The often wacky, sometimes insulting Lucian has commented on my blog, wondering about the many strains of interpretive tradition present in the life of Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it best to interpret the Scripture literally, he asks?
Among his propositions are to take Ezekiel 44:2 and apply it to the perpetual virginity of the BVMary.
Or to take the 4 rivers of the Paradise of Eden. In the literal interpretation, they are the four earthly rivers of Tigris, Euphrates, Pison and Gihon. On a more spiritual level, exemplified by the Exegetical School of Alexandria, the four rivers of Paradise are -let's say- the four cardinal virtues, which water our hearts.
And yet, on a still DEEPER, and, this time, Christological level, exemplified now by the Exegetical School at Antioch, the four rivers of the Paradise are the Four Gospels, which, -again-, water our hearts through the Holy Spirit that enbreathes them.
I, OTOH, am proposing the grammatico-historical method. The GHM employs the grammar, vocabulary, and context of the author, the historical context, the context of the passage in question, the context of the book, and the context of the rest of the Bible to determine authorial intent of the passage in question. That's the GHM in a nutshell. What the author intended is the correct interpretation.
This is, by the way, the method that anyone uses virtually all of the time while reading virtually anything. And of course authorial intent is what we want to discover since we believe that the Scripture is God speaking. Thus, obviously, we want to know what God said and less what man said about what God said, even though that has its (far subordinate) place.
Now, what does that mean for us in the examples Lucian brought up? Alot. The really fun thing is that EOx are often quick, as I mentioned, to question what a SS-ist might say in regard to, say, justification by faith alone. "That's just your individual, private interpretation! Your interp must agree with what The Church® says!"
A few points on that, by way of reminder:
1) How would I know I'm supposed to submit to what The Church® says except the Scr allegedly instructs me to do so? But of course that would be an individual private interpretation of the allegedly-supportive passages. Either that or I a priori accept The Church as infallible interper and then see that it teaches that these Scr psgs direct the reader to submit to The Church as infall interper. Problem solved either way, right?
2) Of course, I can't infallibly know what the infall interper says, b/c I'd be exercising private individual interp of what the infall interper said. I need an infall interper of the infall interper.
3) And then of course I'd need an infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the Scr.
4) And then I'd need an infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the Scr.
5) Another problem is that there is not necessarily any reason within EOdox Tradition to take the psgs that allegedly direct me to submit to the EOC as infall interper as a command. Rather, as demonstrated here by Lucian, there are a few possibilities:
a. I could go off into flights of allegorical fancy. No, Peter is not LITERALLY given the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Matt 16. Jesus changes Peter's name from bending reed (Simon) to Peter (rock), symbolising how the Jewish people would become no longer pliable to what the Lord said back in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, and now they would be hardened in heart against the Messiah, and they would open the door to heaven for the Gentiles to come in.
b. I could easily, in my flight of fancy, contradict EO Tradition.
c. There's no good mechanism (beyond I said so b/c my bishop said so b/c The Church® said so) to distinguish between what is true and what is false in this tremendously wide scope of possibility of interpretations.
d. Why can't I just allegorise the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ as well? Don't talk to me about context or 1 Corinthians 15. No, I'm spiritualising the text here. (Do I sound like John Shelby Spong yet?)
Or we could stick to the GHM and let the text speak for itself. The danger is, of course, to run the risk of private interps and unsupported, sinful ideas being taken and run with by someone, possibly leading people away with him. But I'd ask: How is that different than what we've seen here? Isn't Sacred Tradition just a chrismated bundle of private interps that somehow the amorphous, vague mass The Church® has "stated" that it will accept as part of its teaching? At least in this way, errors can be corrected from becoming fossilised and ingrained into the life of the church, never to be correctable again. Especially not by someone's "private interp."