Author Topic: How and when should one exegete Scripture oneself?  (Read 440 times)

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Offline Volnutt

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How and when should one exegete Scripture oneself?
« on: September 17, 2011, 06:10:57 PM »
I'm aware this post is kind of awkward. I'm having a hard time specifically pinning down this question.

Recent conversations have left me a bit confused as to how the Scriptural exegesis of one or more Church Fathers should be handled when one's own best attempt to reason the meaning of the passage contradicts them? I know the Fathers are not infallible and often conflict with one another, but it seems like one of the things distinguishing Orthodoxy from protestantism is the former is built on their teachings in a lot of far more fundamental ways.

I'm just trying to figure how they should be used related to reason in the process of interpreting Scripture.

When should they be ignored?

Should their view or the view of one of them ever rule the day without question?

Offline witega

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Re: How and when should one exegete Scripture oneself?
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2011, 06:32:57 PM »
Should their view or the view of one of them ever rule the day without question?

Since no human is infallible, no, the opinion of a Father should never rule the day 'without question'. But what the Fathers are are individuals who showed the fruit of their understanding in their personal sanctity and whose opinion has been found generally trustworthy over generations of the Church's life. So when you find yourself in disagreement with a Father, we follow a hermeneutic of humility in which ones presumes the Father probably knows better. Don't assume he's correct--but assume it's more likely he's correct than that you are. Review your understanding and your own presuppositions which are leading you to a position in contradiction to a saint. Go and check other Fathers. The more Fathers you find that agree with each other and disagree with you, the more likely it is that you are the one making the mistake. And maybe one of the other Fathers will explain the 'Patristic' position in a way that helps you understand what you were missing the first time around.

Alternatively, perhaps you will find disagreement among the Fathers (although this is rarer than some people seem to think). In that case there are some additional guidelines (older Fathers and Fathers recognized as 'theologians' or 'pillars of Orthodoxy', etc carry more weight--no matter how many 19th century saints you line up in agreement with you, if you are all in disagreement with St. Athanasius, your probably all wrong). Sometime that means the point simply is not that important and its fine to for everyone to hold their personal opinion. Sometime in studying the supposed disagreement you'll come to understand the issue better and realize there's not an actual disagreement but simply different perspectives on the same thing.
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Offline akimori makoto

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Re: How and when should one exegete Scripture oneself?
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2011, 07:58:31 PM »
Should their view or the view of one of them ever rule the day without question?

Since no human is infallible, no, the opinion of a Father should never rule the day 'without question'. But what the Fathers are are individuals who showed the fruit of their understanding in their personal sanctity and whose opinion has been found generally trustworthy over generations of the Church's life. So when you find yourself in disagreement with a Father, we follow a hermeneutic of humility in which ones presumes the Father probably knows better. Don't assume he's correct--but assume it's more likely he's correct than that you are. Review your understanding and your own presuppositions which are leading you to a position in contradiction to a saint. Go and check other Fathers. The more Fathers you find that agree with each other and disagree with you, the more likely it is that you are the one making the mistake. And maybe one of the other Fathers will explain the 'Patristic' position in a way that helps you understand what you were missing the first time around.

Alternatively, perhaps you will find disagreement among the Fathers (although this is rarer than some people seem to think). In that case there are some additional guidelines (older Fathers and Fathers recognized as 'theologians' or 'pillars of Orthodoxy', etc carry more weight--no matter how many 19th century saints you line up in agreement with you, if you are all in disagreement with St. Athanasius, your probably all wrong). Sometime that means the point simply is not that important and its fine to for everyone to hold their personal opinion. Sometime in studying the supposed disagreement you'll come to understand the issue better and realize there's not an actual disagreement but simply different perspectives on the same thing.

This is a post for posterity.
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: How and when should one exegete Scripture oneself?
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2011, 04:56:54 PM »
If your exegesis contradicts everything that the Church has held before, you are wrong. That is why you eat the fruit of the Fathers, so you are rooted in the Church and bear its fruits in your exegesis.
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth