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date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers how Christian thinkers in the fourth century engaged the text of Scripture. It begins by considering how fourth-century readers were shaped by the Church’s adaptation of ancient literary-critical practices in the late second and early third centuries. Then treatment of an extended example—the reading of Proverbs 8.22, and especially in Athanasius—enables us to draw out ways in which Scripture generated, bounded, and interrupted Christian thought. Scriptural terminology and phrasing generates reflection, the same also pushes Christian thought in particular directions, and the same also forces Christian thinkers to confess divine mystery, interrupting the speculative gaze. Turning to another example, from later in the second century—the reading of John 5.19—confirms this analysis and enables us to see the exegesis of this period as highly creative, but within an exegetical culture formed in the first two centuries of the Church’s life.

Keywords: exegesis, Athanasius, Augustine, Hilary, mystery, literal sense, grammar, Church

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