Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In this dissertation I argue that Cyril of Alexandria's interpretation of "spiritual circumcision" provides invaluable insight into his complex doctrine of salvation. Spiritual Circumcision - or Circumcision by the Spirit -- is a recurring theme throughout his extensive body of exegetical literature, which was written before the Nestorian controversy (428). When Cyril considers the meaning and scope of circumcision, he recognizes it as a type that can describe a range of salvific effects. For him, circumcision functions as a unifying concept that ties together various aspects of salvation such as purification, sanctification, participation, and freedom. Soteriology, however, can only be understood in relation to other doctrines. Thus, Cyril's discussions of circumcision often include correlative areas of theology such as hamartiology and Trinitarian thought. In this way, Cyril's discussions on circumcision convey what we are saved from, as well as the Trinitarian agency of our salvation.
Cyril's typological interpretation of circumcision also sheds light upon his biblical exegesis. In this study I demonstrate that what Cyril does with circumcision substantiates the thesis that his Scriptural interpretation was shaped, in part, by his relationship with Judaism. Throughout his biblical commentaries, Cyril goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Jewish theology and practice is founded upon the "types and shadows" of the Old Testament instead of the spiritual realities that are fulfilled in Christ and to which they point. A number of scholars have recognized this significant feature of Cyril's exegesis, and have explored the various "type-reality" relationships present in Cyril's writings. However, very little attention has been given to the way Cyril's typological exegesis of circumcision in particular clarifies this aspect of his biblical interpretation. Therefore, my aim is to demonstrate that Cyril's understanding of true circumcision functions in his exegetical literature as a spiritual symbol that unites his multi-faceted soteriology, and to further strengthen the thesis that Cyril's treatment of circumcision underscores his "type-reality" hermeneutic.