Archive for the 'Polychronius' Category

The exegesis of Polychronius

It looks as if the Lord is going to answer my prayer for another contract rather sooner than I had expected.  If so, I shall  have money once more, and one of the items on the slate for translation is the remains of the commentary on Daniel by Polychronius.

“Who he?” I hear you cry.  Andrew Eastbourne has drawn my attention to a review in the 1880 Dublin Review, 3rd series, volume 3, p.535-6 of a book by old Bardenhewer on just this author.  The review is short and so I post it here.

Polychronius, Bruder Theodor’s von Mopsuestia und Bischof von Apamea. Ein Beitrag eur Geschichte der Exegese. Von Dr. Otto Bardenhewer. Freiburg. 1879. (Polychronius, brother of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Bishop of Apamea. A Study on the History of Exegesis. By Dr. Otto Bardenhewer. Friburg. 1879.)

DR. BARDENHEWER, a young professor of the University of Munich, draws attention to one of the greatest ornaments of the school of Antioch. His book contains an account of the life and works of Polychronius, his views on canon and inspiration, and his hermeneutic principles, to which is added a translation and explanation of some portions of his commentaries.

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus,[1] praises Polychronius as a successful ruler of his diocese of Apamea, and as a man of graceful eloquence and virtuous life. This is about all that is known of his life with any degree of certainty. According to Cardinal Mai,[2] Polychronius seems to have written commentaries on almost the whole of the Old Testament. There are, however, only fragments of them preserved, and these chiefly belong to his commentaries on Job, Daniel, and Ezechiel.

Polychronius (says Dr. Bardenhewer, p. 5) has happily avoided the extravagances of his brother Theodore, though not quite all his faults. In real exegetical accuracy and conscientiousness he has surpassed all Antiochean interpreters; in knowledge of history and languages not one amongst them wasjequal to him, nor has any one entered with such love and keen understanding into the depth of the Biblical text, nor made such correct allowances for actual circumstances.

Of all his works, the best preserved are his very valuable scholia on the book of Daniel (published by Mai, l. c. P. ii. pp. 105-160). It is strange that he, like S. Ephrem, explains Daniel’s prophecy of the four empires to mean, besides the Babylonian, Median, and Persian, the Macedonian (and not the Roman) empire. But he believed in the canonicity of all the deutero-canonical pieces of Daniel, perhaps with the exception of the Hymn of the Three Children in the fiery furnace. Bardenhewer gives us (pp. 63-65) some arguments for his opinion that Polychronius really denied the canonicity of Dan. iii. 25-90, Vulg. They rest on the passage : ” This hymn is not found in the Hebrew and Syriac text. It is said to have been afterwards added by some one, and founded upon what is narrated in the book. I shall, therefore, abstain from explaining this part, in order to keep exclusively to the interpretation of the book.” Granted, that Polychronius has written these words; but they only mention the doubts of others as a reason why Polychronius did not interpret the hymn.

It is clear from Dr. Bardenhewer’s book that Polychronius is worthy of the greatest consideration. Dr. Bardenhewer is well able to appreciate him, and shows a well-trained judgment in handling critical questions, and a great taste for patristic and exegetical studies.

May the author continue to encourage, and to facilitate the study of the Fathers, and the interpretation of the Scriptures, by works similar to the one mentioned here.

1 Eccl Hist., v. 40. 
2 Scriptorum veterum nova collectio. Tom. I. Romae, 1825, praef. p. xxxl.

I must say that I hope we manage to go ahead with this.  It seems clear that Polychronius has interesting things to tell us!



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