Thursday, 5 February 2015

Aaron Johnson: Didymus the Blind and Porphyry

Unlike many of the fragments of Porphyry'scontra Christianos collected by von Harnack in the early twentieth century, the three discovered in the damaged papyrus leaves of Didymus the Blind's biblical commentaries (found in 1941 but not published until the 1960's) contain material that was explicitly attributed to Porphyry by the Christian source.  In spite of their publication over fifty years ago, little sustained examination has sought to explore the precise nature and force of the Porphyrian arguments in the Didymus papyri.  The paper proposed for the Oxford patristics conference will offer an analysis of the problems attendant upon the interpretation of just one of these fragments.  In the fragment from Didymus' Comm. Eccles. 9.10cd Porphyry declares that the struggle between Hector and Achilles provides a fitting parallel to the struggle between Christ and the Devil, which Christians were finding in the Old Testament through allegorical means.  The paper proposed here will affirm Binder's interpretation of the fragment (ZPE 1968; pace Sellew, HTR 1989) as hostile rather than "ecumenical" in its drawing of the Homeric parallel to scriptural interpretive techniques.  Recalling his objections to Origen (at c.Christ. frag. 39 Harnack; = Eus. HE 6.19), the Didymus fragment attacks both the alleged sophistry and shallowness of Christian allegorizing approaches.  The fragment may show itself less useful, however, as confirmation of the Porphyrian derivation of the related material from Macarius Magnes (paceBinder).

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