The Liber Regularum, written by Tyconius in the Fourth Century A.D., was the first system of biblical interpretation proposed by a Latin theologian. Although Augustine’s summation of the work, included in his De doctrina christiana, insured the preservation of the work and its lasting fame, Augustine’s summation became better known than the original.
Pamela Bright’s The Book of Rules of Tyconius reintroduces this neglected classic of early church literature. Bright asserts that although Augustine was greatly influenced by the Liber Regularum, his philosophical differences caused him to misunderstand its meaning. Bright reexamines the meaning of “prophecy” and “rule” from Tyconius’s perspective and reveals that the purpose of the book was not to provide a general guide to scriptural interpretation, but rather a way to interpret apocalyptic texts. She cites Tyconius’s intense concern with evil in the church as the genesis of his interest in the apocalypse and, subsequently, the meaning of the scripture concerning it. Tyconius speaks of the “seven mystical rules” of scripture that with the grace of the Holy Spirit reveal the true meaning of prophecy. If an interpreter follows the “logic” of these rules, the nature of the church as composed by both good and evil membership is revealed.
“Bright displays the chiastic structure of the rules as the clue to deciphering [Tyconius’s] interpretative theory. . . . She interprets the Rules as an extended typological interpretation of the Bible revealing the ‘mystery of inquiry’ at work in the church and calling sinners to repentance. . . . [Bright] proposes a next step in elucidating the rules [by] suggesting that an examination of the fragments of Tyconius’s Apocalypse Commentary would illuminate the remaining problems. It is in this close textual work and in marking out the path for future study that Bright’s work is most valuable. . . . [Her] work is an enticing invitation to the reading of Tyconius for his own sake.” — Journal of Religion
“. . . While lamenting the fact that the world knows the Liber regularum Tyconii primarily through Augustine’s biased comments in De doctrina christiana and other interpreters, Bright attempts to set the record straight by allowing Tyconius to stand on his own. Even though generations of scholars have considered the Book of Rules confusing and disordered, Bright advances and successfully defends the novel hypothesis that Tyconius’s Book of Rules does have an organization and plan, which manifests an inherent logic and order.” — The Catholic Historical Review
“[Bright] . . . puts Tyconius in the context of his own time and carefully describes his seven rules of scriptural interpretation, clearly analyzing and affirming their unity. . . . Bright lets Tyconius be Tyconius, a man clearly intent on orienting his biblical hermeneutics to his pastoral situation. His exegetical method is not the method of our times, which is the result of nineteen hundred years of exploring and explaining the scriptures. But his overall conviction that the scriptures derive from the Holy Spirit has a relevance for all seasons, maybe particularly today when biblical criticism has been coming under attack for its seeming lack of spiritual nourishment.” — Patristics