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Title: Numbering the Heaven(s)
Subtitle: John Chrysostom's Use of Greek Exegetical Traditions for Interpreting Gen 1,6-8 (Hom. Gen. IV)
Author(s): POMEROY, Samuel
Journal: Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses
Volume: 92    Issue: 2   Date: 2016   
Pages: 203-228
DOI: 10.2143/ETL.92.2.3154613

Abstract :
While it is often assumed that Patristic authors worked within an ‘exegetical tradition’ to explain difficult biblical passages, there was considerable diversity in the techniques applied to a single verse, and thus there were considerable differences in explanatory outcome. A case in point is Gen 1,6-8, which posed a potential contradiction with Gen 1,1 because both verses mention the creation of οὐρανός. This paper explores this problem from the vantage point of John Chrysostom. It is shown that he inherited terms, references, and theological topoi surrounding this issue from authors like Origen and Eustathius. By the later fourth century, likely at the influence of Eusebius of Emesa, the debate had shifted to be centered on the question of how the LXX’s literalisms should be interpreted, such as the common use of οὐρανοί in the Psalms. Basil, Diodore, and Chrysostom engaged similarly on this point, but the latter distinguished himself by holding that instead of a literal rendering, plural forms of οὐρανός do not denote multiple heavens. Like Diodore, he referenced Semitic tongues (Ἑβραίοις; Σύρων γλῶτταν) to make the point; unlike Diodore, he appears to have understood the etymology of שׁמים correctly, thus arguing that Gen 1,1 and 1,6-8 refer to a single heaven. With this important rhetorical move, the preacher solidifies his understanding of Genesis as preparation for the prologue to the Gospel of John.

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