In his contribution to A History of Biblical Interpretation, Volume 1: The Ancient Period (328), Joseph Trigg points to the grammatical origins of Irenaeus’s understanding of the rule of faith:

“he relies on concepts take from Greco-Roman literary studies, the field known in Antiquity as ‘grammar’ and taught as part of rhetorical training . . . . Ancient grammar spoke of the ‘plot’ or ‘argument’ ( hypothesis of a work reflecting the ‘planning’ or ‘arrangement’ ( oikonomia ) of its author. Relying on its usage by the Apologists and in such passages as Eph 1:10, Irenaeus identified this oikonomia with the saving plan of God, beginning in creation, continuing with the call of Israel, and reaching its summation ( anakephalaiosis , another grammatical term used in Ephesians) in the death and resurrection of Christ and the calling of the Gentiles. Irenaeus could thus argue that the Rule of Faith handed down by the Apostles through the principal churches they founded was itself the hypothesis of Scripture, reflecting the divine oikonomia .”

The Rule of Faith, then, is not a confession coming from outside, some “external guideline foreign to Scripture itself.” Instead, “it is simply the correct way to give meaning and order to the heterogeneous mass of information Scripture contains. Thus, the Rule of Faith clarifies Scripture, giving the reader true, spiritual insight into its meaning and, in the process, guaranteeing the unity of the two Testaments.”

More on: Bible, Hermeneutics

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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