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Great for history, not so helpful for proper exegesis.
on December 4, 2015
Kudos to the editors who compile these from dozens of ancient sources. The breadth of sources is amazing and the authors provide an introduction explaining the brief biography and context of the writer, if known. I have appreciated their work in both commentaries on The Gospel of Mark and now Genesis (a 2-volume work). Each passage is reprinted with a one-sentence summary of the major thought each of the ancient fathers had on the passage, and then the selected reprinting of their comments. We've been using The Gospel Project curriculum to walk through Genesis, and it incorporates quotes from this into its weekly lessons; it quotes pretty selectively.
It is interesting to read the thoughts from the writings and early sermons of early Christians, but early Christian thought was mostly/heavily allegorical through the 6th century. Augustine, Ambrose and Chrysostom are quoted probably the most heavily, Augustine more toward the beginning. Augustine's City of God is most known for his Genesis as allegory through a Christian lens, he finds more connections between Noah's Ark and Jesus than other commentators have dared. It's sometimes hard to dilineate between biblical theology and exegetical fallacy.
Ambrose, while a hero of biblical Christian orthodoxy, is also of the Alexandrian allegorical school. Ambrose claims that Benjamin is a type of the Apostle Paul, with the other brothers the other disciples. The 75 who go to Egypt represent the "number of forgiveness."
"Chrysostom preached 67 homilies on Genesis in the year 389, while he was a priest at Antioch, explaining the book verse by verse," as such he appears in about every section. Rather than an allegorical bent, Chrysostom is encouraging his congregation to imitate the morals of the characters in Genesis. Joseph, for example, sets an example to young believers to heed Paul's advice to Timothy not to let anyone look down on their youth. I learned from this work that Chrysostom baptised people naked, as a figure of returning to the innocence of Eden. (You don't hear that mentioned much these days.)
The book is interesting to see what early theology looked like. Augustine did not read much Greek, much less Hebrew, and most of the authors were unfamiliar with ancient Canaanite custom, writing from Gentile contexts. As such, the book is somewhat helpful in exegesis but not much. They have some good observations on the passage and where Christians living in the first few centuries can take inspiration from the faith of God's chosen people in Genesis.