Essay: Exegesis as Metaphysics : Eriugena and Eckhart on Reading Genesis 1-3, by Bernard McGinn

In Eriugena and Creation: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Eriugenian Studies, held in honor of Edouard Jeauneau, Chicago, 9-12 November 2011 (Brepols, 2014, pp. 463-499), McGinn begins and ends his essay with references to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. This sets the context for his discussion about the metaphysical approach to biblical exegesis by two major apophatic theologians. Here is his essay’s abstract:

The first three chapters of Genesis have attracted numerous interpreters in both Judaism and Christianity for millennia, with readings ranging from the crudely literal to refined philosophical, theological, and mystical interpretations. Two of the most profound Latin interpreters were the ninth-century Irish savant John Scottus Eriugena and thirteenth-century Dominican Meister Eckhart. Both wrote long commentaries on Genesis 1-3 in different genres, and both thinkers display remarkable similarities, as well as some crucial differences. Without denying the foundational role of the biblical letter, Eriugena and Eckhart insisted that Genesis 1-3 can only be understood from a rigorously philosophico-theological standpoint, one in which exegesis reveals the depths of Christian metaphysics. In the interchange between positive and negative language about God and the world as revealed in Genesis, as well as in their modes of relating the letter and the spirit of the text, these two great thinkers made unique contributions to the history of exegesis.

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