1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Patristic Interpretation of Genesis 1-3
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding
Peter Martens, Saint Louis University
Origen’s Doctrine of Pre-Existence in its Exegetical and Heresiological Contexts (25 min)
People often talk about Origen’s doctrine of the pre-existence of souls or minds as “speculative,” implying that this is a whimsical and largely conjectural theme. This teaching is also invariably framed as yet another sad episode in the Hellenistic take-over of Christian doctrine, and thus, that it was deservedly anathematized. I will re-examine this doctrine. I will begin with an overview of the cardinal elements in Origen’s understanding of the pre-existent state, including his account of the fall of minds (drawing primarily from On First Principles). Without denying his sources in Hellenistic philosophy, I will pursue two lines of thought. (1) How did Origen seek to integrate Scripture, and in particular, the opening chapters of Genesis, into his curious account of beginnings? Origen was undeniably an exegete, and so too sensed (as many of his readers have also often sensed) that there was some disconnect between his account of beginnings and the account we find in Genesis. (2) To what extent did Origen’s doctrine of pre-existence serve as a calculated rebuttal of “Gnostic” theology? I will argue that there is a lot less idle speculation and a lot more pointed agenda in the contentious doctrine of preexistence than most scholars recognize. The key texts for my argument will be Origen’s first Homily on Genesis, books 1-2 of his Commentary on John and his Commentary on Genesis.
George Kalantzis, Wheaton College (Illinois)
“‘Did God Plant a Garden in the Manner of a Farmer?’ Divine / Human Relationship in Origen.” (25 min)
This paper examines Origen’s view of scriptural hermeneutics through his lens of the hexameron, as he presents it in De Principiis IV.
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, St John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT
Augustine and the Role of Scripture in Christian Formation: Genesis 1-3 (25 min)
Augustine apparently never held a single-volume Bible in his hands. His Bible was a collection of many different books, or collections of books and letters. After all, Augustine’s conversion experience at hearing the children’s sing-song “Take and Read; Take and Read” led him to open his collection of Paul’s letters to the scale-tipping Romans 13:13. And Augustine’s now-famous request, upon his ordination to the priesthood, that Bishop Valerius allow him some time to read and study Scripture, is just as striking. Certainly it was Ambrose’s preaching that opened up particularly the Old Testament to Augustine. What does this tell us about the role of Scripture not only in Augustine’s conversion, but also in his understanding of the ongoing nurture of the soul before God? Why does Augustine focus on certain parts of Scripture more than others, returning as he does throughout his life in particular to Genesis 1-3? What is it about these first three chapters of the Bible which fascinate and vex him so, apart from trying to correct and win over his theological adversaries?
Thomas Holsinger-Friesen, Spring Arbor University
“Never Did Adam Escape the Hands of God”: Irenaeus’ Vision of Genesis 2:7 (25 min)
In Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus is renowned for formulating points of doctrine (e.g., “recapitulation” and the regula veritatis) that would be of great import in the development of early Christian thought. Yet his contribution to theological hermeneutics is no less significant. Given that Irenaeus and his “Gnostic” opponents shared a strong interest in origins, the Genesis creation texts served as a crucial battleground. In particular, Irenaeus found the Genesis 2:7 “breath of life” text to be conducive for exceptionally wide typological readings. In order to contradict a Valentinian anthropology appealing to 1 Corinthians 15:50, Irenaeus mines theological riches from Genesis 2.7. The images of God’s formation of the human body from dust and that of his inbreathing the breath of life enable Irenaeus (or so he claims) to interpret a broader range of texts: prophetic, apostolic, and gospel. In so doing, Irenaeus models an innovative hermeneutic of Scripture that is painstakingly christocentric, while showing remarkable flexibility and interpretative freedom. By means of focal texts like Genesis 2:7, he casts an expansive, unique vision of God and prepares the way for an anti-Platonist Christian anthropology. For Irenaeus, the purposeful work of the Father, through his two hands (Son and Spirit), will present the human creation as fully alive – in body no less than soul.
R. W. B. Moberly, Durham University, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)
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