Archive for July, 2011

Baal vs. Golden Calves – Part 3

July 31, 2011

In two previous posts (post 1post 2) I have advocated for the idea that the golden calves represent a deficient worship of the LORD (one that like Roman worship purports to worship the living God through dead images) not Baal worship or the worship of an equivalent non-existent pagan deity.

There’s at least one further powerful demonstration of this thesis:

2 Kings 10:15-31

And when he [that is, Jehu] was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?”

And Jehonadab answered, “It is.”

“If it be, give me thine hand.”

And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.

And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So they made him ride in his chariot.

And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah.

And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, “Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live.”

But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.

And Jehu said, “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal.”

And they proclaimed it.

And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.

And he said unto him that was over the vestry, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.”

And he brought them forth vestments.

And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.”

And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, “If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.”

And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, “Go in, and slay them; let none come forth.”

And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal. And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.

Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

And the LORD said unto Jehu, “Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

Jehu’s attempt to exterminate Baal-worship was extensive and amazing. He tricks the Baal-worshipers into thinking he is the biggest fan of Baal ever, gets all of the Baal-worshipers in one place, orders them to expel any worshipers of the Lord from the place, dresses them distinctively to make them easy targets, puts them in an enclosed place with limited ways of escape, threatens death to those charged with guarding the exits if they fail in their duty, and then attacks them at the moment when the house is full of smoke but before they have eaten.

Yet despite all that, he continues to worship the LORD using the improper means set up by Jeroboam, namely the golden calves and the unauthorized priesthood and all that went with that. His sin, like that of Jeroboam, was not in failing to worship the Lord (he plainly distinguishes between the worshipers of the Lord and the worshipers of Baal) but in worshiping the Lord in a way that is out of accord with the way that the Lord wants to be worshiped.

The worship of the golden calves was very wicked, and it was the reason that Jeroboam’s entirely family was wiped out. But the worship of a false god, Baal, was even more wicked, such that God rewarded Jehu for wiping out Ahab’s family and the false god that he had re-introduced into Israel under the influence of his wife Jezebel.

Within a decade, under the reign of the boy-king Jehoash (and particularly under the influence of Jehoiada the high priest) Baal worship was suppressed in Judah as well, though it is noted that the high places were not destroyed.


Why is Union with Christ so Important?

July 26, 2011

Over at Green Baggins, Darryl Hart asked:

[M]aybe you can help me out here. Every time I read the law, it brings me up way short. Apparently, when you read it you feel exonerated. How DO you do it?

I answered:

Union with Christ. That is the only way to feel exonerated in the face of the law.

Darryl Hart asked:

Tfan, how can I, a sinner, be united to Christ, the righteous one? Your answer leaves me unconsoled.

I answered:

By repentance from sin and faith in His name.

Darryl Hart asked:

Tfan, where do our standards say that I am united to Christ by faith? If you look at the Westminster Confession (you know, 1646), the chapter on saving faith does not mention union.

I answered:

Our standards explain this in WLC 65-67.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?

A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.[269]

Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace,[270] whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband;[271] which is done in their effectual calling.[272]

Q. 67. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,[273] whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto)[274] he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit;[275] savingly enlightening their minds,[276] renewing and powerfully determining their wills,[277] so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.[278]

See also WCF 9:

Of Justification.

I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction of his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification; nevertheless they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

V. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God’s Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respect, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.

I hope that helps.

Darryl Hart asked:

Tfan told me that my hope came from being united to Christ. I asked how I a sinner could be united to a righteous God-man. Tfan, told me by faith. What I’m trying to understand is why union would be so important to Tfan’s response to me. Since most of what he quotes makes effectual calling more explicit than union, I’m still puzzled. And Jeff, I think it is curious that if union were so important (again) why does the chapter on saving faith not mention it?

I dropped the thread at that point, but now I answer, quoting Charles Hodge:

Union with Christ

The first effect of faith, according to the Scriptures, is union with Christ. We are in Him by faith. There is indeed a federal union between Christ and his people, founded on the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son in the counsels of eternity. We are, therefore, said to be in Him before the foundation of the world. It is one of the promises of that covenant, that all whom the Father had given the Son should come to Him; that his people should be made willing in the day of his power. Christ has, therefore, been exalted to the right hand of God, to give repentance and the remission of sins. But it was also, as we learn from the Scriptures, included in the stipulations of that covenant, that his people, so far as adults are concerned, should not receive the saving benefits of that covenant until they were united to Him by a voluntary act of faith. They are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. ii. 8.) They remain in this state of condemnation until they believe. Their union is consummated by faith. To be in Christ, and to believe in Christ, are, therefore, in the Scriptures convertible forms of expression. They mean substantially the same thing and, therefore, the same effects are attributed to faith as are attributed to union with Christ.

Justification an Effect of Faith.

The proximate effect of this union, and, consequently, the see. ond effect of faith, is justification. We are “justified by the faith of Christ.” (Gal. ii. 16.) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. vii. 1.) “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” (John iii. 18.) Faith is the condition on which God promises in the covenant of redemption, to impute unto men the righteousness of Christ. As soon, therefore, as they believe, they cannot be condemned. They are clothed with a righteousness which answers all the demands of justice. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. viii. 33, 34.)

Participation of Christ’s Life an Effect of Faith.

The third effect of faith, or of union with Christ, is a participation of his life. Those united with Christ, the Apostle teaches (Rom. vi. 4-10), so as to be partakers of his death, are partakers also of his life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John xiv. 19.) Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. (Eph. iii. 17.) Christ is in us. (Rom. viii. 10.) It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us. (Gal. ii. 20.) Our Lord’s illustration of this vital union is derived from a vine and its branches. (John xv. 1-6.) As the life of the vine is diffused through the branches, and as they live only as connected with the vine, so the life of Christ is diffused through his people, and they are partakers of spiritual and eternal life, only in virtue of their union with Him. Another familiar illustration of this subject is derived from the human body. The members derive their life from the head, and perish if separated from it. (Eph. i. 22; 1 Cor. xii. 12-27, and often). In Ephesians iv. 15, 16, the Apostle carries out this illustration in detail. “The head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” As the principle of animal life located in the head, through the complicated yet ordered system of nerves extending to every member, diffuses life and energy through the whole body; so the Holy 106Spirit, given without measure to Christ the head of the Church, which is his body, diffuses life and strength to every member. Hence, according to Scripture, Christ’s dwelling in us is explained as the Spirit’s dwelling in us. The indwelling of the Spirit is the indwelling of Christ. If God be in you; if Christ be in you; if the Spirit be in you, — all mean the same thing. See Romans viii. 9-11.

To explain this vital and mystical union between Christ and his people as a mere union of thought and feeling, is utterly inadmissible. (1.) In the first place, it is contrary to the plain meaning of his words. No one ever speaks of Plato’s dwelling in men; of his being their life, so that without him they can do nothing; and much less, so that holiness, happiness, and eternal life depend upon that union. (2.) Such interpretation supposes that our relation to Christ is analogous to the relation of one man to another. Whereas it is a relation between men and a divine person, who has life in Himself, and gives life to as many as He wills. (3.) It ignores all that the Scriptures teach of the work of the Holy Spirit and of his dwelling in the hearts of men. (4.) It overlooks the supernatural character of Christianity, and would reduce it to a mere philosophical and ethical system.

Peace as the Fruit of Faith.

The fourth effect of faith is peace. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. v. 1.) Peace arises from a sense of reconciliation. God promises to pardon, to receive into his favour, and finally to save all who believe the record which He has given of his Son. To believe, is therefore to believe this promise; and to appropriate this promise to ourselves is to believe that God is reconciled to us. This faith may be weak or strong. And the peace which flows from it may be tremulous and intermitting, or it may be constant and assured. (Hodge, Systematic Theology 3:16:8)

I wonder if, once Hart understands the Faith, Union, Justification, Peace connection, this kind of comment from him will cease:

In the presence of God’s law I experience great terror and dread because of its holy standard and my guilt. And yet you think I should run frolicking through the streets about God’s law?


Perhaps then he will be able to join in singing Psalm 119:

Psalm 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.



Perhaps I would be remiss if I completely omitted Westminster Confession of Faith 26:1:

All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as to conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Simple Argument Against Libertarian Free Will from Foresight

July 20, 2011

1. Libertarian Free Will has, as a core element, the ability of a person to do otherwise. [def.]

2. The ability to do A means the power to bring A into existence. [def.]

3. The ability to do A given B means the power to bring A into joint existence with already-existent B. [def.]

4. If it is logically impossible for A to exist jointly with B, then it is impossible to bring A into joint existence with already-existent B. [def.]

5. Let A refer to a person doing otherwise than X, and let B refer to God foreseeing the person doing X (at the same time and in the same way, etc.). [def.]

6. It is logically impossible for A to exist jointly with B. [implied from 5 by consideration of God’s infallibility of foresight]

7. Therefore, it is impossible to bring A into joint existence with already-existent B. [from 4 and 6]

8. Therefore, it is impossible to do A, given B. [from 3 and 7]

9. Therefore, given God’s foresight that a person will do X, it is impossible for the person to do otherwise than X. [from 5 and 8]

10. Therefore, Libertarian Free Will is false. [from 1 and 9]


Monotheism 101

July 20, 2011

How many Gods are there? There is but one only, the Living and True God. As testifies Scripture:

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

1 Corinthians 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

Matthew 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Mark 12:29 & 32 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: … And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

Ephesians 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Galatians 3:20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

Deuteronomy 4:35 Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.

1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

2 Samuel 7:22 Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

1 Chronicles 17:20 O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

Benedict XVI, Parables, Perspicuity, and Freedom

July 18, 2011

The Vatican Information Service provided the following partial account of Joseph Ratzinger’s (aka Benedict XVI’s) remarks from 10 July 2011:

“Yet this Gospel narrative also highlights the ‘method’ of Jesus’ preaching; in other words, His use of parables”, the Holy Father added. “His disciples ask Him: ‘why do you speak to them in parables?’ Jesus replies by distinguishing between the disciples and the crowds: to the former, who have already chosen to follow Him, He can speak openly of the Kingdom of God, but to others He has to use parables in order to simulate [sic] a decision, a conversion of heart. This is because parables, by their nature, require an effort of interpretation, they appeal to our intelligence but also to our freedom. … In the final analysis the true ‘Parable’ of God is Jesus Himself … Who, in human form, both hides and reveals divinity. Thus, God does not force us to believe in Him; rather, He draws us to Him with the truth and goodness of His incarnate Son. Love, in fact, always respects freedom”.

(ellipses in VIS’s report)

I. Parables

Ratzinger (B16) is wrong about the reason why Jesus spoke in parables, with respect to the crowd. Jesus himself explained his reason for speaking to them in parables:

Matthew 13:10-17
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Likewise, in the parallel account in Mark:

Mark 4:10-12
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

And in Luke:

Luke 8:9-10
And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

The point, therefore, of the parables was not either to “simulate” [sic] or stimulate a decision or to convert their hearts. The point was not provide the crowd with an intellectual challenge, but to leave them in ignorance. The point wasn’t to free the people, but to leave them bound up in their blindness.

II. Perspicuity

It is interesting, though, to reflect on B16’s apparent view of perspicuity, in which even Jesus’ parables are sufficiently clear that human reason/freedom is sufficient to divine their meaning. That goes beyond the Reformed view of perspicuity, in that we maintain that Jesus’ explanation of the parables was necessary for us to understand their meaning. Moreover, one expects that B16 is not consistent in this principle of perspicuity, since consistency would leave no room for an infallible magisterium as a necessity.

III. Love Respects Freedom

B16’s final comment sounds familiar to those who frequently deal with non-Calvinist presentations on God’s love: “Thus, God does not force us to believe in Him; rather, He draws us to Him with the truth and goodness of His incarnate Son. Love, in fact, always respects freedom.”

The idea that “love always respects freedom” is not a Biblical tenet. Biblical love seeks what is best for others. Thus, for example, the good Samaritan is not praised because he respected the freedom of the robbed man, but because what he did was in the robbed man’s best interest – and specifically because he put the robbed man’s interest ahead of his own interest.

While we would not insist that God forces people to believe against their wills, it is by God’s mercy and grace that our wills are changed, that we are converted, so that we love God and believe on His name. Thus, it is true that we are drawn with the truth and goodness of Christ.

Nevertheless, we are hard pressed to say that the love of God always respects freedom. After all, we must not forget that the gospel message has a coercive edge to it. If you will not repent and believe on the Son for salvation, you will perish. Thus, those to whom we preach are not threatened with merely physical death (like a bandit pointing a gun at someone’s head) but with the eternal torment.

Moreover, there is even a constraining aspect to God’s love for those of us who love God:

2 Corinthians 5:10-15
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

But remember, that the service of the Lord is true freedom, for it is written:

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

And again:

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Therefore, we ought not to say that “Love always respects freedom,” but that that the Love of God produces freedom in men who were all their lives in the bondage of sin.


Justification by Faith Alone – An Affirmative Rebuttal

July 17, 2011

I am still waiting to conduct my debate on Justification by Faith alone. I appreciate the comments left on my proposed Affirmative Constructive, but I thought I would share an Affirmative Rebuttal as well. The constructive sets forth the truth of Sola Fide from Scripture. The rebuttal addresses the historical question: if this is true, why didn’t anyone realize it before?

The answer is that while the Reformers may have better systematized, organized, and rendered consistent the doctrines known under the umbrella of “sola fide,” or justification by faith alone, they were not in uncharted territory.

That is not to say that the church fathers were consistent or that they all taught the same thing. Nevertheless, the idea of justification by faith alone certainly wasn’t new to the Reformers.

Chrysostom (349-407): Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, On the Second Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Corinthians, Homily 2, §8.

What is interesting about the above is that Chrysostom is denying the necessity of baptism for justification. He’s saying that good works provide confidence but that nevertheless one can be justified by faith alone.

Chrysostom (349-407): That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” As the Jews were chiefly attracted by this, he persuades them not to give heed to the law, since they could not attain salvation by it without faith. Against this he contends; for it seemed to them incredible, that a man who had mis-spent all his former life in vain and wicked actions, should afterwards be saved by his faith alone. On this account he says, “It is a saying to be believed.” But some not only disbelieved but even objected, as the Greeks do now. “Let us then do evil, that good may come.” This was the consequence they drew in derision of our faith, from his words, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on First Timothy, Homily 4, 1 Timothy 1:15, 16.

One reason to include the quotation above is the fact that it refers to salvation by faith alone, and this is explicitly contrasted with good works.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) on Matthew 9: “This was forgiven by Christ through faith, because the Law could not yield, for faith alone justifies.”

Latin text: Et remissum est ab eo, quod lex laxare non poterat; fides enim sola justificat. Sancti Hilarii In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius, Caput VIII, §6, PL 9:961.

The above is pretty self explanatory.

Basil of Caesarea (329-379): [As the Apostle says,] Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, [I say that] Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, [and] redemption, that, as it is written, “he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” [For] this is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been, δεδικαιωμένον, perfect passive participle, accusative, masculine of δικαιόω) justified solely by faith in Christ. See Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, p. 505. (bracketed words added to Chemnitz’ translation)

Greek text: Λέγει δὲ ὁ Ἀπόστολος• Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν Κυρίῳ καυχάσθω, λέγω ὅτι Χριστὸς ἡμῖν ἐγενήθη σοφία ἀπὸ Θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις• ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται, Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν Κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. Αὕτη γὰρ δὴ ἡ τελεία καὶ ὁλόκληρος καύχησις ἐν Θεῳ, ὅτε μήτε ἐπὶ δικαιοσύνῃ τις ἐπαίρεται τῇ ἑαυτοῦ, ἀλλ´ ἔγνω μὲν ἐνδεῆ ὄντα ἑαυτὸν δικαιοσύνης ἀληθοῦς, πίστει δὲ μόνῃ τῇ εἰς Χριστὸν δεδικαιωμένον. Homilia XX, Homilia De Humilitate, §3, PG 31:529. In context, Basil appealed to the example of the Apostle Paul as a regenerate man.

Like the examples from Chrysostom above, this quotation both speaks of justification solely by faith and contrasts that with works.

Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: God justifies by faith alone.

Latin text: Deus ex sola fide justificat: In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.

The above speaks for itself, but note that the exact phrase “sola fide” is found.

Jerome (347-420): He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever. Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 61.

Latin text: Qui enim tota mente in Christo confidit, etiamsi, ut homo lapsus, mortuus fuerit in peccato, fide sua vivit in perpetuum. Epistola CXIX, Ad Minervium et Alexandrum Monachos, §7, PL 22:973.

The above is an example of Jerome contrasting justification by faith with works.

Pseudo-Oecumenius (Late 7th or Early 8th Century), commenting on James 2:23: Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 33. See PG 119:481.

Notice how here Pseudo-Oecumenius addresses Abraham’s justification. He affirms that Abraham is justified by faith alone, but then explains that the works provide him with approval because of their connection to his faith.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:6, ‘righteousness apart from works’: Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 113.

Latin Text: Hoc ipsum munit exemplo prophetae. Beatitudinem hominis, cui Deus accepto fert justitiam sine operibus. Beatos dicit de quibus hoc sanxit Deus, ut sine labore et aliqua observatione, sola fide justificentur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:83.

Here Ambrosiaster explicitly denies justification by works, even while explicitly affirming justification by faith alone.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:24: They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101.

Latin Text: Justificati gratis per gratiam ipsius. Justificati sunt gratis, quia nihil operantes, neque vicem reddentes, sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:79.

This is similar to the previous one.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:27: Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 103.

Latin Text: Ubi est ergo gloriatio tua? Exclusa est. Per quam legem? factorum? Non, sed per legem fidei. Reddita ratione, ad eos loquitur, qui agunt sub lege, quod sine causa glorientur, blandientes sibi de lege, et propter quod genus sint Abrahae, videntes non justificari hominem apud Deum, nisi per fidem. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:80.

Again, Ambrosiaster is affirming justification by faith alone. Here, he’s providing the angle that there is no alternative way of being justified. It’s not like some people are justified by faith, and others are justified by works.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:5: How then can the Jews think that they have been justified by the works of the law in the same way as Abraham, when they see that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law but by faith alone? Therefore there is no need of the law when the ungodly is justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 112.

Latin Text: Hoc dicit, quia sine operibus legis credenti impio, id est gentili, in Christum, reputatur fides ejus ad justitiam, sicut et Abrahae. Quomodo ergo Judaei per opera legis justificari se putant justificatione Abrahae; cum videant Abraham non per opera legis, sed sola fide justificatum? Non ergo opus est lex, quando impius per solam fidem justificatur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:82-83.

I realize that some of Rome’s apologists will try to wriggle out of the quotation above by emphasizing the distinction between the works of the Mosaic law and works in general. Nevertheless, Ambrosiaster makes it clear that faith alone justifies.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 2:12: For if the law is given not for the righteous but for the unrighteous, whoever does not sin is a friend of the law. For him faith alone is the way by which he is made perfect. For others mere avoidance of evil will not gain them any advantage with God unless they also believe in God, so that they may be righteous on both counts. For the one righteousness is temporal; the other is eternal. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 65.

Latin Text: Si enim justo non est lex posita, sed injustis; qui non peccat, amicus legis est. Huic sola fides deest, per quam fiat perfectus quia nihil illi proderit apud Deum abstinere a contrariis, nisi fidem in Deum acceperit, ut sit justus per utraque; quia illa temporis justitia est, haec aeternitatis. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:67.

The above closes out the attempted room of those who treat “the law” as simply a reference to the Mosaic law. Notice how Ambrosiaster connects the law and “avoidance of evil,” which is a general description of works.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), wrote while commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b: God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

Latin Text: Datam dicit gratiam a Deo in Christo Jesu, quae gratia sic data est in Christo Jesu; quia hoc constitutum est a Deo, ut qui credit in Christum, salvus sit sine opere: sola fide gratis accipit remissionem peccatorum. In Epistolam B. Pauli Ad Corinthios Primam, PL 17:185.

The above quotation puts a final nail in the coffin for any attempted Romanist wriggling, in that here Ambrosiaster makes it explicit that a person can be saved without works.

Chrysostom (349-407): God’s mission was not to save people in order that they may remain barren or inert. For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent. Homily on Ephesians 4.2.9. Mark J. Edwards, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 134. See also John Chrysostom. F. Field, ed. Interpretatio omnium Epistolarum Paulinarum per Homilias Facta (Oxford J. H. Parker, 1845-1862), 2:160.

Here Chrysostom explains that faith justifies and faith produces works, but still insists that works do not justify us.

Chrysostom (349-407): For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8, Rom. 4:1, 2.

This is a powerful statement for justification by faith alone. Chrysostom is arguing that even for those with works in addition to faith, those works do not justify them.

Clement of Rome: Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ANF: Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 32.

The above conclusion provides a final testimony for sola fide. Yes, he does not use the term “faith alone,” but he specifically rules out works.

– TurretinFan

Roman Confusion

July 9, 2011

Devin Rose posted some less than complimentary thoughts (and Peter Sean Bradley tagged on) about Reformed apologists (myself as an example). Rather than dwelling on the caricature drawn from Les Miserables, I’d like to address one point that seems to be a common misconception:

Under Reformed Protestantism, God has predestined the elect to salvation and the reprobate to damnation. Being a faithful Catholic therefore means, practically by definition, that you are a reprobate. And here’s the kicker: if you are one of the reprobate, many of the passages from the Gospel on forgiving your brother and helping him do not apply (at least as they interpret them). Once you cross the Tiber, you are anathema and damned.

If you leave a gospel-preaching church for Rome, of course we do (or ought) to treat you as lacking a credible profession of faith. Normally, for such a departure from the faith, a Reformed church will provide the Biblical discipline of excommunication.

That discipline, however, is discipline not condemnation. Through excommunication, it is hoped that a person will be brought back to the faith. It is hoped that he will see the error of his ways, repent of his sin, and return to the flock of Christ.

There is certainly no judgment as to the election or reprobation of the person. Only God knows who the elect and reprobate are – moreover, “to him that is joined to all the living there is hope,” (Ecclesiastes 9:4) and we hold out that hope even for the most anti-Reformed, anti-Evangelical member of the “Called to Communion” blog.

It is our desire to see those who have apostatized from the church of Christ brought back to her. I realize that pointing out that the church of Rome is a synagogue of Satan is going to make those in the church of Rome unhappy – surely it made the people unhappy to whom the phrase was originally applied. Nevertheless, the point of such comments is to warn those of the danger.

When I tell you that your house isn’t comfortable warm, it’s on fire, I’m not attacking your house or pouring out vitriol against your air conditioning unit. It’s an expression of love to warn those who we care about to avoid danger – not an expression of hatred.

One might think that Mr. Rose would appreciate this, since he wrote:

To their credit, they have this hatred for the Catholic Church (or “Romanism,” as you will hear) because they believe it is leading people away from Jesus and the Gospel. And good for them! If I believed that some church or denomination was doing that, I would oppose it too–perhaps not using their same vitriol and methods–but I would not want people to follow those beliefs.

And Rome does lead people away from the Gospel, encouraging them to trust in Mary, angels, martyrs, and saints and not in God alone – requiring their submission to a man who sits on an earthly throne in an earthly palace, claiming to be the earthly head of the church.

But unto us, there is one Lord (1 Corinthians 8:6).


Gnosticism, Hermeneutics, and Rome

July 3, 2011

In comment box at Beggars All Reformation, Roman communion advocate Paul Hoffer made the claim: “It is amazing that you decry the hermeneutics of Gnostics when Protestantism embraces that very same thing today.”

Hermeneutics of the Gnostics

1. Rejection of Sola Scriptura

Tertullian points to the inability of the heretics to support their controversial views using the principle of Sola Scriptura.

Tertullian (c. 160-220) :

Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all.

ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter III.

The same is true today. What Roman apologist seriously thinks he can prove the immaculate conception or bodily assumption of Mary from Scripture? And only slightly more will fantasize that they can prove the infallibility of the bishop of Rome from Scripture. Like the errors of the Gnostics, the errors of the Romans are unable to be supported from Scripture alone.

2. Tradition Mandatory

Irenaeus in “Against Heresies,” Book IV, Chapter 2, explains that the Gnostics that he was dealing with opposed the perspicuity of Scriptures, opposed the self-interpreting nature of Scripture, and insisted that tradition is mandatory in order to be able to understand them. Irenaeus writes:

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition.

(Against Heresies, 4:2:1)

Interestingly, on this point, the hermeneutics of the Gnostics is like that of Mr. Hoffer’s church, not like that of “Protestantism.” Mr. Hoffer’s church, Rome, when confronted with the Scriptures does not say dare to say that Scriptures are not correct, and while Rome does not give them the proper level of authority, Rome does not altogether deny their authority. Rome does, however, assert that the Scriptures are ambiguous and that tradition is necessary in order to properly understand Scriptures.

Hopefully it is obvious that “Protestantism” (in general) does not accuse the Scriptures in ways like the Gnostics do. So, on this point, the Gnostic approach is closer to that of Rome than that of the Reformation.

Gerhard Maier:

To summarize: enscripturated revelation maintains that it is accessible and sufficiently clear for every person to understand. True, it links comprehensive understanding and existential transformation to the gift of the Holy Spirit. But philological understanding and the essential content lie open to every person. The Christian community itself requires no special class of people “in the know” who alone are competent to open up Scripture’s meaning to the rest. Therefore, we abide by the principle of the perspicuity of Scripture in the double sense alluded to above.

The protest against the perspicuity of Scripture has traditionally come from three quarters: from Gnosticism, from the champions of the Catholic teaching office, and from historical-critical theologians.

Gerhard Maier, Biblical Hermeneutics, trans. Robert W. Yarbrough (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 183.

3. Even Tradition and Scriptures Insufficient

Irenaeus continues by pointing out that when appeal is made to tradition from the apostles and Jesus himself, the Gnostics still claim that one needs something more:

2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.

(Against Heresies, 4:2:2)

A similar thing happens when we engage Rome on the teachings of the fathers. They insist you need tradition handed down from the fathers outside of Scripture, and so we point out what the fathers actually say. But then they end up appealing to the raw authority of their own truth, as though Trent and Vatican I were wiser not only than the fathers but than the apostles as well, and that Rome alone has discovered the unadulterated truth.

The Reformed hermeneutic, by contrast, holds the Scriptures to be sufficient. Therefore, while we may study the fathers to gain the benefit of their wisdom, we do not invest them with infallibility. At the same time, however, we do not claim to have our gift of infallibility. Unlike Rome and the Gnostics, we appeal to a rule of faith that is not tied claims about ourselves. The Gnostics claim their own private revelation, whereas Rome claims to have an infallible magisterium, so there are distinctions, but those two positions are closer to one another than to Irenaeus and us.

Peter Toon:

Later in the history of the Church a need was felt to supplement Scripture by teaching from Tradition and this is the ‘supplementary view’. Gnostics adopted this position in the second century and it was the commonly held view in Roman Catholicism from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), p. 138.

J. N. D. Kelly:

Not only did the Gnostics exploit Scripture to their own ends, but one of their techniques was to appeal, in support of their speculations, to an alleged secret apostolic tradition to which they claimed to have access.

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, 4th edition (London: Adam & Charles Black, reprinted 1968), p. 36.

J. N. D. Kelly:

Did Irenaeus then subordinate Scripture to unwritten tradition? This inference has been commonly drawn, but it issues from a somewhat misleading antithesis. Its plausibility depends on such considerations as (a) that, in controversy with the Gnostics, tradition rather than Scripture seemed to be his final court of appeal, and (b) that he apparently relied upon tradition to establish the true exegesis of Scripture. But a careful analysis of his Adverus haereses reveals that, while the Gnostics’ appeal to their supposed secret tradition forced him to stress the superiority of the Church’s public tradition, his real defence of orthodoxy was founded on Scripture. Indeed, tradition itself, on his view, was confirmed by Scripture, which was ‘the foundation and pillar of our faith.’

J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, 4th edition (London: Adam & Charles Black, reprinted 1968), pp. 38-39.

Here Kelly directs the reader to Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, 2:35:4, “But that I may not be thought to avoid that series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures do much more evidently and clearly proclaim this very point), I shall, for the benefit of those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to bear upon them, devote a special book to the Scriptures referred to, which shall fairly follow them out [and explain them], and I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all the lovers of truth.” Kelly also cites 3:5:1, where we read, “Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him.”

Augustine (354-430) commenting on John 16:12-13:

And yet all these utterly senseless heretics, who wish to be styled Christians, attempt to color the audacities of their devices, which are perfectly abhorrent to every human feeling, with the chance presented to them of that gospel sentence uttered by the Lord, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now:” as if these were the very things which the apostles could not then bear, and as if the Holy Spirit had taught them what the unclean spirit, with all the length he can carry his audacity, blushes to teach and to preach in broad daylight.
It is such whom the apostle foresaw through the Holy Spirit, when he said: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate XCVII, §3-4.

4. Apostolic Succession

It is important to note that the Gnostics claimed apostolic succession. Commenting on Irenaeus’ comments above, G. W. H. Lampe (the compiler of the only Patristic Greek Lexicon available today) concurs that “According to Irenaeus the Valentinians (a Gnostic sect) claimed that the truth in Scripture cannot be discovered by those who are ignorant of tradition.” Coupled with this observation, the same writer then proceeds to make the same striking connection:

G. W. H. Lampe:

In Gnosticism, therefore, we encounter for the first time the idea of unwritten tradition as an authority for doctrine. Unlike orthodox tradition, it is neither the raw material, as it were, of what is to become Scripture, nor the explication of what is contained in Scripture. It is wholly independent of Scripture and is even superior to it, since only in the light of the tradition can Scripture be understood. Doctrine and practice alike are founded upon it. It claims to be apostolic tradition, handed down in succession from the apostles. The Gnostic theory was reasonable enough, given the doctrinal principles of the movement. Having denied the historical basis of the gospel, the Gnostics seek to reinterpret it in alien terms with the aid of a spurious tradition. A similar theory of tradition, however, adopted from different motives, is by no means unknown today.

Quoted from his essay in F. W. Dillistone, ed. Scripture and Tradition (London: Lutterworth Press, 1955), p. 41.

G. W. H. Lampe:

Apostolicity, guaranteed by historical succession, was, indeed, the only weapon readily available with which to meet the attack of Gnostics with their bogus claims to apostolic succession and Montanists with their new revelations of the Spirit which, if unchecked, would have sought to produce a kind of second and spurious apostolic age.

Quoted from his essay in F. W. Dillistone, ed. Scripture and Tradition (London: Lutterworth Press, 1955), p. 42.

Oscar Cullmann:

Despite the deep gulf between them in other respects, is it not true to say that the Catholic Church, Gnosticism, and ancient and modern sects which claim a superior enlightenment, are at one in denying that scripture is a superior norm for the testing of the genuine activity of the Holy Spirit? The Church will examine every later revelation, individual or collective, but will always take as criterion this norm [i.e., scripture] of the apostolic witness. The Church will therefore not be a superior tribunal able to decree what must be added to this norm.

Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, trans. A. J. B. Higgins (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), p. 83.

Robert M. Grant:

The Gnostic teacher Basilides claimed that he had been instructed by a mysterious Glaucias. Papias had said that Mark had been an “interpreter” or translator for Peter; Basilides claimed that Glaucias performed the same function for the same apostle. Similarly, another Gnostic teacher named Valentius said that his own teacher had been Theodas, a disciple of Paul. Apparently Valentius had in mind the more normal tradition that it was Luke who was Paul’s disciple and, like Mark, wrote a gospel. And Valentius’ own disciple Ptolemaeus, perhaps about 160, said that his Gnostic group had received its “apostolic tradition” by “succession,” just as ordinary Christians claimed to have received theirs. In such an era of claims and counterclaims about tradition it was inevitable that more emphasis would come to be laid on the written word and on the collecting of acceptable books.

See his chapter “The Creation of the Christian Tradition” in Joseph F. Kelly, ed., Perspectives on Scripture and Tradition (Notre Dame: Fides Publishers, Inc., 1976), p. 14.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Adrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims (as they boast) for his master, Glaucias, the interpreter of Peter.

Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter.
Such being the case, it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].

ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book VII, Chapter 17, p. 555.

4. Extra-Scriptural Tradition

E. Flesseman-Van Leer:

For Irenaeus, the church doctrine is certainly never purely traditional; on the contrary, the thought that there could be some truth, transmitted exclusively viva voce, is a Gnostic line of thought.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church (Assen, 1954), pp. 133.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer:

Thus we can maintain that scripture is, for Irenaeus and Tertullian, apostolic tradition in written form. When they want to get direct access to this tradition in concrete form, they point not to the church, which is a living, intangible locus of the tradition, but to scripture in which this tradition has become as it were attainable and perceptible to every one. They appeal exclusively to scripture to substantiate their assertions in matters of faith. For they are fully convinced that as regards content, apostolic kerygma, scripture, and church tradition coincide entirely. They deny most decidedly the existence of extrascriptural tradition. To appeal exclusively to revelatory truth apart from Scripture is heretical gnosticism.

E. Flesseman-Van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church, p. 191.

5. Living Voice of the Magisterium

Vittorio Subilia:

It would not be difficult to detect in the Roman concept of the charisma veritatis a threefold Gnostic idea at work. In the first place the notion that truth is known only to the hierarchy introduces into the Church the esoteric idea of there being ‘initiates who possess the gnosis, and non-initiates who do not possess it, but can receive it from the hierarchy’. Thus the gospel notion of truth is substituted by one which seems not unconnected with Gnostic ideas.

Secondly, there is the idea of the ‘living voice of the magisterium’ and the idea of truth committed by Christ directly to the apostles and passed on by word of mouth without ever being fixed in written form, constituting thus the secret key for interpreting the written traditions in the true sense intended by the Master. Here we cannot but think of that tradition so favoured by the Gnostics, that set the greatest store on that period between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, which cannot be historically verified and in which he is alleged not only to have communicated to certain favoured disciples the secret knowledge necessary for the understanding of the words he had spoken during his public ministry, but also to have given them a series of special revelation reserved for the ‘perfect’.

In the third place one might note a Gnostic, as well as Jewish, influence, in the way of interpreting the apostolic succession as a succession both of doctrine and of persons from the apostles down, a chain of transmission through history, intended to guarantee the apostolicity both of the content and the origins of the message and of its interpretation. This seems to have been a device, used by both the Gnostic and Christian sides, to counter each other’s propaganda attacks, from Irenaeus, perhaps even from Hegesippus on. This concept is closely bound up with that of oral tradition, and it is to be recalled that the most ancient document known to us in which we first find the phrases ‘apostolic tradition’ and ‘succession’ is not a document of the Church, but a Gnostic one of Valentinian tendencies, the Epistle of Ptolomy to ‘sister’ Flora.

Vittorio Subilia, The Problem of Catholicism, trans. Reginald Kissack (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964), pp. 130-131.


P.S. I would also direct Mr. Hoffer’s attention to the interesting comparisons provided at the linked web site.

N.B. I am indebted to Pastor David King for his assistance in identifying and transcribing the quotations provided in this post.

Luther and the Bible in the Common Tongue

July 2, 2011

One of the things that was important to the Reformers (as it was to the early church) was that the Word of God be available to people in a language they could understand. This is famously seen in the translational works of Wycliffe and Tyndale, but also in the work of Luther:

Luther began his translation of the New Testament during his enforced exile at the Wartburg, and his work of translating and revising came to occupy him until the end of his life. Amazing as it seems, he apparently completed the first draft of his translation of the New Testament in some eleven weeks, using as his working tools the Greek and Latin editions of Erasmus. Not only did Luther prepare a superb translation, a version that seemed fresh and alive because, as one scholar has phrased it, “he read Holy Writ ‘as though it had been written yesterday.'”[FN54] but also, in the process of translation, he helped to sculpt the German language. The development of Neuhochdeutsch, early modern high German, was underway before the appearance of Luther’s Bible, due partly to the influence of Saxon Kanzeleideutsch or chancellory German. [FN55] Luther’s Bible brought new high German into the parish schools and pulpits and made it the common language for the German people, even though the common folk long clung to their individual dialects. In brief, the language of Luther’s Bible “became the language of the people, the langugage used in the studies of the scholars, and the language spoken in the huts of the unlearned.”[FN56]

Marilyn J. Harran, Luther and learning: the Wittenberg University Luther Symposium, p. 40.

For several hundred years after the height of Middle High German literature, there was no longer any standard literary language. By far the most important influence on the development of the Modern High German standard language was Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, the first edition of which appeared in 1522 (Old Testament) and 1534 (New Testament). Luther’s translation was the first to be written in a direct and uncomplicated – at times even colloquial – style that strove not only to include expressions that were modern and up-and-coming, but also to incorporate linguistic features from as many regions as possible. Its impact on literary German was immense; its core was Luther’s native dialect of Thuringian.

Benjamin W. Fortson, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, 15.78 (p. 367)

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