Pico's Heptaplus and Biblical Hermeneutics


This is the first full-length study of the Heptaplus, the commentary on the creation narrative of Genesis 1 by the celebrated Italian philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. It focuses on Pico’s theory of allegory. This theory was fundamentally dissimilar to mainstream medieval and Renaissance approaches to biblical interpretation. Rather than use the standard four senses of Scripture, Pico adopted an esoteric hermeneutic stance characteristic of Neoplatonic and kabbalistic exegesis, and developed an allegorical theory based on epistemology and the idea of intellectual ascent. The exploration of this theme makes it possible not only to interpret the Heptaplus in relation to Pico’s other works, but also to assess its role as a response to the contemporary philosophical controversy surrounding the intellect.


EUR €125.00USD $155.00

Biographical Note

Crofton Black read English and Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and completed his Ph.D. in 2004 at the Warburg Institute, London. He has also worked as a translator and cataloguer of Latin and Arabic manuscripts.

Review Quotes

"[…] the author succeeds brilliantly: Crofton Black provides a reliable and authoritative presentation of the aim and arguments of Pico’s Heptaplus, and he successfully situates the work within the history of biblical exegesis. […] the book sets a very high standard for Pico scholarship." – M.V. Dougherty, Ohio Dominican University, in: Renaissance Quarterly 60/2 (Summer 2007), pp. 509-511 "[...] a fascinating treatment of an intriguing and influential figure within the world of late-Medieval Renaissance Humanism. The monograph is well organized and well written, and shuold be of interest to anyone studying humanism, biblical exegesis, or intellectual history. [...] Black is deserving of thanks from the scholarly community for producing such a lively and engaging study." – Jon Balserak, University of Birmingham, in: Sixteenth Century Journal 39/3 (Fall 2008), pp. 781-782

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Preface Abbreviations Introduction 1. Pico’s Life and Works 2. The Heptaplus in Outline 3. Exegetical Contexts 4. The First Proem: Traditions of Esotericism 5. The Second Proem: Pico’s Cosmic Model and Exegesis as Anagogy 6. Knowledge, Felicitas and Hermeneutics 7. The Beginning and the End: Bereshit and the Sabbath Appendix to Chapter 7 Conclusion Bibliography Index


All those interested in intellectual history of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, allegory, biblical hermeneutics, the Christian reception of kabbalah and the problem of epistemology in scholastic Aristotelianism.