Clement of Alexandria on the Fourfold Interpretation of Scripture


We have run into Clement before during this “book reaction” series on the Christian Theology Reader. Last time, he spoke on the subject of philosophy around 200 AD. This time, Clement is bringing to the table his views on the 4-fold interpretation of Scripture also known as Quadriga:

The meaning of the law is to be understood by us in four ways [in addition to the literal sense]: as displaying a sign, as establishing a command for right conduct, or as making known a prophecy.

In this statement, Clement of Alexandria suggests that you can interpret scripture:

  1. In a literal sense
  2. In an allegorical sense (a sign to be interpreted)
  3. In a moral sense
  4. In an anagogical sense (as something to be hoped for)

Do we interpret scripture the same way?

I think so. We may not call by the same naming convention, but I am certain we have experienced the scriptures in the same light. At our LifeGroup we like to approach topics from a 4-fold angle as well. We use scripture, history, reason & experience as a basis for our interpretation. All of these guides for interpretation envelop the same points of interpretation that Clement made.

Again, I feel a connection with these early millennia writers. It is as if they were experiencing the same things in Life that I am, and were using the Scriptures to make sense of it all.

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