Archive for November, 2010

Rome’s Meaningless Claim to "Unbroken Chain" Of Succession

November 26, 2010

The following is an example of Rome’s claim of “unbroken succession” – provided by pope John Paul II:

Nevertheless, the Roman Pontiffs have exercised their authority in Rome and, according to the conditions and opportunities of the times, have done so in wider and even universal areas, by virtue of their succeeding Peter. Written documents do not tell us how this succession occurred in the first link connecting Peter with the series of the bishops of Rome. It can be deduced, however, by considering everything that Pope Clement states in the letter cited above regarding the appointment of the first bishops and their successors. After recalling that the apostles, “preaching in the countryside and the cities, experienced their first fruits in the Spirit and appointed them bishops and deacons of future believers” (42, 4), St. Clement says in detail that, in order to avoid future conflicts regarding the episcopal dignity, the apostles “appointed those whom we said and then ordered that, after they had died, other proven men would succeed them in their ministry” (44, 2). The historical and canonical means by which that inheritance is passed on to them can change, and have indeed changed. But over the centuries, an unbroken chain links that transition from Peter to his first successor in the Roman See.

(link)

This is a typical claim we hear from Roman Catholics all the time. It sounds great – but is either simply untrue, or totally meaningless. Before we get to the claim itself, look at the wind-up for the claim.

John Paul 2 asserts: “The historical and canonical means by which that inheritance is passed on to them can change, and have indeed changed.” Let’s be blunt, the reason he thinks it “can change,” is the fact that way by which Roman bishops have been appointed has been repeatedly changed. There’s no Biblical teaching that the way by which bishops are appointed can change. In fact, if the way by which Roman bishops hadn’t changed over the years, we’d probably be told that it was an apostolic tradition that cannot be changed. That’s simply an artifact of not having a single, written rule of faith.

But that’s only a small part of the reason why the “unbroken chain” claim is bogus. In other words, the fact that they pick bishops today in a way that is different from 100 years ago or 1000 years ago, each of which is different from what is now (100 years ago, there was not an age limit for voting cardinals, and 1000 years ago, there was no college of cardinals) is only one aspect. That’s the aspect of the mode of succession. The mode has been broken. Roman bishops are not appointed the way they used to be – and consequently when we hear about an “unbroken chain,” it cannot mean that the mechanism of succession itself is unbroken.

Another aspect, and perhaps a bigger one, is the problem of what it would take to make the chain “broken.”

Is it time? Ask your Roman Catholic friends (and they are welcome to answer here) how much of a gap would constitute a break. The current way of picking new bishops of Rome necessarily involves there being gaps between the reign of popes. It’s not like the British monarchy, where as soon as one monarch dies, a new monarch is automatically apparent because of the rules of hereditary succession.

Thus, there are always gaps and breaks in the chain. There was a time period that elapsed between the death of John Paul II and the election of Joseph Ratzinger (who became known as Benedict XVI).

But there is no actual standard of what gap of time is acceptable, and what gap would break succession. Thus, it is simply impossible to say what gap is acceptable. For example, according to a typical list of popes (example) there was no pope during the whole years 259, 305-307, 639, 1242, 1269-1270, 1293, 1315, and 1416, not to mention the many partial years. That’s over a half dozen breaks of over a year.

Being deposed? Benedict IX was deposed twice and restored. His biography states:

The nephew of his two immediate predecessors, Benedict IX was a man of very different character to either of them. He was a disgrace to the Chair of Peter. Regarding it as a sort of heirloom, his father Alberic placed him upon it when a mere youth … .

It goes on to relate:

Taking advantage of the dissolute life he was leading, one of the factions in the city drove him from it (1044) amid the greatest disorder, and elected an antipope (Sylvester III) in the person of John, Bishop of Sabina (1045 -Ann. Romani, init. Victor, Dialogi, III, init.). Benedict, however, succeeded in expelling Sylvester the same year; but, as some say, that he might marry, he resigned his office into the hands of the Archpriest John Gratian for a large sum. John was then elected pope and became Gregory VI (May, 1045). Repenting of his bargain, Benedict endeavoured to depose Gregory. This resulted in the intervention of King Henry III. Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory were deposed at the Council of Sutri (1046) and a German bishop (Suidger) became Pope Clement II. After his speedy demise, Benedict again seized Rome (November, 1047), but was driven from it to make way for a second German pope, Damasus II (November, 1048).

(source for biography)

Being outrageously sinful? Alexander VI was another pope who allegedly obtained his position through simony, but that’s not perhaps the worst of it. He not only openly acknowledged his children (yes, of course he was not married), but even used his political strength to try either to benefit or exploit them. A very favorable Roman biography of him touches on the matter in this delicate way:

Notwithstanding these and similar actions, which might seem to entitle him to no mean place in the annals of the papacy, Alexander continued as Pope the manner of life that had disgraced his cardinalate (Pastor, op. cit., III, 449 152). A stern Nemesis pursued him till death in the shape of a strong parental affection for his children.

It goes on to say:

An impartial appreciation of the career of this extraordinary person must at once distinguish between the man and the office. “An imperfect setting”, says Dr. Pastor (op. cit., III, 475), “does not affect the intrinsic worth of the jewel, nor does the golden coin lose its value when it passes through impure hands. In so far as the priest is a public officer of a holy Church, a blameless life is expected from him, both because he is by his office the model of virtue to whom the laity look up, and because his life, when virtuous, inspires in onlookers respect for the society of which he is an ornament. But the treasures of the Church, her Divine character, her holiness, Divine revelation, the grace of God, spiritual authority, it is well known, are not dependent on the moral character of the agents and officers of the Church. The foremost of her priests cannot diminish by an iota the intrinsic value of the spiritual treasures confided to him.” There have been at all times wicked men in the ecclesiastical ranks. Our Lord foretold, as one of its severest trials, the presence in His Church not only of false brethren, but of rulers who would offend, by various forms of selfishness, both the children of the household and “those who are without”. Similarly, He compared His beloved spouse, the Church, to a threshing floor, on which fall both chaff and grain until the time of separation. The most severe arraignments of Alexander, because in a sense official, are those of his Catholic contemporaries, Pope Julius II (Gregorovius, VII, 494) and the Augustinian cardinal and reformer, Aegidius of Viterbo, in his manuscript “Historia XX Saeculorum”, preserved at Rome in the Bibliotheca Angelica. The Oratorian Raynaldus (d. 1677), who continued the semi-official Annals of Baronius, gave to the world at Rome (ad an. 1460, no. 41) the above-mentioned paternal but severe reproof of the youthful Cardinal by Pius II, and stated elsewhere (ad an. 1495, no. 26) that it was in his time the opinion of historians that Alexander had obtained the papacy partly through money and partly through promises and the persuasion that he would not interfere with the lives of his electors. Mansi, the scholarly Archbishop of Lucca editor and annotator of Raynaldus, says (XI, 4155) that it is easier to keep silence than to write write moderation about this Pope. The severe judgment of the late Cardinal Hergenröther, in his “Kirchengeschichte”, or Manual of Church History (4th. ed., Freiburg, 1904, II, 982-983) is too well known to need more than mention.

So little have Catholic historians defended him that in the middle of the nineteenth century Cesare Cantù could write that Alexander VI was the only Pope who had never found an apologist.

(source for biography)

Being a heretic? Honorius I was condemned as a monophosite heretic by centuries of Roman bishops. (see the linked article)

Leaving Rome? For about 70 years (and seven popes), the seat of the papacy was not in Rome but in Avignon, France (see the linked article).

Needing an Ecumenical Council to Jump-Start it? Among the tasks of the Council of Constance (considered the 15th Ecumenical Council by the Roman church) was to, in effect, decide who got to be pope, thereby ending a three-way dispute that had been on-going (link to discussion of council from a Roman Catholic perspective).

How much more broken could it really get? I guess the things above could have happened more often or for longer periods of time – but is that really the appropriate measure of things? I think the short answer is that the claim of an “unbroken chain” of succession is just hot air – an empty claim supported by nothing but the wishful thinking of those who support Rome.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

False Dichotomy Between Infallible Church and "Subjective, Individualistic" Conclusions

November 24, 2010

Over at the GreenBaggins blog, in a comment box, Roman Catholic Bryan Cross wrote:

If we deny that the Church has such a gift [a gift (or charism) of infallibility in matters of faith and morals], then we are left with a subjective, individualistic, “changes hearts” criterion of canonicity, and such a subjective criterion is, as you say, bogus.

(source)

This false dichotomy is fairly easily smoked out.

It can be smoked out a few ways.

I. Historical Example

The Roman church did not claim to infallibly define the canon of Scripture before Trent, and yet people (both in the Roman communion and outside it) felt perfectly comfortable having a fallible canon. It worked for over 1500 years.

Ignatius was satisfied with a canon that was not based on a church having a gift of infallibility. So were all the church fathers and all the medieval theologians.

The North African councils produced a canon themselves rather than attempting to seek an ecumenical decision on the question. Before them, Athanasius provided a list of the canon of Scripture without even relying on a church council!

And then, after the Reformation comes along, Trent tries to infallibly define the canon. And when they define it, they contradict two leading cardinals of the immediately previous generation (Cardinals Ximenez and Cajetan) – cardinals who affirmed Jerome’s (and the Protestants’) canon.

II. Analogical Counter-Example

What Bryan is arguing for on the level of books is also an issue with respect to parts of books – to the issue of the text of the books themselves. Is the story of the woman found in adultery in the original text? Is the famous passage in 1 John 5:7-8 part of the original text?

Bryan could try to argue that “If we deny that the Church has such a gift [a gift (or charism) of infallibility in matters of faith and morals], then we are left with a subjective, individualistic, “changes hearts” criterion of [textual authenticity], and such a subjective criterion is, as you say, bogus.”

But it should be readily apparent that one can have a knowledge of the text of Scripture and reach conclusions of textual authenticity without resorting to completely subjective and individualistic exercises of authority.

Trent itself originally attempted to define not only the books themselves but also the parts of books (with a focus on things like the apocryphal additions to Daniel and Esther). However, Rome has subsequently issued a New Vulgate that does not entirely follow the text of the Clementine Vulgate.

III. Logical Analysis

Obviously, the portion of Bryan’s comment I’ve quoted above is simply a fragment of a larger argument. As such, it is a little informal. On the one hand, we could simply insist that Bryan should formalize his argument. However, until he does so, we can explore his argument in the form in which it has been presented.

As presented, it seems to suggest that there are really only two options:

1) Infallible Church
2) Subjective, Individualistic Judgment

This set is not well-defined. At least, it does not appear to be well-defined.

Is our knowledge of the facts of history generally simply a matter of subjective, individualistic judgment? Is our knowledge of which books Homer wrote the domain of subjective, individualistic judgment? Is our knowledge of which are the previous presidents of the United States merely a matter of subjective, individualistic judgment?

Unless the words “subjective” and “individualistic” are simply epithets (which is a real possibility), then there is a third way – a way in which we conclude that historical facts (God inspiring 66 books, Homer composing two epic poems, 40+ men becoming president of the U.S.) are true, without either resorting to subjective, individualistic means or relying on an infallible church.

IV. Scriptural Analysis

Scripture does not, of course, directly address Bryan’s complaint. However, Scripture does provide teachings that undermine Bryan’s complaint.

One of the areas of teaching relates to the fact that the elect, upon regeneration, are sheep that hear the voice of the shepherd:

John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Psalm 95:7-9
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.

Bryan cannot deny that the Scriptures are the voice of the Shepherd, and consequently we conclude that the elect will recognize and follow the Scripture. This does not mean that they will always do this perfectly. They remain human and fallible. There have been great men of God who have erred with respect either to rejecting an inspired book or accepting as inspired a book that is not.

Deuteronomy 33:3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.

John 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

The point here is that the people of God do receive the Word of God. That’s true whether it is in preached form (as in a sermon that conveys the Word of God) or in written form (principally in the Scriptures).

This recognition of God’s word for what it is, a recognition that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers to a greater or lesser degree, does not translate into an infallible ability. The Thessalonians were fallible human beings. Nevertheless, they were able to receive Paul’s message for what it was. According to the same principle, we can receive the Scriptures for what they are.

-TurretinFan

Pre-Reformation Views of the Antichrist

November 23, 2010

Ever wonder what people thought about the Antichrist before Luther came along and pounded on the chapel door at Wittenberg? The following is a table extracted (with kind permission of Pastor Grassley) from a longer pdf document available at the link (link). I have not independently verified this information.

Date Name Reference Interpretation
c. 1310 Dante Alighieri Rev. 17 Harlot Roman Church
c. 1331 Michael of Cesena Rev. 17 Harlot

Antichrist

Roman Church

Pope

c. 1345 Johannes de Rupescissa Antichrist

Rev. 17 Babylon

Rev. 17 Harlot

Pope

Roman church

Roman church

c. 1350 Francesco Petrarch Rev. 17 Harlot Papal Court
c. 1367 John Milicz Antichrist

Abomination of Desolation

Man of Sin

Papacy

Papacy

Papacy

c. 1379 John Wycliffe Antichrist

Abomination of Desolation

Little Horn

Man of Sin

Rev. 17 Harlot

Pope

Papacy

Popes

Papacy

Papacy

c. 1388 Matthias of Janow Antichrist

Abomination of Desolation

Man of Sin

Rev. 13 1st Beast

Rev. 17 Harlot

Rev. 17 Babylon

Hierarchy

Fallen Church

Present Church

Papacy

Hierarchy

Popes

c. 1389 R. Wimbledon Abomination of Desolation Papacy
c. 1390 John Purvey Antichrist

Rev. 13 1st Beast

Rev. 13 2nd Beast

Rev. 13 666

Rev. 17 Harlot

Rev. 17 Babylon

Pope

Papacy

Hierarchy

Pope

Papacy

Papacy

c. 1393 Walter Brute Antichrist

Abomination of Desolation

Little Horn

Man of Sin

Papacy

Bishop of Rome

Rome

Papacy

c. 1412 John Huss Antichrist

Abomination of Desolation

Little Horn

Man of Sin

Rev. 13 1st Beast

Rev. 17 Harlot

Rev. 17 Babylon

Pope

Papacy

Rome

Papacy

Papacy

Papacy

Papacy

c. 1497 Girolamo Savonarola Antichrist

Man of Sin

Rev. 17 Harlot

Rev. 17 Babylon

Pope

Papacy

Papacy

Papacy

Can God Have Mercy on Whom He Wishes?

November 23, 2010

One of the alleged errors condemned by Rome is this: “All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.” (see discussion here)

But Scripture says:

John 6:39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Who should I believe? Rome or the Bible? Rome denies God’s omnipotence in salvation, whereas Scripture affirms it. With Scripture, I gladly affirm that All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.

-TurretinFan

Rejecting the Truth with Clement XI

November 21, 2010

Some of Rome’s rejections of Scriptural truth are more clear than others. One particularly clear set of examples comes from the dogmatic Constitution, “Unigenitus,”dated Sept. 8, 1713, and authorized by Clement XI. I’ve previously posted a full list of the 101 “errors” condemned (link to full list).

There many alleged errors identified. I’ve taken the liberty to highlight a few of them. Remember, these are what the Roman church has officially proclaimed to be errors.

Scripture

  • 79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
  • 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.
  • 81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.
  • 82. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.
  • 83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures, and have heresies been born.
  • 84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.
  • 85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

The Power of God in Salvation

  • 30. All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.
  • 31. The desires of Christ always have their effect; He brings peace to the depth of hearts when He desires it for them.

Particular Redemption

  • 32. Jesus Christ surrendered Himself to death to free forever from the hand of the exterminating angel, by His blood, the first born, that is, the elect.

Justification by Faith that Works through Love

  • 51. Faith justifies when it operates, but it does not operate except through charity.

Faith as the Gift of God

  • 69. Faith, practice of it, increase, and reward of faith, all are a gift of the pure liberality of God.

The Church

  • 72. A mark of the Christian Church is that it is catholic, embracing all the angels of heaven, all the elect and the just on earth, and of all times.
  • 73. What is the Church except an assembly of the sons of God abiding in His bosom, adopted in Christ, subsisting in His person, redeemed by His blood, living in His spirit, acting through His grace, and awaiting the grace of the future life?
  • 74. The Church or the whole Christ has the Incarnate Word as head, but all the saints as members.
  • 75. The Church is one single man composed of many members, of which Christ is the head, the life, the subsistence and the person; it is one single Christ composed of many saints, of whom He is the sanctifier.

Total Depravity

  • 38. Without the grace of the Liberator, the sinner is not free except to do evil.
  • 39. The will, which grace does not anticipate, has no light except for straying, no eagerness except to put itself in danger, no strength except to wound itself, and is capable of all evil and incapable of all good.
  • 40. Without grace we can love nothing except to our own condemnation.
  • 41. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.
  • 42. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.
  • 48. What else can we be except darkness, except aberration, and except sin, without the light of faith, without Christ, and without charity?

The Absolute Necessity of Grace

  • 1. What else remains for the soul that has lost God and His grace except sin and the consequences of sin, a proud poverty and a slothful indigence, that is, a general impotence for labor, for prayer, and for every good work?
  • 2. The grace of Jesus Christ, which is the efficacious principle of every kind of good, is necessary for every good work; without it, not only is nothing done, but nothing can be done.
  • 5. When God does not soften a heart by the interior unction of His grace, exterior exhortations and graces are of no service except to harden it the more.
  • 9. The grace of Christ is a supreme grace, without which we can never confess Christ, and with which we never deny Him.

The Irresistibility of Grace

  • 10. Grace is the working of the omnipotent hand of God, which nothing can hinder or retard.
  • 11. Grace is nothing else than the omnipotent Will of God, ordering and doing what He orders.
  • 12. When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God.
  • 13. When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists Him.
  • 14. Howsoever remote from salvation an obstinate sinner is, when Jesus presents Himself to be seen by him in the salutary light of His grace, the sinner is forced to surrender himself, to have recourse to Him, and to humble himself, and to adore his Savior.
  • 15. When God accompanies His commandment and His eternal exhortation by the unction of His Spirit and by the interior force of His grace, He works that obedience in the heart that He is seeking.
  • 16. There are no attractions which do not yield to the attractions of grace, because nothing resists the Almighty.
  • 17. Grace is that voice of the Father which teaches men interiorly and makes them come to Jesus Christ; whoever does not come to Him, after he has heard the exterior voice of the Son, is in no wise taught by the Father.

Unjust Excommunication

  • 91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.
  • 92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.

Yes, folks, those are things that Rome has officially taught are errors – yet many of these teachings are the truth, as I think will be obvious to most of those reading.

– TurretinFan

Alleged Errors of Paschasius Quesnel

November 21, 2010

The following document contains excerpts from Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma (first part)(second part). The first number is the number from Denzinger’s English translation, the second number is the number of the identified “error” in the document.

Errors of Paschasius Quesnel [Condemned in the dogmatic Constitution, “Unigenitus,”Sept. 8, 1713]

1351 (Sec. 3) 1. What else remains for the soul that has lost God and His grace except sin and the consequences of sin, a proud poverty and a slothful indigence, that is, a general impotence for labor, for prayer, and for every good work?

1352 2. The grace of Jesus Christ, which is the efficacious principle of every kind of good, is necessary for every good work; without it, not only is nothing done, but nothing can be done.

1353 3. In vain, O Lord, do You command, if You do not give what you command.

1354 4. Thus, O Lord, all things are possible to him for whom You make all things possible by effecting those same things in him.

1355 5. When God does not soften a heart by the interior unction of His grace, exterior exhortations and graces are of no service except to harden it the more.

1356 6. The difference between the Judaic dispensation and the Christian is this, that in the former God demanded flight from sin and a fulfillment of the Law by the sinner, leaving him in his own weakness; but in the latter, God gives the sinner what He commands, by purifying him with His grace.

1357 7. What advantage was there for a man in the old covenant, in which God left him to his own weakness, by imposing on him His law? But what happiness is it not to be admitted to a convenant in which God gives us what He asks of us?

1358 8. But we do not belong to the new covenant, except in so far as we are participators in that new grace which works in us that which God commands us.

1359 9. The grace of Christ is a supreme grace, without which we can never confess Christ, and with which we never deny Him.

1360 10. Grace is the working of the omnipotent hand of God, which nothing can hinder or retard.

1361 11. Grace is nothing else than the omnipotent Will of God, ordering and doing what He orders.

1362 12. When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God.

1363 13. When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists Him.

1364 14. Howsoever remote from salvation an obstinate sinner is, when Jesus presents Himself to be seen by him in the salutary light of His grace, the sinner is forced to surrender himself, to have recourse to Him, and to humble himself, and to adore his Savior.

1365 15. When God accompanies His commandment and His eternal exhortation by the unction of His Spirit and by the interior force of His grace, He works that obedience in the heart that He is seeking.

1366 16. There are no attractions which do not yield to the attractions of grace, because nothing resists the Almighty.

1367 17. Grace is that voice of the Father which teaches men interiorly and makes them come to Jesus Christ; whoever does not come to Him, after he has heard the exterior voice of the Son, is in no wise taught by the Father.

1368 18. The seed of the word, which the hand of God nourishes, always brings forth its fruit.

1369 19. The grace of God is nothing else than His omnipotent Will; this is the idea which God Himself gives us in all His Scriptures.

1370 20. The true idea of grace is that God wishes Himself to be obeyed by us and He is obeyed; He commands, and all things are done; He speaks as the Lord, and all things are obedient to Him.

1371 21. The grace of Jesus Christ is a strong, powerful, supreme, invincible grace, that is, the operation of the omnipotent Will, the consequence and imitation of the operation of God causing the incarnation and the resurrection of His Son.

1372 22. The harmony of the all powerful operation of God in the heart of man with the free consent of man’s will is demonstrated, therefore, to us in the Incarnation, as in the fount and archetype of all other operations of mercy and grace, all of which are as gratuitous and as dependent on God as the original operation itself.

1373 23. God Himself has taught us the idea of the omnipotent working of His grace, signifying it by that operation which produces creatures from nothing and which restores life to the dead.

1374 24. The right idea which the centurion had about the omnipotence of God and of Jesus Christ in healing bodies by a single act of His will, [Matt. 8:8] is an image of the idea we should have about the omnipotence of His grace in healing souls from cupidity.

1375 25. God illumines the soul, and heals it, as well as the body, by His will only; He gives orders and He is obeyed.

1376 26. No graces are granted except through faith.

1377 27. Faith is the first grace and the source of all others.

1378 28. The first grace which God grants to the sinner Is the remission of sin.

1379 29. Outside of the Church, no grace is granted.

1380 30. All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.

1381 31. The desires of Christ always have their effect; He brings peace to the depth of hearts when He desires it for them.

1382 32. Jesus Christ surrendered Himself to death to free forever from the hand of the exterminating angel, by His blood, the first born, that is, the elect.

1383 33. Ah, how much one ought to renounce earthly goods and himself for this, that he may have the confidence of appropriating, so to speak, Christ Jesus to himself, His love, death, and mysteries, as St. Paul does, when he says: “He who loved me, and delivered Himself for me” [Gal.2:20].

1384 34. The grace of Adam produced nothing except human merit.

1385 35. The grace of Adam is a consequence of creation and was due to his whole and sound nature.

1386 36. The essential difference between the grace of Adam and of his state of innocence and Christian grace, is that each one would have received the first in his own person, but the second is not received except in the person of the risen Jesus Christ to whom we are united.

1387 37. The grace of Adam by sanctifying him in himself was proportionate to him; Christian grace, by sanctifying us in Jesus Christ, is omnipotent, and worthy of the Son of God.

1388 38. Without the grace of the Liberator, the sinner is not free except to do evil.

1389 39. The will, which grace does not anticipate, has no light except for straying, no eagerness except to put itself in danger, no strength except to wound itself, and is capable of all evil and incapable of all good.

1390 40. Without grace we can love nothing except to our own condemnation.

1391 41. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.

1392 42. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.

1393 43. The first effect of baptismal grace is to make us die to sin so that our spirit, heart, and senses have no more life for sin than a dead man has for the things of the world.

1394 44. There are but two loves, from which all our volitions and actions arise: love of God, which does all things because of God and which God rewards; and the love with which we love ourselves and the world, which does not refer to God what ought to be referred to Him, and therefore becomes evil.

1395 45. When love of God no longer reigns in the heart of sinners, it needs must be that carnal desire reign in it and corrupt all of its actions.

1396 46. Cupidity or charity makes the use of the senses good or evil.

1397 47. Obedience to the law ought to flow from the source, and this source is charity. When the love of God is the interior principle of obedience and the glory of God is its end, then that is pure which appears externally; otherwise, it is but hypocrisy and false justice.

1398 48. What else can we be except darkness, except aberration, and except sin, without the light of faith, without Christ, and without charity?

1399 49. As there is no sin without love of ourselves, so there is no good work without love of God.

1400 50. In vain we cry out to God: MyFather,if it is not the spirit of charity which cries out.

1401 51. Faith justifies when it operates, but it does not operate except through charity.

1402 52. All other means of salvation are contained in faith as in their own germ and seed; but this faith does not exist apart from love and confidence.

1403 53. Only charity in the Christian way makes (Christian actions) through a relation to God and to Jesus Christ.

1404 54. It is charity alone that speaks to God; it alone that God hears.

1405 55. God crowns nothing except charity; he who runs through any other incentive or any other motive, runs in vain.

1406 56. God rewards nothing but charity; for charity alone honors God.

1407 57. All fails a sinner, when hope fails him; and there is no hope in God, when there is no love of God.

1408 58. Neither God nor religion exists where there is no charity.

1409 59. The prayer of the impious is a new sin; and what God grants to them is a new judgment against them.

1410 60. If fear of punishment alone animates penance, the more intense this is, the more it leads to despair.

1411 61. Fear restrains nothing but the hand, but the heart is addicted to the sin as long as it is not guided by a love of justice.

1412 62. He who does not refrain from evil except through fear of punishment, commits that evil in his heart, and is already guilty before God.

1413 63. A baptized person is still under the law as a Jew, if he does not fulfill the law, or if he fulfills it from fear alone.

1414 64. Good is never done under the condemnation of the law, because one sins either by doing evil or by avoiding it only through fear.

1415 65. Moses, the prophets, priests, and doctors of the Law died without having given any son to God, since they produced only slaves through fear.

1416 66. He who wishes to approach to God, should not come to Him with brutal passions, nor be led to Him by natural instinct, or through fear as animals, but through faith and love, as sons.

1417 67. Servile fear does not represent God to itself except as a stern imperious, unjust, unyielding master.

1418 68. The goodness of God has shortened the road to salvation, by enclosing all in faith and in prayers.

1419 69. Faith, practice of it, increase, and reward of faith, all are a gift of the pure liberality of God.

1420 70. Never does God afflict the innocent; and afflictions always serve either to punish the sin or to purify the sinner.

1421 71. For the preservation of himself man can dispense himself from that law which God established for his use.

1422 72. A mark of the Christian Church is that it is catholic, embracing all the angels of heaven, all the elect and the just on earth, and of all times.

1423 73. What is the Church except an assembly of the sons of God abiding in His bosom, adopted in Christ, subsisting in His person, redeemed by His blood, living in His spirit, acting through His grace, and awaiting the grace of the future life?

1424 74. The Church or the whole Christ has the Incarnate Word as head, but all the saints as members.

1425 75. The Church is one single man composed of many members, of which Christ is the head, the life, the subsistence and the person; it is one single Christ composed of many saints, of whom He is the sanctifier

1426 76. There is nothing more spacious than the Church of God; because all the elect and the just of all ages comprise it.

1427 77. He who does not lead a life worthy of a son of God and a member of Christ, ceases interiorly to have God as a Father and Christ as a head.

1428 78. One is separated from the chosen people, whose figure was the Jewish people, and whose head is Jesus Christ, both by not living according to the Gospel and by not believing in the Gospel.

1429 79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

1430 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

1431 81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

1432 82. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

1433 83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures, and have heresies been born.

1434 84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

1435 85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

1436 86. To snatch from the simple people this consolation of joining their voice to the voice of the whole Church is a custom contrary to the apostolic practice and to the intention of God.

1437 87. A method full of wisdom, light, and charity is to give souls time for bearing with humility, and for experiencing their state of sin, for seeking the spirit of penance and contrition, and for beginning at least to satisfy the justice of God, before they are reconciled.

1438 88. We are ignorant of what sin is and of what true penance is, when we wish to be restored at once to the possession of the goods of which sin has despoiled us, and when we refuse to endure the confusion of that separation.

1439 89. The fourteenth step in the conversion of a sinner is that, after he has already been reconciled, he has the right of assisting at the Sacrifice of the Church.

1440 90. The Church has the authority to excommunicate, so that it may exercise it through the first pastors with the consent, at least presumed, of the whole body.

1441 91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.

1442 92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.

1443 93. Jesus sometimes heals the wounds which the precipitous haste of the first pastors inflicted without His command. Jesus restored what they, with inconsidered zeal, cut off.

1444 94. Nothing engenders a worse opinion of the Church among her enemies than to see exercised there an absolute rule over the faith of the faithful, and to see divisions fostered because of matters which do not violate faith or morals.

1445 95. Truths have descended to this, that they are, as it were, a foreign tongue to most Christians, and the manner of preaching them is, as it were, an unknown idiom, so remote is the manner of preaching from the simplicity of the apostles, and so much above the common grasp of the faithful; nor is there sufficient advertence to the fact that this defect is one of the greatest visible signs of the weakening of the Church and of the wrath of God on His sons.

1446 96. God permits that all powers be opposed to the preachers of truth, so that its victory cannot be attributed to anyone except to divine grace.

1447 97. Too often it happens that those members, who are united to the Church more holily and more strictly, are looked down upon, and treated as if they were unworthy of being in the Church, or as if they were separated from Her; but, “the just man liveth by faith” [Rom. 1:17], and not by the opinion of men.

1448 98. The state of persecution and of punishment which anyone endures as a disgraceful and impious heretic, is generally the final trial and is especially meritorious, inasmuch as it makes a man more conformable to Jesus Christ.

1449 99. Stubbornness, investigation, and obstinacy in being unwilling either to examine something or to acknowledge that one has been deceived, daily changes into an odor, as it were, of death, for many people, that which God has placed in His Church to be an odor of life within it, for instance, good books, instructions, holy examples, etc.

1450 100 Deplorable is the time in which God is believed to be honored by persecution of the truth and its disciples! This time has come. . . . To be considered and treated by the ministers of religion as impious and unworthy of all commerce with God, as a putrid member capable of corrupting everything in the society of saints, is to pious men a more terrible death than the death of the body. In vain does anyone flatter himself on the purity of his intentions and on a certain zeal for religion, when he persecutes honest men with fire and sword, if he is blinded by his own passion or carried away by that of another on account of which he does not want to examine anything. We frequently believe that we are sacrificing an impious man to God, when we are sacrificing a servant of God to the devil.

1451 101. Nothing is more opposed to the spirit of God and to the doctrine of Jesus Christ than to swear common oaths in Church, because this is to multiply occasions of perjury, to lay snares for the weak and inexperienced, and to cause the name and truth of God to serve sometimes the plan of the wicked.

Declared and condemnedas false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Fourth Century Fathers (Guest Series)

November 20, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

We began by explaining the nature of formal sufficiency (i.e. the Reformed view) in an introduction section (link). After that we explored Scripture’s own testimony to its sufficiency (link). We could rightly have stopped the series there, but instead we continued by exploring some of the patristic testimony on the subject, starting with the earliest Christian writers (link), and then continuing with the fathers of the 3rd century (link).

The fourth century ushers in a period during which Christianity did not experience persecution on a large scale. Consequently, there are more and better preserved writings from this period than from some of the previous periods.

Using the century boundaries as the dividing line as to which fathers to include may seem a little arbitrary. For example, Epiphanias of Salamis and Chrysostom both died in the first decade of the 5th century, having lived most of their lives in the 4th century. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to select only those fathers who died or flourished (in the case of fathers whose date of death is not known) in the fourth century.

We begin our exploration of the fourth century with a theologian born in the 3rd century in Africa, but who later became an adviser to the Roman emperor.

Lactantius (260-330):

For this is especially the cause why, with the wise and the learned, and the princes of this world, the sacred Scriptures are without credit, because the prophets spoke in common and simple language, as though they spoke to the people. And therefore they are despised by those who are willing to hear or read nothing except that which is polished and eloquent; nor is anything able to remain fixed in their minds, except that which charms their ears by a more soothing sound. But those things which appear humble are considered anile, foolish, and common. So entirely do they regard nothing as true, except that which is pleasant to the ear; nothing as credible, except that which can excite pleasure: no one estimates a subject by its truth, but by its embellishment. Therefore they do not believe the sacred writings, because they are without any pretense; but they do not even believe those who explain them, because they also are either altogether ignorant, or at any rate possessed of little learning.

ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book V, Chapter I.

There are two things to particularly note in Lactantius’ comments above. The first is that the Scriptures are generally written in simple language. The second is that they are believed and explained by those who are either uneducated or have little education.

Lactantius (260-330):

For all those things which are unconnected with words, that is, pleasant sounds of the air and of strings, may be easily disregarded, because they do not adhere to its, and cannot be written. But a well-composed poem, and a speech beguiling with its sweetness, captivate the minds of men, and impel them in what direction they please. Hence, when learned men have applied themselves to the religion of God, unless they have been instructed by some skillful teacher, they do not believe. For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is O pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.

ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book VI Of true Worship, Chapter 21 Of the Pleasures of the Ears, And of Sacred Literature.

The quotation above builds upon the previous one. It reemphasizes that Scripture is written simply, and it explains the reason, which is that it will be understood by all.

Regarding Constantine (325, Nicea):

The excellent emperor next exhorted the Bishops to unanimity and concord; he recalled to their remembrance the cruelty of the late tyrants, and reminded them of the honourable peace which God had, in his reign and by his means, accorded them. He pointed out how dreadful it was, aye, very dreadful, that at the very time when their enemies were destroyed, and when no one dared to oppose them, they should fall upon one another, and make their amused adversaries laugh, especially as they were debating about holy things, concerning which they had the written teaching of the Holy Spirit. “For the gospels” (continued he), “the apostolical writings, and the oracles of the ancient prophets, clearly teach us what we ought to believe concerning the divine nature. Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue.” These and similar exhortations he, like an affectionate son, addressed to the bishops as to fathers, labouring to bring about their unanimity in the apostolical doctrines.

According to Theodoret, cf. NPNF2: Vol. III, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 6.

Note that Constantine is not just saying that the Scriptures are clear, but that they clearly teach even on the challenging issues of the Arian controversy. Furthermore, they are the ones from whom the solution of the question will come, the one source he identifies.

We should not be too surprised that Alexander of Alexandria shares similar ideas, since he was one of the bishops at Nicaea.

Alexander of Alexandria (d. 328), the spiritual mentor of Athanasius, testified of the Arian heretics in a letter to Alexander of Constantinople:

They are not ashamed to oppose the godly clearness of the ancient scriptures.

Alternative translation:
The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame . . .

Greek: Οὐ κατήδεσεν αὐτοὺς ἡ τῶν ἀρχαίων Γραφῶν φιλόθεος σαφήνεια . . .

Theodoreti Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Liber I, Caput III, PG 82:904; translation in NPNF2: Vol. III, Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 3; alternative translation in ANF: Vol. VI, Epistle to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople, §10. The mistranslation of these words in J. Berington and J. Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, with preface, corrections, and additions by Rt. Rev. Monsignor Capel, Vol. 1, Third Enlarged Edition (Ratison: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1909), p. 45, represent a distorted view of what Alexander of Alexandria said, “Neither the explanation, well-pleasing unto God, of the ancient Scripture has shamed them.”

The quotation above is fairly self-explanatory. It is simply confirming that Alexander thought that the Arians were not simply interpreting Scripture differently, but rather that they were opposing the clear teachings of Scripture.

Anthony (c. 251–356) (recounted by Athanasius):

One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words.

NPNF2: Vol. IV, Life of Anthony, §16.

Anthony’s comments are a fairly concise statement of formal sufficiency. Unsurprisingly, Athanasius’ own views are similar.

Athanasius (297-373):

The knowledge of our religion and of the truth of things is independently manifest rather than in need of human teachers, for almost day by day it asserts itself by facts, and manifests itself brighter than the sun by the doctrine of Christ.

Still, as you nevertheless desire to hear about it, Macarius, come let us as we may be able set forth a few points of the faith of Christ: able though you are to find it out from the divine oracles, but yet generously desiring to hear from others as well.

For although the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth,—while there are other works of our blessed teachers compiled for this purpose, if he meet with which a man will gain some knowledge of the interpretation of the Scriptures, and be able to learn what he wishes to know,—still, as we have not at present in our hands the compositions of our teachers, we must communicate in writing to you what we learned from them,—the faith, namely, of Christ the Saviour; lest any should hold cheap the doctrine taught among us, or think faith in Christ unreasonable.

NPNF2: Vol. IV, Against the Heathen, Part I, §1-3.

Again, we see explicit affirmation of the sufficiency of Scripture. Athanasius even says what some of our Roman opponents beg us to find in the fathers, namely that human teachers are not necessary. And, of course, such sentiments about Scripture’s formal sufficiency are not a unique occurrence it Athanasius.

Athanasius (297-373):

But this all inspired Scripture also teaches more plainly and with more authority [than the light of nature in the form of the testimony of the stars themselves], so that we in our turn write boldy to you as we do, and you, if you refer to them, will be able to verify what we say.

For an argument when confirmed by higher authority is irresistibly proved.

NPNF2: Vol. IV, Against the Heathen, Part III, §45, points 2-3.

Notice that again Athanasius is affirming the plainness of Scripture, and the ability of the reader to be taught from them.

From Alexandria, we make a dramatic move westward to France and hear the testimony of the somewhat younger Hilary of Poitiers.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

If any man propose to express what is known in other words than those supplied by God, he must inevitably either display his own ignorance, or else leave his readers’ minds in utter perplexity.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book 7, §38.

The above quotation is a pretty strong way of stating that Scripture is plainly written and easy to understand.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

I do not know the word ὁμοιούσιον, or understand it, unless it confesses a similarity of essence. I call the God of heaven and earth to witness, that when I had heard neither word, my belief was always such that I should have interpreted ὁμοιούσιον by ὁμοούσιον. That is, I believed that nothing could be similar according to nature unless it was of the same nature. Though long ago regenerate in baptism, and for some time a bishop, I never heard of the Nicene creed until I was going into exile, but the Gospels and Epistles suggested to me the meaning of ὁμοούσιον and ὁμοιούσιον. Our desire is sacred. Let us not condemn the fathers, let us not encourage heretics, lest while we drive one heresy away, we nurture another. After the Council of Nicaea our fathers interpreted the due meaning of ὁμοούσιον with scrupulous care; the books are extant, the facts are fresh in men’s minds: if anything has to be added to the interpretation, let us consult together. Between us we can thoroughly establish the faith, so that what has been well settled need not be disturbed, and what has been misunderstood may be removed.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Councils or the Faith of the Easterns, §91.

According to his own testimony, Hilary learned the doctrine that the Son shares the same substance with the Father from Holy Scripture before he had ever heard that it was taught by the Council of Nicaea.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

Now we ought to recognize first of all that God has spoken not for Himself but for us, and that He has so far tempered the language of His utterance as to enable the weakness of our nature to grasp and understand it.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VIII, §43.

The above quotation is another fairly straightforward statement of formal sufficiency in the sense that the wording of the Scriptures is specifically designed to permit us to understand it. This is, you may note, very similar to the explanation we gave in the first two posts of the series.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

The Lord enunciated the faith of the Gospel in the simplest words that could be found, and fitted His discourses to our understanding, so far as the weakness of our nature allowed Him, without saying anything unworthy of the majesty of His own nature.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §40.

I feel like I’m piling on with that last quotation, because it says nearly the same thing as the previous one.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) commenting on John 10:30:

But this passage concerning the unity, of which we are speaking, does not allow us to look for the meaning outside the plain sound of the words. If Father and Son are one, in the sense that They are one in will, and if separable natures cannot be one in will, because their diversity of kind and nature must draw them into diversities of will and judgment, how call They be one in will, not being one in knowledge? There can be no unity of will between ignorance and knowledge. Omniscience and nescience are opposites, and opposites cannot be of the same will.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §70.

The passage above may seem to be a relatively obscure reference to formal sufficiency, but it shows one way in which such a view plays out in Hilary’s hermeneutic.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

Human judgment must not pass its sentence upon God. Our nature is not such that it can lift itself by its own forces to the contemplation of heavenly things. We must learn from God what we are to think of God; we have no source of knowledge but Himself. . . . Of all this he could have known nothing except through God Himself. And we, in like manner, must confine ourselves, in whatever we say of God, to the terms in which He has spoken to our understanding concerning Himself.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book V, §21.

One interesting aspect about this is not so much the aspect of perspicuity in itself, but the fact that Hilary views God’s description of himself as enough. Someone might try to argue that this is really more related to material sufficiency, but by saying “to the terms in which He has spoken,” it appears that Hilary means to suggest not only the material but also the form.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

In our reply we have followed Him to the moment of His glorious death, and taking one by one the statements of their unhallowed doctrine, we have refuted them from the teaching of the Gospels and the Apostle. But even after His glorious resurrection there are certain things which they have made bold to construe as proofs of the weakness of a lower nature, and to these we must now reply. Let us adopt once more our usual method of drawing out from the words themselves their true signification, that so we may discover the truth precisely where they think to overthrow it. For the Lord spoke in simple words for our instruction in the faith, and His words cannot need support or comment from foreign and irrelevant sayings.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book XI, §7.

Notice how the hermeneutic of letting the text speak for itself is here explained in terms of the plainness of the text. Scripture interprets Scripture is one of the hermeneutical outworkings of a belief in formal sufficiency.

You might think that was enough from Hilary, and perhaps it is, but he says the same thing in other ways too.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

The Lord has not left in doubt or obscurity the teaching conveyed in this great mystery; He has not abandoned us to lose our way in dim uncertainty. Listen to Him as He reveals the full knowledge of this faith to His Apostles; — I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but through Me. If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and ye have not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also. How sayest thou, Shew us the Father? Dost thou not believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself, but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth His works. Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; or else believe for the very works’ sake.

He Who is the Way leads us not into by-paths or trackless wastes: He Who is the Truth mocks us not with lies; He Who is the Life betrays us not into delusions which are death. He Himself has chosen these winning names to indicate the methods which He has appointed for our salvation. As the Way, He will guide us to the Truth; the Truth will establish us in the Life. And therefore it is all-important for us to know what is the mysterious mode, which He reveals, of attaining this life.

No man cometh to the Father but through Me. The way to the Father is through the Son. And now we must enquire whether this is to be by a course of obedience to His teaching, or by faith in His Godhead. For it is conceivable that our way to the Father may be through adherence to the Son’s teaching, rather than through believing that the Godhead of the Father dwells in the Son. And therefore let us, in the next place, seek out the true meaning of the instruction given us here. For it is not by cleaving to a preconceived opinion, but by studying the force of the words, that we shall enter into possession of this faith.

NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VII, §33.

Notice how clearly Hilary states the matter, as making it perfectly apparent that he views the recorded teachings of Jesus as sufficient.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

Salvation is far from the wicked, because they have not sought the statutes of God; since for no other purpose were they consigned to writing, than that they should come within the knowledge and conceptions of all without exception.

Latin:
Ob id enim longe a peccatoribus salus est, quia non exquisierunt justificationes Dei: cum non utique ob aliud consignatae litteris maneant, quam ut ad universorum scientiam notionemque defluerent.

Psalmi CXVIII, Littera XX, 5, PL 9:633; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 246.

We Calvinists may be hesitant to speak in such unqualified terms (since Arminians will think we mean all individuals without exception rather than all classes without exception). Nevertheless, Hilary’s point is really an unmistakable affirmation of formal sufficiency.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

But the word of God [and in the context he speaks explicitly of Scripture] has consulted the benefit of all who shall ever live, being itself the best adapted to promote the instruction of all without exception.

Latin text:
Sed universis qui in vitam venirent Dei sermo consuluit, universae aetati ipse aptissimus ad profectum.

Psalmi CXVIII, Quindecim Graduum., Gradus 15, PL 9:643; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 246.

This is quote similar to the immediately previous quotation.

From France, we can jump back east to Caesarea and hear from the only slightly younger Basil the Great.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379):

What seems to be said in an ambiguous and veiled way in certain passages of inspired Scripture is made plain by the obvious meaning of other passages.

Alternative translation:
Whatsoever seems to be spoken ambiguously or obscurely in some places of holy Scripture, is cleared up by what is plain and evident in other places.

Greek:
Τὰ ἀμφίβολα καὶ ἐπικεκαλυμμένως εἰρῆσθαι δοκοῦντα ἔν τισι τόποις τῆς θεοπνεύστου Γραφῆς ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν ἄλλοις τόποις ὁμολογουμέων σαφηνίζεται.

In Regulas Brevius Tractatas, Responsio CCLXVII, PG 31:1264; translation in W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Answer #267 (CCLXVII), p. 329; alternative translation in William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 491.

The quotation above comes at the issue of the formal sufficiency of Scripture from a little different angle from some of the statements we’ve seen before. Basil here addresses the imagined problem that there are some parts of Scripture that are hard to understand. It is true that there are some difficult parts of Scripture, to be sure, but this is not a problem because there are also clear parts of Scripture, and the clear parts explain the more difficult or obscure parts.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379)(To a widow):

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.

Greek:
Ἔχουσα δὲ τὴν ἐκ τῶν θείων Γραφῶν παράκλησιν, οὔτε ἡμῶν οὔτε ἄλλου τινὸς δεηθήσῃ πρὸς τὸ τὰ δέοντα συνορᾷν, αὐτάρκη τὴν ἐκ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἔχουσα συμβουλίαν καὶ ὁδηγίαν πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.

Epistola CCLXXXIII, PG 32:1020; translation in NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Letters, Letter 283.

Again, a very clear statement of the formal sufficiency of Scripture. This statement also provides a negative aspect – the widow does not need any additional teachers besides the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. This sort of comment should satisfy our Roman disputants, though perhaps they will be dissatisfied because Basil said “nor that of anybody else,” instead of saying “nor that of the pope.” But, of course, Basil was not familiar with the modern papacy and its claims of infallibility, so he could hardly be expected to specifically disclaim such a view.

Basil of Caesarea (329-379):

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, composed by the Spirit for this reason, namely, that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition. Greek:
Πᾶσα Γραφὰ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος, διὰ τοῦτο συγγραφεῖσα παρὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος, ἵνʼ, ὡσπερ ἐν κοινῷ τῶν ψυχῶν ἰατρείῳ, πάντες ἄνθρωποι τὸ ἴαμα τοῦ οἰκείου πάθους ἕκαστος ἐκλεγώμεθα.

Homilia in Psalmum I, §1, PG 29:209; translation in FC, Vol. 46, Saint Basil: Exegetical Homilies, Homily 10 on Psalm 1 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1963), p. 151.

I’m sure that there are folks today who would have a heart attack at the idea of a self-service pharmacy, but Basil views Scripture as such a thing – a place where a person in need can find what he needs. It’s not just a high view of Scripture, it’s a formally sufficient view of Scripture.

From Caesarea, we turn … who knows where! We’re not quite sure where Ambrosiaster lived or who he was. He’s sometimes treated as a church father, and his writings were – for a long time – confused with those of his contemporary, Ambrose. Perhaps he was even from the same part of the world – certainly we think he was from the West, and his surviving works are known in Latin.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384):

The fact is that Scripture speaks in our own manner so that we may understand.

Latin:
Sed Scriptura more nostro loquitur, ut intelligere possumus.

In Epistolam Beati Pauli Galatas, v. 4:7, PL 17:360; translation in Mark J. Edwards, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 57.

The quotation is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a simple statement of the fact that the Scriptures are written so as to be understandable to the reader.

From Ambrosiaster, it only makes sense to turn directly to Ambrose, one of the youngest of the 4th century fathers, living mostly in the second half of the century.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

Trust to no one, to guide you, but where the light of that lamp [i.e. Scripture] goes before. For where you think it shines, there is a whirlpool; it seems to shine, but it defiles; and where you think it is firm or dry, there it is slippery. And, moreover, if you have a lamp, the way is long. Therefore let faith be the guide of your journey; let the divine Scripture be your path. Excellent is the guidance of the heavenly word. From this lamp light your lamp; that the eye of your mind, which is the lamp of your body, may give light.

Latin:
nulli credas tuum, nisi praeeunte lucernae istius luce, processum. Nam ubi putas quod luceat, gurges est; videtur lucere sed polluit; et ubi putas solidum esse vel siccum, ibi lubricum est. Sed et si lucerna tibi, iter longius sit. Sit ergo fides tibi itineris tui praevia, sit tibi iter Scriptura divina. Bonus est coelestis ductus eloquii. Ex hac lucerna accende et tu lucernam; ut luceat interior oculus tuus, qui lucerna est tui corporis.

In Psalmum David CXVIII, Expositio, Sermo 14, §11, PL 15:1394; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 148.

Ambrose, in the quotation above, is simply reaffirming the points that we had previously raised about the fact the Scripture illuminate our way. The Scriptures illuminating our way implies not only that they have the right material, but also the right form, to enlighten us.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

In most places Paul so explains his meaning by his own words, that he who discourses on them can find nothing to add of his own; and if he wishes to say anything, must rather perform the office of a grammarian than a discourser.

Latin:
In plerisque ita se ipse suis exponat sermonibus, ut is qui tractat, nihil inveniat quod adjiciat suum; ac si velit aliquid dicere, grammatici magis quam disputatoris fungatur munere.

Epistola XXXVII.1, PL 16:1084; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 262, Chemnitz, Vol. 1, p. 167, and Whitaker, pp. 398, 492, who all render plerisque as “most.” Cf. also The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, trans. H. Walford (Oxford: James Parker and Co., and Rivingtons, 1881), Letter 37, §1, pp. 46-47. The translation found in FC, Vol. 26, Saint Ambrose: Letters 54. Ambrose to Simplicianus (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 286, has mistranslated this word plerisque to read “in some instances” rather than the correct translation of “most places.”

This is another example of Scripture interpreting Scripture. It is also particularly interesting, because Ambrose is addressing the Pauline corpus – that portion of the the Bible that does include some things that are hard to understand. Nevertheless, there is no need (in Ambrose’s view) for external interpretative authority – the interpretation is to be derived from Paul’s own writings.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

Divine Scripture confers salvation on us and is fragrant with the perfume of life, so that he who reads may acquire sweetness and not rush into danger to his own destruction.

FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Hexameron, Book 1, 2nd Homily, Chap. 8.30 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 34.

Notice, that Congar ascribes this view of Holy Scripture to Protestant orthodoxy. See the first post of this series, quoted from Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1964), pp. 87-88. But, whether or not Congar is correct, the expressions “he who reads” and “Scripture confers salvation” is pretty strong language for the formal sufficiency position.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

I wished that they be arrayed in the unadorned words of Scripture in order that they may gleam in their own light and that in due order they may speak out plainly for themselves. The sun and the moon need no interpreter. The brilliance of their light is all-sufficient a light that fills the entire world. Faith serves as an illumination for the inspired Word. It is, if I may say so, an intestate witness having no need of another’s testimony, yet it dazzles the eyes of all mankind.

FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Cain and Abel, Book 1, Chap. 6.22 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 380.

Notice the very strong wording of formal sufficiency in the quotation above. The Scriptures themselves speak plainly – they are comparable to the sun for light and have no need of another’s testimony. It seems that Ambrose is trying to outdo Hilary in terms of stating formal sufficiency in such a way as it will be hard for someone to deny that he is teaching it.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

Frequent reading of the Scriptures, therefore, strengthens the mind and ripens it by the warmth of spiritual grace. In this way our powers of reasoning are strengthened and the influence of our irrational passions brought to naught.

FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Cain and Abel, Book 2, Chap. 6.19 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 421.

We end our discussion of the fourth-century fathers on this slight softer note, but one that shows the functional outworking of a view of formal sufficiency. If we believe in formal sufficiency, we will be encouraged to read the Scriptures often, and we will likewise encourage others to do the same. One can contrast that with the Reformation-era attitude of the Roman church.

(to be continued)

Formal Insufficiency – An Insult to Jesus

November 19, 2010

Those Roman Catholics who think that the Scriptures are an insufficient rule of faith and life – that the Scriptures are not clear enough to stand sola Scriptura as the way by which we know God: please consider that the Gospels give us verbatim teachings of Jesus himself in his own words.

It’s bad enough that you are not satisfied by the Holy Spirit’s teaching through the entirety of the Inspired Holy Scripture, but that may be less self-evidently divine. In other words, while you are to blame for not being satisfied with the divine teachings of the law, the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, we can understand that perhaps you do not understand that the Bible is the Holy Spirit speaking to us through men.

But are you going to seriously say that Jesus’ preaching, recorded in the Gospels, is not clear enough for people to read it, understand it, and trust in Christ alone for salvation? Is God’s own word, not spoken through prophets under inspiration but spoken directly by the God-man Himself not clear enough?

Don’t you think that’s a little insulting?

-TurretinFan

World’s Worst Serial Killer

November 19, 2010

No one really knows who the world’s worst serial killer is, and one normally thinks of murderers as being mostly male, but this lady would certainly receive my vote as the most prolific serial killer (link to story).

The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

November 17, 2010

The following was originally written by Sir Henry H. Howorth, as “The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A,” The Journal of Theological Studies, Volume VII, pp. 343-54 (Oxford: 1906). I’m simply republishing this as a scholarly discussion of the issue of Septuagint Esdras 1 or “Esdras A” (Ἔσδρας Α) and the North African councils. I’m not adopting the opinions of this author – in particular I don’t agree with his opinion that the book should be received within the canon.

The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

In a series of letters published in the Academy some twenty years ago, and subsequently in articles in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, I claim to have definitely proved that the text of the Canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah contained in the extant Greek Bibles is not a Septuagint text at all, and ought to have no place in any edition of the Greek Bible professing to represent the Septuagint.

On the contrary, the text represents very faithfully one of the Greek translations from the Hebrew made in the second century A.D. It has no value, therefore, for the independent criticism of the Masoretic edition of the Bible, and is merely useful as shewing the state of the text of the three books as they stood in that edition in the second century A.D., when, according to the most competent authorities its archetype was compiled and edited.

This conclusion seems to me to be of the first importance, for it sweeps away all the textual criticism of the three books in question based upon the erroneous postulate that the Masoretic text in them is singularly free from corruption because it is so continuously supported by the Septuagint. Inasmuch as profitable criticism of the Old Testament should begin with its latest books, it is supremely important that such a mistake should not be perpetuated by the authorities responsible for the new Cambridge Bible.

The problem to be solved is, however, a bilateral one. It does not mean merely that the texts thus referred to (i.e. the canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah) are in no sense Septuagint texts, but it means the rehabilitation in that character of another text, namely Ἔσδρας Α in the Greek Uncials, which until lately has received very scant courtesy among the critics, especially in Germany, who have persistently misapprehended its true character.

It has been treated even worse by the theologians, both by those of the Roman Church, which has always stood by the Septuagint Canon, and by the Reformers whose most potent and far-reaching innovation, theologically speaking, was probably the substitution of the Hebrew or Masoretic Canon of the Bible for that which the Christian world both east and west had clung to for fifteen centuries.

Singularly enough, however, the champions both of the longer and of the shorter Canon have agreed in modern times to treat with despite a document (namely Ἔσδρας Α) the true history of which has been misapprehended, and its supreme value overlooked. The fact is peculiarly interesting and important in regard to the Roman position in the matter, and I propose in the following pages to examine how it has come about that a Church with whom the theory of continuous tradition is so dominant should have in fact departed so completely from its own early tradition in regard to this book, and to shew that this departure has been entirely due to a mistake, a very pardonable mistake, and in no sense to prejudice or predetermination.

In order to shew this I must shortly trace the history of the Canon of the Old Testament in the Roman Church. The last authoritative pronouncement on the subject is contained in chapter 2 of the Decree of the Vatican Council, dated April 24, 1870, entitled Constitutio dogmatica de fide catholica. In this pronouncement it is affirmed that the doctrine of Supernatural Revelation, according to the faith of the Universal Church as declared at the Council of Trent, consists in written books and in the traditions preserved by the Church. In regard to the former the decisions of Trent are accepted and confirmed in the following sentence of the decree:—

Qui quidem veteris et novi testamenti libri integri cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in eiusdem concilii decreto recensentur, et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis suscipiendi sunt.

The Vatican Council, therefore, in the matter of the Canon merely reiterates and reaffirms, as was in fact alone necessary, the conclusions pronounced by that of Trent. It gives no list of sacred books, and accepts in terms the finding on the subject of the Tridentine fathers.

Let us now turn to the Council of Trent.

On February 8, 1546, a General Congregation of that Council was held, and it was proposed to issue a decree in regard to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and as to any improvement that might be made in their teaching or interpretation. The Council was divided into three sections, and the second section, which was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Cervini, afterwards Pope Marcellus II, was especially entrusted with an examination of the question, and with the sifting of the evidence from the eighty-fifth of the Apostolical Canons down to the decrees of the Council of Florence. The discussion was prolonged and interesting, and raised many critical points. Various suggestions about the distinction between canonical and deuterocanonical books and about the authority of particular books were made, but the majority were of opinion that the sacred books should be received simply and without discrimination as they had been at other councils, and especially at the Council of Florence. At length the Cardinal reported the results of the discussion to another meeting of the General Congregation, when, in the words of the report preserved by the secretaries,

omnes convenere ut receptio librorum sacrorum fieret simpliciter sicut factum fuit in concilio Florentino … De ipsorum autem librorum discrimine, etsi plures rem utilem, minus tarnen necessariam iudicarent; maioris nihilo minus partis sententia praevaluit ut quaestio huiusmodi omitteretur, relinquereturque sicut nobis a sanctis patribus relicta fuit. —Theiner I, 52.

In this quite logical and most sensible pronouncement the Church of Rome, putting aside all considerations and arguments which had been urged to the contrary, decided to stand on its own ancient tradition, and in particular upon the pronouncement made on this subject at the Council of Florence. Therefore by a decree issued on April 8, 1546, at the fourth session of the Council, under the heading ‘Decretum de Canonicis Scripturis’, it was determined inter alia as follows :—

Sacrorum vero librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint qui ab ipsa synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infra scripti. Testamenti veteris: quinque Moysis, id est: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosuae, Iudicum, Ruth, quatuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundas, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaías, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharías, Malachias, duo Macchabaeorum primus et secundus. Testamenti novi. . . . . .

Then follows a list of the books of the New Testament, which is again followed by certain words defining the actual text to be appealed to, and which are very important for our purpose.

It is in fact provided that the text alone authorized as the ultima lex of all appeals is the Vulgate. The following are the actual words used in the ‘Decretum de editione et usu sacrorum librorum’:—

Insuper eadem sacrosancta synodus considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse ecclesiae Dei, si ex omnibus latinis editionibus, quae circumferuntur, sacrorum librorum, quaenam pro authentica habenda sit, innotescat: statuit et declarat, ut haec ipsa vetus et vulgata editio quae longo tot saeculorum usu in ipsa ecclesia probata est, in publicis lectionibus, disputationibus, praedicationibus et expositionibus pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo illam reiicere quovis praetextu audeat vel praesumat.

It cannot fail to be noticed that in these pronouncements there is a palpable contradiction. If the books enumerated are alone to be deemed canonical, it seems difficult to understand how the Vulgate edition of the Bible as then received was to be treated as the conclusive authority in all disputes and controversies, since it contained, in very many if not in most existing copies, at least two additional works which were treated in them as of equal and co-ordinate authority with the remaining books, namely those which in the Latin Bibles were called Esdras III (that is Ἔσδρας Α) and Esdras IV; while some copies of the Vulgate also contained a third book not above enumerated, namely, the Prayer of Manasses, as well as the so-called Third book of Maccabees.

This contradiction between the pronouncement of the Council and the contents of the Vulgate texts which were and had long been current, was apparently ignored by the fathers at Trent. It led, however, to a considerable change in the editions of the Vulgate subsequently printed, by which their contents were in a measure equated with the conciliar list of recognized books. As is well known, in the famous and authoritative edition of the Vulgate issued by Pope Sixtus V in 1590, the two books Esdras III and IV, together with the so-called Prayer of Manasses, were omitted entirely. This was justified in the preface in the following sentence:—

Nos autem ut haec Vetus editio, quae nunc prodit nostro excusa prelo, eiusdem Synodi [i.e. Trent] praescripto modis omnibus respondeat non solum veteres, et ab Ecclesia receptos loquendi modos conservavimus, sed etiam apocrypha reiecimus, authentica retinuimus. Nam tertium et quartum Esdrae libros inscriptos, et tertium Maccabaeorum, quos Synodus inter Canonicos non annumerat, assentientibus etiam in hoc praedictis Cardinalibus Congregationis super Typographia Vaticana deputatae, ab hac editione prorsus explosimus. Orationem etiam Manassae, quae neque in Hebraeo, neque in Graeco textu est, neque in antiquioribus Manuscriptis Latinis exemplaribus reperitur, sed in impressis tantum post Librum secundum Paralipomenon affixa est, tanquam insutam, adiectam et in textu sacrorum librorum locum non habentem repudiavimus.

In the subsequent and corrected and still more authoritative edition of Clement VIII, published three years later, and in all subsequent editions of the Roman Vulgate the three books just mentioned were reinstated, but instead of being placed in the old position they occupied in the mediaeval Latin Bibles, they were remitted to an appendix. This again was justified in the preface in the following words :—

Porro in hac editione nihil non canonicum, nihil adscititium, nihil extraneum apponere visum est: atque ea causa fuit, cur libri tertius et quartus Esdrae inscripti, quos inter canonicos libros sacra Tridentina Synodus non annumeravit, ipsa etiam Manassae regis Oratio, quae neque hebraice, neque graece quidem exstat, neque in manuscriptis antiquioribus invenitur, neque pars est ullius canonici libri, extra canonicae scripturae seriem posita sunt.

The appendix to which the three books were remitted is headed—

Oratio Manassae, necnon libri duo, qui sub Libri Tertii et Quarti Esdrae nomine circumferuntur, hoc in loco, extra scilicet seriem canonicorum librorum quos sancta Tridentina Synodus suscepit et pro canonicis suscipiendos decrevit, sepositi sunt ne prorsus interirent, quippe qui a nonnullis Sanctis Patribus interdum citantur et in aliquibus Bibliis latinis tam manuscriptis quam impressis reperiuntur.

It will be noted that in Clement VIII’s edition of the Vulgate, which is the one now authorized, not a word is said of the Third book of Maccabees, which had a place in some of the old copies of the Vulgate.

The removal of the three books above mentioned from the text of the Bible, and the planting of them in a kind of suspense account in an Appendix, while it made the text of the canonical books in the rest of the Bible consistent with the enumeration in the decree of the Tridentine Council, was clearly a tampering with the text of the Vulgate as previously received, though this had been declared by the same Council to be the official and authentic text. Let us, however, turn to the Council of Florence, which was held in 1439, and which the Fathers at Trent professed to follow and to be bound by.

In the Bull published on February 4, 1441, by Eugenius IV affirming the decision of the Florentine Council in regard to the pronouncement which was made in view of the reunion with the Church of Rome of the Jacobites of Egypt, we have an enumeration of the books then recognized as canonical by the Western Church. This list was followed implicitly by the Council of Trent. There are variations, however, of phraseology, and I think it better as the question is one involving polemical issues to transcribe it as it stands in the Bull. The important part for our purpose runs as follows:—

Unum atque eundem Deum veteris et novi testamenti, hoc est Legis et Prophetarum atque Evangelii profitetur auctorem; quoniam, eodem Spiritu Sancto inspirante, utriusque testamenti Sancti locuti sunt, quorum libros suscipit et veneratur, qui titulis sequentibus continentur: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesi, Exodo, Levitico, Numeris, Deuteronomio, Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth; Quatuor Regum; Duobus Paralipomenon: Esdra, Nehemia, Tobia, Iudith, Hester, Iob, Psalmis David, Parabolis, Ecclesiaste, Canticis Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiastico, Isaia, Ieremia, Baruch, Ezechiele, Daniele; Duodecim Prophetis minoribus, id est Oseae, Ioele, Amos, Abdia, Iona, Michea, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonia, Aggeo, Zacharia, Malachia; Duobus Maccabaeorum.— Bullarium Rom. Romae 1638, I p. 273 [FN1: In this extract from the Bull, as in the corresponding one from the Tridentine pronouncement, the italics are mine.].

Then follows a list of the New Testament books.

It will be seen that this enumeration is in substance precisely that of the Council of Trent, and that here, as at the subsequent Councils of Trent and the Vatican, no distinction whatever is made between proto-canonical and deutero-canonical, canonical and apocryphal, &c., but all the books enumerated were treated as equally canonical. It will also be noted that no mention is here made of the third and fourth books of Esdras, notwithstanding that virtually every copy of the Latin Bible then in use contained them.

In regard to the decision of the Council of Florence as pronounced by the Pope in his Decretal, we cannot appeal for justification to the minutes of the discussion upon its contents as we can at Trent, since they are not extant, and we must turn elsewhere to find some previous official pronouncement in the same behalf, for we can hardly doubt that on such an occasion the definition of the Biblical Canon would be made with especial care and with consideration for precedent. For such precedent we have to go back a long way. This is to be accounted for by the fact that questions as to the Canon had not disturbed men’s minds in the Middle Ages, and there had not, therefore, been any necessity or occasion for an official pronouncement on the subject. We have to go back, in fact, to the famous African Code, which is headed ‘The Canons of the 217 blessed fathers who assembled at Carthage’, commonly called ‘The Code of Canons of the African Church’, and which was passed and authorized in the year 419 A.D. Johnson, in his Clergyman’s vade mecum, London, second edition, 1714, part II, has given an excellent account of them, which has not been improved since. He says:—’Councils were nowhere more frequently called in the Primitive Times than in Africa. In the year 418-419 all Canons formerly made in sixteen Councils held at Carthage, one at Milevis, and one at Hippo, that were approved of were read, and received a new sanction from a great number of bishops then met in Synod at Carthage. This collection is the Code of the African Church, which was always in greatest repute in all churches next after the Code of the Universal Church. This Code was of very great authority in the old English Churches, for many of the exceptions of Egbert were transcribed from it. And though the Code of the Universal Church ends with the Canons of Chalcedon, yet these African Canons are inserted into the Ancient Code both of the Eastern and Western Churches.’

At the Council of Carthage held in 419 the Pope was represented by Faustinas, bishop of Potentia in the Italian province of Picenum, as legate. The Canon there enacted, and headed ‘De Scripturis Canonicis’ (Labbe iv 430), was a reiteration and reaffirmation of those enacted inter alia at the Councils of Hippo in 393 and of Carthage in 397.

The 36th Canon of the Council of Hippo declares that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing is to be read in the Church under the name of Divine Scriptures. It then enumerates what the Canonical Scriptures are, and, so far as I know, there is no conciliar pronouncement on the subject between these African Synods and the Council of Florence. Their enumeration of the Old Testament books is as follows :—

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium, Iesu Nave, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quatuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum, Salomonis libri quinque, Duodecim libri Prophetarum, Esaias, Ieremias, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Iudith, Hester, Hesdrae libri duo[FN1: These italics are my own.], Machabaeorum libri duo.

The iteration of this Canon by the African Councils was probably due, as Father Loisy has suggested, to the fear, entertained by many, of the revolutionary ideas of Jerome. Nothing could well be more authoritative, however, and more precise than the position that the list of books above quoted was deemed by these three very important Synods to be the Catholic usage in the Western Church in regard to the contents of the Canon of the Old Testament at the end of the fourth century.

On comparing the list of books authorized as Canonical by the African Synods with those of the Councils of Florence and Trent, there is a superficial and misleading equation in regard to the books of Esdras which we are discussing, that accounts for what was really a mistake made by the latter councils.

In the Canon last quoted we have the phrase Hesdrae libri duo. In the Decree of the Council of Florence we have Esdra, Nehemia. In that of Trent we have Esdrae primus et secundus qui dicitur Nehemias.

The fact is that the phrase Hesdrae libri duo in the decree of the earlier Councils does not mean the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah in the Septuagint and in the early Latin prae-Hieronymian translation of the Bible which followed the Septuagint, and was alone recognized as canonical in the Latin Church at the end of the fourth century, formed a single book, which in the early Greek MSS was entitled Ἔσδρας Β, and which in the early Latin version was entitled Esdras II.

It was Jerome who altered the nomenclature of these books as he altered many other things (and, as some of us think, not too wisely). It was he who, having accepted the Jewish Canon and tradition, also accepted the Jewish division of the book hitherto known to the Greeks as Ἔσδρας Β, which in the old Latin Bibles was called Esdras II, and gave the two sections of it the new titles of Esdras I and Esdras II, equivalent to our Ezra and Nehemiah; and from him the titles passed into the revised Vulgate, of which he was the author, and eventually became dominant everywhere, and was thus dominant when the Council of Florence sat. It was he who poured scorn on two other books of Ezra contained in the earlier Latin Bibles, and refused to have anything to do with them, or to translate them, and gave them an entirely inferior status by numbering them Esdras III and IV, names by which they have since been styled in the Vulgate; and it was his violent and depreciatory language about them which made many doubt their value and authority.

When the fathers at Florence discussed and decided upon their list of authorized and canonical books, finding, no doubt, that the African Councils had only recognized two books of Esdras, they jumped to the conclusion that these two books must be those called Esdras I and Esdras II in their Bibles, namely, Ezra and Nehemiah; which in fact they were not. Hence their mistake, a great but a natural mistake, which is perpetuated in the Roman Canon.

The two books of Esdras recognized by the African Councils, and by all the Fathers who escaped the influence of Jerome, were the books labelled Ἔσδρας Α and Ἔσδρας Β in the Greek Bibles, that is to say, the first book of Esdras, which was remitted to the Apocrypha by the Reformers, and the joint work Ezra-Nehemiah. This evidence will not be doubted by any one who will examine the early Greek Bibles, and the Canonical lists of the Fathers who were uninfluenced by Jerome.

It is completely recognized by Roman Catholic theologians of the first rank. Thus Calmet, who wrote a special treatise on Esdras A, says: ‘When the Fathers and the Councils of the earlier centuries declared the two books of Esdras to be canonical, they meant, following the current Bibles that First Esdras and Nehemiah formed only one book, while they styled First Esdras the work which is called third in our Bibles’ (Calmet Comm. iii 250 ‘Dissert, sur le III livre d’Esdras’). Father Loisy, the most distinguished scholar among the recent writers on the Canon in France, similarly says: ‘The two books of Esdras contained in them (i.e. in early copies of the Latin Bible) are not Esdras and Nehemiah; but as in the Greek Bible, the first book of Esdras is that we now call the third, which has been ejected from the Canon; the second comprised Esdras and Nehemiah’ (Histoire du Canon 92).

It is quite clear, therefore, that the Council of Florence, afterwards followed by that of Trent, gave a decision about the Canon which is inconsistent and contrary to the decisions of the early Councils and the early Fathers of the Latin Church on the same subject, and thus broke the continuity of that Church’s teaching on a most important point, namely the contents of the book which it makes the ultimate rule of faith. Thus, again, one book, namely the Esdras A of the Greek Uncials, recognized as canonical by all the early Church, was entirely evicted from Sixtus V’s Bible, and remitted to the ignominious position of a suspense account in that of Clement VIII, and is so treated in all authorized Roman Catholic Bibles.

The omission of Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon of the Bible does not stand quite alone. In the same suspense account to which it is now remitted in the Vulgate we also find the Prayer of Manasses. For this treatment there is ample justification if we are to follow the decrees of Latin Councils; but the reason for it given by Clement VIII is incorrect.

The Prayer of Manasses is a canticle which, according to the preface to Clement VIII’s Bible, does not occur in the Hebrew Bibles, nor yet in the Greek Bibles. This is not strictly accurate, as Walton long ago shewed by printing a copy of it from a Greek MS. The statement in the preface to Clement VIII’s Bible is not therefore correct. The Prayer occurs in fact in the third volume of the Codex Alexandrinus as an appendix to the Psalter, and with the Psalms, as Dr Swete says, it was transferred to that MS from a liturgical Psalter (The Old Testament in Greek II viii). It also occurs in the famous purple psalter at Zurich known as T (Turicense) which is of the seventh century and of western origin. It also occurs in the Ethiopic version of the Psalms edited by J. Ludolf. And it is quoted at length in the Apostolical Constitutions; so it has very respectable age and authority.

There is, however, no direct evidence of its having received any conciliar authority, as there is none that it occurred in early Bible texts or in early Canonical lists, and its exclusion from the Canon by the Sixtine and Clementine editors of the Bible is therefore quite defensible, if we are to follow the decisions of Councils as decisive.

There still remains a third book, namely that known as Esdras IV in the Vulgate, which was also excluded from the Bible of Sixtus and remitted to an appendix in that of Clement. This work does not occur in any Greek Bible. It occurs in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, an Armenian and two Arabic translations; it is found in several important Vulgate MSS, and is quoted in the Apostolical Constitutions; but inasmuch as it is excluded from the early lists of canonical books, and especially from those with conciliar authority, it has with plausibility been remitted to the same appendix as the Prayer of Manasseh in the modern authorized Latin Bibles.

Both these books stand on entirely different ground therefore from what we have described as Esdras A, whose undoubted and rightful presence in the Western Canon before the unfortunate mistake made by the Council of Florence cannot be gainsaid. Jerome, no doubt, coupled it with the apocalyptic book Esdras IV, with which it has nothing in common either in contents or authority, and poured scorn on them both. His action in this matter is an excellent instance of his hasty judgement in biblical matters, and of the prejudice that can be created and sustained against a genuine work by the tempestuous language of a masterful scholar.

It seems to me plain that it was a misfortune as well as a mistake which excluded Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon, and that its reinstatement there would be a distinct gain to the cause of truth, and it would sustain the consistency of the Latin Church in its treatment of its Bible.

Perhaps I may be permitted in another paper to discuss the Anglican Canon as affected by similar issues.

Henry H. Howorth


%d bloggers like this: