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Hesychius of Jerusalem

Method and Importance of his Exegetical Writings

Hesychius of Jerusalem : Method and Importance of his Exegetical Writings

Judging from the extant fragments, Hesychius must have been a very prolific writer on Biblical, particularly Old-Testament, exegetics. The notice in the Greek Menology under 28 March, in which mention is made of the exposition of the entire Scriptures, can refer to none other than Hesychius of Jerusalem. In hermeneutics he adheres closely to the allegorico-mystical method of the Alexandrines; he finds in every sentence of the Bible a mystery of dogma, and reads into texts of the Old Testament the whole complexus of ideas in the New. He follows Origen in choosing for the enunciative form of exegesis the shortest possible marginal gloss (paratheseis). His comment on Is., xix, 1, "the Lord will ascend upon a swift cloud, and will enter into Egypt" is "Christ in the arms of the Virgin". Water represents always to him "the mystical water" (of baptism), and bread, "the mystical table" (of the Eucharist). It is this hyper-allegorical and glossarial method which constitutes the peculiar characteristic of his exegesis, and proves a valuable help to the literary critic in distinguishing authentic Hesychiana from the unauthentic. The anti-Semitic tone of many scholia may find an explanation in local conditions; likewise geographical and topographical allusions to the holy places of Palestine would be expected of an exegete living at Jerusalem. The importance of Hesychius for textual criticism lies in the fact that many of his paraphrases echo the wording of his exemplar, and still more in his frequent citation of variants from other columns of the Hexapla or Tetrapla, particularly readings of Symmachus, whereby he has saved many precious texts. He is likewise of importance in Biblical stichometry. His "Capitula" (P.G., XCIII, 1345-86) and commentaries show the early Christian division into chapters of at least the Twelve Minor Prophets and Isaias, which corresponds to the inner sequence of ideas of the respective books far better than the modern division. In the case of certain separate books, Hesychius has inaugurated an original stichic division of the Sacred Text -- for the "citizen of the Holy City" (hagiopolites) cited in the oldest MSS. Of catenae of the Psalms, and the Canticles, is none other than Hesychius of Jerusalem. It has been discovered by Mercati that in some MSS. The initial letter of each division according to Hesychius is indicated in colour. Hesychius must have been generally known as an authority, for he is quoted simply as Hagiopolites, or, elsewhere, by the equally laconic expression "him of Jerusalem" (tou Hierosolymon).