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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 31, 2013

Aufsätze / Essays. Exegese als Kampfmittel in der Auseinandersetzung zwischen Heiden und Christen: Zum „Sündenbock“ von Lev 16 bei Julian und Kyrill von Alexandrien

Christoph Riedweg


Without exegesis no philosophy and no theology either: that’s how one could - somewhat pointedly - outline the intellectual situation in Late Antiquity. To read and interprete texts that were generally recognized and taken to be normative, had become constitutive for pagan as well as for Jewish-Christian thinking at the latest since Platonism had acquired its predominant position in the Imperial Period.

In the controversy between pagans and Christians, too, the issue of the correct exegesis played a pivotal role. Whereas the right to adopt an “all-egorical” interpretation that transcends the literal meaning was claimed for one’s own tradition as a matter of course, it used on the other hand to be vigorously denied to the opponents.

In this paper, Julian the Apostate’s and Cyril of Alexandria’s dealing with the Mosaic account of the “scapegoat” in Lev 16 shall be analysed as a particularly intricate and paradoxical example (Contra Galilaeos [fr. 70 Masaracchia] and Contra Iulianum 9 [957B-969A] respectively). Whereas Julian, in his effort to highlight congruencies between Jewish und pagan cult practice, advocates a literal meaning of the scapegoat ritual, Cyril considers adequate only a figurative reading referring to Christ, since the passage otherwise would be in conflict with the Bible’s ban on sacrificing to other gods. The Patriarch of Alexandria thinks to be able to recognise in the two goats two different aspects of Christ’s work of salvation: according to his interpretation, the slaughtered goat refers to the passion of Jesus, whereas the “scapegoat” sent into the desert points to Christ’s resurrection, through which mankind has been delivered from death.

The fact that Cyril harshly rejects not only Julian’s pagan interpretation but also a di-prosopic, typological interpretation, sheds some light on the role this biblical passage must have played in the christological controversies of the 5th century C.E.

Published Online: 2013-05-31
Published in Print: 2012-12

© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.

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