An Early Christian Woman on Reason and Scripture Study

“Come,” [Sistelius] said, “and I too will say a word to you, which once I heard in Lycia – the piety of a woman who was well-versed in the Scriptures, and prudent, and who taught the things of the Lord wisely. What I heard I will declare to you all.

“For this hospitable and prudent woman, who always sought after understanding, used to say, ‘Someone who seeks the truth above all should not be afraid or disturbed by the heights of reason.

“‘But when someone supposes that he has descended into the depths, and into difficult reasonings, he gives up and, as it were, turns back halfway, and because he has not attained understanding he becomes slothful, and, as it says in the Gospels, leaves his tower half-built. Therefore it is well to be patient and undismayed. For the one who seeks the goodness of the Scriptures with patience will see more clearly.

“‘So also the prophet Elijah – after that spirit which rent the mountains and the rocks, and after the earthquake and after the fire, he then perceived the still small voice of that spirit – proceeding from one thing to the next until he came to the truth.

“‘So casting away darkness, and sanctified in soul, let us ascend from understanding to understanding as from step to step: that is, from the mountain wind (which is like unbelief); to searching the Scriptures, as if entering the earthquake; and thence to the fire, that is, the unquenchable fire of love; and being made capable by it, let us proceed to the attainment of greater things; until we reach the summit, that is, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.’

“And I wondered and said, ‘O wise woman, I marvel at your sagacity and serenity and reverence, and above all at your wisdom.’

“And she smiled and said, ‘As there are certain wise interpretations of Scripture, from these it is shown that one who studies the Scriptures should not be dismayed.’”

— From St. Methodius of Olympus, “On Leprosy.” Translated into English for the first time by Ralph Cleminson and Andrew Eastbourne, 2015. Edited and published by Roger Pearse.

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One response to “An Early Christian Woman on Reason and Scripture Study

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