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Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible Paperback – April 1, 2005
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"Though they cover a scholarly terrain that is already well trod, O'Keefe and Reno consistently offer fresh insights and new perspectives."(Letter & Spirit)
"Will explain to a wide readership the principles of patristic exegesis. It will also waken admiration for the Fathers' unflagging fascination."(Joseph T. Lienhard First Things)
"A well-written and easily accessible introduction to aspects of patristic exegesis."(Richard S. Briggs Theological Book Review)
"An excellent starting point for engaging this rich body of early Christian literature."(C. Thomas McCollough Religious Studies Review)
About the Author
John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno are associate professors of theology at Creighton University.
Top customer reviews
They elaborate in a very detailed manner upon the way many of the fathers approached the Scriptures for exegetical purposes. Origen is given significant attention and rightfully so. O'Keefe and Reno do an excellent job of showing how he, and other early church fathers (including Augustine, Irenaeus, Didymus the Blind, et. al.), approached the Scriptures in an exegetical manner that was just as rigorous and controlled for achieving the goal of biblically sound interpretation and application as any historico-critical means applied today, if not moreso.
O'Keefe and Reno make clear that the fathers believed very strongly that proper interpretation could never be achieved unless godly life was being adhered to by the interpreter. The idea of attempting exegesis without living an ascetically rigorous and spiritually Christ-centered life was appalling to them. Although today, Bible professors believe one can be a very sound and worthy exegete, even though one may not accept at all even the most central teachings of Scripture, this would never be received as remotely plausible by the fathers. Without a life lived in concert with the direction of the Spirit and a daily desire to draw closer to God in personal devotion and relationship to the Spirit, one could never hope to rightly discover the meaning which was available to only the committed follower.
The authors do a superb job at showing how, to the fathers, Scripture WAS the truth, in and of itself--it did not simply point to the truth. Today, scholars view the Scriptures as speaking ABOUT the truth of what happened, so the scholars seek to look beyond the Scriptures to the events they speak of in order to get to "real" truth. But for the fathers, the Truth was not what "actually" happened, but the very words that were recorded through inspiration on the page. It wasn't up to the interpreter to be smart enough to discover what "really" happened in order to know the truth. God has already given what must be known and it is up to the interpreter to be close enough to God to hear from Him as He gives the fullest insights of the meaning of every word to those who truly seek Him with all their being for that meaning.
At the end of the chapter on Typology, O'Keefe and Reno do a masterful job of stating the case regarding the problem modern exegetes have with the way the fathers did exegesis. Modern interpreters want to claim that it is a problem of methodology. In other words, they don't like the way the fathers go about their interpretation. The moderns claim that the fathers were too subjective and were uncontrolled in their constant stringing of various texts together, having no regard for any kind of objective approach. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The fathers were very concerned with following a 'rule of faith" that provided an objective means for seeking truth (though it may be hard for us to get at any kind of exact definition, as such). The moderns true distaste for patristic exegesis, according to the authors, is not regarding methodology, but theology. The fathers believed that EVERYTHING--all of life and the created order--was held together and proceeded according to a divine economy. This certainly included the very words on the pages of Scripture set down for all time to show the crux of all things in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ. Their belief in inspiration was unflagging and complete, regarding every single syllable of Scripture, itself. Because modern exegetes, as a whole, no longer adhere to the doctrine of verbal inspiration and that God controls how ALL things work together, they are at a loss to accept that the Scriptures, themselves, are perfect in their initial makeup. However, since the fathers did believe this, they could dig into the very essence of each word, searching and listening for the Spirit to lead them into greater and deeper truths. Their reverence for Scripture, as written, was complete, because they believed it was the very incarnate Word for all who sought the deep mysteries of God. But this belief is not held by modern biblical interpreters and so they approach it with the most basic of theological differences. Such a gulf of difference causes great angst among modern Bible scholars, to say the least.
I regret that I can only give this book 5 stars. I do wish there was something written from a less scholarly perspective that could be distributed among laypeople in the hope of reviving more devotion to the Scriptures in the way the ancients lived and submitted to them. But still, I am beyond thrilled with the authors' synopsis and conclusions of the teaching and approach of the patristics as a whole. I cannot thank them enough for this work. May other readers be equally blessed.
First, the authors are wonderful teachers. They note at the beginning how the book was motivated by the happenstance of their being academic next-door neighbors at Creighton University in the theology department, although of differing specializations. This led to many discussions about how best to understand and thus to teach students how to read ancient authors such as Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine, among others. They approach this book, therefore, both as scholars and as teachers, which are two separate vocations not always joined together in print.
They provide wonderfully helpful analogies and examples to guide readers to put aside modern presuppositions and enter into the world of the patristic writers. From that of finding patterns in numerical sequences ("2, 4..." could lead either to "6, 8, 10" or "8, 16, 32") to how science works in a similar way to ancient exegesis to the use of the classic rock ballad "American Pie" as an example of allegory (!), the authors keep the reader involved in the inquiry every step of the way. These examples are not simply entertaining: they are truly insightful teaching tools to help understand a very different worldview.
Second, the authors take a particular stance that is likely to be seen as "conservative" among some, in that they defend the "rule of faith" used by the patristic writers as a criterion of coherence of the entire Bible defensible, and implicitly at least, superior to, many others offered in the modern and postmodern world (where coherence has been abandoned altogether). Whether one agrees or not is not the point; their stance requires one to think clearly through one's own position on reading in general and of the Bible in particular. I found myself often stopping just to ponder rather than just racing through their brief volume.
Finally, the authors clearly and succinctly present themes and means that hold together a wide variety of authors and historical contexts, from the Alexandrians (such as Origen, Athanasius and Didymus the Blind) to the Cappadoccians (such as Gregory of Nyssa) to Augustine. They keep their eyes on the specific prize that they are after, which is not to show the historical development of patristic exegesis, but how it was done over the long haul and why that is a different, yet still valid, way into the biblical story.
Few books pack so much learning and teaching into such a short space (139 pages plus notes). Highly recommended to anyone interested in what holds the Bible together, then and now.