Jul 28, 2016

The Approach of Early Christian Commentators

"Early Christian commentary, whether Alexandrian or Antiochene, focused on the world of the Bible, its vision and understanding of the created world. Patristic commentary did not start with the world or life and then go to the Bible for understanding, whether it be historical or theological, as later modern commentators will do. The difference which represents a major shift in modernity is what John O’Keefe and R. R. Reno have called “the sanctified vision.” Early Christian commentators understood Holy Scriptures as indeed the revelation of God, not the thing that points revelation. Their commentating on the Bible therefore, sought meaning within the text, not from it. Early commentators saw all Scripture as relevant, even the seemingly mundane details, because of the Christian assumption that “the text is the verbal form of divine pedagogy,” all of it aiding in the development of the Christian life. As a result, in practice this looked like an intensive reading that focused on connections between words, images, and phrases, associating them with one another and building up a world of cross-links that evoke many layers of meaning. This moving across the text of the Bible, not past it, is what makes early commentary feel so different and foreign to modern readers. It is based on an entirely different worldview, one of universal interconnectedness, and a higher theology of Scripture, than later readers will possess."

Mark Gignilliat and Jonathan T. Pennington, “Theological Commentary,” in A Manifesto for Theological Interpretation, ed. Craig Bartholomew and Heath A. Thomas (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 241.

No comments: