Tropological reading

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Tropological reading is a Christian tradition, theory, and practice of interpreting the figurative meaning of the Bible. It is part of Biblical exegesis.


According to ideas developed by the Church Fathers, the literal meaning, or God-intended meaning of the words of the Bible, may be either figurative or non-figurative; for instance, in the Song of Songs (also called Canticles or Song of Solomon), the inspired meaning is always figurative. The typical meaning is the inspired meaning of words referring to persons, things, and actions of the Old Testament which are inspired types of persons, things, and actions of the New Testament.

The early uses of allegory and tropology were very close. Later a clearer distinction was made between the allegorical mystical, and tropological moral, styles of interpretation.[1]

Literary critic Henry Louis Gates also defines tropological revision in relation to African-American literature, in his work The Signifying Monkey.


The Ancient Greek word τρόπος (tropos) meant 'turn, way, manner, style'. The term τροπολογία (tropologia) was coined from this word around the second century CE, in Hellenistic Greek, to mean 'allegorical interpretation of scripture' (and also, by the fourth century, 'figurative language' more generally).[2]

The Greek word τρόπος had already been borrowed into Classical Latin as tropus, meaning 'figure of speech', and the Latinised form of τροπολογία, tropologia, is found already in the fourth-century writing of Saint Jerome in the sense 'figurative language', and by the fifth century in sense 'moral interpretation'. This Latin term was adopted in medieval French as tropologie, and English developed the form tropology in the fifteenth century through the simultaneous influence of French and Latin.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis vol. 2, The Four Senses of Scripture (2000 translation), Chapter 6.
  2. ^ a b "Tropology, n.", "trope, n.", OED Online.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1912). "Scriptural Tropology" . Catholic Encyclopedia. 15. New York: Robert Appleton.