SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANTIOCHIAN SCHOOL OF INTERPRETATION

I. The Antiochian School

It is obvious that the Alexandrian school was justifiably open to the charge that its interpretations relied more on the cleverness of the interpreter than on the intent of the original inspired author. One could, and can, assert any interpretation and "prove" it from the Bible by using this method. The Antiochian method focuses on the plain, obvious meaning of the text of Scripture (Cole 1964, 87).

Its basic focus is understanding the message of the original author. This is why it is call the Historical-Grammatical approach of hermeneutics. Antioch insisted on both a historical context and the normal use of human language. It did not eliminate figures of speech, prophecy, or symbols, but forced them to be linked to the purpose, historical setting, and style of the original author, along with the original author's choice of genre.

"The school of Antioch insisted on the historical reality of the biblical revelation. They were unwilling to lose it in a world of symbols and shadows. They were more Aristotelian than Platonist" (Grant and Tracy 1984, 66).

Some early leaders of this school of interpretation were: Lucian, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and John Chrysostom. This school became involved in an overemphasis on the humanity of Jesus. This has been labeled the Nestorian Heresy (Jesus had two natures, one divine and one human)—and it was a heresy (cf. I John 4:1-3). For this reason the school lost its influence and many of its followers. Its headquarters moved from Syria into Persia so as to be beyond the discipline of the Roman Church.

 

II. The Antiochian School's Basic Tenets

Although the basic tenets of the Antiochian School were continued in isolated places, it burst forth again in full bloom in Martin Luther and John Calvin, as it had been in bud previously in Nicholas of Lyra. It is basically this historically and textually-focused approach to hermeneutics that this Textbook is attempting to introduce. Along with the added emphasis on application, which was one of the strengths of Origen, the Antiochian approach clearly distinguished between exegesis and application (Silva 1987, 101). Because this Textbook is primarily for non-theologically trained believers, the methodology will focus around the text of Scripture in translation rather than the original languages.

Study helps will be introduced and recommended, but the obvious meaning of the original author can, in the vast majority of cases, be ascertained without extensive outside help. The work of godly, diligent scholars will help us in areas of background material, difficult passages, and seeing the big picture, but first we must struggle with the plain meaning of the Scriptures ourselves. It is our privilege, our responsibility, and our protection. The Bible, the Spirit, and you are priority! Insight into how to analyze human language on a nontechnical level, and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, are the twin pillars of this contextual/textual approach. Your ability to be somewhat free to interpret the Bible for yourself is the primary goal of this Textbook. James W. Sire in his book Scripture Twisting makes two good points.

"The illumination comes to the minds of God's people—not just to the spiritually elite. There is no guru class in biblical Christianity, no illuminati, no people through whom all proper interpretation must come. And, so, while the Holy Spirit gives special gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual discernment, He does not assign these gifted Christians to be the only authoritative interpreters of His Word. It is up to each of His people to learn, to judge and to discern by reference to the Bible which stands as the authority over even those to whom God has given special abilities."

"To summarize, the assumption I am making throughout the entire book is that the Bible is God's true revelation to all humanity, that it is our ultimate authority on all matters about which it speaks, that it is not a total mystery but can be adequately understood by ordinary people in every culture" (pp. 17-18).

We dare not naively trust any other person or denomination with the interpretation of Scripture, which affects not only life, but also the life to come. The secondary goal of this Textbook is gaining the ability to analyze the interpretations of others. This Textbook desires to provide the individual believer with a method for personal Bible study and a shield against the interpretations of others. Scholarly helps will be recommended, but must not be accepted without proper analysis and textual documentation.

 

Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International