The Sacramental Reading of Nicene Theology: Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa on Proverbs 8
Journal of Theological Interpretation 10.1 (2016), 1-30
Both Arian and pro-Nicene theologians saw in the Wisdom of Prov 8 a reference to Christ. This agreement, however, did not produce unanimity about the manner of Christological exegesis. Theologians such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Eunomius of Cyzieus tried to determine the “plain” or “literal” meaning of the text. As a result, they saw in the pas- sage references to a shadowy figure, called “Wisdom,” whom God had “created,” “established,” or “begotten” (Prov 8) long before time began— a figure that became incarnate in Jesus Christ. By contrast, the reading strategy of Marcellus of Ancyra, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Gregory of Nyssa was grounded in the sacramental conviction that the genre of the book of Proverbs demands that we recognize a“hidden”meaning, one that becomes clear to us only in and through God’s economic self-revelation in Jesus Christ. A strictly literal, nosacramental reading of Prov 8 was problematic, according to the pro-Nicene theologians, in that it fails to note the sacramental reality (res) of Christ and his church as really present in the Wisdom passages of the book of Proverbs. By refusing to allegorize, the Arian tradition was unable to discern within the book of Proverbs the doctrinal truth of God’s full self-disclosure in Jesus Christ.