Saturday, 11 April 2015

Paul Boles: Method and Meaning in Chrysostom's Homily 7 and Origen's Homily 1 on Genesis

The last generation of scholarship has challenged the traditional modern dichotomizing of Alexandrian and Antiochene exegesis.  The exegetical goals of the so-called Antiochene ‘historical’ approach are often fundamentally similar to Alexandrian allegorical interpretive goals. This paper seeks to highlight the similar exegetical goals of Antiochene and Alexandrian biblical interpretation in order to underscore a more substantive difference between the two interpretive schools.  John Chrysostom’s Homily 7 on Genesis and Origen’s Homily 1 on Genesis are both classic examples of Antiochene and Alexandrian exegesis.  Chrysostom’s literal approach and Origen’s allegorical imagination are on clear display.  Nevertheless, the message to each preacher’s congregation is the same: Genesis chapter 1 leads the congregation into virtue and warns them against vice.  The difference between the two approaches to the text is not in the content of the interpretation, but where the exhortation is placed in the homily and how it is connected to the biblical narrative.  Chrysostom leaves his moral exhortation until the end of his homily, presenting it without explicit connection to the biblical text.  Origen finds it in the signs of the text itself as the narrative unfolds.  The content of Chrysostom’s and Origen’s homilies is, in the end, similar.  But the experience of the homilies is still quite different.  This paper argues that the method of interpretation also conveys meaning to readers/hearers.  The difference in what the scripture means to the Antiochene and Alexandrian congregations represented in these homilies is not in what they hear, but in how they hear it.

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