Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hannah Milner - Cyril of Alexandria's Treatment of Sources in his Commentary on the Twelve Prophets

Cyril of Alexandria was one of the last great exegetes of the so-called Alexandrian tradition. After him ‘comes the time of compilers and makers of catenae’ (Guinot). In these later works, authors cited were expressly identified. In his Commentary on the Twelve Prophets, Cyril relies heavily upon a number of sources without ever citing them by name. Cyril’s justification for adding to the work of his predecessors in expounding the minor prophets is found in the preface to the commentary on Hosea, which also serves as an introduction to the whole text. He combines a respectful attitude towards those who have gone before him with the suggestion that he might also say something new. Otherwise, references to his sources are scarce and imprecise. Close examination of this particular aspect of his methodology seems to be lacking, but touches directly upon questions of genre, purpose, audience, composition and dating. This paper will examine the comments found in the preface on Hosea and elsewhere in order to outline Cyril’s treatment and referencing of sources and the corresponding view of his own task in relation to previous work, and how these affect his self-presentation as an interpreter of Scripture. His balanced and synthetic style has sometimes suggested that he approaches this task as a mature biblical interpreter; I will consider whether features such as his detachment and obvious respect for his sources could not equally be the mark of more formative work.

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