Sensus Plenior II
On gods and God
Ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ οἱ ἀκεραιότεροι τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας αὐχούντων τυγχάνειν τοῦ μὲν δημιουργοῦ μείζονα οὐδένα ὑπειλήφασιν, ὑγιῶς τοὑτο ποιοῦντες· τοιαῦτα δὲ ὑπολαμβάνουσι περὶ αὐτοῦ, ὁποῖα οὐδὲ περὶ τοῦ ὠμοτάτου καὶ ἀδικωτάτου ἀνθρώπου.
But even the simpler-minded of those who claim allegiance to the church have supposed that nothing is greater than the Creator—and have done so soundly—while yet entertaining beliefs about him of a sort that they would not harbor regarding a human being of the utmost savagery and injustice.
—Origen, On First Principles, IV.ii.1
καὶ διὰ τοῦτό φησιν ὅτι τὸ γράμμα ἀποκτείνει, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωοποιεῖ, ὡς πολλαχῇ τῆς ἱστορίας, εἴπερ ἐπὶ ψιλῶν σταίημεν τῶν πραγμάτων, οὐκ ἀγαθοῦ βίου παρεχομένης ἡμῖν τὰ ὑποδείγματα· […] οἷς εἰ μή τις διὰ φιλοσοφίας ἐνθεωρήσειε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἀσύστατον ἢ μυθῶδες εἶναι τοῖς ἀνεπισκέπτοις τὸ λεγόμενον δόξει.
And thus [Paul] says, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life,” for often the narrative, if we come to a halt at its bare events, does not provide us with exemplars of a good way of life. […] Unless one recognizes the truth [regarding the two trees at the center of Eden] by way of philosophy, what is being said will appear to the unperceptive as incoherent or mythical.
—Gregory of Nyssa, Prologue to Sermons on the Song of Songs
Not very many decades ago, it was generally believed among scholars of Hebrew Scripture that the earliest material in the book of Genesis—the original Yahwist texts—probably dated back to the tenth century BCE. Today the standard view is that the version we have comes from the exilic period and after, in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE; and some scholars think that the first eleven chapters—the “pre-patriarchal” narratives—may not have been added until the third century BCE. And yet this is the part of the book whose stories reach furthest back into the lore of the ancient Near East. It is also the part that most of us remember most poorly; although we all think we know the stories it contains, very few of us really do. Eden, Noah’s ark, the tower of Babel—we think we a have fairly firm grasp on what these tales are about, what they recount, what their deeper meaning is. Yet, as it happens, even those of us who have read them innumerable times still retain only those impressions of them we have been conditioned to receive, even though those impressions correspond to very little of what those tales actually say.
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