Page images



[ocr errors]

this immense work, which extended to nearly fifty volumes, he was engaged for twenty-eight years. But with all his devotion to the interests of truth, and the enormous magnitude of his labors, he was a mystico-allegorical interpreter. He followed in the path of Philo the Jew, and Clement the Christian, and, assuming that many portions of the Bible are unreasonable and absurd when taken literally, he maintained a threefold sense--the corporeal, the physical, and the spiritual. But he protests against being supposed to teach that no history is real, and no laws are to be literally observed, because some narratives and laws, literally understood, are absurd or impossible. “For," he

says, “the passages that are true in their historical sense are much more numerous than those which have a purely spiritual signification.

Driven by persecution from Alexandria, he resorted to Cæsarea, in Palestine, and there established a school which for a time surpassed that of the Egyptian metropolis. The magnetism of his person, and his wide-spread fame as an expounder of the Scriptures, attracted great multitudes to him. His pernicious habit of explaining the sacred records as the Platonists explained the heathen myths, and his peculiar views touching the pre-existence of souls, a new probation after death, and some other doctrines, were so far offset by his pure zeal for God, and his many and great virtues, that he has been quite generally acknowledged as pre-eminently the father of biblical science, and one of the greatest prodigies of learning and industry among men."

To Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts xi, 26), belongs the honor of introducing a more scien- The School of tific and profitable system of biblical study. Its founder Antioch. was Lucian, who in early life studied at Edessa, and laid the foundation of his thorough scholarship under the training of Macarius, an eminent teacher of that city. He afterward removed to Antioch, where he was ordained presbyter, and acquired great fame as a critical student and expounder of the Holy Scriptures. His stricter methods put a check to the allegorical and mystical interpretation

1 The remains of this great work were collected and published in two folio volumes by Montfaucon, Paris, 1713. Revised edition by Bahrdt, Lpz., 1769–70, 2 vols. 8vo. It is also published in vols. xv and xvi of Migne's Greek Patrologiæ Cursus Completus, and in two fine quartos by Field, Oxford, 1875.

De Principiis, book iv, chap. i, 11. 3 Origen's works have been printed in many editions. The best is that of the Benedictines De la Rue, Paris, 1733–59, 4 vols. fol. It is reprinted in Migne's Greek Patrologiæ Cursus Completus, Paris, 9 vols. English translations of the De Principiis, the Contra Celsum, and several of his epistles are given in vols. x and xxiii of the Edinburgh Ante-Nicene Christian Library.


so popular at the time, and which had received great strength and currency by the influence of Origen. This sounder method of exegesis was further promoted by Diodorus, who was also for some time a distinguished presbyter of Antioch, but afterward became bishop of Tarsus. The church historian, Socrates, speaks of him as president of a monastery and author of "many treatises, in which he limited his expositions to the literal sense of Scripture, without attempting to explain what was mystical." ! He is said to have written commentaries on all the books of the Old Testament, and also on considerable portions of the New. Some do not hesitate to make him the real founder of the school of Antioch.

The two most distinguished disciples of Diodorus were Theodore Theodore of

of Mopsuestia, and John Chrysostom of Constantinople. Mopsuestia. Both of them studied philosophy and rhetoric in the school of the celebrated sophist Libanius, the friend of the Emperor Julian. Theodore was made a presbyter at Antioch, but rapidly acquired reputation, and was made bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia, about A. D. 390. His long life and incessant labour as a Christian teacher, the extent of his learning, the vigour and acuteness of his intellect, and the force of his personal character, won for him the title of Master of the Orient. He was a prolific author, and composed commentaries on various books of Scripture, of which only his exposition of the Minor Prophets has been preserved intact until the present time. His commentaries on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians are preserved in a Latin version. He was an independent critic, and a straightforward, sober, historical interpreter. He had no sympathy with the mystical methods of the Alexandrian school, and repudiated their extravagant notions of inspiration; but he went to an opposite extreme of denying the inspiration of many portions of the Scriptures, and furnished specimens of rationalistic exposition quite barren and unsatisfactory. Nevertheless the Syrian Nestorians regarded him as the greatest of exegetes. His method of teaching the subjects of Christology and anthropology were severely condemned after his decease, especially

1 Eccl. Hist., book vi, chap. iii.

* So stated by Theodore the Reader, as cited in Suidas' Lexicon (Küster's ed. vol., i, p. 593. Cambr., 1705), under the name Diodorus. Fragments of the commentaries of Diodorus are given in vol xxxiii of Migne's Greek Patrologiæ Cursus Completus.

3 Theodore's Commentary on the Minor Prophets was published by Mai, in vol. Vi of his Patrum Nova Bibliotheca (Rome, 1854), and by Wegner (Berol., 1834). Frag. ments of his other works are given by Fritzsche, Theod. Mops., in N. Test. Comm. (Turici, 1847), and Pitra, Spicil. Solesm. (Par.. 1854). See also Sieffert, Theod. Mops. V. T. sobre interpretandi vindex, (Regiom., 1827), and Kihn, Theod. Mops. und J. Africanus als Exegeten (Freib., 1880).

[blocks in formation]

because the Nestorians appealed to them as identical with their



While Theodore represented the more independent aud rationalistic spirit of the Antiochian school, Chrysostom exhibited its more conservative and practical tendency. The tender devotion of a pious Christian mother, the rhetorical polish acquired in the school of Libanius, and the assiduous study of the Scriptures at the monastery of the learned Diodorus, were all together admirably adapted to develop the profound exegete and the eloquent preacher of the word of God. “Through a rich inward experience," says Neander," he lived into the understanding of the Holy Scriptures; and a prudent method of interpretation, on logical and grammatical principles, kept him in the right track in deriving the spirit from the letter of the sacred volume. His profound and simple, yet fruitful, homiletic method of treating the Scriptures, show to what extent he was indebted to both, and how, in his case, both co-operated together.” 1

Chrysostom wrote more than six hundred homilies on the Scriptures. They consist of expository discourses on Genesis, the Psalms, and most of the New Testament. Those on the Gospel of Matthew and the Pauline epistles are specially valuable, and such modern exegetes as Tholuck and Alford have enriched their pages by numerous quotations from this father. The least valuable of his expository discourses are those upon the prophets, only a few of which remain. His ignorance of Hebrew, and his failure to apprehend the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, are apparent. The homilies on the Psalms, however, though without critical merit, furnish a rich banquet, for Chrysostom's deep religious experience brought him into complete sympathy with the psalmist. Although his credulous nature yielded to many superstitions of his age, and his pious feeling inclined him to asceticism and the self-mortifications of monastic life, John Chrysostom is unquestionably the greatest commentator among the early fathers of the Church. Theodore of Mopsuestia may have been more sharply critical, Origen was more encyclopædic in his learning, and others were more original and profound in apprehending some of the doctrines of the Christian faith, but he surpassed them all in the general good judgment which appears in his expositions, in the richness of his suggestions, and the practical value of what he said or wrote. He is the greatest ornament and noblest representative of the exegetical school of Antioch." History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. ii, p. 693.

The best edition of Chrysostom's works is that of Montfaucon, Greek and Latin, 13 vols., Paris, 1718–38. Reprinted 1834-39, and also in Migne's Greek Patrology,

In this connexion we should also notice the works of Theodoret,

who was trained at the monastery near Antioch, where Theodoret.

he abode for twenty years, devoting himself to theological studies. The teachings of Diodorus, Theodore, and Chrysostom, who were identified with this same monastery, exerted great influence over the mind of Theodoret, and he followed substantially their system of biblical interpretation. In his Preface to the Psalms he says: “When I happened upon various commentaries, and found some expositors pursuing allegories with great superabundance, others adapting prophecy to certain histories so as to produce an interpretation accommodated to the Jews rather than to the nurselings of faith, I considered it the part of a wise man to avoid the excess of both, and to connect now with ancient histories whatever things belonged to them.” Most of his remaining works are expository, but often mixed with that which is apologetic and controversial.' They cover most of the books of the Old Testament, and the epistles of Paul.' The churches of Syria early developed into two main divisions,

those of the eastern and the western provinces. As sa and Nisibis. Antioch was the chief center of the western cities, so were Edessa and Nisibis of the more eastern, and when, after the days of Chrysostom and Theodoret, the school of Antioch declined, those chief centres of Christian activity in Mesopotamia became more famous as seats of literary culture and exegetical learning. The appearance of the Syriac version of the New Testament as early as the middle of the second century, and the Diatessaron of Tatian, indicates the interest of the Syrian mind in the study of the Scriptures. Lucian, the founder of the Antiochian school, received his early training in the Scriptures from Macarius of Edessa. The Ignatian epistles appear also to have exerted great influence in Eastern Syria, and they were early translated into the Syriac tongue. “The school of Eastern Syria,” says Dorner, “was distinguished by its vivid fancy, by its religious spirit, at once fiery and practical, by fervour, and, in part, depth of thought. It exhibited, also, a tendency to the impassioned style and too gorgeous imagery of the East, to mysticism and asceticism. ... The Church of Western Syria displayed, at an early period, that sober, judicious,

Schools of Edes


vols. xlvii-lxiv. An English translation of many of the Homilies is given in the Ox. ford Library of the Fathers, 1842–53.

Comp. Rosenmüller, Historia Interpretationis Librorum Sacrorum vol. iv, pp. 35–142.

2 The best edition of Theodoret's works is that of Schulze and Nösselt, 5 vols., Halle, 1769–74. See also Migne's Greek Patrologiæ Cursus Completus, vols. lxxx-lxxxiv.



[ocr errors]

and critical spirit for which it became renowned, and by which it was especially distinguished from the third to the fifth century. The eastern school inclined to theosophy, and thus had a certain affinity with the religious systems which prevailed in the East ; the western, on the other hand, took its stand on the firm basis of experience and history. In a word, the contrast between the two divisions of the Syrian Church bore a not inconsiderable resemblance to that which exists between the Lutheran and Reformed Confessions in Germany."

One of the greatest fathers of the Syrian Church was Ephraem, commonly called Ephraem Syrus, who flourished at

Ephraem Syrus. Edessa about A. D. 370. He spent most of his life in writing and preaching, and was a vigorous opponent of Arianism. His learning and piety were the admiration of his contemporaries, and he was often designated as the prophet of the Syrians. He was a voluminous writer, and has left numerous commentaries, homilies, and poems. Many of his exegetical discourses and polemical and practical homilies are written in poetical form. His commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament and the Book of Job are extant in Syriac, and those of the Pauline epistles in an Armenian translation. It is doubtful whether he understood or used the Greek language. His method of exposition is mainly that of the allegorists, his style is brilliant and glowing, often running into bombast, and his interpretations are often fanciful, farfetched, and extravagant."

The school of Nisibis maintained itself longer than that of Edessa, and continued until the ninth century. The Canon of Nisibis prescribed a three years' course of exegetical Ibas. study in the Old and New Testaments. Barsumas, who was ejected from the school of Edessa, became bishop of Nisibis in A. D. 435, and founded there the theological seminary which served to maintain and propagate Nestorianism in various countries of the East. The works of Diodorus of Tarsus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, translated into Syric by Ibas, contributed much toward the cultivation of biblical and theological study throughout Eastern Syria.

The fathers of the Western Church were, as a class, much inferior to those of the Eastern in their expositions of the Scriptures.

Barsumas and

1 History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, div. ii, vol. I, p. 29.

? The best edition of the works of Ephraem Syrus is that of Assemanni in six vols., Rome, 1732–46. Nine of the metrical homilies and thirty-five of the Syriac hymns have been translated into English by Burgess: Select Metrical Hymns and Homilies of Ephraem Syrus, London, 1853. See also Lengerke, De Ephraemi Syri arte hermoneutica, Königsb., 1831,

« PreviousContinue »