An Early Non-Literal Reading of Genesis

While studying the Apostolic Fathers last semester I came across a non-literal reading of Genesis in 2 Clement. Just as background, 2 Clement, which is not written by Clement, is an early Christian homily that probably dates to around the mid-to-late second century. It is interesting in large part because it is evidence of allegorical interpretation of the Genesis story occurring very early on in Christian history. Here is the passage (Ehrman’s Translation):

But I cannot imagine you do not realize that the living church is the body of Christ. For the Scripture says, “God made the human male and female.” The male is Christ, the female the church. And, as you know, the Bible and the apostles indicate that the church has not come into being just now, but has existed from the beginning. (2 Clem. 14:2)

There are similar comments sprinkled throughout the passage. The church “was created before the sun and moon” and the author exhorts the reader to be apart of the “first church, the spiritual church.” Interesting stuff. I noticed similar ideas in other Apostolic Fathers texts, but none of them made use of Genesis.

  2 comments for “An Early Non-Literal Reading of Genesis

  1. Robert
    February 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    That could be a development from the ideas of the church as the bride of Christ, and Christ as the second Adam. It’s logical enough, and there’s non-literal usage of the Ot in the NT; Paul’s use of the Hagar story in 1 Corinthians, for instance.

Leave a Reply