"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interpreting the Bible in Late Antiquity

As I noted before, conflicts over interpretation of Scripture are very commonplace at any point in Christian history.  A new book takes us back to some very early debates over how to understand Scripture, and the regional differences in those understandings: Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity: the Alexandria Commentary Tradition between Rome and Baghdad, eds., Josef Lössl and John W. Watt (Ashgate, 2011, 360pp).

About this book, the publisher tells us the following, supplying also the contents:

This book brings together sixteen studies by internationally renowned scholars on the origins and early development of the Latin and Syriac biblical and philosophical commentary traditions. It casts light on the work of the founder of philosophical biblical commentary, Origen of Alexandria, and traces the developments of fourth- and fifth-century Latin commentary techniques in writers such as Marius Victorinus, Jerome and Boethius. The focus then moves east, to the beginnings of Syriac philosophical commentary and its relationship to theology in the works of Sergius of Reshaina, Probus and Paul the Persian, and the influence of this continuing tradition in the East up to the Arabic writings of al-Farabi. There are also chapters on the practice of teaching Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy in fifth-century Alexandria, on contemporaneous developments among Byzantine thinkers, and on the connections in Latin and Syriac traditions between translation (from Greek) and commentary.
With its enormous breadth and the groundbreaking originality of its contributions, this volume is an indispensable resource not only for specialists, but also for all students and scholars interested in late-antique intellectual history, especially the practice of teaching and studying philosophy, the philosophical exegesis of the Bible, and the role of commentary in the post-Hellenistic world as far as the classical renaissance in Islam.
Contents: Introduction, Josef Lössl and John Watt.Part 1 Alexandria to Rome: Origen: exegesis and philosophy in early Christian Alexandria, Alfons Fürst; Prologue topics and translation problems in Latin commentaries on Paul, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe; Ambrosiaster's method of interpretation in the Questions on the Old and New Testament, Marie-Pierre Bussières; Philosophical exegesis in Marius Victorinus' Commentaries on Paul, Stephen Cooper; Jerome's Pauline commentaries between East and West: tradition and innovation in the Commentary on Galatians, Andrew Cain; The Bible and Aristotle in the controversy between Augustine and Julian of Aeclanum, Josef Lössl; Boethius as a translator and Aristotelian commentator, Sten Ebbesen.
Part 2 Alexandria to Baghdad: Translating the personal aspect of late Platonism in the commentary tradition, Edward Watts; Aristotelianism and the disintegration of the late Antique theological discourse, Dirk Krausmüller; Sergius of Reshaina as translator: the case of the De Mundo, Adam McCollum; Sergius of Reshaina and pseudo-Dionysius: a dialectical fidelity, Emiliano Fiori; The commentator Probus: problems of date and identity, Sebastian Brock; Du commentaire à la reconstruction: Paul le Perse interprète d'Aristote (sur une lecture du Peri Hermeneias, à propos des modes et des adverbes selon Paul, Ammonius et Boèce), Henri Hugonnard-Roche; The genesis and development of a logical lexicon in the Syriac tradition, Daniel King; From Sergius to Matta: Aristotle and pseudo-Dionysius in Syriac tradition, John Watt; Al-Farabi's arguments for the eternity of the world and the contingency of natural phenomena, Philippe Vallat; Bibliography; Indexes.

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