Listening to the music of the Scriptures

One of the points that really struck me about the description of the fathers in Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers was the idea that they read the scriptures differently than we do. Christopher Hall (the author) presents threereasons:
  • The first is that the fathers operated in a very different milieu than we do.
  • The second has to do with their temporal proximity to the scriptures (Hall calls it 'Hermeneutical Proximity')
  • The third is that the scriptures were a large part of their personal and communal lives.
The idea that the culture we live in serves as a lens for our study of the scriptures makes sense. Our day to day concerns flavor the questions we bring to our reading. Our preconceptions color the answers we find.
Their temporal proximity to the scriptures provides the fathers with access to a number of clues that we lack. For example, Hall points to the intertextual links between different books in the scriptures -- links that we might miss. He points out Matthew 5:5, which several of the father's connect with Moses (and in the case of Theodoret Numbers12:3) as a case in point.
The deep inclusion of the scriptures in early fathers' lives came about through several means. Many of the fathers expected that a reader wanting to understand the scriptures would read them frequently and intensely, even several hours a day. The stories and songs in the scriptures formed a part of community life, Hall compares their role to that of music today. Finally, educational models of the day focused on memorization, giving the father's anadmirable well from which to draw as they read.
How does all of this affect me? Well, first, I can read the fathers -- reading their exegesis can give me the opportunity to see through a different lens, gaining insights that I might have missed on my own. Next, I can try to apply their tools to my own scripture study -- trying to avoid applying my cultural preconceptions to the scriptures; developing an understanding of the the textual methods of the day; and immersing myself in the scriptures through reading alone, as a family, and through listening to the scriptures being read or sung.

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