Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Read The Old Testament Like The Church Fathers

That is the premise of Robert Louis Wilken's great new article in the March 2008 issue of First Things. He says that the way the Fathers read Scripture, specifically the OT, was by using allegory. Yet this was not to the detriment of the plain (or literal) meaning of the text. What the Fathers understood is that the OT must be interpreted in light of Christ, Whom it points to. But an allegorical reading of the OT was not the invention of the Fathers. Rather, it was the way the NT writers read Scripture. All of history is Christo-centric. Likewise with Scripture. Sadly, in the modern age of historical-critical methods which serve as the primary (if not the only) manner of Biblical interpretation, we have forgotten the allegorical sense of Scripture. Biblical scholars no longer read the OT in terms of types that point to NT fulfillments in Christ. I believe this is to their detriment and the reason why we have so much shoddy scholarship these days. We need to take a lesson from the Fathers and relearn how to do exegesis: through Christo-centric lenses.

I would link to the article, but since it just came out, it is not available to non-subscribers on line yet. Which is why you should subscribe to them! In the meantime here is an excerpt to wet your appetite:

"The task of an interpreter is to help the faithful look beyond the surface, to highlight a word here, an image there, to find Christ unexpectedly, to drink at the bountiful spring whose water is ever fresh. Though early Christian exegesis may on first reading appear idiosyncratic and arbitrary, it arose within the life of the Church and was practiced within a tradition of shared beliefs and practices, guided by the Church's faith as expressed in the creed. Exegesis was not about novelty but about finding the triune God in new and surprising places within the Scriptures."

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