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Patristic Exegesis

Patristic Exegesis

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Published by Dimmitri Christou

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Published by: Dimmitri Christou on Nov 09, 2012
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01/10/2013

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 Article Summary: Stumbling over the Testaments: Onreading Patristic Exegesis and the Old Testament inLight of the New
By Dimmitri Christou
McGinnis, Claire.
‘Stumbling over the Testaments: On Reading Patristic Exegesis and the Old
Testament in Light
of the New’
. Journal of Theological Interpretation 4.I (2010), pp. 17-29.
 
1.
 
Why is Patristic Exegesis Important?
Clair McGinnis in her article,
Stumbling over the Testaments: On reading Patristic Exegesisand the Old testament in Light of the New,
 begins the article by focusing on two questions:Why might a contemporary Biblical scholar read Patristic exegesis and what benefitdoes Patristic exegesis have for the general reader? In answering these questionsMcGinnis follows Wilkens
’s observati
ons by e
xplaining “[…] t
hat patristic exegesis isimportant because, through it, the OT became enlivened in Christian imagination,vocabulary, and worship
”.
1
Regarding patristic exegesis and spirituality, McGinnis usesthe Roman Catholic practice of Lectio Divina as an example. The author notes,
“monastic circles continue the long tradition of reading patristic exegesis as one among
other spiritual practices
.
2
Patristic exegesis thus according to McGinnis can be utilizedas an enlivening spiritual act mediated through prayer and contemplation. Further,McGinnis goes on to say that patristic exegesis is important for the
“doctrinal legac
y it
1
McGinnis, Claire.
‘Stumbling over the Testaments: On Reading Patristic Exegesis and the Old
Testament in Light
of the New’
.
 Journal of Theological Interpretation 4.I 
(2010), p. 17.
2
Ibid., p. 18.
 
 
left the Christian Church”.
3
In this case it can be justifiably argued that patristic exegesisis important because it allows the individual to empirically contrast and comparemodern traditions which claim to be the fullness of the faith with
the faith that was
once for all entrusted to the saints”
.
4
 The author is essentially following the idea that weas Christians are inheritors of a rich tradition and
as inheritors of fundamentalChristian doctrines such as the Trinity, we owe early Christian writers an invaluabledebt
.
5
 Patristic exegesis functions, according to McGinnis, for both the academic andgeneral laymen in light of spirituality and doctrine and is as such complimentary for both the Biblical scholar and general laymen who may find the historical-criticalmethod far too dry and empty.
2.
 
Patristic Exegesis and Stumbling Blocks
After explaining why Patristic exegesis is important, the author begins to discuss twostumbling blocks Biblical scholars face when dealing with patristic exegesis. According
to McGinnis, “the instincts of a contemporary biblical scholar—
reading and writing as ascholar
is to
resist
finding Christ in the OT strongly
.
6
Contrarily, the Fathers viewed Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament
“[…] as the
key
to understanding the
Old”.
7
Patristic exegesis, McGinnis explains, because of its typological and allegorical
exegetical leanings nevertheless appears “to play fast and loose with the text and
appear not to respect the integrity or holistic form of
the individual biblical books”.
8
 This reaction to patristic exegesis explains why the Biblical scholar might resist such a
3
Ibid., p. 17.
4
N.K.J.V., Jude 1:3
5
 
Claire McGinnis.
‘Stumbling over the Testaments: On Reading Patristic Exegesis and the Old
Testament in Light
of the New’
.
 Journal of Theological Interpretation 4.I 
(2010), p. 17.
 
6
Ibid., p. 22.
7
Ibid., p. 21.
8
Ibid., p. 20.
 
method. For the issue for the Biblical scholar is not simply related to the
“simplistic andstrange”
9
appearance of patristic exegesis but rather because of the typological andallegorical limitations in its lens of scope, a lens of scope which does not endeavor toperipherally include what contemporary scholarship holds so plainly in sight. Biblicalscholars are interested in the entire context of what has been written in the Bible ratherthan the theological meaning and existential application of the text itself
a markedlydistinct feature of patristic exegesis. Additionally, the second stumbling block in light ofpatristic exegesis relates to Jewish-Christian sensitivity, specifically that
“Finding Christ
in the OT would seem, on the face of it, to be an offense to those Jewish colleagues
.
10
 Despite the fact that an alternative approach may given which may transcend these boundaries, alternatives which will shortly be discussed, it must first be understoodthat, as the author explains, the Old Testament is not only a Christian book but is also a Jewish book. So to propose a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament wouldonly seem to offend pluralistic boundaries of religious respectability.
McGinnis’s point
is quite clear on the matter of religious sensitivity. Just as it would not be helpful torefer to the Old Testament as Satan
s book; likewise, it is not helpful in academia torefer to the Old Testament as a Christian book proper. Irrespective, the author
sapproach appears fair and principled. McGinnis endeavours to outline a theological bias that might eventuate regardless of the person
s personal beliefs, or lack thereof forthat matter. Regardless, the Old Testament is just as much a Christian Book as it is a Jewish Book and so a certain level of professional etiquette needs to maintained for boththe Jewish and Christian theologian.
9
Ibid., p. 20.
10
Ibid., p. 23.

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