Archive for October, 2010

An Aside to the Formal Sufficiency Series – Partim-Partim Sufficiency?

October 30, 2010

Pastor King brought to my attention the writings of my favorite Reformed theologian, the real Francis Turretin, on the topic of formal sufficiency. Well, the topic that comes the closest to that particular issue, since – of course – Turretin does not use the phrase “formal sufficiency.”

Turretin poses the sixteenth question of the second topic this way:

Do the Scriptures so perfectly contain all things necessary to salvation that there is no need of unwritten (agraphois) traditions after it? We affirm against the papists.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), II.xvi, p. 134.

This section of Turretin deals with what he calls the “perfection” of Scripture, which is closely tied to the issue perspicuity. He addresses perspicuity in the seventeenth question, thus:

Are the Scriptures so perspicuous in things necessary to salvation that they can be understood by believers without the external help of oral (agraphou) tradition or ecclesiastical authority? We affirm against the papists.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), II.xvii, p. 134.

Notice the careful wording of both questions. Turretin is not saying that there is no place for other aids. For example, in the 6th point under the 17th question, Turretin states:

The question does not concern the perspicuity which does not exclude the means necessary for interpretation (i.e., the internal light of the Spirit, attention of mind, the voice and ministry of the church, sermons and commentaries, prayer and watchfulness). For we hold these means not only to be useful, but also necessary ordinarily. We only wish to proscribe the darkness which would prevent the people from reading the Scriptures as hurtful and perilous and compel them to have recourse to tradition when they might rest in the Scriptures alone.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), II.xvii.vi, p. 144.

In the course of his discussion, however, Turretin pointed out some Roman counter-positions:

In order to clear themselves of the charge of attributing insufficiency to the Scriptures in this way, some of them distinguish between explicit and an implicit sufficiency (as Stapleton and Serarius) or mediate and an immediate (as Perronius). And they confess that the Scripture is not indeed sufficient immediately and explicitly, but yet it can be called so mediately and implicitly because it refers to the church and to tradition what is not contained in itself.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), II.xvi.xi, p. 136.

In my view (though I do not claim to speak for Pastor King here), Turretin is here dealing with a kind of partim-partim sufficiency view. In other words, at least some of the Roman opponents of Turretin were saying that Scripture’s sufficiency came through pointing readers to the church and tradition. That particular sense of sufficiency isn’t quite the same as Yves Congar’s material sufficiency, but it’s also certainly not the Reformed view.

Turretin provided an excellent response to this partim-partim sufficiency view:

A false distinction is made by Perronius between mediate and immediate sufficiency, so that the Scriptures may be called sufficient not in the second but in the first sense because they refer us to the church to supply their defects. This would imply a true insufficiency in the Scriptures, for by appealing to the church as having that sufficiency, it would declare its own insufficiency. (2) Then the law might be called perfect for salvation because it refers us to Christ in whom is salvation. (3) The Scriptures do not refer us to the church that she may propose new doctrines, but explain and apply the truths already contained in them. Nor ought the reply to be made here that we hold mediate sufficiency when we maintain that the Scriptures (if not expressly, at least by consequence) contain all things necessary to salvation. When the Scriptures teach anything by consequence, they do not refer us to another for instruction, but give forth from themselves what was virtually latent. Nor can the simile adduced by Perronius of credential letters (literarum credentiae, which are called sufficient although they do not contain all the instructions given to the ambassador) apply here. The Scriptures are not only a credential letter, but also the edict of a king, containing so fully all the things to be believed and done that nothing can be added.

The perfection of Scripture asserted by us does not exclude either the ecclesiastical ministry (established by God for the setting forth and application of the word) or the internal power of the Holy Spirit necessary for conversion. It only excludes the necessity of another rule for external direction added to the Scriptures to make them perfect. A rule is not therefore imperfect because it requires the hand of the architect for its application.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), II.xvi.xxvii-xxviii, pp. 140-141.

Rome has not definitely answered the martial sufficiency vs. the partim-partim view, although seemingly virtually all the Tridentine fathers held to a partim-partim view and virtually all modern Roman apologists hold to a material sufficiency view.

– TurretinFan

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Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: The Testimony of Scripture (Guest Series)

October 29, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

In the introduction (link), we began with some of the testimony of Scripture regarding its own sufficiency. In this section, although our Roman challenger has not requested it, we will discuss what the Bible has to say about its own sufficiency. Formal sufficiency, as understood by the Reformed churches and set forth in the introduction, is an attribute of Holy Scripture that it predicates of itself:

Deuteronomy 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.

2 Corinthians 1:13 For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;

God’s word is written for the investigation of all:

John 5:39 (NKJV) “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

God’s inscripturated word is written for the explicit purpose of communicating faith, endurance, hope, consolation, teaching, and to keep us from deception, and that we may persevere…

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1 John 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

And we are encouraged to pray to God to lead us to the truth and light:

Psalm 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

That light is God’s word:

Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

And the Spirit illuminates us not only by shining the light of His Word on us, but also by opening our eyes to see it:

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Ephesians 1:15-18
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints …

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Psalm 146:8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

Isaiah 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

As hinted at in those last few verses, this inward illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary, because men have become blind:

2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

From these passages, we can see that the purpose of Scripture is that it be read and understood, and we can see that although a full and saving understanding of Scriptures may elude fallen men who wander about in blindness, with the Spirit’s healing of that blindness, the light of Scripture can illuminate men, making wise unto salvation even those who are intellectually unsophisticated. We also see that men are exhorted and encouraged to resort to the Scriptures to judge teachers.

(to be continued)

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Introduction (Guest Series)

October 28, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

The Scriptures are the Word of God. Their purpose, among other things, is to bring people who read them to a saving knowledge of God – to bring them to faith in God and repentance from sin.

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

They accomplish this purpose, as it is written:

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Scripture, the fathers, and the Reformers all agree that the Scriptures are able to thoroughly furnish the man of God:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Indeed, the Scriptures themselves illuminate the reader:

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

And the Scriptures are capable of educating even those who lack mental sophistication:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

This sufficiency of Scripture is hard to deny. Nevertheless, those who follow Rome sometimes try to affirm what they term “material sufficiency,” while denying what they call “formal sufficiency.”

These terms, as such, are not terms that are especially ancient. For example, one does not find a theologian like Thornwell, Dabney, or even Hodge talking about the “formal sufficiency of Scripture.” That’s just not the way they expressed themselves.

Whether the exact expression “formal sufficiency” is an invention of Roman theologians is hard to say for sure. Nevertheless, one influential theologian that brought in the term to distinguish the Roman position from the reformed position was the Roman cardinal Yves Congar.

Congar explained what he meant this way:

Personally, I find no difficulty, and not a little joy, in discovering there the positive affirmation that Scripture contains, at least in the form of suggestion or principle, the entire treasury of truths which it is necessary to believe in order to be saved (provided there is an adequate presentation of the Gospel message).

To say that, in the sense in which the Fathers and the medieval theologians held it, does not in any way amount to a profession of the principle of Scriptura sola demanded by the Reformers. They were reacting against a sovereignty of the Church’s power, more precisely of the papal power, over the word of God contained in Scripture, a sovereignty which they considered exorbitant, as indeed it would have been if in fact it had corresponded to the image they had formulated of it. It was with the intention of restoring the sovereignty of God alone that they presented that of Scripture as exclusive. In order to do this effectively, they affirmed the sufficiency of this Scripture, not uniquely in a material sense, that is to say as the object quod creditur, but in a formal sense, that is to say as the means whereby we know, the constitutive light by which we understand, the principle of the rule of faith, in short, using scholastic terminology, as the object quo. Not only was the whole of faith contained in Scripture, but the Christian, benefiting from the interior witness of the Holy Spirit, could find it there.

Yves M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (London: Burns & Oats, 1966), pp. 116-117.(bold emphasis added).

In another place Congar provides a similar definition:

The doctrine that has just been presented is that of all the Fathers of the Catholic tradition, as much in the East as the West. It denied in the Protestant theory of the sufficiency of Scripture, expounded systematically in the Protestant Orthodoxy of the beginning of the seventeenth century. According to this theory, Scripture possesses by itself and in itself, that is, without needing the addition of any other principle, the qualities of a real sacrament of salvation, or rather of saving faith. It possesses authority, making it recognized and developing it unaided; it possesses efficacy, being the principle—and for some the sole—means of Grace; it contains all that is necessary for the Christian; it is clear, explaining itself without help and needing nothing besides itself to make known God’s thoughts.

Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1964), pp. 87-88. (bold emphasis added)

While we may disagree with Congar’s view of the fathers, and while we may feel that some further distinctions and explanations are necessary to help explain the difference between the Reformed and Roman positions, Congar’s position provides a helpful illustration of the contemporary Roman position – and its view of the Reformed position.

Yves Congar was a cardinal, but Sean Patrick is a layman of the same church. Sean recently challenged Pastor King to discuss the fathers and sola scriptura, particularly the issue of whether any church fathers held to the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Sean worded his challenge this way:

Not one father taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. Full stop. If you disagree here is your chance. Tell me which fathers taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. … By the way, can you name one church history scholar . . . who conclude[s] that any father taught that scripture was formally sufficient?

(source)

Subsequently, while waiting for this challenge to be met, Sean posted a blog article of his own. In his blog article, Sean wrote:

… for scripture to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all that is needed for salvation, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it (e.g. the church is not needed to interpret scripture.)

(source)

You may notice that in the comments above, we had observed that Cardinal Congar’s view might need a little refinement – Sean’s needs a lot of careful qualification. It’s not so much that he’s headed in the completely wrong direction, but his statement “the church is not needed to interpret scripture” is sufficiently vague that it can be easily misunderstood.

There is always a concern in this sort of challenge that the Roman advocate will define the meaning of material and formal sufficiency from his own perspective, and in doing so will essentially be asking us to advocate something we don’t actually advocate. Now, to be sure, scholars can and do often differ, but the challenge is simply to name one father and one church history scholar. Nevertheless, he may move the target of “one” by either dismissing all of the ensuing witnesses, and/or insisting on more (i.e., others) in addition to these which we shall list.

In the same comment box with the challenge Sean also provided his definition:

Formal Sufficiency and Material Sufficiency:

For Scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain or imply all that is needed for salvation. For it to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all of this data, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it.

Now please tell me which fathers taught that scripture was formally sufficient.

(source)

Of course, we do not let others decide for us what we mean when we affirm that Holy Scripture is formally sufficient. It is important to understand what the Reformed mean and thus believe with respect to the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We define formal sufficiency in the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

(From Chapter 1 of the WCF)

Thus, we differ from Sean’s assertion regarding the meaning of formal sufficiency, because he fails to include in his definition the necessity of the work of the Spirit of God, apart from which no man is ever converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is presupposed by all members of the early church *who* affirm the principle of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture with respect to those things necessary for the salvation of men. We should note, however, that Congar – at least sometimes – is more careful.

The formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture, as set forth by the Westminster Confession (although the Westminster confession does not use the expression “formal sufficiency”), defines it in the context of the need for “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God,” that “all things necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word,” that “a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them, and that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. The 17th century Reformed theologian, Francis Turretin, explains further how the concept of formal sufficiency (the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity) is to be understood…

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

As to the state of the question, observe: (1) The question does not concern the perspicuity or the obscurity of the subject or of persons. For we do not deny that the Scriptures are obscure to unbelievers and the unrenewed, to whom Paul says his gospel is hid (2 Cor. 4:3). Also we hold that the Spirit of illumination is necessary to make them intelligible to believers. Rather the question concerns the obscurity or perspicuity of the object or of the Scriptures (i.e., whether they are so obscure that the believer cannot apprehend them for salvation without the authority and judgment of the church—which we deny).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.ii, p. 143.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question is not whether things essential to salvation are everywhere in the Scriptures perspicuously revealed. We acknowledge that there are some things hard to be understood (δυσνόητα) and intended by God to exercise our attention and mental powers. The question is whether things essential to salvation are anywhere revealed, at least so that the believer can by close meditation ascertain their truth (because nothing can be drawn out of the more obscure passages which may not be found elsewhere in the plainest terms).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.v, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question does not concern the perspicuity which does not exclude the means necessary for interpretation (i.e., the internal light of the Spirit, attention of mind, the voice and ministry of the church, sermons and commentaries, prayer and watchfulness). For we hold these means not only to be useful, but also necessary ordinarily. We only wish to proscribe the darkness which would prevent the people from reading the Scriptures as hurtful and perilous and compel them to have recourse to tradition when they might rest in the Scriptures alone.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vi, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question then comes to this—whether the Scriptures are so plain in things essential to salvation (not as to the things delivered, but as to the mode of delivery; not as to the subject, but the object) that without the external aid of tradition or the infallible judgment of the church, they may be read and understood profitably by believers. The papists deny this; we affirm it.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vii, p. 144.

Bauckham offers the following summary.

Richard Bauckham:

The notion of the formal sufficiency of Scripture does not, of course, mean that Scripture requires no interpretation at all—a notion which anti-Protestant writers have frequently and easily refuted, thus missing the real point—but that it requires no normative interpretation. Protestant interpretation of Scripture employed all the ordinary means of interpreting a text, especially the tools which humanist scholarship had developed for interpreting ancient texts, and respected the views of theologians and exegetes of the past as useful, but not normative, guides to understanding Scripture. The real difference between the classic Protestant and the classic Roman Catholic views lies in the Protestant rejection of the view that tradition, expressed in the teaching of the magisterium, possesses a binding authority against which there can be no appeal to Scripture. Behind this difference lies, on the one hand, the Reformation’s originating experience of a rediscovery of the Gospel in Scripture apart from and in contradiction to the teaching of the contemporary church, and, on the other hand, the Roman Catholic trust in God’s promise to maintain his church in the truth.

See Richard Bauckham’s chapter, “Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason,” in Benjamin Drewery and Richard J. Bauckham, eds., Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, A Study in the Criteria of Christian Doctrine, Essays in Honour of Richard P. C. Hanson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), p. 123.

Or as Bavinck has expressed it…

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921):

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture has frequently been misunderstood and misrepresented, both by Protestants and Catholics. It does not mean that the matters and subjects with which Scripture deals are not mysteries that far exceed the reach of the human intellect. Nor does it assert that Scripture is clear in all its parts, so that no scientific exegesis is needed, or that, also in its doctrine of salvation, Scripture is plain and clear to every person without distinction. It means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such simple and intelligible form that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation. While that reader may not understand the “how” (πῶς) of it, the “that” (ὅτι) is clear.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Prolegomena (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 477.

We may also add that the Westminster Confession of Faith is not the only Reformed confession to make this kind of claim. The Belgic Confession states:

Article 5: The Authority of Scripture

We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.

And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them– not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture

We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says– ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,” and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”

Article 30: The Government of the Church

We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word. There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.

By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.

By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.

Perhaps the great theologian John Owen sums it up well:

Protestants suppose the Scripture to be given forth by God, to be unto the church a perfect rule of that faith and obedience, which he requires at the hands of the sons of men. They suppose that it is such a revelation of his mind or will, as is intelligible unto all them that are concerned to know it, if they use the means by him appointed to come unto a right understanding of it. They suppose that what is not taught therein, or not taught so clearly, as that men who humbly and heartily seek unto him, may know his mind therein, as to what he requireth of them, cannot possibly be the necessary and indispensable duty of any one to perform. They suppose that it is the duty of every man to search the Scriptures with all diligence, by the help and assistance of the means that God hath appointed in his church, to come to the knowledge of his mind and will in all things concerning their faith and obedience, and firmly to believe and adhere unto what they find revealed by him. And they moreover suppose that those who deny any of these suppositions, are therein, and so far as they do so, injurious to the grace, wisdom, love, and care of God towards his church, to the honour and perfection of the Scripture, the comfort and establishment of the souls of men, leaving them no assured principles to build their faith and salvation upon.

Now from these suppositions, I hope you see that it will unavoidably follow, that the Scripture is able every way to effect that, which you deny unto it a sufficiency for. For where, I pray you, lies its defect? I am afraid, from the next part of your question, ‘Has it ever done it?’ that you run upon a great mistake. The defect that follows the failings and miscarriages of men, you would have imputed unto the want of sufficiency in the Scripture. But we cannot allow you herein.

The Scripture in its place, and in that kind of cause which it is, is as sufficient to settle men, all men, in the truth, as the sun is to give light to all men to see by: but the sun that giveth light doth not give eyes also. The Scripture doth its work, as a moral rule, which men are not necessitated or compelled to attend unto or follow. And if through their neglect of it, or not attendance unto it, or disability to discern the mind and will of God in it, whether proceeding from their natural impotency and blindness in their lapsed condition, or some evil habit of mind contracted by their giving admission unto corrupt prejudices and traditional principles, the work be not effected; this is no impeachment of the Scripture’s sufficiency, but a manifestation of their weakness and folly.

Besides, all that unity in faith that hath been at any time, or is in the world, according to the mind of God, every decision that hath been made at any time of any difference in or about religion in a right way and order, hath been by the Scripture, which God hath sanctified unto those ends and purposes. And it is impossible that the miscarriages or defects of men can reflect the least blame upon it, or make it esteemed insufficient for the end now inquired after. The pursuit then of your inquiry which now you insist upon, is in part vain, in part already answered.

In vain it is that you inquire ‘whether the written word can settle any man in a way that neither himself, nor present adherents, nor future generations shall question:’ for our inquiry is not after what may be, or what shall be, but what ought to be. It is able to settle a man in a way, that none ought to question unto the world’s end: so it settled the first Christians. But to secure is that none shall ever question the way whereinto it leads us; that it is not designed for, nor is it either needful or possible that it should be so: the oral preaching of the Son of God, and of his apostles, did not so secure them whom they taught.

The way that they professed, was everywhere questioned, contradicted, spoken against, and many, after the profession of it, again renounced it: and I wonder what feat you have to settle any one in a way that shall never be questioned. The authority of your pope and church will not do it: themselves are things as highly questioned and disputed about, as any thing that was ever named with reference unto religion.

If you shall say, But yet they ought not to be so questioned, and it is the fault of men that they are so: you may well spare me the labour of answering your question, seeing you have done it yourself.

And whereas you add, ‘or with as much probability dissent from it either totally or in part, as himself first set it,’ when the very preceding words do not speak of a man’s own setting, but of the Scriptures settling, the man only embracing that what settleth and determineth. It is answered already; that what is so settled by the Scripture, and received as settled, cannot justly be questioned by any.

And you insinuate a most irrational supposition, on which your assertion is built, namely, that error may have as much probability as truth. For I suppose you will grant, that what is settled by the Scripture is true, and therefore that which dissents from it must needs be an error; which, that it may be as probable indeed as truth (for we speak not of appearances, which have all their strength from our weaknesses), is a new notion, which may well be added to “your many other of the like rarity and evidence.

But, why is not the Scripture able to settle men in unquestionable truth? When the people of old doubted about the ways of God wherein they ought to walk, himself sends them to the law and to the testimony for their instruction and settlement; Isa. viii. 20. And we think the council of him, who cannot deceive nor be deceived, is to be hearkened unto, as well as his command to be obeyed. Our Saviour assures us, that if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, and take direction from them for those ways wherein they may please God, they will not do whatsoever they pretend from any other means, which rather approve of; Lukexvi. 29.31.

Yea, and when the great fundamental of Christian religion, concerning the person of the Messiah, was in question, he sends men for their settlement unto the Scriptures; John v. 39. And we suppose that that which is sufficient to settle us in the foundation, is so, to confirm us also in the whole superstructure. Especially considering that it is able ‘ to make the man of God perfect, and to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works ;’ 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.

What more is required unto the settlement of any one in religion we know not; nor what can rationally stand in competition with the Scripture to this purpose; seeing that is expressly commended unto us for it by the Holy Ghost, other ways are built on the conjectures of men. Yea, the assurance which we may have hereby is preferred by Peter, before that which any may have by an immediate voice from heaven; 2 Pet. i. 19.

And is it not an unreasonable thing, now for you to come and tell us, that the Scripture is not sufficient to give us an unquestionable settlement in religion? Whether it be meet to ‘hearken unto God or men,’ judge you.

For our parts, we seek not for the foundation of our settlement, in long uncertain discourses, dubious conclusions and inferences, fallible conjectures, sophistical reasonings, such as you would call us unto; but in the express direction and command of God. Him we can follow, and trust unto, without the least fear of miscarriage. Whither you would lead us we know not, and are not willing to make desperate experiments in things of so high concernment.

John Owen, Works, Volume 18, A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux, Chapter VI

(to be continued)

Note: David King is the prime mover and shaker on this series, but I (TurretinFan) have done a significant amount of editing. So, please blame me for any errors that have crept in, while giving credit to Pastor King for the hard work that went into it.

Excommunicating Apostates

October 27, 2010

Over at the Roman Catholic Called to Communion blog (home to a number of apostate “Reformed” folks), the topic of excommunication came up. Apparently, one of the folks there (Christopher Lake) who wants to leave his church for Rome has been receiving at least the threat of godly discipline (link to comment).

I am glad to hear that at least one church seems to be taking discipline in this area seriously, but what was sad and surprising was that in a number of other cases, the apostates are reporting that although they were threatened with discipline, nothing ever came of it.

Possibly they think that nothing ever came of it, when in fact they were informally excommunicated using an erasure mechanism. But is that kind of informal procedure really enough to warn these apostates of their spiritual danger?

My question for elders whose sheep have left the visible church to be joined with Rome: have you fulfilled your spiritual obligation toward them by duly excommunicating them and informing them of the dreadful spiritual consequences of excommunication? Or have you neglected your duties?

There’s no need, of course, for there to be answers here – though I would be interested in thoughts that my Reformed brethren have to share. While apostasy is obviously the fault of the apostate, if Reformed shepherds are really doing only a halfhearted effort at applying discipline they too are to blame for not having diligently warned their flock.

I applaud Mr. Lake’s session for emphasizing the seriousness of his departure from the gospel. I am sorry to see in the comment box that it appears that some “non-denominational” church has been more willing to exercise godly discipline than (according to the reports provided) various PCA churches have been.

One final question: what more can we do to help apostates understand that their move to Rome is not like getting traded from the Mets to the Yankees, it’s like defecting from America to North Korea – that it’s leaving the gospel of Christ for service to antichrist – that it is evidence that they were not of us else they would not have gone out from us, and consequently that they are in need of repentance and in danger of hell fire?

-TurretinFan

Squid Lighting System – Clearly Designed

October 25, 2010

I don’t support the group that put on this presentation, and their purpose is not to show intelligent design of biological systems. Nevertheless, the following video provides some interesting insights. The video is mostly about the communication that bacteria use to communicate both within and among species of bacteria. The video also explains, however, a very special system in a certain variety of squid that relies on bacteria to help the squid operate in a sort of stealth mode. It is really quite fascinating:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

It seems self-evident to me that the squid and the bacteria are designed, not simply the result of chance. I realize that people will disagree, but I don’t think it’s because the evidence is not clear enough.

– TurretinFan

Hat tip to Dr. James White for bringing this to my attention.

Papal Infallibility Debate with William Albrecht

October 23, 2010

This past week I debated Mr. William Albrecht (Roman Catholic) on the subject of Papal Infallibility. The specific question was whether Vatican I was correct regarding papal infallibility. Naturally, I answered the question in the negative. Here’s the video.

http://www.youtube.com/p/F434D340E8B6E7A1?hl=en_US&fs=1

(link to mp3)

– TurretinFan

Who Cares about Historical Theology?

October 20, 2010

Jason Stellman has posted an article in which he says:

It seems to me that all this effort on the part of Catholics to prove that the fathers are on their team, and (especially) all the effort on the part of Protestants to demolish these claims, is beside the point and can be a distraction from the real issue, which is what the Bible actually teaches.

(link to article)

While I agree that what the Scriptures have to say about any subject is infinitely more important than what the fathers, or Calvin, or anyone else had to say about the subject, there’s still importance in historical theology. Likewise, I agree that focus on what the fathers taught can be a distraction from the real issue, namely what Scripture teaches.

On the other hand, the study of what the fathers and the Reformers and others taught can be important. It can be important for several reasons.

1. One way to help Roman Catholics see that they are following a church that is lying to them is to expose Roman Catholics to the historical record. When we examine the historical record, we see that doctrines like the immaculate conception, transubstantiation, the bodily assumption of Mary, papal infallibility, and Purgatory are innovations, not doctrines handed from the apostles. Thus, the study of the patristic literature can serve as a tool for the evangelism of Roman Catholics, by helping to liberate them from the false gospel that requires their unjustified trust in Rome.

2. A second, defensive, use is also important. Frequently, Roman Catholics make claims that the core doctrines of the Reformation are themselves historical novelties. While, in principle, this doesn’t matter to us (since Scripture, not history, is our rule of faith), these lies about the historical record can be discouraging to Christians. In particular, Roman apologists try to suggest to those unfamiliar with history that by following Reformed doctrine one is saying that “the whole church went off the rails almost from the earliest time,” or something like that.

3. Historical theology is not our ultimate rule of faith, but it is a helpful guide. We do not believe that a universal apostasy happened or will ever happen, even if there are great falling away periods in church history. Moreover, we value the teaching of our spiritual ancestors, even those who made many mistakes. I suspect that Pastor Stellman realizes the value of historical theology, because I’ve noticed that his recent book, Dual Citizens, makes use of human authors. He does not rely exclusively on the Bible, nor should he!

I do think it is foolish to simply say “who cares,” to the historical record. Sometimes we will simply have to disagree with the errors of our predecessors, but we should do so carefully, not recklessly.

Pastor Stellman writes:

Rather than get into a patristic prooftext war—especially if we may very well lose it—wouldn’t it be wiser to shift the locus of the battle to Scripture, the place where we claim to believe all controversies of religion are to be solved?

Well, of course, we’ve already won the battle on the grounds of Scripture. There may be a tiny handful of Roman Catholic apologists that think they can prove their doctrines from Scripture, but those folks are easily shown to be wrong.

The problem is that Rome has persuaded many people to accept an additional rule of faith – one that in effect supercedes Scripture. It is useful to help Roman Catholics see that this additional rule of faith is one that doesn’t work, that cannot stand up to historical scrutiny, indeed one that is both established and maintained on lies and forgeries.

And don’t worry, Pastor Stellman, we won’t “lose” the analysis of the patristic writings, because we have nothing to lose. We’re interested in the truth of what happened in the early church, not transforming the early church fathers into a PCA presbytery in Greece. We “win” simply by letting the fathers be the fathers, because history is our friend.

That means we admit that certain departures from the purity of the apostolic teachings happened very early, while other departures happened much later. Precisely because Scripture is our rule of faith, we cannot “lose” a battle over whether Bernard taught the immaculate conception (answer: he definitely did not) or whether Bernard taught the personal sinlessness of Mary (answer: it seems he did). In one case we can point out that Bernard’s testimony is one voice among many against the idea the the dogma of the immaculate conception was really handed down in some kind of oral tradition format, in the other case we can acknowledge Bernard’s mistake.

All that said, all the historical knowledge in the world won’t save someone. One may be able to persuade a rational person that Rome is not who she claims to be, but unless that person trusts in Christ alone for salvation, they will be no better off in eternity. Mere knowledge of the truth is not enough.

-TurretinFan

Trying Out WordPress

October 19, 2010

I’m not really sure whether Blogger or WordPress is a better blogging platform. In the short term, I’m going to continue blogging here and occasionally updating the WordPress blog. Unsurprising the other blog is at https://turretinfan.wordpress.com/

Feel free to use whichever you like, though most of my attention is on this blog for right now.

-TurretinFan

Response to Bill O’Reilly and Bill Maher

October 17, 2010

Recently, Bill Maher triumphed over Bill O’Reilly in an interview on Fox news (link to video). Why did Mr. Maher triumph? He triumphed because he exposed Mr. O’Reilly’s inconsistencies.

Mr. Maher’s first point was that 60% of Americans believe that the Noah’s ark story is literally true. Mr. O’Reilly stated that he doesn’t know any of those people. That doesn’t surprise me – Mr. O’Reilly is a practicing Roman Catholic (link to his claim in that regard). Mr. O’Reilly, I’d love to meet you and let you know that yes, the Noah’s ark story is literally true. The problem is not Mr. Maher’s numbers, the problem is that Mr. Maher thinks it’s not wise to believe that the historical account of a Noah’s ark is an historical account. Yet there is abundant evidence of the flood – as Ken Ham would put it, there are billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth.

Mr. Maher’s second point is to ask Mr. O’Reilly why, if God wrote the Bible, is there stuff in the Bible that is untrue. Mr. O’Reilly’s response is to allege that it is allegorical. This is, of course, the wrong response. There is nothing in the text of Genesis that leads one to conclude the account of Noah’s flood is allegorical. Instead, the account of Noah’s flood is one of the clearly historical narratives. Mr. Maher makes a reference to the fact that both he and a lot of people agree that this account is literal.

Mr. Maher then asked whether the command about killing those who violate the sabbath is literal or parable. He seemed to mischaracterize it as “if you see your neighbor breaking the sabbath, you’re suppose to kill him,” but perhaps we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he just meant to refer to the fact that the law of Moses commanded death for sabbath-breakers. Sadly, Mr. O’Reilly’s response is “I don’t know that parable, is that Romans, Ecclesiastes, where did that come from?” Mr. Maher states that it is a law in Deuteronomy, and although keeping the Sabbath is mentioned in Deuteronomy, the specific death sentence for sabbath-breaking is found in Exodus:

Exodus 31:14-15
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

In comments apparently recorded after the interview, Mr. O’Reilly corrected Mr. Maher’s Deuteronomy-Exodus error, but during the interview Mr. O’Reilly’s response was that as a Christian he doesn’t care about the Old Testament, he’s just interested in the New Testament.

Mr. Maher counters that it’s still the Christian belief that the Old Testament was written by God. Mr. O’Reilly countered that, no, the Old Testament was written by prophets. Mr. Maher countered that it was nevertheless inspired by God, so how could it have errors or immoral teachings? Mr. O’Reilly countered that he doesn’t know anyone who kills their neighbor over breaking the sabbath, a response that totally misses the point. Mr. Maher’s mistake was in saying that capital punishment for sabbath-breaking is wrong.

Mr. O’Reilly tried to steer the conversation in his favor by suggesting that Jesus was a great moral example. Mr. Maher countered that if Jesus was in charge, America would probably have universal healthcare. Mr. O’Reilly countered that this would be possible because Jesus would multiply the loaves and the fishes.

Mr. Maher expressed complete incredulity at the idea of multiplying loaves and fishes. Mr. O’Reilly countered that if Mr. Maher wants to believe that life came from a meteorite crashing into the Earth, then he’s free to believe that. Mr. O’Reilly further tried to score some points by suggesting that Mr. Maher is just as much a man of faith as himself is, only a different faith. Mr. Maher denied this.

After the clip from the interview, Mr. O’Reilly posted a correction regarding Exodus-Deuteronomy issue and alleged that in context it was God and not one’s neighbors that would be taking care of killing those who broke the sabbath. Actually, however, the command was to the Israelites (as a government) to provide the death penalty for sabbath-breaking.

This is confirmed by the book of Numbers:

Numbers 15:32-36
And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

So, sadly O’Reilly was soundly beaten by Mr. Maher, but there are excellent answers that could have been given to Mr. Maher, had Mr. O’Reilly been more familiar with Scripture.

-TurretinFan

The Fathers, Papal Primacy, and Matthew 16 – Defending Yves Congar contra Bryan Cross

October 16, 2010

Speaking of the difficulty of the so-called Unanimous patristic consent as a reliable locus theologicus in Catholic theology, the Roman Cardinal Congar wrote:

Application of the principle is difficult, at least at a certain level. In regard to individual texts of Scripture total patristic consensus is unnecessary: quite often, that which is appealed to as sufficient for dogmatic points does not go beyond what is encountered in the interpretation of many texts. But it does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16.16-19. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than judicial. . . . Historical documentation is at the factual level; it must leave room for a judgement made not in the light of the documentary evidence alone, but of the Church’s faith.

– Yves M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (London: Burns & Oats, 1966), pp. 398-399.

The claim of Roman apologists on behalf of Rome that its interpretation of Matthew 16 is the catholic interpretation, i.e., of the patristic exegesis by and large, is explicitly denied by a cardinal of their own communion. (adapted from David King’s comment here)

Bryan Cross has taken the position:

Congar was simply mistaken on this point, because there are numerous examples of Church Fathers other than bishops of Rome, referring to St. Peter or the See of Peter explicitly as the rock upon which Christ founded the Church, and to which Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom.

St. Ephraim (c. 306 – 373), of Nisibius, Syria writes lyrically:

“Simon, My follower; I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter [Kefa, or Rock, in the original text], because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures.”

St. Hilary, Archbishop of Poitiers, (315-367/68) writes:

“Peter believeth first, and is the prince of the apostleship.” Elsewhere, “Blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Again, “He [Jesus] took up Peter — to whom He had just before given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, upon whom He was about to build the Church, against which the gates of hell should not in any way prevail, who whatsoever he should bind or loose on earth, that should abide bound or loosed in heaven — this same Peter … the first confessor of the Son of God, the foundation of the Church, the doorkeeper of the heavenly kingdom, and in his judgment on earth a judge of heaven.” Again, “O blessed keeper of the gate of heaven, to whose disposal are delivered the keys of the entrance into eternity; whose judgment on earth is an authority prejudged in heaven, so that the things that are either loosed or bound on earth, acquire in heaven too a like state of settlement.” … if to the head, that is to the see of the Apostle Peter, the priests of the Lord report . . . .” Elsewhere he says, “[Peter is to be admired] because, knowing that all acknowledged his primacy, he had too much humility to resent any reproach offered to himself.”

St. Jerome in Antioch (where he was ordained) writes about AD 376:

I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul … The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold … My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the Cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built! This is the house where alone the Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.

St. Macarius of Egypt (300-390) writes:

“Afterwards Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (b. 315 – d. 386) writes:

“As the delusion [of Simon Magus] was extending, Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right…. And marvellous though it was, yet no marvel. For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven.”

St. Basil the Great (330-379), bishop of Caesarea, writes,

“… him that was called from amongst fishermen unto the ministry of the Apostleship; him who on account of the pre-eminence of his faith received upon himself the building of the Church.” “One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which rock the lord promised to build His Church”.

Eulogius of Alexandria (A.D. 581) writes:

“Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, ‘I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ but only to Peter.

Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (A.D. 649 A.D.), writing to to Pope Theodore, says:

“O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed.”

St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 650) of Constantinople writes:

“The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.”

“How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerdotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome.”

(source)

There are a number of problems with Mr. Cross’ comments, and I will try to address them systematically.

I. In General

First, there’s a pretty fundamental problem with Bryan’s response to Yves Congar. Congar wrote: “Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy,” but Bryan’s thesis is “here are numerous examples of Church Fathers other than bishops of Rome, referring to St. Peter or the See of Peter explicitly as the rock upon which Christ founded the Church, and to which Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom.” Those two do not necessarily contradict. For example, if the church father applies the text to Peter personally (to the exclusion of all others), the father would not be supporting papal primacy. Likewise, if the father applies the text to the “see of Peter” as being found in all churches, or to the “see of Peter” as found in Rome in the same way as to all sees wherever they may be found, this too would not be supporting papal primacy.

We’ll turn to your quotations in a moment, but I think it is important to note up front that Bryan’s thesis itself does not contradict what Congar said. Thus, even if Bryan’s quotations established his thesis, they would not undermine what Congar wrote.

Secondly, this list is obviously cut-and-paste. (see here for example) I assume that Bryan didn’t cite back to that page, because it is Bryan’s own page. However, it would have been helpful for Bryan to have provided (either on that page or in his comment) citations to the actual works that Bryan is citing.

Also, perhaps as an artifact of the cut-and-paste, Bryan has Hilary writing something that’s actually an amalgamation of different items, cobbled together by some editor (Bryan?).

II. Ephraim the Syrian

Turning to the first quotation, the quotation appears to be derived (whether directly or indirectly, I do not know) from Jurgens’ quotation book, “Faith of the Early Fathers,” p. 311. The quotation, according to Jurgens, is taken from Ephraim’s Homily 4,1, referring to the homilies identified by Lamy as eight “Sermones in hebdomadam sanctam, diem resurrectionis et dominicam novam.” This particular citation is taken from volume 1 of Lamy’s “Sancti Ephraem Syri Hymni et sermones,” at columns 411-12 (Syriac and Latin, respectively).

Jurgens does note (on the page prior to the page where the quotation appears) that the homilies are from a 14th century manuscript, as does Lamy (at column 339). What Jurgens does not say is that these sermons are likely not the work of Ephraim the Syrian. Cf. Sydney H. Griffith’s contribution in Catholicism and Catholicity, edited by Sarah Beckwith, p. 126 and fn 66 et seq.; and Francis Crawford Burkitt S. Ephraim’s Quotations from the Gospel, at p. 3 (“These volumes [from Lamy] give us a good deal that is certainly not of the fourth century but they also contain the Sermo de Domino nostro … which is for textual and doctrinal purposes perhaps the most important work of S Ephraim which survives.”); and Christian M.W. Lange, The portrayal of Christ in the Syriac commentary on the Diatessaron, p. 35 (” … modern research in general rejects the authenticity of various works which have been attributed to the great Syrain. This group of works includes … the Sermones in Hebodmadam sanctam.”) cf. fn 51.

In short, this work is probably not a work written by Ephraim the Syrian.

Moreover, of course, ps-Ephraim’s picture of Peter the building-inspector and Peter the foundation says nothing of the primacy of any Roman bishop. Rome is not even mentioned! Nor is anything written to suggest that what ps-Ephraim says is given to Peter is given to anyone else. While these comments from ps-Ephraim may not directly contradict Rome’s teaching of papal primacy, they certainly don’t teach Rome’s position, falling short of Rome’s position in a number of critical respects, such as identifying the Roman bishop as the sole successor of Peter, the idea of Peter’s foundational role being something passed down, and the like.

In short, even if this work were by Ephraim, it would not support a contention in favor of papal primacy. Moreover, it does not identify “Peter explicitly as the rock upon which Christ founded the Church,” nor does it say that Peter was, in a unique way, the one “to which [sic] Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom.” I have added “in a unique way,” because of course Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, just as all the apostles were.

Before moving on to the next quotation, I should briefly mention that this work does not appear to exist in a complete English translation. This suggests to me, though obviously it does not prove it, that Mr. Cross is reliant on a secondary source that has provided him only with the quotation itself, and not with the context.

III. Hilary of Poitiers

As noted above, the alleged quotation from Hilary is actually an amalgamation of various quotations, cobbled together by some editor (Bryan?). The quotations are as shown below. No citation was provided with these quotations, so I have had to do my best to track down the sources. Consequently, please understand that the citation is mine. In the event that Hilary said something twice, I may only have caught one of the two times, but this is really the fault of Mr. Cross for not citing his sources so that I could tell you more accurately what he is citing.

1. “Peter believeth [the] first, and is the prince of the apostleship.” (bracketed material mine, to make the quotation match the source I found)

I found one citation for this as Commentary on Matthew, Chapter 7, No. 6. This is a good place to start, since the Commentary on Matthew is Hilary’s first work that we have, written about A.D. 353-355.

This comment from Hilary is part of his commentary on Matthew 8:14, which relates to Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. The context is this:

In Peter’s wife’s mother is shewn the sickly condition of infidelity, to which freedom of will is near akin, being united by the bonds as it were of wedlock. By the Lord’s entrance into Peter’s house, that is into the body, unbelief is cured, which was before sick of the fever of sin, and ministers in duties of righteousness to the Saviour. Then when she was healed, serves in the office of servant. On the other hand, he that believed first, and is chief of the apostles, and because in him even before he languished, the ministry of the Word of God strengthened as it were, produced the public salvation. Although this mother-in-law of Peter is rightly fitted to the similitude of the attitude of unbelief, the place where we will discuss the daughter-in-law and mother-in-later is later (Chapter 10, Section 18). But for now, Peter’s mother-in-law is compared to unbelief, because until he believed, his will was held in slavery.

The black text represents the portion translated as part of the translation of Thomas Aquinas “Catena Aurea” (see here), the remainder being my translation (which is open to significant doubt – feel free to improve on it). My apologies for providing my own feeble attempt at translating, but there does not appear to be any extant complete English translation of the work. Here is the Latin:

Petri socrus infidelitatis affectio. Petrus fidei et apostolatus princeps.(Cum venisset Jesus in domum Petri, vidit socrum ejus jacentem et febricitantem, et reliqua (Mt 8,14). In socru Petri, vitiosa infidelitatis aestimatur affectio, cui adjacet libertas voluntatis, quae nos quadam sibi conjugii societate conjungit. Ergo ingressu Domini, in Petri domu, id est, in corpore curatur infidelitas peccatorum calore exaestuans, et vitiorum aegra dominatu. Mox deinde sanata, officii famulatu ministrat. Nam primus credidit, et apostolatus est princeps: et quod in eo ante languebat, Dei verbo invalescens ministerio tamquam publicae salutis operatum est. Recte autem hanc ex socru Petri similitudinem ad affectionem infidelitatis aptari, loco qui de nuru et socru consequitur tractabimus (Cap. 10, n. 18). Nunc autem ideo infidelitatis socrus Petri nuncupabitur, quia usque dum credidit, voluntatis suae servitio detinebatur.

(source of Latin)

As you can see, all we really have here are two comments about Peter. One is that he was a “chief” (princeps) of the apostles. It could possibly be evidence that Hilary thought that Peter was the foremost apostle, although that’s certainly not a point he’s pursuing in the text. But certainly, there’s nothing here about Peter having any particular formal jurisdiction over the apostles, or of Peter assigning that power to the bishop of Rome, or of that power being passed down to only one bishop at a time down through history. In short, there’s nothing at all close to papal primacy in this discussion.

2. “Blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

This selection is taken from On the Trinity, Book VI, Chapter 20. The entire context for the quotation is this (taken from what I think is the most popular English edition of this work – perhaps the only English edition):

What is this hopeless quagmire of error into which Thou hast plunged me? For I have learnt all this and have come to believe it; this faith is so ingrained into my mind that I have neither the power nor the wish to change it. Why this deception of an unhappy man, this ruin of a poor wretch in body and soul, by deluding him with falsehoods concerning Thyself? After the Red Sea had been divided, the splendour on the face of Moses, descending from the Mount, deceived me. He had gazed, in Thy presence, upon all the mysteries of heaven, and I believed his words, dictated by Thee, concerning Thyself. And David, the man that was found after Thine own heart, has betrayed me to destruction, and Solomon, who was thought worthy of the gift of Divine Wisdom, and Isaiah, who saw the Lord of Sabaoth and prophesied, and Jeremiah consecrated in the womb, before he was fashioned, to be the prophet of nations to be rooted out and planted in, and Ezekiel, the witness of the mystery of the Resurrection, and Daniel, the man beloved, who had knowledge of times, and all the hallowed band of the Prophets; and Matthew also, chosen to proclaim the whole mystery of the Gospel, first a publican, then an Apostle, and John, the Lord’s familiar friend, and therefore worthy to reveal the deepest secrets of heaven, and blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and all his companions who spoke by the Holy Ghost, and Paul, the chosen vessel, changed from persecutor into Apostle, who, as a living man abode under the deep sea and ascended into the third heaven, who was in Paradise before his martyrdom, whose martyrdom was the perfect offering of a flawless faith; all have deceived me.

(source for translation)

As you can see, again, there’s nothing particularly about papal primacy in the text. Peter is sandwiched between the other prominent apostles, John and Paul. He’s not described as having universality of jurisdiction. Certainly there is no reference to Rome or to a Roman bishop, or to anyone besides Peter having (or lacking) what Peter had. In short, while the quotation may not contradict a view of papal primacy, it certainly does not demonstrate such a view.

Moreover, in chapters 36-37, we have a reference to Matthew 16 and Peter that is not merely a passing reference amongst a litany of references to prophets and apostles. In that place we find Hilary making some rather un-Roman claims:

36. A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only and not in nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles. If this be a mere title, to which adoption is His only claim; if He be not the Son in virtue of having proceeded forth from God, whence, I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar-Jona confessed to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God? Because He shared with all mankind the power of being born as one of the sons of God through the sacrament of regeneration? If Christ be the Son of God only in this titular way, what was the revelation made to Peter, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven? What praise could he deserve for making a declaration which was universally applicable? What credit was due to Him for stating a fact of general knowledge? If He be Son by adoption, wherein lay the blessedness of Peter’s confession, which offered a tribute to the Son to which, in that case, He had no more title than any member of the company of saints? The Apostle’s faith penetrates into a region closed to human reasoning. He had, no doubt, often heard, He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and He that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. Hence he knew well that Christ had been sent; he had heard Him, Whom he knew to have been sent, making the declaration, All things are delivered unto Me of the Father, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any one the Father save the Son. What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names of Father’ and Son’ were novel to him; he had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before:–Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had avowed Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle’s faith had recognised in Him the presence of the Divine nature. Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, Thou art the Christ, and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God. And so his words Thou art declare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father’s utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess Thou art the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, Thou art, is the believer’s welcome to the truth. And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the Divine name; was it not rather the Divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honour, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No; it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed.

37. This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Father’s gift by revelation; even the knowledge that we must not imagine a false Christ, a creature made out of nothing, but must confess Him the Son of God, truly possessed of the Divine nature. What blasphemous madness and pitiful folly is it, that will not heed the venerable age and faith of that blessed martyr, Peter himself, for whom the Father was prayed that his faith might not fail in temptation; who twice repeated the declaration of love for God that was demanded of him, and was grieved that he was tested by a third renewal of the question, as though it were a doubtful and wavering devotion, and then, because this third trial had cleansed him of his infirmities, had the reward of hearing the Lord’s commission, Feed My sheep, a third time repeated; who, when all the Apostles were silent, alone recognised by the Father’s revelation the Son of God, and won the pre-eminence of a glory beyond the reach of human frailty by his confession of his blissful faith! What are the conclusions forced upon us by the study of his words? He confessed that Christ is the Son of God; you, lying bishop of the new apostolate, thrust upon us your modern notion that Christ is a creature, made out of nothing. What violence is this, that so distorts the glorious words? The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father’s revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth. Through revelation Peter learnt the mystery hidden from the beginning of the world, proclaimed the faith, published the Divine nature, confessed the Son of God. He who would deny all this truth and confess Christ a creature, must first deny the apostleship of Peter, his faith, his blessedness, his episcopate, his martyrdom. And when he has done all this, he must learn that he has severed himself from Christ; for it was by confessing Him that Peter won these glories.

(source)

Notice how here Hilary explicitly identifies the rock and designates it as being the faith of Petr, the faith in the divinity of the Son, not just the name “the Son of God,” but the real meaning behind it. Peter may be a “foundation stone,” and he certainly had the keys of the kingdom (rightly understood), but that key (according to Hilary) is faith! This is so far from the Roman notion as to show that the previous citation was quite a mistaken attempt to use Hilary to support a position he did not support.

3. “He [Jesus] took up Peter — to whom He had just before given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, upon whom He was about to build the Church, against which the gates of hell should not in any way prevail, who whatsoever he should bind or loose on earth, that should abide bound or loosed in heaven — this same Peter … the first confessor of the Son of God, the foundation of the Church, the doorkeeper of the heavenly kingdom, and in his judgment on earth a judge of heaven.”

This is apparently taken from Hilary’s Tractates on the Psalms, at Psalm 131, section 4.

A little more context helps to show what’s going on here:

On an occasion that the Only-Begotten spoke to His disciples certain things concerning His Passion, and Peter expressed his abhorrence, as if it were unworthy of the Son of God, He took up Peter,— to whom He had just before given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, upon whom He was about to build the Church (super quem ccclesiam adificalurus erat), against which the gates of hell should not in any way prevail, who, whatsoever he should bind or loose on earth, that should abide bound or loosed in heaven, — this same Peter then, when expressing his abhorrence in such reproachful terms, He took up with, Get behind me, Satan, thou art an offense to Me. For it was with Him so sacred a thing to suffer for the salvation of the human race, as thus to designate with the reproachful name Satan, Peter, the first Confessor of the Son of God, the Foundation of the Church (ecclesice fundamentuni), the Door-keeper (janitorem) of the heavenly kingdom, and in his judgment on earth a Judge of heaven (et in terreno judicis judicem call).

(source)

The context does certainly seem to change the tone a little, doesn’t it? Yes, Hilary says a lot of nice things about Peter, but nothing about universal jurisdiction, and nothing even about primacy of honor or glory (as one might find elsewhere). And – of course – there is nothing here about Rome, or a Roman bishop, or anything about any of these traits of Peter being passed down to others after Peter leaves (or during his life).

4. “O blessed keeper of the gate of heaven, to whose disposal are delivered the keys of the entrance into eternity; whose judgment on earth is an authority prejudged in heaven, so that the things that are either loosed or bound on earth, acquire in heaven too a like state of settlement.”

This is apparently another quotation taken from Hilary’s Commentary on Matthew. My source for the first citation also had a longer excerpt providing some of the context for the quotation:

5. … We must hold that form of confession, that we so mention the Son of God as not to forget the Son of Man, for the one without the other offers us no hope of salvation; and therefore He said emphatically, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” (translation from translation of Aquinas’ Catena Aurea)

6. When they had presented diverse human origins concerning him, he asked what they themselves thought about him. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But Peter had pondered the nature of the question. For the Lord had said, “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?” Certainly his human body indicated he was a Son of man. But by adding “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus indicated that they should consider something besides what he seemed in himself, for he was a Son of man. Therefore, what judgment concerning himself did he desire? It was a secret he was asking about, into which the faith of those who believe ought to extend itself. (Translation from the Ancient Christian Commentary series, pp. 44-45)

7. And in sooth Peter’s confession obtained a worthy recompense. Blessed is he that is praised as having both remarked and seen beyond the ken of human eyes not regarding what was of flesh and blood, but, by the revelation of the heavenly Father, beholding the Son of God, and accounted worthy to be the first to acknowledge what was in the Christ of God. Oh, in thy designation by a new name happy foundation of the Church, and a rock worthy of the building up of that which was to scatter the infernal laws, and the gates of hell and all the bars of death! O blessed keeper of the gate of heaven to whose disposal are delivered the keys of the entrance into eternity; whose judgment on earth is an authority, prejudged in heaven, so that the things that are either loosed or bound on earth acquire in heaven too a like state of settlement. (Berington and Kirk, The Faith of Catholics)

10. … The Lord, knowing the suggestion of the craft of the devil, says to Peter, “Get thee behind me;” that is, that he should follow the example of His passion; but to him by whom this expression was suggested, He turns and says, “Satan, thou art an offence unto me.” For we cannot suppose that the name of Satan, and the sin of being an offence, would be imputed to Peter after those so great declarations of blessedness and power that had been granted him.

Commentary on Matthew, Chapter 16, Sections 5-7 & 10.

Alternate translation of a portion of Section 6 and of Section 7 (translation from translation of Aquinas’ Catena Aurea):

6. … By asking, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” He implied that something ought to be thought respecting Him beyond what appeared, for He was the Son of Man. And in thus enquiring after men’s opinion respecting Himself, we are not to think that He made confession of Himself; for that which He asked for was something concealed, to which the faith of believers ought to extend itself.

7. This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen the Son of God in the man. He is blessed, because to have looked and to have seen beyond human sight is matter of praise, not beholding that which is of flesh and blood, but seeing the Son of God by the revelation of the heavenly Father; and he was held worthy to be the first to acknowledge the divinity which was in Christ. But in this bestowing of a new name is a happy foundation of the Church, and a rock worthy of that building, which should break up the laws of hell, burst the gates of Tartarus, and all the shackles of death.

All this build up to simply point that although again Hilary says nice things about Peter and identifies the blessedness associated with his name (while linking this closely with his confession of faith), Hilary does not describe Peter has having universal jurisdiction, as having a unique Roman successor, or anything like that. There is nothing of papal primacy here – indeed, although there is mention of power given to Peter, the focus of the discussion is not on Peter but on his confession of faith, the saving confession that Jesus Christ is not just the Son of Man but the Son of God.

5. [“]… if to the head, that is to the see of the Apostle Peter, the priests of the Lord report . . . .”

This appears to be taken from the following sentence:

“This will be seen to be best, and by far the most fitting thing, if to the Head, that is, to the See of the Apostle Peter, the priests of the Lord report from every one of the provinces” for which the citation is Fragment 2, section 9, which itself is not that helpful a designation – fragments of what? But upon searching it appears that it is taken from the fragments of Hilary’s Historical Works.

In this case, the line is actually taken from a letter from the Sardican council to Julius. As Roman Catholic historian Hefele indicates, Hilary preserved some of the documents of the council in Latin, whereas Athanasius preserved them in Greek. However, as Hefele also indicates, this particular sentence has been identified as questionable – a possible later interpolation, because of its terrible Latin.

So this line is neither certainly genuinely in Hilary’s works, nor is it actually Hilary’s own words. Moreover, in context, the Sardican council is simply reporting to Julian the actions they have taken against error. If we take this is as being original and authentic, there may be some sort of primacy suggested, but not one that led the council to wait to see what Julius would think before making their decisions. The letter is reporting to Julius what the Synod of Sardica did.

A translation of the entire letter can be found in Wickham, L.R. Hilary of Poitiers, Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-Century Church “Against Valens and Ursacius”, the Extant Fragments, Together with His “Letter to the Emperor Constantius”. (Liverpool 1997), pp. 48 et seq. (sadly this is not available on-line, to my knowledge, or I would link you too it)

6. “[Peter is to be admired] because, knowing that all acknowledged his primacy, he had too much humility to resent any reproach offered to himself.”

This seems to be taken from Steve Ray’s book or from the source of Steve Ray’s book. Steve quotes Hilary this way:

Both Paul and Peter are to be admired; Paul because he did not fear to point out the right practice to his superior; Peter because, knowing that all acknowledged his primacy, he had too much humility to resent any reproach offered to himself.

Steve Ray does not cite any work of Hilary for this. Instead, Mr. Ray cites “Radio Replies, ed. Charles Carty [1938; reprint Rockford, Ill.: TAN books, 1979], 1:82-83″ (link to evidence). I checked Radio Replies, at item 357 in Volume 1 (which does have that quotation), but Radio Replies itself does not have any citation to Hilary. So, we are at a dead end here. Is this really Hilary? Who knows!

I would be surprised if it were Hilary, but it may be. Even if we assume that it is Hilary, all it shows is that Peter had some sort of primacy of honor above that of Paul (that’s not what Galatians teaches, but that’s another story). It doesn’t suggest that Peter had universal jurisdiction, nor that his superiority (of whatever kind) to Paul was passed on to someone else.

IV. Jerome

Bryan Cross provides a single quotation from Jerome:

I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul … The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold … My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the Cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built! This is the house where alone the Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.

What he’s quoting from is Jerome’s letter to Damasus, bishop of Rome, the first section.

But Mr. Cross hasn’t started from the beginning of the letter. In fact he’s left out the part of the first section that explains why Jerome thinks that he should contact the Roman church.

Jerome explains himself this way:

1. Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, “woven from the top throughout,” since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover “the sealed fountain” and “the garden inclosed,” I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ.

– Jerome, Letter 15 (to Damasus), Section 1. (a translation can be found here)

Notice that the reason is not papal infallibility or papal primacy. The reason is particular problems that have arisen in the East, his new home. These problems have caused him to go back to the church where he was baptized (“whence I have received the garb of Christ”), namely Rome. Notice also that Jerome does not say that he’s seeking out the head of his own church, but rather that he’s seeking out the “Church whose faith has been praised by Paul,” namely the Roman church. Not the “Catholic church” but the Roman church. This is actually a key distinction that Mr. Cross has missed.

Jerome later goes on to make this self-identification even more explicit:

Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses, are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases.

– Jerome, Letter 15 (to Damasus), Section 3.

Jerome is writing back to what he views as his “home church” for support. He wants advice from a church that he trusts, one that was praised (hundreds of years earlier) by Paul.

There is some discussion in Jerome that uses some very positive language of Damasus. Even if, however, we were willing to generously construe Jerome to be saying that Damasus was not just a successor to Peter, but the sole successor to Peter, and even if that gave Damasus some sort of primacy, it is not a primacy of jurisdiction. Jerome views Damasus as leader of the church of Rome, the Roman church, not the leader of the universal church (or – at least – Jerome does not make a claim beyond the “Roman” claim).

Pastor David King had similar comments:

3. Jerome is writing from Antioch, yes, but Rome was his home church. This letter, which you cite, was written roughly in the winter of 376 or 377 A.D. from the desert area of Chalcis ad Belum “on the confines between northern Syria and the region west of the Euphrates.” If we are to accept the usual date offered for his birth (347 A.D.), he couldn’t have been more than 29 or 30 years of age. However, Kelly (in his biography of Jerome) argues strongly in favor of the date Prosper suggests as 331 A.D., which, if accepted, would place his age at this time around 45 or 46 years of age. He had probably been baptized sometime prior to the year 366 before Damasus became the bishop of Rome, or else as Kelly argues “it is inconceivable that he should not have mentioned the fact when he proudly reminded the pope that he had been baptized in Rome” because it was the bishop who normally administered baptism.

Thus, writing from a foreign location to the church of his present communion, it is only natural that Jerome should seek the counsel of his pastor concerning the three factions of Christians in the city of Antioch. The fact that he proudly employs the flowery language of consulting “the chair of Peter…the successor of the fisherman” is perfectly understandable because it is the church of his present communion and from which he received “the garb of Christ,” which as Kelly notes might possibly be a reference to the “white garment” with which the new newly baptized are clothed following the sacrament.

Rather than appealing to some notion of universal jurisdiction, Jerome is simply seeking the counsel of his home communion and the advice of his pastor whom he knows and trusts. This does not classify, really, as non-Roman witness. Nonetheless, Jerome did not apply Matthew 16 exclusively to the bishop of Rome…

Jerome (347-420): But you say, the Church was founded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism. NPNF2: Vol. VI, Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §26.

Moreover, Jerome did not believe that the latter development of the monarchical bishop itself was a divine appointment.

Jerome (347-420): Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person. Therefore, as the presbyters know that it is by the custom of the Church that they are to be subject to him who is placed over them so let the bishops know that they are above presbyters rather by custom than by Divine appointment, and ought to rule the Church in common, following the example of Moses, who, when he alone had power to preside over the people Israel, chose seventy, with the assistance of whom he might judge the people. We see therefore what kind of presbyter or bishop should be ordained. John Harrison, Whose Are the Fathers? (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1867), p.488. See also Karl Von Hase, Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, trans. A. W. Streane, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. rev. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), p. 164.

Latin text: Haec propterea, ut ostenderemus apud veteres eosdem fuisse presbyteros quos et episcopos: paulatim vero ut dissensionum plantaria evellerentur, ad unum omnem sollicitudinem esse delatam. Sicut ergo presbyteri sciunt se ex Ecclesiae consuetudine ei qui sibi praepositus fuerit, esse subjectos: ita episcopi noverint se magis consuetudine, quam dispositionis Dominicae veritate, presbyteris esse majores, et in commune debere Ecclesiam regere, imitantes Moysen, qui cum haberet in potestate solum praeesse populo Israel, septuaginta elegit, cum quibus populum judicaret. Videamus igitur qualis presbyter, sive episcopus ordinandus sit. Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, PL 26:563.

Moreover, Jerome acknowledges that pope Liberius likewise fell into heresy, which does not fit the modern day paradigm of Roman primacy.

Jerome (347-420): Liberius was ordained the 34th bishop of the Roman church, and when he was driven into exile for the faith, all the clergy took an oath that they would not recognize any other bishop. But when Felix was put in his place by the Arians, a great many foreswore themselves; but at the end of the year they were banished, and Felix too; for Liberius, giving in to the irksomeness of exile and subscribing to the heretical and false doctrine, made a triumphal entry into Rome. E. Giles, ed., Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: A.D. 96-454 (Westport: Hyperion Press, reprinted 1982), p. 151. Cf. S. Hieronymi Chronicon, Ad Ann. 352, PL 27:684-685.

(source for Pastor King’s comments see the same thread of comments for the other comments of Pastor King quoted here)

Pastor King further explained:

In Jerome’s actual commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Jerome made no mention of any successors of Peter, and certainly made no reference to the bishop of Rome…

Jerome (347-420):

“For you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” He himself gave light to the apostles that they might be called the light of the world, and the other designations that were allotted from the Lord. In the same way, to Simon, who believed in Christ the rock [petra], was granted the name of Peter [Petrus]. And in accordance with the metaphor of rock [petra], it is rightly said to him: “I will build my Church” upon you.

Fathers of the Church, Vol. 117, St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, trans. Thomas P. Scheck (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008), p. 192.

Here was Jerome’s perfect opportunity to support the papal claim, and the thought is absent from him.

Moreover, in Homily 18 on the Psalms, notice how Jerome distinguishes the apostles from those who come after them…

Jerome (347-420):

‘In his record of the peoples the Lord shall tell’: in the sacred writings, in His Scripture that is read to all peoples in order that all may know. Thus the apostles have written; thus the Lord Himself has spoken, not merely for a few, but that all might know and understand. Plato wrote books, but he did not write for all people but only for a few, for there are not many more than two or three men who know him. But the princes of the Church and the princes of Christ did not write only for the few, but for everyone without exception. ‘And princes’: the apostles and evangelists. ‘Of those who have been born in her.’ Note ‘who have been’ and not ‘who are.’ That is to make sure that, with the exception of the apostles, whatever else is said afterwards should be removed and not, later on, hold the force of authority. No matter how holy anyone may be after the time of the apostles, no matter how eloquent, he does not have authority, for ‘in his record of the peoples and princes the Lord shall tell of those who have been born in her.’

FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), pp. 142-143.

And Pastor King continued:

Here is the witness of Jerome again, this time commenting on what attempts to pass for oral tradition…

Jerome (347-420):

‘In his record of the peoples and princes the Lord shall tell of these who have been born in her.’ Now the psalm did not say, those who are born in her, but who have been born in her. ‘The Lord shall tell.’ How shall he tell? Not by word of mouth, but in His writings. In His writings of whom? Of the peoples. That is not enough, for it also speaks of the princes. And which princes? Those who are born in her? No, it did not say that; but, those who have been born in her.

FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 142.

When Jerome references “those who have been born in her,” i.e. the church, he is referring to the Apostolic Scriptures, as the above citation in my previous post makes abundantly clear.

And from his commentary on Haggai, I offer four different translations of his comment on Haggai 1:11…

Jerome (347-420):

The other things, also, which they find and feign, of themselves, without the authority and testimonies of the Scriptures, as if by apostolical tradition, the sword of God [the word of God in the Scriptures] strikes down.

From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 as cited in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 151.

“The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forges from a pretended (quasi) apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.”

From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 as cited in Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992), Vol. 1, p. 143.

“But the word of God smites the other things, which they spontaneously discover, and feign as it were by an apostolical authority, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.”

From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 as cited in George Finch, A Sketch of the Romish Controversy (London: G. Norman, 1831), p. 168.

“The sword of God, which is the living Word of God, strikes through the things which men of their own accord, without the authority and testimonies of Scripture, invent and think up, pretending that it is apostolic tradition.”

From Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai, Chapter 1 as cited in Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, trans. Fred Kramer (St. Louis: Concordia, 1971), pp. 228–229.

Latin text:

Sed et alia quae absque auctoritate et testimoniis Scripturarum quasi traditione apostolica sponte reperiunt atque confingunt, percutit gladius Dei; homines autem et jumenta, vel λογισμοὺ et αἰσθήσεις, id est, cogitationes et sensus eorum accipiamus.

Jerome, as provided by Jacques Paul Migne, Patrologiae Latinae, Commentariorum In Aggaeum Prophetam,1:11, 25:1398 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1857-87)

V. Macarius of Egypt

With respect to Macarius of Egypt (a relatively obscure 4th century “saint”), Mr. Cross provides the following quotation: “Afterwards Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood.”

This is taken from Homily 26, Section 9, of Macarius’ 50 Spiritual Homilies. The entire section provides context:

In the Old Testament, Moses and Aaron, when they held the priesthood, had much to suffer. Caiaphas, when he occupied their seat, himself persecuted and condemned the Lord; yet the Lord, in respect for the priesthood, suffered him to execute the office. The prophets likewise were persecuted by their own nation. Peter was the successor of Moses, entrusted with Christ’s new church and with the true priesthood; for we have now a baptism of fire and the Spirit, and a circumcision in the heart. For the divine and heavenly Spirit lodges in the mind; nevertheless even these perfect ones, so long as they are in the flesh, are not free from anxiety, because of the freedom of their will, but are still subject to fear, and for that same reason are allowed to be tempted. But if the soul succeeds in reaching the city of the saints, then, but not before, it is able to live without trouble and temptations. There, no longer is there anxiety, or trouble, or weariness, or old age, or Satan, or warfare, but rest, joy, peace, and salvation. The Lord is in the midst of them, and He is called the Saviour, because He saves the captives. He is called the Physician, forasmuch as He gives the heavenly and divine medicine, and heals the sufferings of the soul; for in some respects they have dominion over the man. To speak of them in comparison, Jesus is King and God; Satan is an usurper and a tyrant.

(source)

As you can see, in context the point is that this world is full of suffering and temptation, and anxiety that will be removed in the next life. Peter as the successor of Moses could be taken to indicate some kind of universal jurisdiction (though obviously Macarius doesn’t make that application), but standing in line right behind Caiaphas, it doesn’t suggest the kind of authority that Rome wants. It’s an authority that Christ submitted to out of respect, but not one that could bind anyone’s conscience.

Moreover, consider the additional light shed on Macarius’ words by the comments in his next homily:

As when persons of rank and wealth and high birth by their own will and choice forsake their wealth and birth and dignities, and go and put on poor sordid clothing, and dishonour instead of respect, and bear hardship, and are held of no account, this is all left to their own discretion. You may believe me, that even the apostles, perfected as they were in grace, were not hindered by that grace from doing as they desired, if they wished occasionally to do a thing that was not pleasing to grace. Our nature is susceptible of good and bad, and the adverse power acts by persuasion, not compulsion. You have free choice to incline which way you will. Do you not read that Peter was to be blamed, [Galatians 2:2] and that Paul went and reproved him. In spite of being what he was, he was still to be blamed. And Paul, for all his spirituality, of his own will, engaged in a dispute with Barnabas, and they grew so sharp that they withdrew from one another. [Acts 15:39] And that same Paul says, “Ye that are spiritual, restore such an one, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” [Galatians 6:1] There! the spiritual are tempted, because their freedom of will remains; and the enemies keep plying them as long as they are in this world.

Notice that Macarius does not assign such a level of grace even to Peter or Paul so that they would be preserved entirely from errors. Macarius clearly thinks that Peter is someone important (“in spite of being what he was”), but at the same time he does not paint an unrealistic picture of him.

While I am on the subject of Macarius, perhaps it is worthwhile sharing his view of Scripture. One of the 50 homilies is particularly on the subject of why we were given the Scriptures. It’s short, so enjoy!

HOMILY XXXIX
Why the Holy Scripture was given to us by God.

As a king writes letters to those upon whom he wishes to confer patents and special gifts, and signifies to them all, “endeavour to come quickly to me, that you may receive from me royal gifts”; and if they do not come and receive them, they will be none the better off for having read the letters, but, on the contrary, are liable to be put to death for not choosing to go and be honoured by the king’s hand; so God, the King, has sent to men the holy scriptures as His letters, declaring by them that they should pray to God and believing should ask and receive a heavenly gift of the substance of His Godhead; for it is written, That we should be made partakers of the divine nature. [2 Pet. i. 4.] But if man will not come, and ask, and receive, he is none the better off for having read the scriptures, but is rather liable to death, because he did not choose to receive from the heavenly King the gift of life, without which it is impossible to obtain immortal life, which is Christ. To whom be glory for ever. Amen.

That stands in contrast to Rome’s view of the Scriptures, both theoretically and practically. Practically in that Rome sees no special urgency in people receiving the Scriptures themselves, and theoretically in that Rome’s view of the Scriptures could not lead the people who read but do not obey to be blamed, since allegedly one needs “the Church” to understand the Scriptures.

But in another place Macarius writes:

When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short. If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty. So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand. In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is. [Ps. xxxiv. 8.] This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart. As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God. [1 Thess. iv. 9.] Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit. They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart [2 Cor. iii. 3.] as well. For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts. For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.

– Macarius the Egyptian, Homily 15, Section 20

He’s not teaching Scripture alone there, he’s teaching Scripture and conscience, and says that these holy men “have nothing to learn from men”! Isn’t that remarkable! One wonders if we will now hear some Roman Catholic criticism of Macarius and his flawed hermeneutical principle of relativism or some kind of “solo scriptura” criticism of him.

Here Macarius again saying much the same thing as we’ve seen above:

As the husbandman governs a yoke of oxen and tills the ground, so the Lord Jesus, the fair true Husbandman, yoked the apostles two and two and sent them forth, tilling with them the ground of those who hear and truly believe. Only this is worth saying, that the kingdom of God and the preaching of the apostles is not in the word of hearing only, like one who knows a set of words and rehearses them to others, but the kingdom is in power and effectual working of the Spirit. This was the sad case of the children of the Israelites; always studying the scriptures, and in fact making the Lord the theme of their study, and yet not receiving the truth itself, they parted with that inheritance to others. So those who rehearse to others words of the Spirit, while they do not themselves possess the word in power, part with the inheritance to others. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.

– Macarius the Egyptian, Homily 28, Section 7

The problem, you see, is not any insufficiency in Scripture – it is the failure of those (even those who study the Scriptures) to believe what the Scriptures say – to receive their truth. Moreover, what is especially interesting is how the words of Scripture have their own power that they can convey even when rehearsed in the mouths of those who do not have the power of those words! This is not a picture of a Holy Spirit guided magisterium, but an unregenerate magisterium that still passes on the inheritance to others, because the power is in the Scriptures themselves.

One more selection for your reading pleasure:

For God is just and just are His judgments, and with Him there is no respect of persons; and He judges each in proportion to the varying benefits with which He has endowed mankind benefits of body or of spirit, whether knowledge, or understanding, or discernment and will require the fruits of virtue accordingly, and will render to each the due reward of his works in the day of judgment. He will come, we are told, and will render to every man according to his deeds, [Rom. ii. 6.] and mighty men shall be mightily tormented, for mercy will soon pardon the meanest; [Wisd. vi. 6.] and the Lord says, The servant which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes; and unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required, and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. [Luke xii. 47, 48.] The knowledge and understanding I have mentioned may be variously thought of, either according to grace and the heavenly gift of the Spirit, or in conformity with the natural intelligence and discernment, and through the instruction of the divine scriptures. Of each man will be required the fruits of virtue in proportion to the benefits conferred upon him from God, whether natural, or given by God’s grace. Therefore every man is inexcusable before God in the day of judgment, for every man will be required to answer of his will and purpose according to what he knew of the fruits of faith and love and every other virtue towards God, whether he knew by hearing, or had never heard the word of God.

– Macarius the Egyptian, Homily 29, Section 6

Just read that and see what are the three sources of heavenly knowledge: the Spirit, the light of reason, and Scripture. Isn’t it truly remarkable that Macarius omitted the Roman magisterium? In point of fact, I leafed through his fifty homilies to see if I could find Rome mentioned even once. I could not. I take that back – the Romans are mentioned twice – in terms of the Roman Army versus the Persian Army. But as far as referring to the bishop of Rome, or the church of Rome – a golden silence seems to prevail. Paul’s epistle to the Romans gets a lot of attention,b ut Perhaps he mentioned it elsewhere in his writings, but the bottom line is that Mr. Cross will need to present something more than a single line that says something laudatory of Peter to overthrow Cardinal Congar’s conclusion. (Need more reading from Macarius? Check out Homily 37, Section 10.)

I should point out that there is some question about the authenticity of these homilies (link to discussion). However, my impression (based, admittedly, on not a lot of research) is that these homilies are still thought to be authentic.

VI. Cyril of Jerusalem

Bryan provided the following quotation from Cyril of Jerusalem:

“As the delusion [of Simon Magus] was extending, Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right…. And marvellous though it was, yet no marvel. For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven.”

This quotation is taken from Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures, Lecture VI, Section 15:

As the delusion was extending, Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right; and when the supposed god Simon wished to shew himself off, they straightway shewed him as a corpse. For Simon promised to rise aloft to heaven, and came riding in a dæmons’ chariot on the air; but the servants of God fell on their knees, and having shewn that agreement of which Jesus spake, that If two of you shall agree concerning anything that they shall ask, it shall be done unto them [Matt. xviii. 19.], they launched the weapon of their concord in prayer against Magus, and struck him down to the earth. And marvellous though it was, yet no marvel. For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven [Ib. xvi. 19.]: and nothing wonderful, for Paul was there, who was caught up to the third heaven, and into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful far a man to utter [2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.]. These brought the supposed God down from the sky to earth, thence to be taken down to the regions below the earth. In this man first the serpent of wickedness appeared; but when one head had been cut off, the root of wickedness was found again with many heads.

Greek Text: Παρατεινομένης δὲ τῆς πλάνης, ἀγαθῶν ξυνωρὶς διορθοῦται τὸ πταῖσμα, Πέτρος καὶ Παῦλος παραγενόμενοι, οἱ τῆς ἐκκλησίας προστάται· καὶ ἐπιδεικτιῶντα τὸν νομιζόμενον Θεὸν Σίμωνα, νεκρὸν εὐθὺς ἀπέδειξαν. Ἐπαγγελλομένου γὰρ τοῦ Σίμωνος μετεωρίζεσθαι εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς, καὶ ἐπ’ ὀχήματος δαιμόνων ἐπ’ ἀέρος φερομένου, γόνυ κλίναντες οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλοι καὶ τὴν συμφωνίαν ἐνδειξάμενοι, ἣν εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ὅτι ἐὰν δύο ἐξ ὑμῶν συμφωνήσωσι, περὶ παντὸς πράγματος οὗ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται, γενήσεται αὐτοῖς· τὸ τῆς ὁμονοίας βέλος διὰ τῆς προσευχῆς πέμψαντες κατὰ τοῦ μάγου, κατέβαλον αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν γῆν. Καὶ οὐδὲν θαυμαστὸν, καίπερ ὂν θαυμαστόν· Πέτρος γὰρ ἦν, ὁ τὰς κλεῖς τῶν οὐρανῶν περιφέρων. Καὶ οὐ θαύματος ἄξιον· Παῦλος γὰρ ἦν, ὁ εἰς τρίτον οὐρανὸν ἁρπαγεὶς καὶ εἰς παράδεισον καὶ ἀκούσας ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα, ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι. [Οἳ καὶ] ἐξ ἀέρος ἐπὶ γῆν κατήγαγον τὸν νομιζόμενον Θεὸν, μέλλοντα εἰς τὰ καταχθόνια κατάγεσθαι. Οὗτος πρῶτος ὁ τῆς κακίας δράκων· μιᾶς δὲ ἐκκοπείσης κεφαλῆς, πολυκέφαλος εὑρέθη πάλιν ἡ τῆς κακίας ὕλη.

Let’s set aside the fact that Cyril is relating to us the fictional account of Peter’s and Paul’s showdown with Simon Magus, the first heretic. What does the text say? It gives Peter and Paul equal billing as “chief rulers of the church,” and it says Peter carries the keys of heaven.

There is nothing about Peter having universal jurisdiction or about Rome being the seat of a bishop who rules over the entire church. There is no discussion about what it means to have the “keys of the kingdom,” nor is that the point of the text, which is simply describing the glory of these two great apostles in contrast to the evil of Simon Magus.

I was thinking that perhaps the present tense of “carries” might be significant, because it would definitively mean that he didn’t think that Peter passed the keys on to a successor or successors. However, I think that’s a lot more weight than a present participle can bear. Nevertheless, the opposite point needs to be made, namely that there is no indication at all regarding whether anyone else carried the keys.

I would be remiss if I omitted to inform the reader about Cyril of Jerusalem’s rule of faith, explained in the same work, Catechetical Lecture IV, 17:

Have thou ever in thy mind this seal, which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.

By this standard, of course, Cyril of Jerusalem would want us to evaluate papal primacy or other such doctrines according to Scripture. If it came up lacking, we would not accept it, since it lacks proof from the Divine Scriptures.

VII. Basil the Great aka Basil of Caesarea

For Basil, Bryan again combined quotations.

The first quotation is as follows:

“… him that was called from amongst fishermen unto the ministry of the Apostleship; him who on account of the pre-eminence of his faith received upon himself the building of the Church.”

This is taken from Basil’s Against Eunonmius, Book 2, Chapter 4. Berington and Kirk provide a little more of the context:

When we hear the name of Peter, that name does not cause our minds to dwell on his substance, but we figure to our minds the properties that are connected with him. For we at once, on hearing that name, think of the son of him that came from Bethsaida, Andrew’s brother; him that was called from amongst fishermen unto the ministry of the Apostleship; him who on account of the pre-eminence of his faith received upon himself the building of the Church.

This is one example that Basil is giving regarding the fact that a name calls to mind a whole host of different details of a person. The other example is the name “Paul,” which reminds us of “of Tarsus, a Hebrew, as to following the law – a Pharisee, Gamaliel’s disciple, because of rivalry, persecutor of the Church of God, from the awful brought to knowledge by a vision, apostle to the Gentiles.”

There is a mention of “preeminence” of Peter here, but the preeminence is of faith. Furthermore, there is mention of the church being founded on Peter. In context, however, the explanation for why it was founded on him was the preeminence of his faith. This is a very personal explanation, not one that would be applicable to every bishop of Rome. And, of course, there is no mention of Rome or a papacy, or the idea that what is brought to mind by the name “Peter” should be the papacy.

The second quotation comes from a completely different work of Basil’s, Basil’s Commentary on Isaiah, Chapter 2, Section 66. I say “work of Basil’s,” but actually the authorship of the work is disputed. Nikolai Lipatov has defended the authenticity of the work (as mentioned here), but more usually it’s my understanding that this book is referenced as being Pseudo-Basil (see the discussion here), thus accepting Lipatov’s conclusion would mean revising the consensus view since about the time of Erasmus (see discussion here).

The quotation is this:

“One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which rock the lord promised to build His Church”.

There is actually an extant English translation of this work, by Lipatov, but it is rather hard to obtain.

Colin Lindsay provides this translation of the sentence in its immediate context:

The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the foundations of which are on the holy mountains, for it is built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets. One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which Rock the Lord promised to build His Church.

As can be seen in the original (original and a Latin translation here), Pseudo-Basil goes on to explain that Peter was called a high rock, because his utterance was firmly rooted in faith, and strongly and firmly it endured the wound of temptation. This is a highly personal explanation: the focal point is his personal faith.

So, like the previous quotation, this quotation (which obviously does not mention Rome, or succession, or anything except for a reference to Peter as being among the various mountains upon which the church is set) is not something that would disprove what Congar stated, namely that “this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy” (leaving aside the application used by those at Rome).

Perhaps it would be appropriate for me to provide some comment from Basil on the Scriptures:

Into the life eternal the Holy Scriptures lead us, which teach us through divine words. But so long as our immaturity forbids our understanding their deep thought, we exercise our spiritual perceptions upon profane writings, which are not altogether different, and in which we perceive the truth as it were in shadows and in mirrors. Thus we imitate those who perform the exercises of military practice, for they acquire skill in gymnastics and in dancing, and then in battle reap the reward of their training. We must needs believe that the greatest of all battles lies before us, in preparation for which we must do and suffer all things to gain power. Consequently we must be conversant with poets, with historians, with orators, indeed with all men who may further our soul’s salvation. Just as dyers prepare the cloth before they apply the dye, be it purple or any other color, so indeed must we also, if we would preserve indelible the idea of the true virtue, become first initiated in the pagan lore, then at length give special heed to the sacred and divine teachings, even as we first accustom ourselves to the sun’s reflection in the water, and then become able to turn our eyes upon the very sun itself.

– Basil the Great, Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature, Section 2 (see translation here)

Basil’s point is both that there are general skills in reading that we can hone and polish on profane writings that we can then apply to the Scriptures, to be taught by the Scriptures, and that there are truths even in pagan lore, but the sun of truth is Holy Scripture. He even goes on to say in section 10, “To be sure, we shall become more intimately acquainted with these precepts in the sacred writings, but it is incumbent upon us, for the present, to trace, as it were, the silhouette of virtue in the pagan authors.” For Basil, the primary teacher of these young men is to be the Scriptures. What you may find even more surprising, his address never once mentions “the church” as such.

In Basil’s undoubtedly authentic work “On the Holy Spirit,” he calls Christ by the name Rock (twice in chapter VIII)(once in Chapter XIV), following Scripture’s own teaching that “The Rock was Christ,” (1 Corinthians 10:4). We realize that Roman Catholics don’t think that this view is exclusive of a view that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16:18, but I’m simply unaware of anywhere in Basil’s authentic works where he explicitly interprets Matthew 16:18 even as being that Peter is the Rock (unless we count the instance in “Against Eunomius” above), and certainly no instances where Peter and the Roman bishops in succession are the rock.

Again, Pastor David King provides some excellent further thoughts on Basil:

Here is what Saint Basil thought of the Roman bishop in his day. Notice his comments on western pride.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379):

As soon as I got home, after contracting a severe illness from the bad weather and my anxieties. I straightway received a letter from the East to tell me that Paulinus had had certain letters from the West addressed to him, in acknowledgment of a sort of higher claim [reference to the see of Rome – David King’s note]; and that the Antiochene rebels were vastly elated by them, and were next preparing a form of creed, and offering to make its terms a condition of union with our Church. Besides all this it was reported to me that they had seduced to their faction that most excellent man Terentius. I wrote to him at once as forcibly as I could to induce him to pause; and I tried to point out their disingenuousness.

NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Letters, Letter 216, To Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch. (The translation that Edward Denny offers is, “After I returned…I received immediately letters from the East stating that Paulinus’ friends had certain letters from the West conceived as if they were the credentials of a sovereign power—ἀρχῆς—and that his partisans were proud of it, and exulted in these letters, moreover, were putting forth their faith, and on these terms were ready to join with the Church that stands by us.” See Edward Denny, Papalism (London: Rivingtons, 1912), p. 636, §1217.)

Basil of Caesarea is protesting Rome’s refusal to recognize Meletius as the rightful bishop of Antioch. The Pope recognized Paulinus instead, and regarded Meletius as out of communion with Rome. Basil refused to bow to papal jurisdiction. I have serious doubts whether Mr. Cross has really interacted with the history of the east vs. the west. Of all people to accuse of Roman primacy, Basil is no witness in favor of Rome.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379):

1. When I heard that your excellency had again been compelled to take part in public affairs, I was straightway distressed (for the truth must be told) at the thought of how contrary to your mind it must be that you after once giving up the anxieties of official life, and allowing yourself leisure for the care of your sold, should again be forced back into your old career. But then I bethought me that peradventure the Lord has ordained that your lordship should again appear in public from this wish to grant the boon of one alleviation for the countless pains which now beset the Church in our part of the world. I am, moreover, cheered by the thought that I am about to meet your excellency once again before I depart this life.

2. But a further rumor has reached me that you are in Antioch, and are transacting the business in hand with the chief authorities. And, besides this, I have heard that the brethren who are of the party of Paulinus are entering on some discussion with your excellency on the subject of union with us; and by “us” I mean those who are supporters of the blessed man of God, Meletius. I hear, moreover, that the Paulinians are carrying about a letter of the Westerns, assigning to them the episcopate of the Church in Antioch, but speaking under a false impression of Meletius, the admirable bishop of the true Church of God. I am not astonished at this. They are totally ignorant of what is going on here; the others, though they might be supposed to know, give an account to them in which party is put before truth; and it is only what one might expect that they should either be ignorant of the truth, or should even endeavor to conceal the reasons which led the blessed Bishop Athanasius to write to Paulinus. But your excellency has on the spot those who are able to tell you accurately what passed between the bishops in the reign of Jovian, and from them I beseech you to get information. I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and “especially unto them who are of the household of faith;” and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favor, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints.

NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Letters, Letter 214, §1-2, To Count Terentius.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379) on western pride:

Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarreled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy. Apart from the common document, I should like to have written to their Coryphaeus [i.e., the bishop of Rome, theirs, not his Coryphaeus] — nothing, indeed, about ecclesiastical affairs except gently to suggest that they know nothing of what is going on here, and will not accept the only means whereby they might learn it. I would say, generally, that they ought not to press hard on men who are crushed by trials. They must not take dignity for pride. Sin only avails to produce enmity against God.

NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Letters, Letter 239, To Eusebius, the Bishop of Samosata.

Basil of Caesarea did not recognize the bishop of Rome as the head of all Christendom.

Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379):

Now you are the body of Christ and members of member’—that is, the one and only true Head which is Christ exercises dominion over and unites the members, each with the other, unto harmonious accord.

Greek text: τῆς μιᾶς καὶ μόνης ἀληθῶς κεφαλῆς.

De Judicio Dei, §3, PG 31:660., translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, Preface on the Judgment of God (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950), p. 41.

Basil of Caesarea denied explicitly the headship of any man over Christ’s Church. Yet, Mr, Cross, apparently wholly unfamiliar with the history of eastern vs. western relations, cites Basil as a proponent of papal primacy that was utterly foreign to Basil’s ecclesiology. Basil did not apply Matthew 16 to the bishop of Rome, and Mr. Cross should be ashamed of his attempt to mislead others.

VIII. Eulogius of Alexandria

Bryan provides the following quotation from the 6th century Alexandrian Eulogius:

“Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, ‘I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ but only to Peter.”

The work itself is found in the “Library of Photius,” at item 280 (the last item in the collection), book II of Eulogius’ work against the Novations (per the citation here or here). It is the first line of the book, i.e. of book two (see the Greek here). There is a French translation of this work by René Henry, Photius: Bibliothéque, CNRS, Paris (1959), but no English translation of which I’m aware.

In any event, this doesn’t say anything about primacy of Peter – it just says that it was only said to Peter “I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” This quotation is quite far from contradicting anything that Congar said.

IX. Sergius, Metropolitan of Cyprus “(A.D. 649 A.D.)”, writing to to Pope Theodore, says:

“O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed.”

A typical citation (see here) for this quotation is to a letter to Theodore I, taken from Session 2, of the Lateran Council of 649. This was immediately a bit puzzling, because the Lateran Council of 649 was called by the bishop following Theodore I, namely Martin I.

The solution to this problem is that the date of this letter is wrong, not simply because the “A.D.” is redundant but because the date itself is not the right year. The date is the date of the “Lateran Council of 649,” which read the letter, but the letter was written some years earlier as a synodal letter from Cyprian Synod of May 29, 643 (see herecompare here) Here’s a recent Roman Catholic citation that corrects the date (link).

But who is Sergius of Cyrus, aside from being a metropolitan of Cyrus? There are not many facts out there. He is an ancient Christian (at least broadly understood) writer, but he’s not someone I would think of as a church father. He is writing in the middle of the 7th century, and it appears that the only extant version of his writing is something preserved by Romans at Rome. I’m not sure whether this can be legitimately identified as a counter-point to what Congar has said.

The text in context, with apparently original Greek, can be found in Mansi, Volume 10, at columns 913-16 (Greek, 913 and 916 – Latin 914-15). This helps to explain the erroneous citation, since the letter is found in Mansi among the documents of the later council.

X. St. Maximus the Confessor “(c. 650)” of Constantinople writes:

Two quotations were provided by Mr. Cross.

1. “The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.”

Tracking this one down was a little harder than some of the others. One book cites this as Opuscula theologica et polemica (Theological and Polemic Works), PG 90, which is a reference to an entire volume of Migne’s patrology. And it’s apparently a reference to the wrong volume, since the Theological and polemic works start at the beginning of PG 91. After some more detective work, I tracked it down in the CCC at footnote 323 of CCC 1:2:3:9:3. The quotation is the first half of a selection “From a letter which was written to Rome,” PG 91:137-40.

More specifically, these are extracts taken from a letter of Anastasius’s Letter to John the Deacon. John the Deacon (aka Johannes Hymonides) and Anastasius, librarian of the Roman church, are both Roman. The point of Anastasius’ letter was to vindicate the Roman see.

2. “How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerdotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia cites this simply as a letter (link). One website cites this as “in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10” (link), which is an entire volume of conciliar documents (a volume that seems to have the letter from Sergius of Cyprus, at pp. 914 et seq.).

This seems to be taken from a letter I found this letter (or a portion of it) preserved in PL 129:585-86, which again is one of Anastasius’ works; as well as at PL 128:717A, again amongst Anastasius’ works. Based on the order in Migne’s PL129, I would have expected to find this letter just after column 708 in Mansi, Volume 10, but I did not find it there or elsewhere in Mansi, Volume 10.

The most complete text of the letter I could find was in the Jesuit Jacques Sirmond’s edition of Anastasius’ works (Opera Varia, Volume 3, 317-18)

Nos quidem super hoc auctoritatem prabere non possumus, ministerium quippe nobis est creditum, non professionem faciendi praeceptum. Illud autem vobis certum reddimus quod referamus omnia quae a vobis praetenta sunt, et chartam ipsam ostendamus ei qui consecrandus est. Et si judicaverit hanc bene habere, rogabimus annotare huic propriam subscriptionem. Nunc autem ne velitis insperate propterea nobis impedimento fieri, et vim inferre protelando, et nos hic retinendo. Neque enim est qui cuilibet, in causa fidei, vim possit inferre. In hac enim et nimis infirmus fortis valde consistit, et valde mitis bellator summus invenitur: verboque divino consortans animam, maximis etiam invectionibus magis durus quam dissolutus quodammodo reperitur. Quanto magis Romanorum Ecclessiae et Clero, quae ab olim huc ufque, ut pote senior cunctarum quae sub sole sunt Еcclessiarum, omnibus praest. Hoc certe canonice tam a Conciliis et Apostolis, quam ab horum summo principatu consecuta [Ecclesia Romanorum], et in sortem adepta, nullis omnino propter pontificatus provectionem scriptis, aut synodicarum editionibus chartarum subjecti, sicut etiam in his omnes ex aequo ei secundum jus sacerdotale subjecti consistunt.

Letter from Maximus to Thalassius (taken from Anastasius’ works, as per this citation)

So, again, in these cases, it does not appear that Bryan’s evidence contradicts what Cardinal Congar wrote.

XI. Conclusion

Congar seems to be justified in stating, “Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than judicial.” It’s worth noting that the bulk of Bryan’s quotations were taken from works that are not exegetical, such as the letters quoted in the later writings. Furthermore, even among the exegetical works the works were not exegeses of Matthew, with the exception of Hilary of Poitiers.

Pastor King put it well when he explained Hilary of Poitier’s actual position:

Hilary of Poitiers never mentions, in the citation Mr. Cross produced, the see of Rome or the primacy of the Roman bishop. And he certainly did not hold to papal primacy in his day. In his work, Against Valens and Ursacius he condemns Pope Liberius as a heretic, and reproduces a letter by Liberius wherein he, the pope, excommunicates Athanasius of Alexandria from the Roman communion.

From Liberius, bishop of Rome to the Eastern bishops: To our very dear brethren and all our fellow-bishops established throughout the East, I, Liberius bishop of Rome, send greeting of eternal salvation.
Eager for your peace and unanimity of the churches after I had received your Charities’ letter about Athanasius and the rest addressed to bishop Julius of blessed memory, I followed the tradition of my predecessors and sent Lucius, Paul and Helianus, presbyters of Rome on my staff, to the aforesaid Athanasius in Alexandria, asking that he come to Rome so that the matter arising from ecclesiastical discipline in regard to him might be decided upon in his presence. I sent Athanasius a letter, through the aforesaid presbyters, in which it was stated that if he did not come, he was to know that he was a stranger to communion with the church of Rome. Consequently, I have followed your Charities’ letter, which you have sent us about the reputation of the aforesaid Athanasius, and you are to know by this letter I have sent to your united selves, that I am at peace with all of you and with all the bishops of the Catholic Church, but that the aforesaid Athanasius is estranged from my communion and that of the church of Rome and from association in Church letters. See Lionel R. Wickham, Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church, Liber II Ad Constantium, section 8 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), p. 70.

From Liberius in exile to Ursacius, Valens and Germinius: 1. Because I know you to be sons of peace, lovers of concord and harmony in the Catholic Church, I address you, very dear lords and brothers, by this letter. I have not been forced by any necessity, as God is my witness, but to do it for the good of the peace and concord which has prior place to martyrdom. Your wise selves are to know that Athanasius, who was the bishop of Alexandria, was condemned by me, before I wrote to the court of the holy Emperor, in accordance with the letter of the Eastern bishops, that he separated from communion with the church of Rome; as the whole body of presbyters of the church of Rome is witness. The sole reason for my appearing slower in writing letters about his reputation to our Eastern brothers and fellow-bishops, was in order that my legates, whom I had sent from Rome to the Court, or the bishops who had been deported, might both together, if possible, be recalled from exile.
2. But I want you to know this also: I asked my brother Fortunatianus to take to the most clement Emperor my letter to the Eastern bishops, in order that they too might know that I was separated from communion with Athanasius along with them. I believe his Piety will receive that letter with pleasure for the good of peace, and a copy of it I have also sent to the Emperor’s trusty eunuch Hilary. Your Charities will perceive that I have done these things in a spirit of friendship and integrity. Which is why I address you in this letter and adjure you by God almighty and his son Jesus Christ our Lord and God, to see fit to travel to the most clement Emperor Constantius Augustus and ask him to order my return to the church divinely entrusted to me, for the sake of the peace and concord in which his Piety ever rejoices, in order that the church of Rome may undergo no distress in his days. But you ought by this letter of mine to know, very dear brothers, that I am at peace with you in a spirit of calm and honesty. Great will be the comfort you secure on the day of retribution, if through you has been restored the peace of the Roman church. I want our brothers and fellow bishops Epictetus and Auxentius also, to learn through you that I am at peace, and have ecclesastical[sic] communion, with them. I think they will be pleased to receive this news. But anyone who dissents from our peace and concord which, God willing, has been established throughout the world, is to know that he is separated from our communion. See Lionel R. Wickham, Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church, Liber II Ad Constantium, section 8 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), pp. 78-79. Cf. also Migne, PL 10:686ff.

Interestingly enough, interspersed with the text above, the ancient catholic bishop, Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-367), now regarded by the communion of Rome as one of the lesser doctors of the church, stated . . . “Saint Hilary anathematizes him: I anathematize you, Liberius, and your associates . . . Anathema to you, prevaricating Liberius, twice and thrice!” Hilary did not hold to the primacy of the Roman bishop.

This may seem like somewhat of an overkill in response to Mr. Cross’ string citation of Fathers. Indeed, in the interest of fairness to Mr. Cross, I should point out that after I and Pastor King had posted sections of the above into the comment box, Mr. Cross seemed to retreat from his original position, stating:

My list of quotations (in #31) was intended to show examples of various Fathers outside Rome “referring to St. Peter or the See of Peter explicitly as the rock upon which Christ founded the Church, and to which Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom.” (#31) It was not intended to show examples of Fathers outside Rome appealing to Matthew 16 explicitly to defend the papal primacy of their own day.

(source)

Of course, even this limited position seems hard to defend, beyond a few fathers suggesting that Peter himself was the rock or that Peter himself personally held the keys. And, of course, such a view does not amount to papal primacy, and consequently does not contradict Cardinal Congar’s admission that “Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy … .”

I hope the reader will find this exploration of the fathers and their writings (both authentic and spurious) to be edifying.

-TurretinFan


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