Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 36
Chapter 36.—The Sixth Rule of Tichonius.
52. The sixth rule Tichonius calls the recapitulation, which, with sufficient watchfulness, is discovered in difficult parts of Scripture. For certain occurrences are so related, that the narrative appears to be following the order of time, or the continuity of events, when it really goes back without mentioning it to previous occurrences, which had been passed over in their proper place. And we make mistakes if we do not understand this, from applying the rule here spoken of. For example, in the book of Genesis we read, “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” 1924 Now here it seems to be indicated that the events last mentioned took place after God had formed man and put him in the garden; whereas the fact is, that the two events having been briefly mentioned, viz., that God planted a garden, and there put the man whom He had formed, the narrative goes back, by way of recapitulation, to tell what had before been omitted, the way in which the garden was planted: that out of the ground God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. Here there follows, “The tree of life also was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Next the river is mentioned which watered the garden, and which was parted into four heads, the sources of four streams; and all this has reference to the arrangements of the garden. And when this is finished, there is a repetition of the fact which had been already told, but which in the strict order of events came after all this: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden.” 1925 For it was after all these other things were done that man was put in the garden, as now appears from the order of the narrative itself: it was not after man was put there that the other things were done, as the previous statement might be thought to imply, did we not accurately mark and understand the recapitulation by which the narrative reverts to what had previously been passed over.
53. In the same book, again, when the generations of the sons of Noah are recounted, it is said: “These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.” 1926 And, again, when the sons of Shem are enumerated: “These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.” 1927 And it is added in reference to them all: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations; and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood. And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” 1928 Now the addition of this sentence, “And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech,” seems to indicate that at the time when the nations were scattered over the earth they had all one language in common; but this is evidently inconsistent with the previous words, “in their families, after their tongues.” For each family or nation could not be said to have its own language if all had one language in common. And so it is by way of recapitulation it is added, “And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech,” the narrative here going back, without indicating the change, to tell how it was, that from having one language in common, the nations were divided into a multitude of tongues. And, accordingly, we are forthwith told of the building of the tower, and of this punishment being there laid upon them as the judgment of God upon their arrogance; and it was after this that they were scattered over the earth according to their tongues.
54. This recapitulation is found in a still more obscure form; as, for example, our Lord says in the gospel: “The same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lots wife.” 1929 Is it when our Lord shall have been revealed that men are to give heed to these sayings, and not to look behind them, that is, not to long after the past life which they have renounced? Is not the present rather the time to give heed to them, that when the Lord shall have been revealed every man may receive his reward according to the things he has given heed to p. 573 or despised? And yet because Scripture says, “In that day,” the time of the revelation of the Lord will be thought the time for giving heed to these sayings, unless the reader be watchful and intelligent so as to understand the recapitulation, in which he will be assisted by that other passage of Scripture which even in the time of the apostles proclaimed: “Little children, it is the last time.” 1930 The very time then when the gospel is preached, up to the time that the Lord shall be revealed, is the day in which men ought to give heed to these sayings: for to the same day, which shall be brought to a close by a day of judgment, belongs that very revelation of the Lord here spoken of. 1931
Gen. 2:8, 9.572:1925
Gen. 10:32, Gen. 11:1.572:1929
1 John 2.18.573:1931
Comp. Rom. 2.5.
Next: Chapter 37
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