Download a PDF chart: “The Fourfold Method: Four Senses of Biblical Interpretation.”
How should we read and interpret the Bible? Modern hermeneutics (the study of interpretation) tends to be suspicious of typology, allegory, and other kinds of spiritual reading. The fourfold method is an attempt to follow the example of Jesus and the apostles by keeping interpretation grounded in the literal/historical meaning of the text while recognizing that because the Bible isn’t like any other book—because it’s a spiritual book, God’s word—deeper layers of meaning can and should be mined.
The chart linked above explains the basic concerns of each of the four “senses” of interpretation: literal/historical; typological/allegorical; moral/tropological; eschatological/anagogical. It uses Noah’s ark as an example, drawing on the Apostle Peter’s typological and anagogical reading in 1 Peter 3:20–21 and 2 Peter 2–3. For more on the fourfold method, see the article “How to Preach Using the Fourfold Method” (written for preachers but useful for any Bible reader).