chapter  4
Historia and littera in Carolingian commentaries on St Matthew
Elements for an inventory of exegetical vocabulary in the medieval Latin Church
ByElisabeth Mégier
Pages 25

The 'literal sense' has always been a privileged subject of the history of exegesis, but the pioneer scholars in the field, Beryl Smalley and Henri de Lubac, have been more intent on demonstrating the presence and importance of historical or literal interpretation than on exploring its specific and possibly diverse character. The number of Gospel commentaries dating from the Carolingian period is quite impressive. The evangelists' 'following the opinion of ordinary people' is an argument Jerome uses twice, but only once is it combined with the lex historiae. Hrabanus Maurus, Sedulius Scottus and Pseudo-Remigius affirm the eminently spiritual character of the Gospels, repeating a statement made by Jerome: 'In the text of the Gospels the spirit is always joined to the letter, and what at first sight seemed to be cold, becomes hot when touched'.