Saturday, 21 March 2015

Hedwig Schmalzgruber: Biblical epic as scriptural exegesis - reception of Ambrose in the so-called Heptateuch poet

Biblical exegesis was not only practised by the prose commentators of the patristic tradition, but also by the poets who wrote biblical epics. Prominent representatives of the Old Testament biblical epic such as Claudius Marius Victorius, Avitus and Dracontius make obvious and extensive use of exegetical sources like Ambrose and Augustine, whereas the so-called Heptateuch poet, also known by the pseudonym of Cyprianus Gallus and usually dated to the first half of the 5th century, follows the Bible very closely and often gives just a metrical paraphrase of the biblical content. This means that, in contrast to the former poets, he didn´t draw much attention from researchers. However, a closer look at his versification of the book of Genesis reveals a number of significant variations and enrichments of the biblical text, which seem to be far more than poetic ornaments and apparently have an exegetic function. This short communication will show how the Heptateuch poet in his treatment of the book of Genesis approaches thoughts expressed in Ambrose´s works relevant to the subject of Genesis such as the Hexaemeron, De paradiso, De Cain et Abel and De Noe. It will be argued that the poet was indeed familiar with contemporary biblical exegesis and therefore doesn´t deserve the disparaging label of a "mere paraphraser".

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