The Scriptures are the “ground and pillar of our faith,” says Irenaeus. If the Bible is dismembered to serve an exotic theological program and biblical texts are deployed willy-nilly (as the Gnostics did), the Scriptures will remain a closed book and it will not be possible “to find the truth in them.” Without a grasp of the plot that holds everything together, the Bible is as vacuous as a mosaic in which the tiles have been arbitrarily rearranged without reference to the original design or as a poem constructed by stringing together random verses from the Iliad and Odyssey and imagining it was Homer. In Clement of Alexandria the Bible’s plan is implicit, suggested by a word here, a phrase there; in Irenaeus the outline is set out in bold. So successful was Irenaeus’s approach to the interpretation of the Bible that it informed all later interpretation. Whether one reads Athanasius against Arius, Augustine against Pelagius, or Cyril of Alexandria against Nestorius, all assume that individual passages are to be read in the light of the story that gives meaning to the whole.
Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. Seeking the Face of God, 67-68.
This really is an extraordinarily good book, despite the fact that my reading of it has been terribly disrupted. The chapter on Scripture is particularly good. Highly recommended so far!