Friday, September 04, 2015

Commentary on the Book of Jonah - Haimo of Auxerre

I'm grateful to translator Deborah Everhart (and in general the consortium for the teaching of the Middle Ages) for providing a very readable translation from the original Latin of Haimo of Auxerre's Commentary on Jonah. Haimo died around A.D. 875. So this is not an "early church" commentary, but it is part of Western church history.

Haimo provides a very fluid set of interpretations of the text - proceeding from the literal to various non-literal interpretations (trological, analogical, spiritual, etc.). Haimo treats Jonah as a type of Christ in a way that would fit extremely well in today's Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic.

The commentary is quite short, naturally, in view of the short length of the book being discussed. Still, it is a nice addition to any collection of commentaries on the minor prophets.

Here a few quotations that I found interesting, without any suggestion that these are representative of the work as a whole (footnotes omitted):
And the mariners were afraid, and the men cried to their god, and they cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them (Jonah 1:5). The mariners, not knowing the one and true God, invoked gods, knowing that nothing is done without the providence of God. From this we understand that He is feared and perceived by all men, although they may be seduced by false religions from the one and true God to many gods.
(p. 11 - at Jonah 1:5)

The above quotation fits quite nicely with a presuppositional viewpoint. Haimo is saying that people not only know that God exists, but that He is in control of everything that happens.

Moreover, they sacrificed victims, not animals, which, according to the literal level, they would not have had on the waves, but spiritual victims, that is, thanksgiving and praise. The Psalmist says, "Offer to God the sacrifice of praise" (Psalm 49:14), and the prophet says, "Take away all iniquity and receive the good, and we will render the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:3).
(p. 17 - at Jonah 1:16)

The importance of recognizing spiritual sacrifice as distinct from animal sacrifice becomes important in understanding a variety of these minor prophet allusions to sacrifice.

"All thy billows, and thy waves have passed over me" (Jonah 2:4). The billows and waves are the temptations and the beatings, which never happen without the permission and will of God.
(pp. 20-21 - at John 2:4)

Once again, note Haimo's seemingly high view of divine sovereignty.

"I went down to the lowest parts of the mountains: the bars of the earth have shut me up for ever" (Jonah 2:7) ... The soul of the Redeemer descended to the abyss, not so that He might be held there, but so that He might snatch away his own men. These bars of the earth, as it were the door bars of the final prison and punishment, wish always to hold these souls once they have accepted them. The Lord is shut up by these bars; but, just as it was predicted in Isaiah, He broke the brass gates and burst the iron bars (Isaiah 45:2).
(pp. 22-23 - at Jonah 2:7)

While Haimo does not seem to make the direct connection, this explanation fits very well with a proper understanding of "the gates of hell shall not prevail."

"But I with the voice of praise will sacrifice to you: I will pay whatsoever I have vowed for my salvation to the Lord" (Jonah 2:10). The prophet is animated with good hope, and now secure about his liberation, he promises that he will sacrifice thanksgiving and that he will fulfill all vows.
(p. 25 - at Jonah 2:10)

Once again, Haimo recognizes the category of spiritual sacrifice.

And the older generation begins, the younger follows, because no one is without sin, not even the infant whose life upon the earth is but one day.
(p. 29 - at Jonah 3:5)

Haimo's acknowledgement of the universal sinfulness of men, infants included, is not tempered with any caveat about certain particularly righteous people.

But in the Church, just as in a great house, there are vessels, and some are for honor and some are for insult; some are carnal and some are spiritual ...
(p. 38 - at John 4:11)

I found this seeming application of Romans 9 to the church itself an interesting observation. It seems as though Haimo is acknowledging the mixed nature of the New Testament assembly.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

John of Damascus Interpreting James 2:26

It was interesting to read a late patristic-era author (his death is sometimes used as the end of the patristic era) interpreting James 2:26. In An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, vol. 4, chapter 9, "Concerning Faith and Baptism," (PG 94:1121-22) John of Damascus writes (translation available here, emphasis mine):
It behooves us, then, with all our strength to steadfastly keep ourselves pure from filthy works, that we may not, like the dog returning to his vomit [2 Peter 2:22], make ourselves again the slaves of sin. For faith apart from works is dead, and so likewise are works apart from faith. [James 2:26] For the true faith is attested by works.
It's particularly interesting to note that the Damascene correctly ascertains that James' point is that works testify to true faith.

For those who like the original Greek or the Latin translation in Migne:
The key word there is δοϰιμάζεται (comprobatur), which is accurately translated as "is attested by" as in the translation provided.