St Lucian of Antioch

Martyr (entered heaven in 212)

Dear Luke,

I can understand why your Scripture class is confusing.  It seems your professor is a remnant of the historical-critical school so dominant last century.  Unfortunately, as in all intellectual trends, that one spawned some exaggerated progeny who began taking historical-critical method as an END and not as a MEANS.  The method is useful for helping us understand as fully as possible the literal meaning of particular texts and terms.  That is the essential first step for understanding Scripture.  But when a fascination with this method of scholarly reflection leads the scholars down the slippery slope of RECONSTRUCTING the canonical texts in accordance with their own limited and prejudiced ideas, it has gone too far.  I think today’s saint can help you make the distinction.

He was the son of wealthy parents, but when they died, he gave away his possessions and gave himself up to a life of study – rhetoric, philosophy, and theology (Scripture).  He was ordained a priest in Antioch in Syria and continued his intellectual pursuits by founding a catechetical and theological school there.  It became the second major Christian theological center, Alexandria in Egypt being the first.  But the Alessandrians tended to hoist elaborate (and often exaggerated) allegorical interpretations on Scripture, sometimes even compromising the original meanings.  Lucian hoped to correct this error by basing all theological reflection on the literal meaning of the text – taking that for the “parameters” of interpretation.  Thus he dedicated himself to a minute study of accurate redactions and copies and translations, producing one of the most important early versions of the Bible, the Lucian Recension.  Of course, that intellectual trend also spawned its own exaggerations – including the devastating Arian heresy (Arius was one of Lucian’s students).  Nevertheless, together the great schools of Antioch and Alexandria pumped holy and learned Christians into the Church for centuries, each benefiting from the complementary approach adopted by the other.

And that’s my point.  You need to keep balanced in your study of Scripture.  And you do that by submitting all your scholarship to the authentic interpretation of Scripture and doctrine offered by the Holy Spirit through the Church’s Magisterium.  As long as you’re not butting heads with the Church, you can be sure you are on the path of truth.  And if you stay on that path, you may even reach the heights of sanctity, as St Lucian did.  Eventually, he was arrested and imprisoned (for nine years) during the last of the Roman persecutions.  After that time he was brought forth for a second trial.  He stayed faithful.  They threw him back in the dungeons, depriving him of food and water for 14 days.  Back into the courtroom, weakened and on death’s door, he answered every question with a simple but noble: “I am a Christian.”  Finally, they executed him by the sword, and he went to his eternal reward.

“I am a Christian.”  It seems a simple phrase for such an intellectual giant.  That should give you a little food for thought, my dear scholarly nephew.

Your loving uncle,


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