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Boersma’s Brilliant Imagining of Melito & Origen on Reading Scripture

I’m joyfully reading and thoroughly enjoying Hans Boersma’s Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church. So many insights and so well stated!
In the midst of countless margin-marked paragraphs and bent-corner pages, the highest point so far has been pages 103-104.
Here, after a thoughtful exploration of how both Melito and Origen read the Passover narratives Christianly — with some pointed differences but still both reading it sacramentally — Boersma concludes his Chapter 4 with an extremely helpful imagining of M&O speaking to us today. He imagines what they would say to us modern readers when we ask certain questions about their interpretive habits and approach, particularly when we often charge the Fathers with arbitrariness and/or distorting of the text. Well worth reading carefully as a great summary of much of what is going on in pre-modern exegesis:
“We don’t care too much what you call the kind of scriptural reading that we are engaged in. You may call it typology, allegory, theoria, analogy, spiritual reading — it really doesn’t matter that much. Each of these terms is suitable to express what we’re trying to do. Our reading is indeed ‘other’ than what the words themselves convey in the sense that we look to the word on the ‘surface’ of the text as merely sacraments: words that contain in themselves the greater reality of the Christ event. The words are the outward sacrament; Christ is the inward reality of grace. History and spirit, sacrament and reality, are indeed different things. So typology or allegory does look for something ‘other.’ But if by ‘other’ you mean something completely different, something unrelated, then, no, we’re not ‘speaking other’ than what the words themselves convey. We’re simply exposing the deeper, underlying meaning that is inherent in the text itself.
  It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around the suspicion that we whimsically impose random notions onto the text. Never have we encountered that concern before. If it’s true that we simply uncover a hidden meaning that is present already in the text – if there is a real presence of Christ and his church in the ancient narratives — then this cannot possibly be an arbitrary thing; we can find only what’s already there!
  Furthermore, arbitrariness is something that you get by removing the biblical text from its proper surroundings of the believing community, away from its liturgical setting and its confession of faith. The context within which a christological reading of the text makes sense is that of the church. Therefore, the ‘right’ by which we move from history to spirit, from temporal to eternal realities, has everything to do with the Bible being the church’s Bible. And that implies, we believe, that in an important sense the Bible belongs not to the academy.”
Of course, to appreciate more of what is going on behind this imaginative summary you need to read Boersma yourself to see the details of what is being said.

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