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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

The Literal Sense is Important: Theodore of Mopsuestia

Antioch (the modern Antakya) was in the fourth century one of the biggest cities in the Roman empire and most of its inhabitants since Constantine were Christians. But it was also a centre of Greek learning. There Theodore was born in 352. After a classical education he converted to Christianity in 368, and joined the loosely monastic community Asceterion, founded by Diodore of Tarsus for ascetic life and Bible study. Consecrated priest c.383, he became bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia in 392, remaining there until his death in 428. He dedicated most of his life to teaching and writing commentaries on nearly all books of the Bible, of which only a small part has survived, because Theodore posthumously (553) was condemned as a heretic. His exegetical method is similar to that of his teacher Diodore (of whom still less is preserved) and represents the so-called Antiochene school. In his commentary on the Psalms he first tries to arrive at a correct text, comparing the Septuagint with other Greek translations and also amending Hebraisms in its style. For each psalm, he places a summary (Hypothesis) at the head of his comments; often he does not accept the superscription of the Septuagint. Embracing the tradition of David as the author of the psalms, he seeks an occasion for each psalm in David's life. Cases in which the background is later he explains by David's prophetic foreknowledge. He even classifies the psalms under categories as hymns of praise, doctrinal psalms, prayers of pentitence, etc. Theodore denies a direct prophecy of Christ in the psalms, except in the traditionally messianic Psalms 2, 8, and 45 (44). Similarly in his commentary on the Twelve Prophets he seeks to begin with fulfilments of the prophecies in the history of Israel. Every prophet acted in a special historical situation and did not care about the distant future. The prophets did not know of the Trinity. However, there is also a ‘hyperbolic’ element in their utterances, and therefore, in a few cases, one can detect a typological aspect pointing to Christ. Besides, the history in the Old Testament has its aim in Christ, in the frame of God's plan of salvation for all humankind. Later Theodore also wrote a commentary on John's Gospel, in which he detected a more exact chronological sequence of events than in the synoptic gospels. But in John he has dogmatic problems, especially in the prologue, which partly seems to contradict his adoptianist Christology. All in all, Theodore is a remarkably independent exegete, whose insights sometimes already anticipate the modern critical exegesis.

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