Exegesis, Exempla and Invective: The Use of Scripture in Facundus’ In Defense of the Three Chapters
Recent work (Dossey) argued that the North African theologians’ response to Justinian’s take on the “Three Chapters” controversy amounted to a defense of their right to interpret scripture for themselves as exegetes, experts in divine law. Building on that argument, the paper adds that Facundus also more specifically responded to Justinian arrogating the role as exegete for himself in this controversy. It also argues that Facundus’ use of Scripture supported his view that Justinian inappropriately intervened in church affairs, instead of deferring to bishops and councils.
The paper highlights the political elements of Facundus’ exegesis, by showing how he deployed specific scriptural passages to oppose Justinian’s take on the Three Chapters. The first important use of exegesis in his In Defense of the Three Chapters is a theological defense of his position in support of the Three Chapters and against the emperor’s decision to condemn three dead theologians and to go against a holy ecumenical council. The second important use of exegesis – this is the central contribution of the paper – is as invective against Justinian for not deferring to the bishops in theological matters. This is particularly the case in Book 12, where Facundus uses a combination of historical (Marcian and Leo) and scriptural (mostly from Numbers, 2 Chronicles and 2 Samuel) exempla that – understood to be aimed at Justinian – are more critical of the emperor than previously acknowledged, especially for usurping the episcopal role in determining the faith that Facundus considered as the bishop’s exclusive privilege.
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