Jim Papandrea on the Church Fathers & Patristic Exegesis
Date: July 25th, 2011
Who were the early Church Fathers? How did they interpret the Scripture? And how did their interpretations change over time and shape Christianity? Prof. Jim Papandrea of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (on the campus of Northwestern University) takes up these questions in a fascinating discussion of “patristic exegesis,” or how the early Church Fathers understood and interpreted the Scriptures. Our conversation begins with an examination of who qualifies as the early Church Fathers and whether or not this list is consistent across different denominations. We also chat about the difficulties early Christian bishops and theologians had in trying to create a relatively unified doctrine of the faith, though Jim reveals that there was much more agreement and harmony that one (particularly your host) would think. Dr. Papandrea then walks us through what he defines as the four main phases (or eras) of patristic exegesis, showing how the different eras varied by the degree to which they favored literal/historical or more allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures. Interestingly, Jim makes that point that most of the disagreement in interpretation tended to revolve more around the Old Testament, although the divine nature of Jesus was also up for debate by different theological factions. In this discussion, we talk about the role that the First Council of Nicaea played in solidifying Church doctrine and how different theological schools, notably Arianism, reacted to the Nicene Creed. Jim makes the case that patristic exegesis tended to move in more allegorical directions during the latter second century through the fifth century, but then moved back towards a more historical-contextual (or some might say “literal”) meaning in subsequent centuries, eventually reaching a balance between allegory and more historical interpretations in the fifth century. Prof. Papandrea provides some examples regarding interpretations that are overly-allegorical. Throughout this discussion, we touch on some specific Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine. The podcast also veers in some other interesting directions, examining whether or not Augustine was the patron saint of the hippopotamus, if Christians can now safely eat weasels, and the profound implications relating to clothing tags at Sunday services. It is also revealed what theatrical performance both Jim and Tony were in during high school, and that they were “neighbors” in Los Angeles without ever realizing it. Recorded: July 11, 2011.
Prof. Jim Papandrea’s website at Garrett-Theological Seminary.
Prof. Jim Papandrea’s personal website (includes links to his writings, music, blog and Facebook page).
The Wedding of the Lamb: A Historical Approach to the Book of Revelation, by James L. Papandrea.
Spiritual Blueprint: How We Live, Work, Love, Play, and Pray, by James L. Papandrea.
Brant Pitre on the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.
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