Patristic Hermeneutics

Ok—to continue where we left off on Patristics, there have been a lot of comments about the lack of Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine. That’s because I wouldn’t include it in a first pass—the Enchiridion gives a better sense of his basic approach to faith, I think. Instead I’d include it here… This is my short list for Patristic hermeneutics (rules/guides for reading Scripture).


Basic Texts

  • Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
  • Origen, Philocalia. This one may come as a surprise to some folks… This is an ancient set of extracts that the Cappadocian Fathers made out of Origen’s works that collect his principle thoughts on biblical interp. In my formal coursework they assigned us book 4 of De Principiis but this is a much better and more succinct work imo. You can find it by following the “More Ftahers” link off CCEL’s Fathers page. I am unclear on its connection to the other Philocalia—the great collection of Eastern spiritual wisdom.
  • Bede, On Schemes and Tropes. Yeah, I know Bede falls outside of Andrewes’s official definition but he’s widely considered the last of the Western Fathers.


Examples—selections from…

  • Cassiodorus on the Psalms. I’d recommend him above Augustine partly because he is still doing basic/remedial education as he presents his commentary.
  • Augustine’s Tractates on John
  • Chrysostom on Paul


I hate to give too many here because, to a degree, even creating a category like this reinforces modern genre biases. That is, some of the best hermeneutical bits in the Fathers are imbedded in what we modern types think of as “doctrinal” or “moral” treatises, not “biblical” ones.

3 thoughts on “Patristic Hermeneutics

  1. *Christopher


    I appreciate your list, but it is almost completely Western list–if one sets up such distinctions of East/West, and I’m fairly sure that say Augustine and Nyssa would not read the same way in hermeneutical matters because they begin, literally reading Genesis, in quite different ways, ways that have influenced very different approaches theologically in different Church traditions. I find parts of both worth considering, but prefer Nysssa, Nazianzus, and Maximus over Augustine. Again, this reminds of those who posit that there was a singular understanding of the Resurrection or of the body among the Fathers, and there isn’t, which to my mind with the Creeds as trunk, allow for quite some bit of leeway within orthodoxy. A good thing, I might add.

  2. *Christopher

    BTW: Dr. Aune has a great series of articles coming out in Worship that are in line with my own historical bent with regard to liturgy and hermeneutics. Naturally, him and I have quite a lot of lively and rich conversations.

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    Well, I’m really not surprised that there’s a Western bias given that’s the material I know best…

    You know, the Hexameron might be a good add…

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