Typically, the view of Alexandrian and Antiochian hermeneutics has been one of dichotomy: Alexandrians were allegorical, and Antiochians were literal-historical. However, Patristic scholars have been arguing for at least sixty years that this is far too simplistic and that, whilst there were some differences, the two schools had much in common, if indeed two schools existed at all.
This essay focuses on Gregory of Nyssa (ca 335-384), associated with the Alexandrian school, and John Chrysostom (350-407), associated with Antioch, and considers how their Homilies on the Beatitudes might reflect the two schools. There is more to contemplate than just how literal or allegorical they were; as Florivsky encourages, we will try to enter into their mindset (phronema) and experience of faith (vioma) because I agree with Jasper that ‘the way in which we read and interpret is dependent on how we see the world and our place in it’ as individuals and not because we are members of a ‘school’.
We will look at the following: the basis of their hermeneutic, the purpose of it, their method, their theology and their style. I will argue that whilst there are some differences in hermeneutical approach, it is actually the style of their homilies which differentiates them most strongly, and that these fathers have more in common than not.
The Basis of Hermeneutics
- Apostolic Tradition and the Rule of Faith
Firstly, let us look at the basis for patristic hermeneutics. Irenaeus (ca135-200) established that it should be based on apostolic tradition and the rule of faith, and Chrysostom and Gregory would both agree on this. Chrysostom was concerned ‘to hear apostolic voices’ and refers to Paul and Timothy. Gregory also often cites Paul and refers to him as ‘the sublime thinker’. Both were staunch supporters of the Nicene faith.
- The Unity of Scripture
Irenaeus also established that the Jewish scriptures, and the stories of Christ and the Church, are ‘a single narrative with an over-arching plot’. Again, both fathers would agree on this and that the ‘mystery of the saviour’ was in the Old Testament, although Alexandrians were perhaps prone to see Christ on every page of the Old Testament, whereas the Antiochians would be more cautious, and be concerned with tracing the prophecies of Christ. In these homilies, both Chrysostom and Gregory frequently link their points to scriptures from both testaments.
 Frances Young, “The 'Mind' of Scripture: Theological Readings of the Bible in the Fathers,” IJST 17 (2005): 126 - 140, p. 129.
 Anthony C. Thistleton, Hermemeutics: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans, 2009), 112.
 John Chrysostom, "Homily 15 on Matthew ." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series. Vol. 10. Translated by George Prevost. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888. Accessed through http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200115.htm (accessed 16/10/14).
 Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Beatitudes. An English Version with Commentary and Supporting Studies. Proceedings of the Eighth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa, Paderborn, 14 - 18 September 1998. (ed. Hubertus R. Drobner; Boston: Brill, 2000), 66.
 Stylianopoulos, “Comments on Chrysostom,” GOTR, 80.
 Young, “The 'Mind' of Scripture,” IJST , 129.
 Hieromonk Patapios, “The Alexandrian and the Antiochene Methods of Exegesis: Towards a reconsideration,” GOTR 44 (1999): 187 - 191, pp.187 - 8 and Guillet quoted in Fairburn, “Patristic Exegesis,” WTJ, 8.
 Donald Fairburn, “Patristic Exegesis and Theology: the cart and the horse,” WTJ 69 (2007), 8.
 David Jasper, A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 39.
 Gerorges Florivsky quoted in Theodore Stylianopoulos, “Comments on Chrysostom, Patrisitc Interpretation and Contemporary Biblical Scholarship,” GOTR 54 (2009): 189-204, p. 192.