Reading Scripture and Holy Love (Or, Cleary I Understand Nothing at All)

Roger Pearse, that veritable zealot of Christian antiquity and free access to information, has commissioned the translation of several letters of our venerable father, St Isidore of Pelusium, whose feast we celebrated last Tuesday, February 4/17. (Our good friend Aaron Taylor, as is his wont, produced a marvellous post on St Isidore for his feast.) Mr Pearse, of tertullian.org fame, has characteristically decided to freely share the commissioned translations by posting them in his blog. The latest installment contains a letter whose content is undoubtedly relevant for all those who undertake the reading of the Scriptures in faith, and particularly for those of us who wish to involve ourselves in the task of academic biblical studies in various ways and to various degrees. St Isidore writes:

27. (1.27) TO THE PALACE EUNUCH PHARISMANIUS.

I understand that it is said that you are interested in the divine books and that you make an appropriate use of their testimonies in every circumstance, but that you are a covetous man, furiously grabbing for yourself from the lives of others. I am extremely astonished that this assiduous reading has not blessed you with the divine love, a love which should have modified your former behaviour, something which not only prevents us from desiring the goods of others, but further prescribed us to distribute our own goods. So, when you read, understand, or, if you do not understand, read!

Which is to say that, even if I have the ability to quote the Scriptures right and left without ever doing violence to their context and with a keen awareness of their historical meaning, but have no love, I am nothing (cf., of course, I Corinthians 13, and also our friend James McGrath’s 1 Corinthians 13 paraphrased for academics).

The way to recapturing the wonder is the way of holy love. After all, as we have seen, some things are better understood by means of practice, rather than by words alone.

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5 responses to “Reading Scripture and Holy Love (Or, Cleary I Understand Nothing at All)

  1. For some reason this post made me think back on my own exodus from the field of secular biblical studies and revisit some reflections I’d written down. Please forgive the positive references to SVS Press and the evening liturgy at which I was officially made a catechumen :-)

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  2. I don’t quite recall writing that Life of St Isidore on serbianorthodoxchurch.net, and indeed, the administrator there seems to think it was taken from the Prologue. Maybe you made a mistake when you pasted the link to my ‘marvellous post’? ;-)

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  3. Trevor> I shall try to overlook these shortcomings. ;-) Thanks for the link to the lovely reflections.

    Aaron> I have made the corrections! I guess I must have a hard time distinguishing between the Prolog and your blog. ;-)

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  4. Thank you for the link. I honestly didn’t think anyone else would be interested in those two letters, but glad to find that I was wrong. I have a feeling that Isidore is an undiscovered spiritual classic, from reading Pierre Evieux’s book on him.

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