Friday, 24 May 2019

Susan L. Graham: Vision, Speech and Act: Irenaeus Interpreting the Prophets in Adversus haereses

A good deal has been said about Irenaeus’s interpretation of the scriptures. There are two possible approaches to such an analysis. One is based on what the author says about it directly.The second is based on how the author actually interprets and uses the borrowed material.The former approach, leaning heavily on Irenaeus’s rhetorical arguments in Adversus haereses 2, has long been considered to have produced a generally settled list of his rules for interpreting the Scriptures. Recent Irenaean scholarship, however, has made it increasingly clear that he applies the interpretative strategies he names far more flexibly than those rules suggest. In consequence, review and revision of our understanding of his interpretative principles and strategies has emerged as a timely task, one which has begun to get scholarly attention. This paper contributes to the task of reviewing Irenaeus’s use of the scriptures by way of the second approach, evaluating how he actually uses his texts. In particular, it addresses his approach to the prophetic texts. Following on my earlier work on his use of the prophets in the Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, this study examines his use of the prophets in Adversus haereses. It argues that analysis of Irenaeus’s actual use of his texts allows for a proper understanding of his interpretative language and the principles that drive it.

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