Age of Exiles

According to Pamela Bright ( The Book of Rules of Tyconius: Its Purpose and Inner Logic) , the late fourth century was the “Age of Exiles” in the Western church. The Council of Milan (355), convene to deal with the question of Athanasius’s orthodoxy, ended with the exile of the Nicene party, including Hilary of Poitiers, Dionysius of Milan, Eusebius of Vercelli, and Luciver of Cagliari. The Arian George of Cappadocia took the see of Alexandria, and Athanasius was sent off for his third exile. It was the first real wrestling that the Western church had had with Arian theology.

The Western exiles went East, and they made the most of their exile: “Hilary and Eusebius plunged into the study of the Eastern writers. Eusebius translated the Commentary on the Psalms of Eusebius of Caesarea, while Hilary read the works of Origen [which he probably already knew to some degree], studies Arianism at close quarters, and produced his great work On the Trinity .” As a result of the exile and the “cross-fertilization of Greek and Latin thought,” Western intellectual life was “transformed.” By the 370s, Ambrose was in Milan, and “Jerome and Rufinus were embarking on their first works of Latin translations of the Greek Fathers.”

Not least it was transformed in hermeneutics. Bright’s intention in sketching this history is to find sources for the hermeneutical system of Tyconius. Hilary was the first Latin writer to write a commentary on a gospel, and Tyconius was the first to write a commentary in Africa (on the Apocalypse). The “spiritualizing” tendencies found in Ambrose and Tyconius, she suggests, are in part the product of this influence from Eastern Christianity. And that suggests the possibility that the Age of Exiles shaped Western theology in decisive ways: From the exiles through Ambrose and Tyconius to Augustine.

Not unlike the way some later Genevan exiles from Britain later remade English and Scottish Christianity.

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