Discover more from Leaves in the Wind
Sensus Plenior supplements
A final installment, an old lecture, a scrap of Gregory of Nyssa...
A third and final installment of Sensus Plenior will arrive at some point—wherein our intrepid author attempts to discern and describe the difference between the finished literary artifact that is the book of Genesis and the mythic materials that the book assumed into itself, reworked, and integrated into a larger mythic and historical narrative of majestic range. But the date of that installment is not yet settled. Moreover, when it does arrive, it will come in a slightly different form than that of the previous installments.
Below is a lecture from about a decade ago (or longer: my memory is not trustworthy) that covers much of the same material and many of the same themes as my most recent articles. I had forgotten about it entirely, but James L., a reader of this newsletter, reminded me of it.
Before stepping back from the recording, however, I thought I might leave readers with another passage from Gregory of Nyssa, this time form The Life of Moses in the standard Abraham Malherbe and Everett Ferguson translation, slightly altered by me. Here Gregory is reflecting on the story of the slaying of the first-born of Egypt and explaining why his spiritual reading is valid even though the tale as recounted at the literal level is not true:
How would a concept worthy of God be preserved in the description of what happened if one looked only to the narrative? The Egyptian acts unjustly, and in his place is punished his newborn child, who in his infancy cannot discern what is good and what is not. His life has no experience of evil, for infancy is not capable of passion. He does not know to distinguish between his right hand and his left. The infant lifts his eyes only to his mother’s nipple, and tears are the sole perceptible sign of his sadness. And if he obtains anything which his nature desires, he signifies his pleasure by smiling. If such a one now pays the penalty for his father’s wickedness, where is justice? Where is piety? Where is holiness? Where is Ezekiel, who cries: The man who has sinned is the man who must die and a son is not to suffer for the sins of his father? How can a narrative so contradict reason?
Do not be surprised at all that both these events—the deaths of the firstborn and the outpouring of the blood—did not actually happen to the Israelites and on that account reject the contemplation that we have proposed concerning the destruction of evil…