Anagogy and Kerygma


Michael Happy asks if anagogy and kerygma are the same thing, a question that’s difficult to answer in a word because both words are used in numerous contexts. They are certainly related terms. “Interpenetration” is another of those key words, especially in Frye’s late work. It appears in different contexts: historical (in relation to Spengler), philosophical (in relation to Whitehead) scientific (in relation to David Bohm), social (in relation to Frye’s liberal politics and his utopian vision of a classless society). But its primary context is religious. In this context Frye associates interpenetration with anagogy, kerygma, apocalypse, spiritual intercourse, the vision of plenitude, the everlasting gospel, the union of Word and Spirit, the new Jerusalem, atonement and the Incarnation––which are also religious terms. So just as a number of religious concepts tend to cluster around “interpenetration,” so they do around “anagogy” and “kerygma.”

Other of Frye’s key terms are not primarily religious, though are often used in a religious context––“identity,” “imaginative literalism,” “revelation,” “vision,” “recognition,” “consciousness,” “dialectic,” “Aufhebung,” “imagination,” “vortex,” “love.” All of these terms are multivalent, and they constitute part of the effort, which Frye speaks of repeatedly, to find the right verbal formula.

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1 thought on “Anagogy and Kerygma

  1. Michael Happy

    Yes, but — unless I’ve really got this wrong, Bob — kerygma is specific to the unique typological organization of the Bible, which Frye realized could not be neatly incorporated into the his verbal universe according to the model he had developed for literature.

    For what it’s worth, here’s what I think is happening: the literal-metaliteral dialectic of symbolic language is anagogic and therefore prophetic of primariy concerns — and I suspect that for “secular” Frygians this is probably more than adequate. However, the typology of the Bible does not quite fit this pattern. At the same time, the typology of the Bible intensifies the trend of prophetic metaphor beyond the disinterestedly imaginative literary context, where “God” is the revealed authority, but one also identified with primary concerns, and thereby giving them an commensurately enhanced priority. In other words, the typologically “revealed God” is the kerygmatic affirmation of the otherwise existential foundation of primary concern.

    Does that sound plausible?


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