An Introduction to the School of Alexandria

I was speaking with someone this morning about this ancient method of biblical interpretation, and found this website. Thought I might mass it along:

Long before the establishment of Christianity in Alexandria, the city was famous for its many schools. By far, the largest school was the “Museum,” which was founded by Ptolemy and became the most famous school in the East. In addition, there were the “Serapeum” and the “Sebastion.” Each of these three schools had its own huge library. Justo L. Gonzalez states that the Museum’s library, whose directors were among the most remarkable scholars of the world, grew to the point where it housed 700,000 volumes, making it an arsenal of knowledge that was astounding for its time. The Museum, as its name proclaims, was dedicated to the Muses, and was a sort of university in which the most distinguished writers, scientists, and philosophers gathered and worked. Largely because of these institutions, Alexandria soon became famous as a rich center of knowledge. Numerous Jewish schools were also scattered everywhere.

The geographical position of Alexandria gave a special flavor to the thought that developed in the city. This was all the more important because the intellectual work produced in Alexandria was precisely of the type for which the world was athirst. Egypt had been admired by the ancient Greeks, who saw in it a mysterious land, pregnant with hidden wisdom. Moreover, all the various doctrines emanating from the East converged in Alexandria where they formed an eclectic mass… Jews with their Scriptures were not the only ones who had come to Alexandria, but Babylonians had also come with their astrology, as well as Persians with their dualism, and many others with different and often confused religions.

In other words, Alexandria, the cosmopolitan city, was chosen as a home for learning, and a unique center of a brilliant intellectual life, where Egyptian, Greek and Jewish cultures together with eastern mystic thoughts were nourished and gave rise to a new civilization. Philip Schaff states,

Alexandria… was the metropolis of Egypt, the flourishing seat of commerce, of Grecian and Jewish learning, and of the greatest library of the ancient world, and was destined to become one of the great centers of Christianity, the rival of Antioch and Rome. There the religious life of Palestine and the intellectual culture of Greece commingled and prepared the way for the first school of theology which aimed at a philosophic comprehension and vindication of the truths of revelation.

Read the rest at the link above.

This would not be method of biblical interpretation of choice, preferring the Antiochian school of John Chrysostom, however, as my friend points out, it does hold certain benefits for certain modern methods.

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