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Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 8. Antioch

Antioch: Silva says, “We would not be exaggerating greatly if we described the progress of biblical exegesis as the gradual abandonment of allegorical interpretation.”[1] The Antiochene school arose as “a fairly systematic program aimed at debunking the more objectionable features of Origen’s approach.”[2] It is obvious from subsequent history that it failed at this task.

A school at Antioch was established toward the end of the third century by Lucian (circa A.D. 240-312). It became the rival school to Alexandria. Antioch’s most respected pupils were Theodore of Mopsuestia (circa A.D. 350-428) and John Chrysostom (circa A.D. 354-407). As noted above, the Antiochene school utilized aspects of literalism, typology, and allegory, though certainly not like the Alexandrians. Where did the Antiochenes get their brand of literalism from? Dockery suggests, “It is likely that wherever the synagogue’s influence was felt, the church’s interpretation of Scripture had a tendency toward literalism. Certainly this was the case at Antioch.”[3] Granting Dockery’s claim, we see once again how contemporary factors contribute to hermeneutical practice.

 

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Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 6. Alexandria and Antioch

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Introduction: Our study of the Patristics has set the stage for a brief discussion on the schools of Alexandria and Antioch. In one sense, they are a natural development of things already in place. In fact, Bradley Nassif claims, “Origen did not invent his interpretive techniques but borrowed them from a complex hermeneutical environment [Christian and non-Christian] that was already present in his day.”[1] Both Christian allegory and Christian typology pre-date these schools of thought. These two schools have sometimes been pitted against each other. Silva says:

This description, however, leaves out a series of interesting and suggestive bits of information. It is simplictic, for example, to view Origen and the Antiochenes as representing two opposite approaches more or less exclusive of each other. As we shall see, Origen used and defended literal interpretation on a number of occasions. Moreover, certain exegetical features that we would quickly dismiss as in some sense “allegorical” were consciously adopted as legitimate by the Antiochene exegetes.[2]

 

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