All Thy Lights Combine explore how the Anglican tradition has employed figural interpretation to theological, Christological, and pastoral ends. The prayer book is central; it immerses Christians in the words of Scripture and orders them by the word. With guided prayers for morning and evening, this book invites readers to be re-formed by God’s word. Become immersed in the riches of the Anglican interpretive tradition.
‘Figural reading’ is the name for a creative reading of the biblical text which arises from deep and daily immersion in it, and from the cross-referencing of its multiple meanings in search of intimacy with God. This book explores the distinctively Anglican tradition of such reading, and does so with an insistence on the liturgical setting of such readings. In recovering this ancient heritage of hermeneutics, the authors of this book open a treasure-trove of riches from the Anglican tradition, one which until recently has been sidelined in modern theological formation. This is a book which anyone concerned with the future of the Anglican tradition ought to engage with gratitude and hope.
—Sarah Coakley, University of Cambridge
All Thy Lights Combine examines four hundred years of biblical interpretation by leading Anglican lights, from William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer to C. S. Lewis. The result is remarkably illuminating. The authors make a compelling case that at the heart of Anglicanism is something not merely liturgical but figural: a habit of reading that absorbs individuals, nations, and the world itself into the word of God; a way of thinking biblically, not least about individual and ecclesial being in the present. Radner and Ney here orchestrate a stunning retrieval of a neglected tradition. We come to see the Prayer Book not simply as a guide to worship but as a means of saturating God’s people in Scripture, a pedagogical tool for cultivating radical biblical literacy—the ability to read the world, and ourselves, in the light of the Word of God that has created and shaped all things. In a toxic modern age captive to a secular imaginary, this recovery of Anglican figural reading, and the scriptural imaginary that it instantiates, may be precisely the tonic we need.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
A fine gallery of figural readers of scripture—Tyndale, Donne, Herbert, Keble, Rosetti, Lewis, and others—are here on display, to enrich and inspire. The affection for Scripture and devotion to its ‘lights’ overflow on these pages. It is a rich privilege to be reminded of the way in which sacred Scripture once crested and flowed into the life of the church in such compelling ways. One thinks of the cadences of English hymnody, but right alongside that we find holy Scripture singing its eternal and life-giving song in the gifted hands of figural interpreters.
—Christopher R. Seitz, senior research professor of biblical interpretation, University of Toronto
This is one of the most remarkable and helpful books on biblical interpretation that I have seen in a long time, mainly because of what it manages to achieve all at once: grounding Scriptural hermeneutics in the worshiping life of the church (liturgy); attending closely to exemplary Christian interpreters from the past (history); judiciously excerpting primary sources that show interpreters in the act, so to speak (practice); and—above all—boldly proposing to the church today that we recognize, in the words of George Herbert, how the world of Scripture ‘pens and sets us down’ because it is the Word of the God who seeks and finds us (theology proper). This book will be a constant companion for all who care about the work of reading the Bible as Christian Scripture.
—Wesley Hill, associate professor of New Testament, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
“The quadriga referred to the fourfold senses of the Scripture that any text might hold” (Page 5)
“interlock with others, often across times and books and characters, through similitude, resonance, and moral form” (Page 4)
“applied to the world, but elevated the world into Scripture’s own complex breadth and power.” (Page 56)
“all of the words of these texts possess far more than just a cultural or cognitive potency.” (Page 22)
“all of the Scriptures, for all of the people, all of the time” (Page 23)
David Ney is associate professor of church history at Trinity School of Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
Ephraim Radner is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Canada, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. He is the author of Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures.