Sensus plenior

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The Holy Bible

In Latin, the phrase sensus plenior means "fuller sense" or "fuller meaning".[1][2] This phrase is used in Biblical exegesis to describe the supposed deeper meaning intended by God but not intended by the human author. Walter C. Kaiser notes that F. Andre Fernandez coined the term in 1927, but it was popularized by Raymond E. Brown.[3] Brown defines sensus plenior as

That additional, deeper meaning, intended by God but not clearly intended by the human author, which is seen to exist in the words of a biblical text (or group of texts, or even a whole book) when they are studied in the light of further revelation or development in the understanding of revelation.[4]

This implies that more meaning can be found within scripture than the original human authors intended, and, therefore, a study of scripture that isolates a particular book and only concerns itself with the details of the author's time and situation can be incomplete.

Sensus plenior corresponds to rabbinical interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures — remez ("hint"), drash ("search"), and/or sod ("secret") — whereby deeper meaning is drawn out or derived from the text.

John Goldingay suggests that the citation of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 is a "stock example" of sensus plenior.[5]

Conservative Christians have used this term to mean the larger or whole teaching of scripture.

For example, when some of the Founding Fathers of the United States read Genesis 1:16 they applied a deeper meaning to the constitutional separation of powers and asked, "Since God separated the powers of light into three separate and distinct categories, could we, in turn do the same with governmental powers." There are several such references found in the Founding Fathers works[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sensus plenior". 21 July 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "What does the term sensus plenior mean?". 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., "Single Meaning, Unified Referents: Accurate and Authoritative Citations of the Old Testament by the New Testament," in Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde, eds, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 47.
  4. ^ Raymond E. Brown, The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture (Baltimore: St. Mary's University, 1955), 92.
  5. ^ Goldingay, John (2002). Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation. Clements Publishing Group. p. 108. 

Additional references[edit]

  • Raymond E. Brown, "The History and Development of the Theory of a Sensus Plenior," CBQ 15 (1953) 141 - 162.
  • The Jerome Biblical Commentary Vol. 1 1971, Geoffry Chapman Publishers, London, pp. 605–23.
  • David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary 1992, Maryland, pp. 11–4.

External links[edit]