Paul on Textual Interpretation, "Entente," and "Glosynge"

        When the friar in "Summoner's Tale" misquotes the apostle Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he gets it exactly backward in a way that is enormously dangerous to the faith and that speaks directly to the Canterbury Tales' on-going discussion of "entente" vs. literal meaning.  Here's what Paul really said, first in the King James Version you're probably familiar with:

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.   (2 Coninthians 3:6)

        This doctrine indicates that mere memorization of the words of scripture is no guide to the "life" of the message (and to the "life" promised the saved), but it opens up the need for interpretation to seek the "author's intentions," as E. D. Hirsch would put it.  The act of interpretation is dangerous, however, because as one's interpretive notes ("glosses") accumulate in the margins of the holy text, they may come to seem more important than the text itself, which is encoded in Latin in the first place.   The problem is not unlike the student reading Chaucer through the Mod.E. translation, which is a "gloss" on the meaning which lives in the spirit of the Middle English.  In the century following this, the participle "glozing" and the verb, "to glose" became synonymous with "to lie."