Saturday, March 16, 2013

5X Irenaeus

In this series, I am looking at Brevard Childs' The Struggle to understand ISAIAH as Christian Scripture.

How soon can I get past Irenaeus, the most important theologian of the 2nd century?  According to Childs, he stands in the tradition of Justin Martyr (p.45), the subject of the prior post in this series. A curious example related to Isaiah is the reading of Kyrio instead of Kyro (Cyrus). You could only do this in Greek!  Irenaeus also emphasizes a rule of faith leading to the Apostle's creed.  To summarize this succinct summary, Irenaeus recites in his Demonstration a typological interpretation of Scripture (e.g. Adam to Christ Jesus, Eve to Mary).  It is pretty clear that this particular typology is in Paul to some extent, so he has apostolic authority for his interpretations.

Now we approach part of the struggle: how do we interpret things typologically and yet retain some rationale related to their original construction and to the original stories and historical situations?  I was in earlier days, quite struck by typology, and today - what am I?  Do I pick and choose analogy, allegory, metaphor, etc as I wish with little discipline?

I am not really sure because I have taking to reading the Scripture rather than to explaining it.  But I suspect somewhere in my background are aspects of my readings that are quite arbitrary, though they might apply. Here's an example from this morning.

I revised my music in English the first two psalms. Psalm 1 is here and Psalm 2 here. There is quite a strong coherence in the whole Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 being the first unit, and introducing the whole. Psalms 3-7 will be the next unit, then 8-10. I think there are potential musical motifs that can be exploited in the English version, e.g. the triplets between the two psalms 1 and 2 though they are quite different from each other. They need to be sung with flexible rhythm - almost impossible to do with the music program I have, but I can hopefully communicate an idea to be exploited.
There is a very curious agreement in the music of these two psalms - in Psalm 1, on gives its fruit in its time - and on angry at the end of Psalm 2. These are the only two places where the pashta ornament (up a third from the current note) is used in the text of these two psalms. I think this (even if it is an accident) has theological value: that we learn and bear fruit through difficulty.

So - if I fail to judge against God's Chosen and I fail to discipline with an iron rod those whom others think abominations, can I still find a rule of faith in beauty and accident? This continues my thought on the music of the Bible and theology first noted here.

(More detail on the music here.)

Childs summarizes: Irenaeus ... followed the New Testament's lead in seeing a typological relation between the Old and the New ... Yet... that he also employed allegory in depicting a symbolic relation between the literal the the figurative, ... between the earthly and the heavenly, shows that the hermeneutical problem of the text's multivalent character had emerged without careful scrutiny or critical reflection...

So on to Clement and Origen - is that statement from Childs an understatement?