Hans Boersma




This work argues that the heart of patristic exegesis is the attempt to find the sacramental reality (real presence) of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Leading theologian Hans Boersma discusses numerous sermons and commentaries of the church fathers to show how they regarded Christ as the treasure hidden in the field of the Old Testament and explains that the church today can and should retrieve the sacramental reading of the early church. Combining detailed scholarly insight with clear, compelling prose, this book makes a unique contribution to contemporary interest in theological interpretation.



I highly recommend this marvelous exploration of the sacramental reading of Scripture. Hans Boersma expertly and comprehensively opens up many different dimensions of the theological interpretation of Scripture—a category increasingly invoked today—as exemplified by the great practitioners of early Christianity. By bringing the insights gained into constructive dialogue with contemporary concerns, Hans Boersma shows how Christ’s real presence in Scripture can still be encountered today. A must-read both for those concerned with the hermeneutics of scriptural engagement and for those seeking to enrich their own reading of Scripture, this book is an indispensable resource.
— Fr. John Behr, dean and professor of patristics, St. Vladimir's Seminary, New York
This volume makes an outstanding contribution to the retrieval of the ancient Christian biblical hermeneutic. Through a careful analysis of individual texts, Boersma demonstrates that patristic exegesis is not based on naive allegorizing but on a theology of history in which Christ is recognized as truly present in the words and deeds of the old covenant. This book will reinforce the growing consensus that patristic exegesis remains valid and indispensable for the church today.
— Mary Healy, professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary
In the spirit of Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou, Hans Boersma here makes his own important contribution to the nature of biblical interpretation. Scripture as Real Presence is informed by a deep reading of the patristic tradition. With that tradition Boersma advocates for a sacramental approach to Scripture, contending that the mystery of the Christ event is already present in the Law and Prophets. This book offers a lively foray into the current debates about the theological interpretation of the Bible and its place in the academy and pulpit.
— Peter W. Martens, associate professor of early Christianity, chair of the Department of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University
A splendid and scholarly study! Here is required reading for any who are rightly intrigued by the renewed concern for the theological interpretation of Scripture. With astute awareness of contemporary prejudices, Boersma disarms both the Protestant rigorist who may be scandalized by the patristic emphasis on human virtue, and the historicist who dismisses ancient spiritual interpretation as arbitrary. All the while, he carefully and lovingly retrieves winsome writings of various church fathers, who taught that Scripture itself participates in the life of Christ and vitally changes the interpreter and the church when received according to that conviction.
— Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Few scholars have contributed as much to the vigorous debate in our generation about the theological interpretation of Scripture as Hans Boersma. His latest offering for our edification, Scripture as Real Presence, presents nine examples of patristic interpretations of important (and challenging) passages from Scripture. They illustrate, for Boersma, an ecclesial hermeneutic that treats Scripture as a sacrament containing a treasure of great value, Christ, hidden and waiting for the church’s discovery. Boersma’s examples of the rich, polyphonic readings given by the fathers provide models of how pastors and all students of Scripture might unearth the treasure that will give depth to preaching and teaching. Boersma and the fathers transform modern exegesis from reconstructing the past to participating in the life-giving Word.
— J. Warren Smith, associate professor of historical theology, Duke Divinity School
Biblical exegesis has to be approached amid metaphysical and spiritual commitments attuned to the gospel or else unexamined assumptions will invariably cause even our most disciplined efforts at biblical interpretation to unravel. Hans Boersma helps us think carefully about how we read the Bible by reintroducing us to patristic exegesis. Alerting us to the exegetical practice of Origen, Gregory, and many others, he reminds us that ‘they saw the Scriptures as a sacrament and read them accordingly.’ For sensitive readings of varied early church fathers and a host of their reading approaches, all rooted in common commitments to the relations of God and the world and of theology and spirituality, take up and read Boersma’s book.
— Michael Allen, associate professor of systematic and historical theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando


1. Patristic Reading
2. Literal Reading
3. Hospitable Reading
4. Other Reading
5. Incarnational Reading
6. Harmonious Reading
7. Doctrinal Reading
8. Nuptial Reading
9. Prophetic Reading
10. Beatific Reading