Quotable: David H. Aaron

From Aaron, “Shedding Light on God’s Body in Rabbinic Midrashim: Reflections on the Theory of a Luminous Adam,” Harvard Theological Review 90.3 (1997): 313.

A potpourri of texts from the entire corpus will ultimately produce
whatever theological construct the interpreter wishes to find. Selecting texts
means ultimately creating theology, not describing the ideological world
that dominated in the past.

This quote is speaking specifically about reconstructing a broad rabbinic theology from the midrashim, but it relates to a post I did a while back on the univocality of the Bible. In my experience, most theology is derived primarily from ideological expediencies and tradition. Scripture is only brought in at the end, and, as the quote from above states, it can be molded into whatever shape the interpreter needs.

An example is Origen of Alexandria’s anti-anthropomorphism. He adopted the position from the Middle-Platonic camp’s polemic against Stoicism. He described the issue as one that is not set out clearly in the scriptures (De principiis, Preface 9), but then went on to explain that the philosophers despise anthropomorphism. In light of this, he sets out to show that the scriptures can be understood to agree:

The term ἀσώματον, i.e., incorporeal, is disused and unknown, not only in many other writings, but also in our own Scriptures. . . . We shall inquire, however, whether the thing which Greek philosophers call ἀσώματον, or “incorporeal,” is found in holy Scripture under another name.

Through a variety of rhetorical devices, Origen satisfied himself that the principle can be unlocked from the scriptures. Since this principle was hidden, it is that much more important an element of Christian theology:

The Scriptures were written by the Spirit of God, and have a meaning, not such only as is apparent at first sight, but also another, which escapes the notice of most.  For those which are written are the forms of certain mysteries, and the images of divine things.  Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the whole Church, that the whole law is indeed spiritual; but that the spiritual meaning which the law conveys is not known to all, but to those only on whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in the word of wisdom and knowledge.


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