The Synopsis of Polanus’ Syntagma (2)

23 December 2009 by Wes Bredenhof

Today we continue with Book 1.  This is where Polanus lays out his theological prolegomena.  Yesterday I posted the section dealing with the nature of theology.  In today’s installment, he goes on to deal with the nature and interpretation of Scripture.  Just a reminder: this is only a synopsis.  The actual text of the book is well over 500 pages and that’s where Polanus works all this out.


The foundation (principium) of our theology is the Word of God.

Its substance is singular and simple, but the mode of reveltation is two-fold:  internal and external.

In both cases the Word of God is called a writing (scriptura); the internal is written on the heart; the external is written in both Testaments.

The one is considered according to essence, the other according to accidence.

Sacred Scripture considered according to accidence is to be expanded upon under these headings:  authority, necessity, the original texts, translation in vernacular languages, reading, perspicuity, interpretation and its exposition, and perfection.

The authority of Sacred Scripture is two-fold:  divine and canonical.

With regards to both, this authority of Scripture is considered both absolute in itself, and also with regards to us.

Holy Scripture both in general and in particular is truly divine for us today.  This is both from divine testimony and reckoning, as well as from the testimony of human beings.

The divine testimonies are two:  the one external, the other internal.  That is, with the one the voice of God testifies in Scripture.  With the other the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that it is true.

The human testimonies are in like manner two:  the one from the true Church, the other from those who are outside the Church.

Undoubtedly the testimony of this true Church is two-fold: from of old and from the present.

The testimony of other men outside of the Church of God are then the Indians, then heretics, and then the Gentiles.

The necessity of Sacred Scripture is considered in the reason both for its being written and for its perpetual existence, but most of all for the purpose of Scripture, which is two-fold:  theoretical and practical.  The one pertains to cognition, the other to action.

The theoretical end is in like manner two-fold:  doctrinal and judicial.

This judicial end is two-fold:  guiding and defining.

The authentic text of Sacred Scripture is considered with regards to the Old Testament, which was in Hebrew (and Aramaic in some chapters of Daniel and Ezra), and with regards to the New Testament in Greek.

The translations or versions of Sacred Scripture are in many common languages.  However, they are fittingly distinguished as being either ancient or recent.

The ancient versions of the Old Testament are those made before Christ’s birth and those produced after his birth.

The reading of Holy Scripture is mandated by God for those called to be clergy, then for the laity, and then certainly for Kings and Princes and other Magistrates.

The perspicuity of Sacred Scripture comes from the testimony of Scripture, then from reason.

The parts of the interpretation of Scripture are two:  exposition of the true sense and application.

In considering the exposition of the true sense, one must ask:  is it one or many?  And in what manner is it to be exposited?

With regards to answering the first question, truly every place of Sacred Scripture is true and genuine and it is entirely one; therefore it is literal.

Thus it is either simple or composite.

It is either proper or figurative.

With regards to answering the second question, it should be indicated which places are to be interpreted and their bounds, then themes and arguments are to be eludicated through exposition and proclamation.

With regards to both declaration and exposition, sometimes it will be brief and sometimes it will be with many words.

The application of Sacred Scripture is five-fold:  teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and consolation.

The right interpretation of all Sacred Scripture is two-fold:  analytical and synthetic.

Those are also two-fold:  common and particular.

The power or authority and right to interpret Scripture and to judge concerning various interpretations, also in all manner of religious controversies, is either public or private.

The public is either of the whole, or ministerial.

The ministerial power or public authority is both from Holy Scripture and from the orthodox Church of God.

The interpretation of Scripture considered from the perspective of efficient causes is two-fold:  divine and human.

The human interpretation of Sacred Scripture is two-fold:  the one is public, the other private.

The public interpretation is two-fold:  Catholic or particular.

The perfection of Holy Scripture rules out the tradition of men.

Tradition sometimes consists of things handed own, sometimes of actions handed down.

When tradition is accepted with regards to things handed down, it is from an efficient cause, either divine or human.

Divine tradition is either dogmatic, historical or liturgical.

Liturgical tradition is either universal or particular.

The same is regarded according to what has been added; it is either perpetual or temporary.

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