A bunch of quotes I find myself sharing regularly, organised by topic.

Anti-intellectualism

Greeting in God, from Origen to my good lord and most reverend son, Gregory. Natural ability, as you know, if properly trained, may be of the utmost possible service in promoting what I may call the “object” of a man’s training. You, for instance, have ability enough to make you an expert in Roman law, or a philosopher in one of the Greek schools held in high esteem. I should like you, however, to make Christianity your “object,” and to bring the whole force of your ability to bear upon it, with good effect. I am therefore very desirous that you should accept such parts even of Greek philosophy as may serve for the ordinary elementary instruction of our schools, and be a kind of preparation for Christianity: also those portions of geometry and astronomy likely to be of use in the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, so that, what the pupils of the philosophers say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, viz. that they are the handmaidens of philosophy, we may say of philosophy itself in relation to Christianity.

Perhaps something of the kind is hinted at in the command from the mouth of God Himself that the children of Israel be told to ask their neighbours and companions for vessels of silver and gold, and for clothing, so that by spoiling the Egyptians they might find materials to make the things of which they were told for the Divine service. For out of the spoils which the children of Israel took from the Egyptians came the contents of the Holy of Holies, the ark with its cover, and the Cherubim, and the mercy-seat, and the golden pot wherein was treasured up the manna, the Angels’ bread. These things, we may suppose, were made of the best of the Egyptian gold…

Do you, then, my lord and my son, chiefly give heed to the reading of the Divine Scriptures; do give heed. For we need great attention when we read the Divine writings, that we may not speak or form notions about them rashly. And as you give heed to reading the Divine volume with a faithful anticipation well pleasing to God, knock at its closed doors and it shall be opened unto you by the porter, of whom Jesus said, “To him the porter openeth.” And as you give heed to the Divine reading, seek, in the right way and with an unfaltering faith in God, the meaning of the Divine writings, which is hidden from the many…

Orig., Philoc. 13.1–4 Origen, The Philocalia of Origen, trans. George Lewis (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1911), 57–60.

Creation vs. Evolution

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

Aug., Gen. litt. 1.19.39. St. Augustine, St. Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, ed. Johannes Quasten, Walter J. Burghardt, and Thomas Comerford Lawler, trans. John Hammond Taylor, vol. I, 41st ed., Ancient Christian Writers (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1982), 42–43.

Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts… The blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.

Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution.” The American Biology Teacher, vol. 35, no. 3 (1973), 129.

How to read Joshua

We are not dealing in Joshua with a factual report of the ways of ancient warfare. Rather, the slaughter of the Canaanites, here and elsewhere, is presented as a theologically correct ideal.

John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible and Deutero-Canonical Books, Third Edition. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018), 205.

The Joshua of the Deuteronomist is in many ways a thinly disguised Josianic figure who acts out the events of the Deuteronomist’s own day on the stage of the classical past. Against the backdrop of Gilgal, Ai, and Hazor, he struts out a deuteronomistic script recalling contemporary events involving Jerusalem, Bethel, and a Judean expansion to the north. While all this was obvious to the Deuteronomist’s seventh-century readers, the passage of years and later exilic redaction have made Joshua’s make-up and costume less transparent than originally intended.

Richard D. Nelson, “Josiah in the Book of Joshua,” Journal of Biblical Literature 100, no. 4 (1981): 540.

The value of Joshua for Christians

History is always ambiguous. But the ambiguities of history should not blind us to the fact that the unprovoked conquest of one people by another is an act of injustice and that injustice is often cloaked with legitimacy by claims of divine authorization. At the very least, we should be wary of any attempt to invoke the story of the conquest of Canaan as legitimation for anything in the modern world.

John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible and Deutero-Canonical Books, Third Edition. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018), 206.