- Cyril of Alexandria’s Trinitarian Theology of Scripture by Matthew R. Crawford
Cyril of Alexandria’s Trinitarian Theology of Scripture
New York: Oxford University Press, 2014
Pp. xi + 290. $125.00.
In this monograph Crawford aims to reclaim Cyril’s many scriptural commentaries for theological and historical study by arguing that Scripture has an integral place in a coherent account of Cyril’s (or any modern Trinitarian) theology. In brief, Scripture plays a central role in the Trinity’s relationship to humanity, revealing God and mediating the appropriation of divine life. Crawford frames the facets of revelation and reception of Scripture as an exitus-reditus schema wherein revelation comes from the Father (Chapter Two) through the Son (Chapter Three) and is written in the Spirit (Chapter Four). Conversely, in the Spirit (Chapter Six) one recognizes the Son throughout Scripture (Chapter Five) revealing the Father.
Crawford’s method balances close reading with synthesis in order to untangle Cyril’s often perplexing use of scriptural allusions. After identifying the most common allusions, Crawford investigates Cyril’s extended exegesis in light of other patristic commentaries. He then imports Cyril’s explicit interpretation when an allusion is made in another text, allowing occasionally that Cyril may use an “alternative” (119) or more developed—but not contradictory—interpretation in another context. At times, such pleas and “implicit” connections may appear strained, but the patient reader will eventually reap the benefit of Crawford’s mastery of this extensive web.
The controversy between Cyril and Nestorius is presented as a debate between pro-Nicene theologies (Chapter Two). Following Marie-Odile Boulnois on Cyril’s Trinitarian theology, Crawford highlights Cyril’s opposition to Nestorius’s Trinitarian cooperation (συνεργία). Short of identity of operation and power (Cyril’s neologisms ταὐτοεργία and ταὐτοσθενής), cooperation suggests tritheism to Cyril. At stake is the claim that the Word’s revelation and the Spirit’s inspiration are capable of revealing the Father. Elsewhere (Chapter Four), Crawford shows that Cyril’s polemic against the insertion of a mediator in the incarnation by Theodore and Nestorius stems from Cyril’s theology of revelation. To flatten the distinction between prophetic inspiration (through active human mediators) and the incarnation denies the fullness of the revelatory mystery of Christ and destroys the unity of Scripture (centered around Christ and the gospels).
Crawford resists discussion of exegesis until Chapter Six, and his contribution is subtle. He accepts the scholarly consensus that Cyril’s “spiritual” reading is primarily a christological one, and he also accepts Alexander Kerrigan’s argument that “spiritual” reading generally means reading “in the Spirit.” However, he objects to Kerrigan’s distinction between the historical and spiritual readings based upon the object of “earthly” or “higher” realities, respectively (218). Instead, Crawford distinguishes the levels of reading by the “illumination according to creation” (185) by the Word (the robust combination of natural law, reason, grammar, and natural religion) and “illumination according to redemption” (194) in the Spirit (through baptism in the church). The new emphasis for Crawford [End Page 635] is on the exegete or hearer, not the object. It is a theology rather than a method of exegesis.
Furthermore, Crawford situates exegesis within the broader Christian life in Cyril’s thought. Studies of Cyril’s eucharistic theology have recently been augmented by Daniel Keating’s work on Cyril’s baptismal theology as a second means of appropriating divine life, and Crawford adds the reading and preaching of Scripture. For Cyril, the Spirit and the Word remain present in councils and bishops’ preaching via the inheritance of the writings and office of the apostles. Therefore, Crawford sees the written and preached word as means of appropriating the Divine Word. Cyril even interprets references to food as metaphors for reception of Scripture, sometimes without mention of the Eucharist. Yet, Cyril does not use the same terminology of appropriation for Scripture as he does for the Eucharist and baptism. Thus, Crawford rather cautiously suggests that Scripture constitutes “two and a half” or “two means of participation with an asterisk” (179). These advances in the study of Cyril’s exegetical theology are useful, though they raise the new question of how Cyril thought believers might determine...