February 14, 2012 by Matthew Mason
He was a small shrunken vivid man, bald-headed, with a long red beard and red eyebrows like Athanasius, wrinkled, nearly always in pain, haggard with vigils and fastings….He feared no one. He had an uruly humor. He is the only man who is known to have dared to laugh at Basil. He was quick-tempered, sullen, unhappy in the company of most people, strangely remote from the world. Appointed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople against his will, he found it Arian and in a few swift months converted it to the orthodox faith. He was the first Christian poet, and wrote prose so angelically, and throughout his life gloried in the Greek poet Pindar, who celebrated athletes and spoke only of human glory. He loved God, and then the art of letters, and then men – in that order.
(Robert Payne on of Gregory Nazianzus, quoted in Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, IVP, 1998, p. 65.)
December 12, 2011 by Matthew Mason
Like many of my generation, I received a solid grounding in the historical approach to the Scriptures. I studied the biblical languages, became familiar with the best lexicons and concordances, mastered the literary techniques used in biblical studies – after taking my Ph.D. in patristics I went to Germany for a year primarily to study form criticism – did the historical work to understand the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, studied Jewish exegesis, read many modern scholarly studies. Historical criticism is part of my intellectual makeup and I have no desire to jettison the results of modern biblical scholarship.
But it was only as I took seriously the exegesis of the church fathers (which was uncommon when I was trained in patristics) and read their biblical commentaries that I began to enter deeply into the language and idiom of the Bible. Paradoxically it was only as I immersed myself in the old that I find myself discovering the new – things I never imagined would be there. And much to my delight I could say with Augustine, “In my needy life, Lord, my heart is much exercised by the pounding of the words of your holy Scripture.” (R. L. Wilken, ‘Interpreting the Bible as Bible’, JTI 4.1 (2010): 12f.)