Last week, we looked at the teachings of the Fathers in the first two centuries. This week and next week, we are going to look at the theological thoughts of the third and fourth centuries.
According to the Modern Catholic Dictionary, exegesis is “the art and science of investigating and expressing the true sense of Sacred Scripture. Its function is to find out what exactly a given passage of the Bible says.”
In the third century, there were two main schools of exegesis----Alexandria and Antioch. The school of Alexandria tended towards mystical allegorism, while the school of Antioch tended towards the literal interpretation of the Bible.
One of the most important scholars at the time was Origen (185-253) from the school of Alexandria. Origen’s father, Leonides, was a martyr. Origen desired to follow his father’s footsteps, but was prevented by his mother. After his father’s martyrdom, Origen supported his mother and six young brothers by teaching both in public and in private. Soon, he became the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria. Under Origen’s leadership, this school soon became the nursery of neophytes, confessors, and martyrs. Origen would accompany his martyr-students to the scene of martyrdom and encouraged them with his exhortations.
There were strong oppositions against him from within the Church in Alexandria. Hence, in 231, Origen left Alexandria and took refuge at Caesarea, where he opened a school which became even more famous than the one at Alexandria. Origen wrote many books, one of them is “On Prayer”, which is an explanation of the Our Father. Origen labored in Caesarea until the Decian persecution.
During the persecution, Origen was imprisoned and tortured for two years. After the death of Decius, he was released. In 253, two years after his release, Origen died as a result of the injuries he endured during persecution.
Different Senses of Scripture
Origen was the first one to formulate the theory of the three senses of Scripture based on the analogy of human psychology: body (the letter), soul and spirit.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.” A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses: “The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.”
Take the word “Jerusalem” as an example: The literal sense of “Jerusalem” is the Holy City; taken allegorically, “Jerusalem” denotes the Church Militant; understood tropologically, “Jerusalem” stands for the just soul; finally, in its anagogical sense, “Jerusalem” stands for the Church Triumphant.
Love for Sacred Scripture
Origen had a profound reverence for the word of God. In one of his homilies, Origen preached, “I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence. But if you observe such caution in keeping His Body, and properly so, how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body?"
At Holy Mass, we are being fed by Christ with both His word and His body. Let us never neglect these precious gifts from God. Outside Holy Mass, we can continue to venerate the word and the body of Christ by reading the sacred scripture and by adoring the Blessed Sacrament. Holy Mother Church grants partial indulgences for these devotional practices. If a faithful read sacred scripture or adore the Blessed Sacrament for at least half an hour, the indulgence is a plenary one.
Imitating Our Lady and the Church Fathers, let us approach the word of God daily with the spirit of faith, silence, and openness.
按「現代天主教辭典Modern Catholic Dictionary」詮釋，「釋經學exegesis」一詞為『從文學和科學角度，探討及表達聖經內容的真義，進而找出聖經傳遞真正的訊息。』
亞歷山迪里亞學院其中一位最重要的學者名為奧利振Origen (185-253) 。奧利振原有意步其父親李安迪Leonides後塵成為殉道者，但被母親阻止。他公開禾私下地執教，以養活母親和六個幼弟。不久，他領導了亞歷山迪里亞城的教授要理學校，並使之成為培育傳道者、證道和殉道者的苗圃，他更親自陪同殉道者到刑場，鼓勵他們。不過，在當時亞歷山迪里亞教會的反對勢力下，奧利振在公元二三一年離開亞歷山迪里亞城，退避到凱撒肋亞Caesarea城，開設學校。他除了使這所學院比原來的更具名聲，亦箸作很多書本；他所寫「論祈禱On Prayer」一書，詳細解釋了「天主經」。
天主教教理Catechism of the Catholic Church #115指出：『依照古老的傳統，聖經的意義可分為兩種：即字面的意義和屬靈的意義，而後者再可分寓意allegorical、倫理moral，及末世anagogical的意義。』#118『中古時代的一首短詩巧妙地總結了上述四種意義：文字，事之所載；寓意，信之所賴；倫理，行之所依；末世，心之所望。』
Published at Pax Sinica column (August 30) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper