One debate point among theological interpreters is the role of the Christian fathers in interpretation. There has been a tsunami of interest in the early fathers as interpreters of Scripture. Here is my position on the issue.
First, the early fathers are very helpful for helping is see the consensus of faith coming together. It is a rather simple observation, but it only clicked with me last week that the strongest reason for us to use the consensus of faith that developed in the first few centuries as the proper vantage point for integrating the varied parts of Scripture is... because that is actually where the integrated Christian view of Scripture actually came from in the first place!
That is to say, the common Christian view of Scripture that most Christians have had throughout history and that evangelicals and theological interpreters in general are trying to justify in their readings of Scripture actually developed in the first five centuries of the Christian era. The fathers (I'm sorry history hasn't left us too much evidence of the mothers from this period) thus give us witness to the development of an integrated view of Scripture and are of great interest. This would be fun to write on--to explore the fathers on the path to an integrated and commonly agreed understanding of the Bible. Someone's probably writing the book as we speak.
The fathers were, however, horrible original meaning interpreters. From Clement of Rome to the Epistle of Barnabas to Irenaeus to Origin to Augustine on, they simply weren't any more wired to read the Bible in its full historical context than anyone one else at the time. The person who uses them as a guide for what the books of the Bible actually meant originally is barking up the wrong tree. Such a practice is simply a retreat into pre-modern interpretation, which is not wrong at all. It just isn't the same as the original meaning.
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