This project focuses on the appropriation of the Old Testament by early Christian interpreters of the Bible. A historical approach, not commonly adopted in the study of biblical interpretation, will enable us to study how this process contributed to the formation of distinctive Christian identities within the multicultural society of the late Roman principate and early Byzantine rule. The exegetes of this period were to a great extent responsible for the creation of a distinctive, sophisticated, and uncompromising discourse—a ‘totalising Christian discourse’, which determines Christian identities up to this day. In two projects, carried out by three researchers, we will make cross sections of the relevant material. It was allegorizing interpretation that enabled exegetes belonging to the so-called School of Alexandria to recognize Christ everywhere in the Old Testament, and thus to appropriate it and make it useful to the Church. Thus the Song of Songs was no longer considered an earthly love song, but was said to describe Christ’s love for the Church. Exegetes associated with the School of Antioch opposed to this kind of approach. They are often described as literalists. The traditional understanding of the distinctions between the two schools needs to be broadened and corrected by a picture of the actual practice of their hermeneutics. In my view the Antiochene opposition was brought about by the fact that pagan and ‘heretic’ critics did not accept the Alexandrian use of allegory. My innovative hypothesis is related to the central role played by the letters of the apostle Paul in the Antiochene reaction against Alexandria. For the Antiochenes, the use of Paul became an alternative means to bridge the gap between the two Testaments. Instead of a book in which every jot and tittle referred to Christ through allegory, the Antiochenes came to view the Old Testament as an amalgamation of moral lessons that agreed with Paul's teaching.
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Funding SchemeERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant