Friday, April 10, 2015

ANF V: Novatian on the Meats I-III

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Novatian: On the Jewish Meats I-III


Whatever we ultimately conclude about either Novatian or the specific theology of this treatise, we can't deny that he simply drips with pastoral concern. He encourages the congregation to hold to the truth of Christ as found in Scripture, rather than being caught up in customs, superstitions, or other false beliefs imported from modern Judaism--which itself does not even know what its purer predecessor was about.

In these first three chapters, Novatian gives us a delightful little Biblical theology of food, walking through the development of God's plan for our palette. He begins with the tree of life, explains how sin led to first toil and cultivated grains, and then death and flesh. But then the law for the restraint of sin and the development of civilization and religion and the cultivation of worship of God divided flesh into "clean" and "unclean," not because of the inherent qualities of the animals themselves but because of the rational nature of man made in God's image.

Now, I do think Novatian's overall point is probably a good and accurate one. But I don't know that we need to join him in walking through the unclean animals and suggesting the vices they each represent that we are to avoid. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of fun to do that, but it's hardly good exegesis.
Thus in the animals, by the law, as it were, a certain mirror of human life is established, wherein men may consider the images of penalties; so that everything which is vicious in men, as committed against nature, may be the more condemned, when even those things, although naturally ordained in brutes, are in them blamed.
Still, these chapters are fun, so don't skip them!

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