Presentation on theme: "Patristic and Liturgical Approaches to the Book of Genesis 1:2-3 Presbyter Dr Doru Costache Senior Lecturer in Patristic Studies St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox."— Presentation transcript:
Patristic and Liturgical Approaches to the Book of Genesis 1:2-3 Presbyter Dr Doru Costache Senior Lecturer in Patristic Studies St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College A Short Course in Orthodox Studies St Spyridon Parish Hall (Kingsford) 27/11/2012 A Short Course in Orthodox Studies St Spyridon Parish Hall (Kingsford) 27/11/2012
Genesis 1:2-3 0 The text as such 0 The text within patristic tradition 0 The text within the broader scriptural context 0 The text within liturgical tradition 0 The ‘why’ we read conditions the ‘how’ we read
The Text as Such (Septuagint) 0 Genesis 1:2-3 0 ἡ […] γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός γενηθήτω φῶς καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς 0 …the earth was invisible and unstructured, and darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the water. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
A Cursory Analysis of the Text 0 Genesis 1:2-3 0 V. 2: an initially chaotic state of the universe, rendered through three metaphors 0 The earth invisible and unstructured 0 Darkness upon the abyss 0 The Spirit (breath of God) hovering the waters 0 V. 3: the structuring action of God 0 The Word/Logos 0 Light as a metaphor for order
The Text within Patristic Tradition 0 St Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis A cosmological interpretation of the text, addressing therefore cosmological matters 0 The establishment of heavens and earth precede other elements (fire, air, water) 0 The elements must have been created together with the heavens and the earth, yet Moses chose to remain silent 0 Darkness upon the abyss = clouds 0 A wind from God = not the Holy Spirit, according to “the faithful”; also, the wind has no contribution to creation 0 The light is a physical element, contributing to the emergence of life 0 God made everything else on earth out of light and water
The Text within Patristic Tradition 0 St Basil the Great, Homilies on the Hexaemeron The earth was unstructured/incomplete because it was not populated 0 The earth was invisible either because it was under the waters or because there was no human spectator 0 The events of creation cannot ultimately be described in human words 0 Although not mentioned by Moses, the elements were brought into existence by the one Creator, when their time came, yet God connected them so that they make one world 0 Moses’ omissions are meant to stir our inquisitiveness
The Text within Patristic Tradition 0 St Basil the Great, Homilies on the Hexaemeron Darkness = invisibility = lack of light = unenlightened waters that were hiding the earth, not an uncreated evil force (cf. Manichaeism) 0 The abyss = very deep waters, not the realm of evil 0 Darkness upon the abyss = waters deprived of light, covering the whole earth 0 The spirit of God stirred the waters: either wind, if it is a natural element, or the Holy Spirit, an active factor within the creation 0 Reference to a Syrian who interpreted the image as a bird warming up the eggs 0 The first word of God (which is not like a human word) makes the light, which in turns makes the world beautiful, which in turn invites our contemplation
The Text within Patristic Tradition 0 St John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 3.2-6, He sees the initial earth as “unshaped and unpeopled” 0 Darkness upon the abyss = waters covering the earth, the absence of light making it invisible; shapelessness requiring ordering 0 The Spirit of God moved over the water = water was full of vital, generative power; not regular water 0 The shapeless mass was arranged by God into light 0 Against those who claim God to be just a demiurge, organising the given matter, he maintained the creative power of God’s word/command 0 Light brings beauty in the world, a sign of completion
The Text within Patristic Tradition 0 St John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis …since mankind was yet untutored and could not understand more elaborate matters, the Holy Spirit accordingly explained everything to us by moving the author’s tongue in such a way as to take account of the limitations of the listeners. To be convinced that it was on account of the incompleteness of our understanding that he employed such considerations in his explanation, compare the approach of the Son of Thunder: when humankind had advanced along the path to perfection, no longer did he have them move by this lower way, but led his listeners to a loftier teaching: “In the beginning was the Word,” he said […], and added, “He was the true Light, which enlightened everyone coming into the world.” In other words, just as in our text this visible light, produced by command of the Lord, removed the darkness from our vision, in like manner the light coming to our minds [from the gospel] dissipated the darkness of error, and led those in error to the truth. So let us receive the teachings of Sacred Scripture with deep gratitude, not resisting the truth nor persisting in darkness, but hastening towards the light and performing actions proper to the light and the day.
The Text within the Broader Scriptural Context 0 The personal/existential interpretation 0 2 Samuel (Kings) 22:29 (NIV) You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. 0 Job 29:3 (NIV) …when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness…
The Text within the Broader Scriptural Context 0 The personal/existential interpretation 0 Matthew 6:23 (NIV) …if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 0 Luke 11:34-35 (NIV) Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.
The Text within the Broader Scriptural Context 0 The ecclesial interpretation 0 Exodus 10:21-23 (NIV) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
The Text within the Broader Scriptural Context 0 The ecclesial interpretation 0 Isaiah 9:2 (NIV) Matthew 4:16 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
The Text within the Broader Scriptural Context 0 The ecclesial interpretation 0 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) …you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
The Text within Liturgical Tradition 0 Darkness as fear of dangers and light as a sense of security 0 Vespers (esperinos), seventh priestly prayer: Great and most high God, You alone are immortal, abiding in unapproachable light. In wisdom You created the world; You separated the light from the darkness […]. Make this evening and the coming night peaceful for us. Gird us with the armor of light. Deliver us from the terror of night and from everything that lurks about in darkness.
The Text within Liturgical Tradition 0 Darkness as ignorance and light as the knowledge of God 0 Matins (orthros), third priestly prayer: Our souls yearn for You in the night, O our God, for Your judgments are light. Lord, teach us Your righteousness, Your precepts and Your statutes. Enlighten our mind’s eyes, lest we fall asleep in sin and unto death. Dispell all darkness from our hearts.
The Text within Liturgical Tradition 0 Darkness as ignorance and light as the knowledge of God 0 Matins (orthros), fourth priestly prayer: God and Master, holy and beyond comprehending, You commanded light to shine out of darkness. […] Declare us children of light and day.
The Text within Liturgical Tradition 0 Darkness as ignorance and light as the knowledge of God 0 Matins (orthros), ninth priestly prayer: Make the pure light of your divine knowledge shine within our hearts, loving Master, and open the eyes of our mind to understand the message of your Gospel. Instil in us also the fear of your blessed commandments, so that having trampled down all desires of the flesh, we may pursue a spiritual way of life, thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to you. For you are the illumination of our souls and bodies, Christ our God, and to you we offer glory, with your eternal Father and your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
The ‘why’ we read conditions the ‘how’ we read 0 What do we seek? Is it science? 0 What do we seek? Is it to defend faith? 0 What do we seek? Is it to draw wisdom for our lives? 0 Each question conditions the answers…