July 2010


No Eusebius translation progress made.  I’m still half way done on a draft of his comments on Psalm 110 (109 LXX).  The comments are quite interesting, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing yet, and I probably won’t before I leave the country for two weeks ;-).

In a few days I’ll be traveling to Europe to meet up with my girlfriend and her family.  We’ll get to see Paris, Italy, and Switzerland:  about 16 days in all.  I’m quite excited, as I’ll finally be able to put my French to good use.  I’d also love to pick up a something from the “Sources Chretiennes” series while I’m in Paris, but I can’t for the life me of figure out how how to find a French “libraire” that would have anything like that.

So, if anyone has recommendations for things to while in Paris, please let me know!

~alex

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One of the things you have to come to terms with when studying early Christianity is allegorical exegesis.  Most academics don’t care for it (or actively despise it), but most of the early Christians had no such inhibitions.  They saw Christ hiding behind every corner of the Old Testament.  Origen was known to embrace apparent contradictions on the surface level to find the eternal meaning of the text.  Of course, it wasn’t just Alexandrian flights of fancy where we find allegory.  Paul tells the Galatians, after doing some OT exposition on the Hagar and Sarah, that “these things may be understood allegorically.”  Likewise, he tells the Corinthians, “these things [the stories of the Israelites in the desert] happened as models for us, so that we wouldn’t desire evil, as they did.”  Hebrews is in many ways, one extended meditation on Psalm 110, Jesus being a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus himself, of course, actively modeled his own work after those of the prophets, and employed parables (allegorical stories) in much of his teaching.

So how do we properly appropriate allegory?  There are all sorts of weird pitfalls.  I come from a movement where OT texts are regularly interpreted “prophetically” to say some strange things (ie, whatever the pastor wants the text to say at the moment).  Allegorical exegesis often is far more dependent on the ingenuity of the allegorist than the text as the author construed it.

On the other hand, we are invited, even commanded, to read the Old Testament in light of Jesus.  This doesn’t mean we can’t read them for historical content, or reconstruct what they would meant to their original audience (even if such a reconstruction is terribly fragile most of the time), but can we give these readings (valuable though they are) hermeneutical priority when “the reality, however, if found in Christ” ?  Epistemologically, do we not have to start with Christ and work back into the OT, especially as Gentile believers?

Honestly, I love reading the OT through the eyes of the early Church.  While I might be able to appreciate the history and language of early Christianity without a particularly strong faith, I don’t think I could ever appreciate the Old Testament without faith to spur me on.  The early Church has been my entry way into the Old Testament.  I never understood or enjoyed the Psalms until I started reading them in Greek, with John Chrysostom and Eusebius of Caesarea to guide me.  I know one day I’ll learn Hebrew and be able to appreciate the OT without necessarily reading it along with the early Church.  However, I’m quite content until then to read the OT in Greek, with some of the most brilliant saints of old to teach me.

So I suppose I’m a son in search of an answer.  How do we embrace allegory without going off the deep end?  How do affirm both the “original meaning” (insofar as it can be known), and what Christians down through the ages have seen it pointing to?  What is the relationship between the two, and which has primacy?

Thoughts are welcome!

This a beautiful psalm, full of royal imagery and not a small bit of romance! In good early Christian fashion, I love the kingly husband and beautiful queen who so wonderfully typify Christ and His Church.

Of Christ:

Verse 8: ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν·
διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου
ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,

therefore God, your God, has anointed you,

with the oil of gladness and with those who share with you

Of His Church:

Verses 11-12: ἄκουσον, θύγατερ, καὶ ἰδὲ καὶ κλῖνον τὸ οὖς σου
καὶ ἐπιλάθου τοῦ λαοῦ σου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ πατρός σου,
12) ὅτι ἐπεθύμησεν ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ κάλλους σου,
ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ κύριός σου

Listen, O daughter. Look and incline your ear!

Forget your people and the household of your father,

12) Because the king has desired your beauty,

because your husband is he [who has desired you].

I’m currently working through translating the abbreviated comments we have from Eusebius on Psalm 109 (our Ps 110). He has some pretty interesting things to say about it, and the extracts aren’t terribly long, so it’ll make a nice sampler from his commentary methinks.

I’ll have it posted when I’m done with it.

The confusion continues! (well, not so much). Yesterday I wrote a post on John Chrysostom and miracles here. In it, I pointed out that John seems to argue for present day miracles as evidence for Christianity’s superiority to Judaism. Matthew over at crypto-theology was rightfully perplexed, since in his homilies on 1 Corinthians, John clearly acknowledges a cessation of the gifts. (See the comments for a relevant excerpt).

All of this led to some google searches. After looking at a published translation. I’m pretty sure I’m understanding John right. It also led me to a rather interesting post at the Continuationalism blog that examined some of the Patristic evidence on the issue. Note that I embarrassed myself in the comments by not reading the whole post before commenting! There I finally learned where Augustine changed his mind on the charismata. In the post there’s a quote from one of Augustine’s homilies that acknowledges a cessation, but in a later work (the City of God), he speaks of miracles happening up into the present day. I don’t know if Augustine changed his mind only with regard to healings, or if it was more broad (encompassing also prophetic gifts and glossalalia).

Finally, with regard to Chrysostom’s (perhaps?) change of heart, I read was able to track down an article by the same author who translated the homilies I mentioned earlier. He argues that John wrote and delivered these homilies in his youth, and they may have been his first exegetical work. There does appear to be evidence mentioned in the article, but he mostly just referred to the introductory notes in his translation. I’ve requested the translation via an inter-library loan, so hopefully I’ll get to see what he has to say on the issue! The bibliographic information for the article is:

Hill, Robert C. “Psalm 41 (42): a classic text for Antiochene spirituality.” Irish Theological Quarterly (March 1, 2003): 25 -33.

I’m quite excited to be able to participate in the blog tour for John Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission. See here for the details. I’ve been interested in the book since reading this post several weeks ago, and now I get a signed review copy! Many thanks in advance to Zondervan. The book will be timely since I’ll be reading it right before a new school-year, so hopefully I’ll be able to put some of the ideas into practice.

~alex

Being born and bred in Pentecostal churches, my ears always perk up when miracles pop up in what I’m reading. I love when God choses to heal bodies, or generally do anything like that. I have plenty of gripes with the charismatic movements, but it’s still my home (and my heritage), and I’m happy to be here for now.

Anyway, here’s an interesting tidbit from John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Psalms. In this one he’s addressing Psalm 109. It seems that most of the homily is devoted to refuting non-orthodox viewpoints, and he begins by attacking the Jewish interpretation. Here’s an excerpt where he interrogates a rhetorically created Jew:

But if you attack our [beliefs], O Jew,[*] what will you say in defense of the Old [Testament]? If someone were to say to you, “Why are the things of Moses true?” What would you say? “Because we believe them.” Certainly this is not any better than us, for we also believe, and you are but one nation, but we are of the whole world! You are convinced by the things of Moses, just as we are convinced by Christ, and what you make the end, we make the foundation. Do you believe because of the prophecies? But we have many more! So if you do away with ours, you overshadow your own as well. Do you believe because of miracles? But you have none to show except the signs of Moses, and these have come and gone. But we have the miracles of Christ, which are varied and abundant, and which happen even to the present day, and we have prophecies that surpass the brightness of the sun! Do you believe because of the laws? But our philosophy is superior to these. Why then? Because he led you away from the bondage of the Egyptians? But this is not equal at all to the hostile world, which the Egyptians by themselves do not surpass.

John Chrysostom, Homily on Psalm 109 (LXX), from Patrologia Graeca 55.266-267, my own translation.

I bolded the part that jumped out at me. John’s line of reasoning is pretty interesting here. He doesn’t simply cite the miracles of Christ recorded in the gospels, but he cites the miracles that “happen even to the present day,” which is a much bolder claim. This also makes me wonder if the “prophecies that surpass the brightness of the sun” might include more than the prophecies of Christ in the OT. I’d be surprised if he didn’t have Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple in mind. He may even have Christian prophets in mind as well, though that would be difficult to argue from this passage alone. The “but we have many more” would lead me to think he’s referring to prophecies that the Jews wouldn’t accept, which would include anything in the NT, but also extra-canonical Christian prophecy.

In terms of representing Jewish belief, I initially thought that John was being unfair here. After all, there were other miracles in the Old Testament. You had Joshua and the Sun, and Elisha and Elijah come to mind. However it looks like he narrows the comparison from OT and NT to Moses and Jesus as points of comparison. Christ as risen Lord would then be able to perform miracles “up until the present day,” while Moses could not. (Though would John have thought dead saints could perform miracles?). Of course, he does move back and forth quite easily between Moses and the Old Testament in general, because he goes on to say, “I say these thing, not to make the Old fight with the New…” I suppose that’s another sign of John’s great rhetorical skill, that he can slip easily between different referents to draw out the one that is most advantageous to him. We may not care for it, but it undoubtedly made for good rhetoric, and would’ve been fun to listen to.

[*] “O Jew” rings loudly in my ears too. I hate the Christianity has a long streak of anti-Semitism, and it’s certainly a nasty, nasty stain for us to bear. But let’s not judge John too quickly, even if he sounds harsh to post-holocaust ears.

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