Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel by Theodoret of Cyrus / Works of Love

The First Council of Nicaea
Theodoret of Cyrus
Born in Antioch in 393, Theodoret became the bishop of Cyrus in 423 and wrote his commentary on Ezekiel around 434. Theodoret was clearly part of the Antiochene school of exegesis, which emphasized a more historical understanding of the text than the more dominant and allegorical Alexandrian school. Theodoret was known for being a cautious theologian, but he's also famous for defending Nestorius in the Christological controversy that led to the First Council of Nicaea. When Theodoret was pressured, he backed down, but he didn't think Nestorius deserved the anathemas directed against him by Cyril of Alexandria. (In 434, the Roman Empire was struggling with the Huns, and the Council of Nicaea had just taken place a year ago) For further information see Theodoret of Cyrus.

Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel

"He called the man clothed in the frock, who had the belt on his loins. The Lord said to him, Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a sign on the men who are groaning and bewailing all the iniquities happening in their midst (vv. 3-4). It is good to encourage and advise sinners; but when they resist and disobey, lamentation is necessary and useful. Hence blessed Paul also said, 'Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble and I am not on fire?' and again, 'Lest when I come to you, my God may humble me, and I may mourn over many who have previously sinned and not repented.' These were the pious ones, then, who were lamenting and groaning for the people's lawlessness; hence they were made to stand out in case they participated in the retribution." (Ezekiel 9:3-4)

Analysis

Theodoret explains the text clearly and concisely. He doesn't spend a lot of time on contemporary application, and he doesn't have a lot of digressions. In this passage, Ezekiel sees seven men (Theodoret says angels) come to Jerusalem, six to bring judgment and one to save a remnant. The remnant are chosen by their mourning for sin. Theodoret draws on Paul's words to defend a solid and helpful interpretation here. Two things strike me about this passage. First, Theodoret does not try anything fancy with the text. Second, the text, in this simple explanatory fashion, is incredibly applicable.

Application

While as Christians we should not be surprised when unbelievers act on their unbelief, we should still mourn their sin. Too often we cut ourselves off from the world rather than weeping over their rebellion and future destruction. We cannot forget our Lord's weeping reaction to Jerusalem, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."

Acknowledgments

I am mostly indebted to the introduction to Theodoret of Cyrus's Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel. I also used Wikipedia to gather some basic facts.

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