How does this seriously work as exegesis?

When I was studying the Eastern church fathers and praxis, I would come across statements that would make me cringe.  I wanted to read theology and the Bible in light of “tradition” and the church, but even at times when I would try to give the most positive spin on a patristic gloss, I would go away thinking, “I just don’t know if that really cuts it.”  Here is an example:

“When Moses pitches his tent outside the camp – that is, when he establishes his will and mind outside the world of visible things – he begins to worship God. Then, entering into the darkness – that is, into the formless and immaterial realm of spiritual knowledge – he there celebrates the most sacred rites.” – St. Maximos the Confessor

If we are to read the Bible in light of the patrum consensus, can we really affirm the above exegetical gloss seriously?  Here are a number of questions that come to mind:

  1. On what grounds do we say that Moses’ pitching his tent = contemplating the world beyond and not something else?  Literally, the sky is the limit among options!
  2. I asked a Roman Catholic a similar question about allegorical exegesis, and he replied, “You have to read it in light of the church.”  I responded, “Well, doesn’t that give Scripture about as much authority as the British monarchy?”

This is why I hold to Common Sense Realism.


8 comments on “How does this seriously work as exegesis?

  1. Justin says:

    Can you suggest a book on csr? I have read bits of Reid, but not much.

  2. Andrew says:

    Wow, that’s bad!

    Nicholas Wolterstorff has a helpful book on Reid called ‘Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology’.

  3. Andrew says:

    There’s a kindle edition of the inquiry that’s cheap. It comes with two of Reid’s other works. Wolterstorff’s book is fairly expensive but it’s very good, even if it’s hard going.

  4. Hello. I am Eastern Orthodox and I was curious to what the issue is with this particular passage from Maximos; I did not fully understand your post. Is the problem with how Maximo’s interprets a specific event in scripture or that he does so at all?

  5. with how he interprets it. Given such exegesis, the sky is the limit. Who is to say it means this andnot that, if we don’t let the words of the text determine themeaning?

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