Many aspects of the thought of the Fathers are strange to us, and as a result we tend to value their writings for their spiritual rather than their intellectual content. In particular, we find it difficult to follow them in their use of allegorical methods of biblical interpretation. Dr. Grant is concerned with understanding these methods, with special reference to those employed by Origen. For this purpose, he first traces the development of Greek theories of the interpretation of poetry and then examines the treatment of the Old Testament found in Hellenistic and other Jewish writers and in the New Testament. This is followed by an account of Patristic methods of exegesis, culminating in what he describes as "the climax of allegorization" in the writings of Clement of Alexandria and, even more significantly, of Origen. In conclusion, Dr. Grant suggests some parallels between these ancient methods of interpretation and certain modern developments.
The result is a fascinating study of the exegesis of sacred writings, ranging from Xenophanes to Bultmann and from Pythagoras to Dibelius. Though it is not specifically a theological treatise, the book is dealing all the time with a basically theological question, the meaning of inspiration, and Dr. Grant's erudition over a wide field of scholarship will throw new light on his subject and will help toward a truer evaluation of the work of the Fathers.
Endorsements & Reviews-
Grant's The Letter and the Spirit remains one of the most important books ever written on early Christian exegesis. This reprint could not be more timely, given the current resurgence of interest in early Christian exegesis and its place in Graeco-Roman literary culture. Grant's study of the logic and poetics of ancient allegory ranges from Homer to Origen, offering stunning insights on every page, and a valuable appendix of ancient exegetical vocabulary. An indispensable resource for those interested in the New Testament and ancient Christianity.
Margaret M. Mitchell University of Chicago
Robert M. Grant
Robert M. Grant is Carl Darling Buck Professor Emeritus, Department of New Testament & Early Christian Literature and Divinity School, University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous works on early Christianity, including Paul in the Roman World, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, The Early Christian Doctrine of God, and Augustus to Constantine.