By what principle ought one to read and interpret the
Scriptures? It is a fact that a number of errors have had their origin
in an inability to understand a sacred text in the right way.
For example, many Jews have not believed in our Savior,
because they have been attached to the literal meaning of the prophecies
made about him and have not sen them physically fulfilled. They have
not seen the prisoners set free, (Isa. 61:1) nor the city of God built
in the way they imagined it, (Ezek. 48) nor the chariot cut off from Ephraim,
nor the warhorse from Jerusalem, (Zech. 9:10) nor butter and honey being
eaten and the good chosen without prior knowledge of evil or preference
for it (Isa. 7:15).
So then the reason for so many mistaken ideas about God
consists solely in the inability to interpret Scripture in a spiritual
sense. It has been taken in its literal sense only.
Those who receive the Word, even the most literal-minded,
know that some truths revealed in the sacred Books are full of mysteries.
Wise and humble people recognize that they cannot explain them. What
do we say, for instance, about the prophecies? They are packed full
of obscure words. And who has not been struck by the unspeakable
mysteries contained in the revelation made to John?
The literal-minded person finds edification in the sacred
Books. He finds the bare bones, so to say of the Scriptures.
But the person who has made some progress attains to the soul of the Scriptures.
The one who is perfect, then, discovers the spiritual law.
(Translation by Thomas Spidlik, Drinking from the Hidden
Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo,
MI - Spencer, MASS, 1994)