The Passions of Christ in High-Medieval Thought: An Essay on Christological Development

By Kevin Madigan | Go to book overview

2
Humanity, Divinity,
and Biblical Exegesis
in Early Arian Thought

As is now widely recognized, the Scriptures and their interpretation were not mere embroidery in a larger theological dispute during the “Arian controversy.”1 In fact, the relationship between theological discourse and the Scriptures is rather the reverse of the one often assumed. Far from being fodder for proof-texting of alreadyestablished theological positions, the theological language was in fact the fruit of reflection and argument over key scriptural passages. It may well be true that the controversy stemmed from dispute over the meaning of only a dozen or so such texts. Instructive here is Aloys Grillmeier's remark on the role played by a few select texts in controversy: “However much the whole of Scripture continued to be read, theological polemics, precisely in trinitarian and christological discussion, restricted themselves to a certain number of important or disputed scriptural texts.”2 That is true. But that is very different from suggesting that the Scriptures functioned as mere proof-text to what was central, namely philosophically-informed theological argument. These scriptural texts were the initial and abiding source of the quarrel. Examining both genuine Arian and Nicene sources in this chapter, we will identify which scriptural texts were crucial in the dispute. We will also briefly gesture toward the ways in which they were interpreted by the early Arian writers. But first a word on sources.

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