The Hermeneutics of Richard Hooker’s Defence of the ‘Sensible Excellencie’ of Public Worship

  • Torrance Kirby
Part of the Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern Literature book series (CKEML, volume 1)


In a brief chapter within his massive apology of the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer in the fifth book of his treatise Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie (1597), Richard Hooker addresses the use ‘of musique with psalmes’ in public worship. In his joint appeal to the authority of Scripture and to philosophical principles suggestive of Neo-Pythagoreanism, this account of liturgical music is emblematic of Hooker’s general method and approach. In the course of this discussion Hooker develops a distinctive hermeneutic whereby ‘signs are to resemble things signified; outward acts to testify to inward dispositions of the heart; human sensible means to show forth hidden divine glory; things visible to correspond to things invisible; the church militant to emulate the church triumphant’. Hooker’s hermeneutics of signs and signification constitutes a crucial strategic device in his theological polemics.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Torrance Kirby
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Religious StudiesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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