‘The earliest Latin interpretation of the Gospels has been brought to light by a British academic – and it suggests that readers should not take the Bible literally.
Lost for 1,500 years, the fourth-century commentary by African-born Italian bishop Fortunatianus of Aquileia interprets the Gospels as a series of allegories instead of a literal history.
Dr Hugh Houghton, of the University of Birmingham, who translated the work, said it was an approach which modern Christians could learn from.
The find adds weight to the idea that many early biblical scholars did not see the Bible as a history, but instead a series of coded messages which represented key elements of Christianity, he said.
“There’s been an assumption that it’s a literal record of truth – a lot of the early scholars got very worried about inconsistencies between Matthew and Luke, for example.
“But for people teaching the Bible in the fourth century, it’s not the literal meaning which is important, it’s how it’s read allegorically.’