Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Chrysostom on why Literalism is bad

The words and expressions that lie in the Scriptures, God does not wish us to hear superficially, but with much comprehension. For this reason the blessed David in many places prefaces his Psalms with “for comprehension”, and said, “Open my eyes, and I will perceive the marvels from thy Law.” And after him, also his son [Solomon], subjoining, shows that “it is necessary to seek Wisdom as if silver; to traffic her rather than gold.” And the Lord exhorting the Jews to "search the Scriptures", all the more leads us to the investigation. For he would not have spoken thus, if it were indeed possible to grasp them at once and from the first reading. For that which lies in the midst, and at hand, no one would ever search out, but rather that which is enigmatic, and is found with much investigation. On this account also he says they are “hidden treasure” , arousing us to the investigation. These things are said to us, so that neither superficially, nor as it ‘happens’, we might attend to the phrases of the Scriptures, but with much precision. For if someone should listen without inquiry to the things spoken in them, and should receive all things as so spoken according to the letter, many unfitting things they will conjecture concerning God. Indeed even that he is a human-being, and is composed from bronze, and quick-tempered, and fierce, and many opinions worse than these he will lay hold of concerning him. But if he should fully learn the understanding that lies in the depth, he will be released from all this unfittingness. For even the reading now laying before us says that God has a bosom, which is a thing proper to bodies. But none has so gone mad, so that he conjectures the bodiless to be a body. Therefore, so that we might worthily take the whole [passage] with spiritual conception, let us examine the passage from the top.

- Chrysostom, In Iohannem, XV (own translation)

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