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Henri de Lubac's Genealogy of Modern Exegesis and Nicholas of Lyra's Literal Sense of Scripture



According to Henri de Lubac's history of medieval exegesis, the fourteenth century marked the tipping point for the disintegration of history and allegory. The Postilla super totam bibliam of the Franciscan Nicholas of Lyra (1270–1349) plays a prominent role in this declension narrative by ceding the “spirit” of interpretation to the separate discipline of theology, and opening the space for critical biblical studies to attain autonomy. But what if Nicholas of Lyra was on the other side of this history? Arguing from the layout of early Postilla manuscripts and the institutional and manuscript culture of the fourteenth century, this article proposes that Nicholas's Postilla represents a vigorous and largely successful attempt to reintegrate Biblical text, historical scholarship, and theological exegesis. Nicholas's approach to the exegetical crises of his own day helps us to reassess the challenges and possibilities of theological exegesis today.