The church fathers displayed considerable interest in the early chapters of Genesis, and often wrote detailed commentaries or preached series of homilies on the Hexameron—the Six Days of Creation—among them Eustathius of Antioch, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Augustine. This volume of Ancient Christian Texts offers a first-time English translation of Severian of Gabala’s In cosmogoniam and a fresh translation of a portion of Bede the Venerable’s Libri quatuor in principium Genesis. Severian, bishop of Gabala in Syria, who early on was a friend of John Chrysostom, later turned against him and opposed him at the Synod of Oak in 403. Though displaying his own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, Severian still represents the so-called Antiochene school with its preference for literal over allegorical interpretation of texts. The text derives from the six homilies found in Migne’s Patrologia graeca, volume 56, together with a seventh homily found only in the 1613 Eton edition of John Chrysostom’s works, edited by Henry Savile, and falsely attributed to Chrysostom. These homilies have been ably translated with explanatory notes by Robert C. Hill. The commentary from Bede the Venerable derives from Book I of his four-book commentary on Genesis from the account of creation to the casting out of Ishmael. Bede was a polymath—teacher, computist, exegete, historian—and one of the foremost scholars from Anglo-Saxon England. As a teacher, Bede strove to hand on the tradition of the church in a form easily understood by those who might not be well educated. These early chapters in Genesis provided teaching on creation, human origins, sin and redemption. The text deriving from Corpus Christianorum Latina is ably translated with explanatory notes by Carmen Hardin.
“We implore the reader not to force the assumptions of twentieth-century hermeneutics on the ancient Christian writers, who themselves knew nothing of what we now call hermeneutics.” (Pages xi–xii)
“Our souls’ improvement is the whole purpose of religious devotion; all the lessons stemming from religious devotion have regard to this business of saving our souls.” (Page 23)
“Indeed, this blessing and sanctification of the seventh day were made as a type of a greater blessing and sanctification. For just as the blood of the Lord’s suffering, which was poured out once and for all for the salvation of the world, is signified through the repeated daily offerings in accordance with the Law, so also through the rest of the seventh day, which was always celebrated after the works of the six days, prefigured that great day of sabbath on which the Lord was going to rest once in the tomb, after having completed and perfected all his works on the sixth day, through which he would restore the world now corrupted for ages that he had completed on the sixth day.” (Page 134)
“In the beginning God made heaven and earth. In six days God made everything, but the first day is different from the others after it; on the first day God made things from what did not exist, whereas from the second day God made nothing from what did not exist, instead changing things at will from what he made on the first day.” (Page 26)
“In the same way, Latin etymology agrees with these words, since virago (‘woman’) is derived from vir (‘man’), so also it happens in the Hebrew language ‘man’ is called his, and derived from his is the word hissa (‘woman’). So, the fact that ‘man’ is called his in Hebrew is demonstrated by the word Israel, which is translated as ‘man seeing God.’ But the fact that Adam wished the woman, who had been created from his own flesh, to be made a partaker of his own name is most suggestive of the sacraments of Christ and the church, because our Lord Jesus Christ gave a share of his name to the church, which he redeemed at the price of his own body and blood and chose as his bride, such that from Christ she is called Christian, and from Jesus, or ‘salvation,’ she sought eternal deliverance.” (Pages 148–149)