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Title: A Comparison of the Theological Schools of Alexandria and Antioch
Source: westernorthodox.com
URL Source: http://www.westernorthodox.com/schools
Published: Jul 1, 2006
Author: Dcn. George Zgourides
Post Date: 2006-07-01 23:59:44 by A K A Stone
Keywords: None
Views: 342

Founded in about 180 CE by Pantaenus (a former Stoic philosopher), the theological School of Alexandria in Egypt was the first-known organized Christian institution of higher learning. It became a leading center of the allegorical method of Scripture interpretation, which was the same exegetical method practiced by Palestinian Rabbinical schools. Allegorical exegesis involves, as St. Augustine noted, understanding one passage of Scripture by virtue of example, concept, or another passage. Allegory differs from the parable method in its statement of doctrinal truths rather than practical advice. It also differs from the literal method of Scripture interpretation, in which the surface meaning of a passage is the passageís meaning. An example of allegory in the Bible is that of the vine, found in Psalm 80:8–16 and Isaiah 5:1–6.

Under such leaders as Clement (c. 150–215) and Origen (c. 185–254), the theological school of Alexandria endorsed a reestablishment of relations between Christian faith and Greek culture (including the Platonic philosophical tradition), and attempted to preserve Orthodox Christianity in the face of heterodox theologies during periods of doctrinal transition. The Alexandrians typically found allegory in most every passage of Scripture. Moreover, in their accounts of the person of Christ, they tended to focus almost exclusively on His divinity.

Some critics have noted that the Alexandrians, in trying to protect against an overemphasis on the humanity of Christ (which they felt led to such heresies as Nestorianism; see below), they sometimes leaned toward tritheism, into which Origen is said to have drifted. Monophysitism (the view that virtually negates Christ’s humanity by claiming Him to be divine only) is thought to have been an extreme form of Alexandrian Christological thinking.

Opposing the School of Alexandria was the School of Antioch, which emphasized the literal interpretation of the Bible. Founded circa 200, the theological school of Antioch in Syria stressed Scriptural literalism and the completeness of Christ’s humanity. Flourishing in the 4th-6th centuries, the School of Antioch gave rise to several significant theologians, including Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and St. John Chrysostom.

What is known of the school of Antioch’s founder, the martyr-presbyter Lucian (d. 312), is minimal, with the exception of his having been a keen Biblical student who revised the Greek texts of the Septuagint and the New Testament. Evidently his strictly theological perspectives were heterodox, for Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia claimed to be his students, even calling themselves Lucianists.

Concerning Arianism, it is important to remember that the Church in the 4th century was dominated by controversy over the propositions of an Alexandrian priest, Arius (c. 250–336), who held that the Son was not eternal but created by God as an instrument for creation of the earth. In other words, Christ, though higher than humanity, was inferior to God, non-eternal, and with a definite beginning. In 325 the Council of Nicaea condemned Arianism and affirmed to Nestorianism, the majority of his exegetical and theological writings were destroyed or lost.

Unlike Theodore, St. John Chrysostom was foremost a preacher, aptly earning the title Chrysostomos, or Golden-Mouthed. The vast majority of Chrysostom’s writings were expositions of the Bible, in which he demonstrated himself to be a rigid proponent of Antiochene literalism. His sermons are reflections of the ecclesiastical, cultural, and social status of Constantinople and Antioch in that day. Not hesitant to denounce and condemn heresy, Chrysostom’s legacy to Orthodoxy is that of an outstanding rhetorician, writer, homilist, and liturgist.

The final renowned Antiochene bishop, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393–458), was also a prolific author. His writings were extensive in range, but the most noteworthy are his Ecclesiastical History, which continued Eusebius’ work to 428, and his Remedy for Greek Maladies, which was a series of ancient apologies against paganism. Theodoret also zealously defended Antiochene Christology against Bishop Cyril of Alexandria’s theology. Sources

* Cross, F. L. and Livingstone, E. A., editors. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. * Harakas, Stanley S. The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers. Minneapolis, MN: Light & Life Publishing, 1987. * Hurlbut, Jesse L. The Story of the Christian Church. MI: Zondervan, 1970. * Latourette, Kenneth S. A History of Christianity. New York : Harper, 1953. * Meyendorff, John. Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes. New York: Fordham University Press, 1979. * Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. Revised. New York, Scribner, 1970. * Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. New Edition. London: Penguin, 1997.

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