Archive for December, 2012

William Webster and the Canon of the Old Testament

December 30, 2012

William Webster has published a very helpful and well-researched booklet (187 pp.) entitled, “The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha.”  The book is organized into three sections (chapters):

  1. The Canon of the Jews
  2. From the Jews to Jerome
  3. From Jerome to the Reformation

Webster synthesizes a number of other writers, including the excellent work of Roger Beckwith.

In the first section, Webster explains that the Jewish canon of Scripture was 22 or 24 books (depending on how you count them), which correspond to the 37 books of the “Protestant” Old Testament.  Webster demonstrates this from ancient Jewish witnesses, including the New Testament, Josephus, Philo, the Babylonian Talmud, Ecclesiasticus (LXX version), 1 Maccabees, Latin IV Esdras (2 Esdras in the NRSV), and the Essene book of Jubliees.  This witness is confirmed as being the Jewish canon by Christian writers such as Jerome, Augustine, and Origen.   Webster also explains how Aquila’s and Theodotian’s translations provide evidence of the 22/24/37 book canon. The New Testament confirmation for this includes, Jesus use of Abel to Zecharias, which appears to confirm the 22 book order, which begins with Genesis (Abel) and ends with 2 Chronicles (Zacharias):

Luke 11:51
From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Matthew 23:35
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Webster also point that there was also already a three-fold division of the text by that time: the books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa also referred to as “the Psalms” because that was by far the largest book of the group.  This three-fold division is seen in the New Testament in various places, such as especially:

Luke 24:44
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

Webster takes time to explain the problems with the argument from the inclusion of some apocrypha in the three ancient great codices of Vaticanus,  Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus.  Some RC apologists will argue that the inclusion of apocrypha in those codices show that the works were part of “the Septuagint ” and that they were therefore generally accepted as inspired Scripture by the Alexandrian Jews and Christians.

Webster notes that those codices do include Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, and Tobit, but that when it comes to the books of the Maccabees, Vaticanus omits the books, Sinaiticus includes books 1 and 4, and Alexandrinus includes all four of the books, and additionally the apocryphal book known as the Psalms of Solomon.

Webster also reminds the reader that Josephus used the Septuagint of his day and held to the shorter 22 book canon.  Similarly, one assumes that Philo (from Alexandria) used the Septuagint, but likewise has a shorter canon.

Webster points out that the discovery of ancient Essene materials at Qumran is not the silver bullet that RC apologists seem to think.  While it did provide some substantiation for the theory that some of the LXX books had a Semitic archetype, it did not do the same for others, and more significantly confirmed that the book of Jubilees was present in that community.

Webster cites Beckwith, who points out that the probability is that the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees all had the same canon.  Some people (even some fathers) mistakenly believed that the Sadducees held only to the Pentateuch, either by confusing them with the Samaritans, or perhaps misunderstanding a portion of Josephus’ writings that describe Sadducean rejection of Pharasaic (alleged) oral tradition.

Webster also refers to the objection that allegedly there are quotations from or allusions to the Apocrypha.  Interestingly, though, the only apocryphal work that arguably is assigned prophetic character in the New Testament would be 1 Enoch, a work that the Jews never considered canonical, and which the RCs likewise do not consider canonical.

The rebuttal that some of the OT books likewise are not quoted as authoritative in the New Testament cannot serve as a legitimate rebuttal, even though it is true that not every OT book is quoted as authoritative in the New Testament.  We do not say that a book has to be quoted int he New Testament to be authoritative.  Our comments regarding the absence of such quotations of the Apocrypha is evidence that confirms that the Palestinian Jewish Apostles and our Palestinian Jewish Lord agreed with the other Palestinian Jews about the canon.

The second section of the book relates to the early church up to Jerome. Webster explains the complexity of the situation with respect to the canon of Scripture. Specifically, he explains that the Eastern Church held to a more nuanced view and generally to the shorter 22 canon, with the exception of Origen. Origen, nevertheless, is a testimony to the fact that the Jews held to the shorter canon as discussed above. Clement and Cyril of Jerusalem are two examples of eastern fathers who have a shorter canon. Athanasius of Alexandria is another example.

Webster seems to think that the Western church, however, generally accepted a longer canon. However, even then, there were exceptions, such as Hilary of Poitiers. Rufinus and Jerome, in the West, are the last two examples of Western fathers (to the time of Jerome) who held to be shorter canon. Although the Council of Rome did seem to reject Amos and Obadiah they apparently accepted all of the deuterocanonical works that are accepted by Roman Catholics today. Adding to the complexity of the situation, is the fact that the term as dress could referred to several different books. Finally, Webster points outside until the Council of Trent. There was no definitive allegedly infallible list of books in the last.

In the third section, Webster begins from Jerome (giving Jerome a little bit of double coverage) and discusses the church from Jerome to the time of the Reformation. Webster’s claim may seem a little surprising:

The overall practice of the Western Church with respect to the canon from the time of Jerome (early fifth century) until the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome. The apocryphal books were accorded a deuterocanonical status, but were not regarded as canonical in the strict sense. That is, they were not accepted as authoritative for the establishing of doctrine but were used for the purpose of edification. Thus, the Church retained the distinctions established by Jerome, Rufinus and Athanasius of ecclesiastical and canonical books.

Webster provides evidence from Strabo et al.’s Glossa Ordinaria.

Webster documents a litany of post-Jerome Western theologians who held to a shorter canon, including many luminaries:

(see the endnotes here, for documentation of these assertions)

Webster also points out that the edition of the Bible printed by Cardinal Ximines and approved by Pope Leo X, followed Jerome and included all of Jerome’s prologues, including those identifying the apocrypha as extra-canonical.

Webster’s work in regard to documenting the existence of the shorter canon of Scripture down through history is notable, but is not the first such effort.  The great Anglican bishop of Durham, John Cosin, provided “A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture,” which was first published in 1657.  The works of the editor in attempting to verify and document Cosin’s citations in the edition from Cosin’s works (linked above) was itself an enormous effort.

I believe that Webster probably was at least partially reliant on Cosin in locating some of the many testimonies of the medieval authors.  The result of Cosin’s and Webster’s work, however, is quite impressive.

And it is by no means exhaustive.  In a later post we may explore at least one area where Webster’s research can be augmented.

– TurretinFan

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Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Chapter III

December 27, 2012

The following is the third chapter of Daillé’s excellent work on the right use of the fathers.  (see the contents post for more background)

CHAPTER III.

Reason III. — Those writings which bear the names of the ancient Fathers, are not all really such; but a great portion of them supposititious, and forged, either long since or at later periods.

I now enter upon more important considerations; the two former, though they are not in themselves to be despised or neglected, being yet but trivial ones compared with those which follow. For there is so great a confusion in the most part of these books of which we speak, that it is a very difficult thing truly to discover who were their authors, and what is their meaning and sense. The first difficulty proceeds from the infinite number of forged books, which are falsely attributed to the ancient Fathers; the same having also happened in all kinds of learning and sciences; insomuch that the learned at this day are sufficiently puzzled to discover, both in philosophy and humanity, which are forged and supposititious pieces, and which are true and legitimate. But this abuse has not existed any where more grossly, and taken to itself more liberty, than in the ecclesiastical writers. All men complain of this, both on the one side and on the other, and labor to their utmost to deliver us from this confusion, oftentimes with little success, by reason of the warmth of their feelings by which they are carried away; ordinarily judging of books according to their own interest rather than the truth, and rejecting all those that any way contradict them, but defending those which speak on their side; how good or bad soever they otherwise chance to be. So that, to say the truth, they judge not of their own opinions by the writings of the Fathers, but of the writings of the Fathers by their own opinions. If they speak with us, it is then Cyprian and Chrysostom; if not, it is some ignorant modern fellow, or else some malicious person, who would fain cover his own impurity under the rich garment of these excellent persons.

Now, were it mere partiality that rendered the business obscure, we should be able to quit our hands of it, by stripping it and laying it open to the world; and all moderate men would find enough to rest satisfied with. But the worst of it is, that this obscurity oftentimes happens to be in the things themselves; so that it is a very difficult and sometimes impossible thing to elucidate them, whether it be by reason of the antiquity of the error, or by reason of the near resemblance of the false to the true. For these forgeries are not new, and of yesterday; but the abuse has existed above fourteen hundred years. It is the complaint of the greatest part of the Fathers, that the heretics, to give their own dreams the greater authority, promulgated them under the names of some of the most eminent writers in the Church, and even of the Apostles themselves. [Hegesippus apud Euseb. Book 4, chapter 22] Amphilochius bishop of Iconium, who was so much esteemed by the great Basil archbishop of Csesarea, wrote a particular tract on this subject,[Concil. 7, Act. 5, tom. 3, p. 552] alleged by the Fathers of the seventh council against a certain passage produced by the Iconoclasts out of I know not what idle treatise, entitled, “The Travels of the Apostles.” And I would that that Tract of this learned prelate were now extant! If it were, it would perhaps do us good service in discovering the vanity of many ridiculous pieces, which now pass current in the world under the names of the primitive and most ancient Christians. Jerome rejects divers apocryphal books, [Jerome l. de scrip. Eccles. Tom. 1, p. 346 and 350] which are published under the names of the Apostles, and of their first disciples; as those of St. Peter, of Barnabas, and others. The gospel of St. Thomas, and the epistle to the Laodiceans, are classed in the same category by the seventh council. [Concil. 7, Act. 6.]

Now, if these knaves have thus taken such liberty with the Apostles as to make use of their names; how much more likely is it, that they would not hesitate to make as free with the Fathers? And indeed this kind of imposture has always been common. Thus we read that the Nestorians sometime published an epistle under the name of Cyril of Alexandria,[Concil. 5, Collat. 5.] in the defense of Theodorus bishop of Mopsuestia, who was the author and first broacher of their heresy: and likewise that the Eutychists also circulated certain books of Apollinaris, under the title of “The Orthodox Doctors,” namely, to impose on the simplicity of the people.[Marian. ep. ad Mon. Alex. ad calcem Concil. Chalc. t. 2. p. 450. E.] Leontius has written an express Tract on this subject; [Leontius lib. extat Bibl. SS. PP. t. 4. par. 2.] wherein he shows that these men abused particularly the names of Gregory of Neocsesarea, of Julius bishop of Rome, and of Athanasius bishop of Alexandria; and he also says particularly, that the book intitled, Ἠ κατα μερος Πιστις (A particular Exposition of the Faith,) which is delivered to us by Turrianus the Jesuit, Gerardus Vossius, and the last edition of Gregorius Neocaesariensis, for a true and legitimate piece of the said Gregory [Gregory the Wonderworker op. Par. An. 1622, p. 97, ubi vide Voss.] is not truly his, but the bastard issue of the heretic Apollinaris. The like judgment do the publishers of the Bibliotheca Patrum give of the twelve Anathemas, which are commonly attributed to the same Gregory. [Bibl. SS. PP. t. 1. Gr. Lat.] The Monothelites also, taking the same course, forged an oration under the name of Menas patriarch of Constantinople, and directed to Vigilius bishop of Rome:[Concil. 6, Act 3, and Act 14. t. 3. Concil.] and two other books under the name of the same Vigilius, directed to Justinian and Theodora; wherein their heresy is in express terms delivered; and these three pieces were afterwards inserted in the body of the fifth council, and kept in the library of the Patriarch’s palace in Constantinople.[Ibid.] But this imposture was discovered and proved in the sixth council: for otherwise, who would not have been deceived by it, seeing these false pieces in so authentic a copy?
I bring but these few examples, to give the reader a sample only of what the heretics not only dared but were able also to do in this particular: and all these things were done before the end of the seventh century, that is to say, above nine hundred years ago. Since which time, in all the disputes about the images in churches,[Concil. 7, Act. 6, Refut. Iconoclast. tom. 5.] and in the differences betwixt the Greek and Latin Churches, and indeed in the most part of all other ecclesiastical disputations, you shall find nothing more frequent than the mutual reproaches that the several parties cast at each other,[Concil. Florent. Sess. 20. t. 4.] accusing one another of forging the pieces of authors which they produced each of them in defense of their own cause. Judge you, therefore, whether or not the heretics, using the same artifice and the same diligence, now for the space of so many centuries since, though in different causes, may not in all probability have furnished us with a sufficient number of spurious pieces published under the names of the ancient Fathers by their professed enemies. And only consider whether or no we may not chance to commune with a heretic sometimes, when we think we have a Father before us; and a professed enemy disguised under the mask of a friend. Thus it will hence follow that it may justly be feared, that we sometimes receive and deliver for maxims and opinions of the ancient church, no better than the mere dreams of the ancient heretics. For we must suppose that they were not so foolish as to discover their venom at the first, in their heretical writings; but rather that they only cunningly infused here and there some sprinklings of it, laying the foundation of their heresy as it were a far off only; which makes the knavery the more difficult to be discovered, and consequently the more dangerous. But supposing that this juggling deception of the heretics may have very much corrupted the old books; yet notwithstanding, had we no other spurious pieces than what had been forged by them, it would be no very hard matter to distinguish the true from the false. But that which renders the evil almost irremediable is, that even in the Church itself this kind of forgery has both been very common and very ancient.

I impute a great part of the cause of this mischief to those men who, before the invention of printing, were the transcribers and copiers of manuscripts: of whose negligence and boldness, in the corrupting of books, Jerome very much complained even in his time: “Scribunt non quod inveniunt, sed quod intelligunt; et dum alienos errores emendare nituntur, ostendunt suos;” [Jerome, Letter 28 , to Lucin. tom. 1.] that is, “they write not what they find but what they understand: and whilst they endeavour to correct other men’s errors they show their own.”

We may very well presume, that the liberty these men took in corrupting, they also took the same in forging, books: especially since this last course was beneficial to them, while the other was not. For, by altering or corrupting the books they wrote, they could not make any advantage to themselves: whereas, in forging new books, and disposing of them under great and eminent names, they sold them more readily and dearer. So likewise, if there came to their hands any book that either had no author’s name; or having any, it was but an obscure or a tainted one; to the end that these evil marks might not prejudice the selling of it, they would erase it without any more ado, and inscribe it with some one of the most eminent and venerable names in the Church; that thus the reputation and favor, which that name had found in the world, might be a means for better passing off their false wares. As for example, the name of Novatianus, who was the head of a schism against the Roman Church, became justly odious to Christian ears: as that of Tertullian was the more esteemed, both for the age, wit, and learning of the person. Now the transcriber, considering this, without any other design or end than that of his own private gain, has, in my judgment, made an exchange, attributing to Tertullian that book of the Trinity which is in reality the production of Novatianus; as we are also given to understand by Jerome.[Jerome, Apology 2 against Ruffinius] And I am of opinion, that both the birth and fortune of that other piece, “De Poenitentia,” have been, if not the very same, yet at least not much unlike that of the other. So likewise the book, entitled ” De Operibus Cardinalibus Christi” [Auctor operis, De Operibus Card. Christi, inter Cyprian. Oper. p. 444.] (which was composed and sent by its author to one of the Popes, without giving his name, as he there testifies,) has been circulated abroad under the name of Cyprian, merely because by this means it was the more profitable to the manuscript-monger; and has always passed, and does pass, for his: notwithstanding that, in my judgment, it is clear enough that it cannot be his, as is ingenuously confessed by many of the learned of both parties.[Erasmus in edit. Cyp. sua. Sixtus Senens. Biblioth. l. 4. Bellar. de Euchar. l. 2. c. 9. De amiss, grat. l. 6. c. 2. Possevin. in Apparat. Scult. Medulla Patr. Andr. Rivet. l. 2. c. 15. Crit. Sacr. Aubert de Euchar. l. 2. ch. 8.] Ruffinus had some name in the Church, though nothing near so great as Cyprian had: and this is the reason why the afore-named merchants have inscribed with Cyprian’s name that Treatise upon the Apostles’ Creed, which was written by Ruffinus.

Besides the avarice of these Librarii, their own ignorance, or at least of those whom they consulted, has in like manner produced no small number of these spurious pieces. For when either the likeness of the name, or of the style, or of the subject treated of, or any other seeming reason, gave them occasion to believe that such an anonymous book was the work of such or such an ancient author, they presently copied it out, under the said author’s name; and thus it came from thenceforth to be received by the world for such, and by them to be transmitted for such to posterity.

All the blame, however, is not to be laid upon the transcribers only in this particular: the authors themselves have contributed very much to the promoting of this kind of imposture; for there have been found in all ages some so sottishly ambitious; and so desirous, at any rate, to have their conceptions published to the world; that, finding they should never be able to please, and get applause abroad of themselves, they have issued them under the name of some of the Fathers; choosing rather to see them received and honored under this false guise, than disguised and slighted under their own real name. These men, according as their several abilities have been, have imitated the style and sentiments of the Fathers either more or less happily; and have boldly presented these productions of their own brain to the world under their names. The world, of which the greatest part has always been the least reflecting, has very readily collected, preserved, and cherished these fictitious productions, and has by degrees filled all their libraries with them. Others have been induced to adopt the same artifice, not out of ambition, but some other irregular fancy; as those men have done, who, having had a particular affection, either to such a person, or to such an opinion, have undertaken to write of the same, under the name of some author of good esteem and reputation with the world, to make it pass the more currently abroad: precisely as that priest did, who published a book, entitled “The Acts of St. Paul, and of Tecla;”[Jerome de Script. Eccl. tom. 1. p. 350. ex Tertul. lib. de Baptisma. cap. 17.] and being convicted of being the author of it, in presence of the Apostle John, he plainly confessed, that the love that he bare to Paul was the only cause that incited him to do it. Such was the boldness also of Ruffinus, a priest of Aquileia, (whom Jerome justly reprehends so sharply, and in so many places,[Jerome, l. 2. Apol. contr. Ruffin. tom. 2. p. 334. et Ep. 69. t. 2. et Apol. contr. Ruff, ad Pammach. et Marc. tom. 2. 40]) who, to vindicate Origen’s honour, wrote an apology for him, under the name of Pamphilus, a holy and renowned martyr; although the truth of it is, he had taken it, partly out of the first and sixth books that Eusebius had written upon the same subject, and partly made use of his own inven tion in it. Some similar fancy it was that moved him also to put forth the life of one Sextus, a Pythagorean philosopher, under the name of St. Sixtus the martyr, [Jerome, in Ierem. Com. 4. tom. 4.] to the end that the work might be received the more favourably. What can you say to this? namely, that in the very same age there was a personage of greater note than the former; who, disliking that Jerome had translated the Old Testament out of the Hebrew, framed an epistle under his name, wherein he represents him as repenting of having done it; which epistle, even in Jerome’s life time, though without his knowledge, was published by the said author, both at Rome and in Africa? Who could believe the truth of this bold attempt, had not Jerome himself related the story, and made complaint of the injury done him therein? [Jerome, l. 2. Apol. contra Ruff. tom. 2.] I must impute also to a fancy of the same kind, though certainly more innocent than the other, the spreading abroad of so many predictions of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and his kingdom, under the names of the Sibyls; which was done by some of the first Christians, only to prepare the Pagans to relish this doctrine the better; as it is objected against them by Celsus in Origen.[Orig. contra Cels. Lib. 7.] But that which is yet of greater consequence is, that even the Fathers themselves have sometimes made use of this artifice, to promote either their own opinions or their wishes. Of this we have a notable example, which was objected against the Latins by the Greeks, above two hundred years since, of two Bishops of Rome, Zosimus and Boniface;[Concil. Flor. Sess. 20, p. 457.] who, to authorize the title which they pretended to have, of being universal bishops, and heads of the whole Christian Church, and particularly of the African, forged, about the beginning of the fifth century, certain canons in the council of Nice, and frequently quoted them as such in the councils in Africa; [Concil. Afric. 6, cap. 3.] which, notwithstanding, after a long and diligent search, could never yet be found in any of the authentic copies of the said council of Nice, although the African bishops had taken the pains to send as far as Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, to obtain the best and most genuine copies they could. Neither indeed do the canons and acts of the council of Nice at this day, though they have since that time passed through so many various hands, contain any such thing; no, not even the editions of those very men who are the most interested in the honor of the Popes, as that of Dionysius Exiguus, who published his Latin collection of them about the year of our Savior 525: nor any other, either ancient or modern.

As to that authentic copy of the council of Nice, which one Friar John, at the council of Florence, pretended to have been the only copy that had escaped the corruptions of the Arians,[Concil. Flor. Seess 20.] and which had for this cause been always kept under lock and key at Rome, with all the safety and care that might be, (out of which copy they had transcribed the said canons,) I confess it must needs have been kept up very close, under locks and seals, seeing that three of their Popes namely, Zosimus, Boniface, and Celestine, could never be able to produce it for the justification of their pretended title against the African Fathers, though in a case of so great importance. And it is a strange thing to me that this man, who came a thousand years after, should now at last make use of it in this cause; whereas those very persons who had it in their custody never so much as mentioned one syllable of it: which is an evident argument that the seals of this rare book were never opened, save only in the brains of this Doctor, where alone it was both framed and sealed up; brought forth, and vanished all at the same instant; the greatest part of those men that have come after him being ashamed to make use of it any longer, having laid aside this chimerical invention. To say the truth, that which these men answer, by way of excusing the said Popes, is not any whit more probable, namely, that they took the council of Nice and that of Sardica, in which those canons they allege are really found, for one and the same council. For whom will these men ever be able to persuade, that two Ecclesiastical Assemblies, (between which there passed nearly twenty -two whole years, called by two several emperors, and for matters of a far different nature — the one of them for the explanation of the Christian faith, and the other for the reestablishing of two Bishops on their thrones; and in places very far distant from each other — the one at Nicsea in Bithynia, the other at Sardica a city of Illyricum — the canons of which two councils are very different, both in substance, number, and authority — the one of them having always been received generally by the whole Church, but the other having never been acknowledged by the Eastern Church,) should yet, notwithstanding, be but one and the same council? How can they themselves endure this, who are so fierce against the Greeks, for having offered to attribute (which they do, notwithstanding, with more appearance of truth) to the sixth council, those one hundred and two canons, which were agreed upon ten years after at Constantinople, in an assembly wherein one party of the Fathers of the sixth council met? How came it to pass, that they gave any credit to the ancient Church, seeing that in the Greek collection of her ancient canons, those of the council of Sardica are entirely omitted; and in the Latin collection of Dionysius Exiguus, compiled at Rome eleven hundred years since, they are placed, not with those of the council of Nice, or immediately after, as making one entire collection with them; but after the canons of all the general councils that had been held till that very time he lived in?[Codex Can. Ec. Un. Dionys. Exig. p. 99.] And how comes it to pass that these ancient Popes, who quoted these canons, if they believed these councils to be both one, did not say so?

The African bishops had frequently declared that these canons, which were by them referred to, were not at all to be found in their copies. Certainly therefore, if those who had cited them had thought the council of Nice and that of Sardica to have been both but one council, they would no doubt have made answer, that these canons were to be found in this pretended second part of the council of Nice, among those which had been agreed upon at Sardica; especially when they saw that these careful Fathers, for the clearing of the controversy between them, had resolved to send, for this purpose, as far as Constantinople and Alexandria. And yet, notwithstanding all this, they do not utter a word on the subject.

Certainly if the canons of the council of Sardica had been in those days reputed as a part of the council of Nice, it is a very strange thing, that so many learned and religious prelates as there were at that time in Africa, (as Aurelius, Alypius, and even Augustine, that glorious light, not of the African only but of the whole ancient Church,) should have been so ignorant in this particular. But it is strange beyond all belief, that three Popes and their Legates should leave their party in ignorance so gross, and so prejudicial to their own interest; it being in their power to have relieved them in two words. We may safely then conclude that these Popes, Zosimus and Boniface, had no other copies of the council of Nice than what we have; and also, that they did not believe that the canons of the council of Sardica were a part of the council of Nice; but that they rather purposely quoted some of the canons of Sardica, under the name of the canons of the council of Nice. And this they did, according to that maxim which was in force with those of former times, and is not entirely laid aside even in our own, that for the advancing of a good and godly cause, it is lawful sometimes to use a little deceit, and to have recourse to what are called pious frauds. As they therefore firmly believed that the supremacy of their see over all other Churches, was a business of great importance, and would be very profitable to all Christendom, we are not to wonder if, for the establishing this right to themselves, they made use of a little legerdemain, in adducing Sardica for Nice: reflecting that if they brought their design about, this little failing of theirs would, in process of time, be abundantly repaired by the benefit and excellency of the thing itself.

Notwithstanding the opposition made by the African Fathers against the Church of Rome, Pope Leo, not many years after, writing to the emperor Theodosius,[Leo, Letter to Emperor Theodosius, tom. 2 Concil.] omitted not to make use of the old forgery, citing one of the canons of the council of Sardica, for a legitimate canon of the council of Nice; which was the cause, that the emperor Valentinian also, and his empress Galla Placidia, writing in behalf of the said Pope Leo to the emperor Theodosius,[Valentinian Letter to Theodosius tom. 2, Concil. Galla Placid. in ep. ad Theodos. Tom. 2.] affirmed to him for a certain truth, that both all antiquity, and the canons of the council of Nice also, had assigned to the Pope of Rome the power of judging of points of faith, and of the prelates of the Church; Leo having before allowed that this canon of the council of Sardica was one of the canons of Nice. And thus, by a strong perseverance in this pious fraud, they have at length so fully persuaded a great part of Christendom, that the council of Nice had established this supremacy of the Pope of Rome, that it is now generally urged by all of them whenever this point is controverted.
I must request the readers pardon for having so long insisted on this particular; and perhaps somewhat longer than my design required: yet, in my judgment, it may be of no small importance to the business in hand; for (will the Protestants here say) seeing that two Popes, Bishops, and Princes, which all Christians have approved, have notwithstanding thus foisted in false wares, what ought we to expect from the rest of the Bishops and Doctors? Since these men have done this, in the beginning of the fifth century, an age of so high repute for its faith and doctrine, what have they not dared to do in the succeeding ages? If they have not forborne so foully to abuse the sacred name of the council of Nice, (the most illustrious and venerable monument of Christianity next to the Holy Scriptures,) what other authors can we imagine they would spare? And if, in the face of so renowned an assembly, (and in the presence of whatever Africa could show of eminency, both for sanctity and learning, and even under the eye of the great Augustine too,) they had no compunctions of conscience in making use of so gross a piece of forgery; what have they not since, in these later times, while the whole world for so many ages lay covered with thick darkness, dared to do? But as for my part, I shall neither accuse nor excuse at present these men’s proceedings, but shall only conclude, that, seeing the writings of the Fathers, before they came to us, have passed through the hands of those who have sometimes been found to use these juggling tricks, it is not so easy a matter, as people may imagine, to discover, out of those writings which now pass under the names of the Fathers, what their opinions were.

Similar motives produced the very same effects in the fifth council;[Concil. 5, Act. 5, tom. 2, Concil.] where a letter, forged under the name of Theodoret, respecting the death of Cyril, was read, and by a general silence approved by the whole assembly; which, notwithstanding, was so evidently spurious, that those very men, who caused the body of the general councils to be printed at Rome, have convicted it of falsehood, and branded it as spurious.

Such another precious piece is that foolish story of a miracle, wrought by an image of our Saviour Christ in the city Berytus, which is related in very ample manner in the seventh council,[ Concil. 7, Act. 4, tom. 3, Concil.] and bears, forsooth, the name of Athanasius; but is indeed so tasteless a piece, and so unworthy the gallantry and clearness of that great wit, that he must not be thought to have common sense who can find in his heart to attribute it to him. Therefore we see that, notwithstanding the authority of this council, both Nannius, Bellar mine, and Possevine have plainly confessed that it was not written by Athanasius.[Nanni. in edit. op. Athan. Bellar. de imag. l. 2. c. 10. et lib. de Script. Eccles. in Athan. Possevin. in appar. in Athan.]
I shall place in this rank the so much vaunted deed of the donation of Constantine, which has for so long a time been accounted as a most valid and authentic evidence, and has also been inserted in the decrees, and so pertinaciously maintained by the Bishop of Agobio, against the objections of Laurentius Valla.[D. 96. C. Constantino nostro. 14. Augusti. Steuchius de Dona. Constant.] Certainly those very men, who at this day maintain the donation, do notwithstanding disclaim this evidence as a piece of forgery.
Of the same nature are the epistles attributed to the first Popes,[Baron, in annal. Melchior Canus locor. Theolog. 1. 11. p. 511.] as Clemens, Anacletus, Euaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, and others, down to the times of Siricius; that is to say, to the year of our Saviour 385, which the world read, under these venerable titles, at the least for eight hundred years together; and by which have been decided, to the advantage of the Church of Rome, very many controversies, and especially the most important of all the rest, that of the Pope’s monarchy. This shows plain enough the motive, (shall I call it such!) or rather the purposed design of the trafficker that first circulated them. The greatest part of these are accounted forged by men of learning, as Henricus Kaltheisen, Nicolas Cusanus, Jo. de Turrecremata (both cardinals,) Erasmus, Jo. Driedo, Claudius Espensaeus, Cassander, Simon Vigor, Baronius, and others:[ Hen. Kaltheis. ap. Magdeb. cent. 2. Nic. Cusan. Cone. Cath. l. 2. c. 34. Io. de Turrecr. de Eccl. lib. 2. c. 101. Io. Driedo de dogm. et Scrip. Eccl. l. 1. c. 2. CI. Espens. de Contin. l. 1. c. 2. G. Cassand. defens. lib. de officio pii viri, p. 843. Sim. Vig. ex resp. Syn. Basil. &c. en la lettre contr. Durand. Baron. Annal. t. 2. an. 102, et an. 805.] for indeed their forgery appears clear enough from their barbarous style, the errors met with at every step in the computation of times and history, the pieces they are patched up of, stolen here and there out of different authors, whose books we have at this day to show; and also by the general silence of all the writers of the first eight centuries, among whom there is not one word mentioned of them.

Now I shall not here meddle at all with the last six or seven centuries; where, in regard to various articles of faith, most eagerly professed and established by them, there has been more need than ever of the assistance of the ancients; and whereas, owing to the dark ignorance of those times, and the scarcity of opposers, they had much better opportunity than before, to forge what books they pleased. This abuse the world was never free from, till the time when the light broke forth in the last century; when Erasmus gives us an account, [Erasm. praefat. in Hieron.] how he himself had discovered one of these wretched knaves, whose ordinary practice it was to lay his own eggs in another man’s nest, putting his own fooleries on Jerome particularly, and on Augustine and Ambrose. And who knows what those many books are, that are daily issued out of the self-same shops, that of old were wont to furnish the world with these kind of deceptions? Is it not very probable that both the will and the dexterity in forging and issuing these false wares, will rather in these days increase than abate in the professors of this trade? So that (if besides what the malice of the heretics, the avarice and ignorance of transcribers of manuscripts, and the ambition and affection of men have brought forth of this kind, there have yet so many others turned their endeavors this way, and that in a manner all along for the space of the last fourteen hundred years, although they had their several ends,) we are not to wonder at all if now, in this last age, we see such a strange number of writings falsely fathered upon the ancients; which, if they were all put together, would make little less than a fourth or a fifth part of the works of the Fathers.

I am not ignorant that the learned have noticed a great number of them, and do ordinarily cast them into the later tomes of editions; and that some have written whole books upon this subject; as Ant. Possevine’s Apparatus, Bellarmine’s Catalogue, Scultetus’ Medulla Patrum, Rivet’s Critic, and the like, both of the one and the other religion. But who can assure us that they have not forgotten anything they should have noted? Besides that it is a new labour, and almost equal to the former to read so many books of the moderns as now exist. And when all is done, we are not immediately to rest satisfied with their judgment without a due examination. For each of them having been prepossessed with the prejudices of the party in which they were brought up, before they took this work in hand, who shall assure us that they have not delivered anything, in this case, in favor of their own particular interest, as we have before noticed? The justness of this suspicion is so clear, that I presume that no man, any way versed in these matters, will desire me to prove my assertion. Neither shall I need to give any other reason for it, than the conflicts and disagreement in judgments which we may observe in these men: the one of them oftentimes letting pass for pure metal what the other perhaps will throw by for dross; which differences are found not only between those that are of quite opposite religions, but, which is more, even between those that are of the self-same persuasion.

Those whom we named not long before, who were all of the Roman Church, depreciate, as we have said, the greatest part of the decretals of the first Popes. Franciscus Turrianus, a Jesuit, receives them, and defends them all, in a tract written by him to that purpose. Baronius calls the Recognitions, which are attributed to Clemens Romanus, ” A gulf of filth and uncleanness; full of prodigious lies and frantic fooleries.”[ Baron. Annal. tom. 1. an. 51.] Bellarmine says that this book was written either by Clemens or some other author as learned and as ancient as himself.[ Nos fatemur librum esse corruptum, &c. Sed tamen vel esse dementis Romani, vel alterius aequè docti ac antiqui. — Bellar. de lib. arbit. t. 5. c. 25.] Some of them consider those fragments, published by Nicol. Faber, under the name of St. Hilary, as good and genuine productions; and some others again reject them. Erasmus, Sixtus Senensis, Melchior Canus, and Baronius, are of opinion that the book “Of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, ” is falsely attributed to Jerome. Christophorus á Castro, a Spanish Jesuit, maintains the contrary. Cardinal Cajetan, Laurentius Valla, Erasmus, and some others, hold the books of Dionysius the Areopagite, as suspected and spurious. Baronius, and almost all the rest of their writers, maintain that they are true and legitimate. Turrianus, Bovin, and some others, recommend to us the “Constitutions of the Apostles,” as a genuine production; but Baronius, Possevine, Petavius, and a great many others, speak doubtfully of them.

We find in the writings of those of the Church of Rome an infinite variety of judgments in such cases as these. He that desires to furnish himself with examples of this kind, may have recourse to their books, and particularly to the writings of the late Cardinal Perron, who differs as much from the rest, in this point of criticism, as he does for the most part in the method he observes in his disputations. Now I would willingly be informed what a man should do, amidst these diversities of judgment; and what path he should take, where he meets with such disagreeing guides.

Yet suppose that these authors have done their utmost endeavor in this design, without any particular affection or partiality; how, notwithstanding, shall we be satisfied concerning their capability for the performance of their undertaking? Is it a light business, think you, to bring the whole stock of antiquity to the crucible, and there to purify and refine it, and to separate all the dross from it, which has so deeply, and for the space of so many ages, been not only, as it were, tied and fastened on to it, but even thoroughly mixed, united, and incorporated with it? This work requires the most clear and refined judgment that can be imagined; an exquisite wit, a quick piercing eye, a perfect ear, a most exact knowledge in all history, both ancient and modern, ecclesiastical and secular; a perfect knowledge of the ancient tongues; and a long and continued acquaintance with all kinds of writers, ancient, medieval, and modern, to be able to judge of their opinions, and which way their pulse beats: to understand rightly the manner of their expression, invention, and method in writing: each age, each nation, and each author, having in all these things their own peculiar ways. Now such a man as this is hardly produced in a whole age.

As for those men who in our times have taken upon them this department of criticism, who knows, who sees not, that only reads them, how many of the qualifications just enumerated are wanting in them? But suppose that such a man were to be found, and that he should take in hand this discovery, I do verily believe that he would be able very easily to find out the imposture of a bungling fool, that had ill counterfeited the stamp, color, and weight, in the work which he would father upon some other man; or that should, for example, endeavor to represent Jerome or Chrysostom with a stammering tongue, and should make them speak barbarous language, bad Latin, and bad Greek; or else perhaps should make use of such terms, things, or authors, as were not known to the world, till a long time after these men; or should make them treat of matters far removed from the age they lived in, and maintain opinions which they never thought of; or reject those, which they are notoriously known to have held: and of this sort, for the most part, are those pieces which our critics have decried, and noted as spurious. But if a man should chance to bring him a piece of some able master, that should have fully and exactly learned both the languages, history, manners, alliances, and quarrels of the family into which he has boldly obtruded himself, and should be able to make happy use of all these, be assured that our Aristarchus would be here as much puzzled to discover this juggler, as they were once in France, to prove the impostures of Martin Guerre.

Now how can we imagine, but that among so many several persons, that have for their several purposes employed their utmost endeavors in these kinds of forgeries, there must needs have been, in so many centuries, very many able men, who have had the skill so artificially to copy the manner and style of the persons whom they imitate, as to render it impossible to discover them? Especially, if they made choice of such a name, as was the only thing remaining in the world of that author; so that there is no mark left us, either of his style, discourse, or opinions, to guide us in our examination. And therefore in my judgment he was a very cunning fellow, and made a right choice, that undertook to write, under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite; for, not having any true legitimate piece of this author left us, by which we may examine the cheat, the discovery must needs be difficult; and it would have proved so much the more hard, if he had but used a more modest and less swelling manner of expression: whereas for those others, who in the ages following made bold with the names of Jerome, Cyprian, Augustine, and the like, (of whose legitimate writings we have very many pieces left us,) a man may know them at the first sight, merely by their style; those Gothic and rude spirits being no more able to counterfeit the graces and elegances of these great authors, than an ass is to imitate the warblings of the nightingale.

I confess there is another help, which, in my judgment, may better answer our purpose in this particular than all the rest; namely, the light and direction of the ancients themselves: who oftentimes make mention of other writers of the Church, that lived either before or in their own times; Jerome, among the Latins, having taken the pains to make a catalogue of all those with whose names and writings he was acquainted, from the apostles to his own time, which was afterwards continued by Gennadius. To this we may also add that incomparable work of the patriarch Photius, which he calls his Bibliotheca, and which is now published in this our age; where this great person has given us his judgment of most of the authors of the Greek Church. Now this aid we may make use of in two diiferent ways; the one in justifying a book, if it be found mentioned by these authors; the other in rejecting it, if they say nothing of it. As for the first of these, it concludes only according to the quality of the authors who make mention of a suspected book. For some of the Fathers themselves have made use of these kinds of forgeries, as we have formerly said; others have favoured them because they served their turn: some have not been able to discover them; and some others have not been willing to do so, whatsoever their reason has been.
I shall not here repeat the names of any of those who have done these things themselves. As for those that have favoured them, there are numerous examples; as Justin Martyr, Theophilus, and others, who adduce the Sybils’ verses as oracles; the greatest part of which, notwithstanding, are forged. As to Clemens Alexandrinus, the most learned and most polished of all the Fathers, in Jerome’s judgment,[Jerome, Letter 84, to Magn. tom. 2.] how often does he make use of those apocryphal pieces, which go under the names of the Apostles and disciples, to whom they were most falsely attributed; citing, under the name of Barnabas,[Clem. Alex. Strom. l. 2.] and of Hermes,[Clem. Alex. Strom. l. 1. and l. 2. and alibi passim.] such writings as have been forged under their names. And did not the seventh council in like manner make use of a supposititious piece attributed to Athanasius, as we have shown before; and likewise of divers others, which are of the same stamp?

That even the Fathers themselves therefore have not been able always to make a true discovery of these false wares, no man can doubt; considering that of those many necessary qualifications, which we enumerated before, as requisite in this particular, they may oftentimes have failed in some. Jerome himself, the most knowing man among all the Latin Fathers, especially in matters of this nature, sometimes lets them pass without examination: as where he speaks of a certain tract against mathematicians, attributed to Minutius Foelix, “If at least (saith he) the inscription represent unto us the right author of the book.”[Jerome, Letter 84 to Magn. tom. 2.] In another place, whatsoever his reason was, he delivers to us, for legitimate pieces, the epistles that go under the name of St. Paul to Seneca, and of Seneca to St. Paul;[Id. In Catal. tom. 1.] which, notwithstanding, Cardinal Baronius holds for suspected and spurious, as doubtless they are. [Baron. Annal. tom. 1. an. 66.] But even those men who have been able to discover these false pieces have not sometimes been willing to do it; either being unwilling to offend the authors of them, or else not daring to cast any disrepute upon those books which, having many good things in them, had not in their judgment maintained any false or dangerous positions. This is the reason why they chose to let such things pass, rather than, out of a little tenderness of conscience, to oppose them: there being, in their apprehension, no danger at all in the one, but much trouble and invidiousness in the other. Therefore I am of opinion, that Jerome, for example, would never have taken the pains, nor have undergone the invidiousness, of laying open the forgeries of Ruffinus, if the misunderstanding that happened to be between them, had not urged him to it. Neither do I believe that the African Fathers would ever have troubled themselves to prove the false allegation of Zosimus, but for their own interest, which was thereby called into question. For wise and sober men are never wont to fall into variance with any without necessity: neither do they quickly take notice of any injury or abuse offered them, unless it be a very great one, and such as has evident danger in it: which was not at all perceived or taken notice of at first, in these forgeries, that have nevertheless at length, by little and little, in a manner borne down all the good and legitimate books.

These considerations, in my opinion, make it clearly appear, that the title of a book is not sufficiently justified by a passage or two being cited out of it by some of the ancients, and under the same name. As for the other way, which renders the authority of a book doubtful, from the ancients not having made any mention of it, I confess it is no more demonstrative than the other: as it is not impossible, that any one, or divers of the Fathers, may not have met with such a certain writer that was then extant: or else perhaps that they might omit some one of those very authors which they knew. Yet this is, notwithstanding, the much surer way of the two: there being less danger in this case, in rejecting a true piece, than in receiving a forged one; the want of the truth of the one being doubtless much less prejudicial than the receiving the opposite falsehood of the other. For as it is a less sin to omit the good, than to commit the evil that is opposed to it; in like manner is it a less error, not to believe a truth than to believe the falsehood which is contrary to it. And thus we see what confusion there is in the books of the ancients, and what defect in the means which is requisite in distinguishing the false from the true: insomuch that, as it often happens, it is much easier to judge what we ought to reject, than to resolve upon what we may safely receive. Let the reader therefore now judge, whether or not, these writings having come down through so many ages, and passed through so many hands, which are either known to have been notoriously guilty, or at least strongly suspected of forgery — the truth in the mean time having made on its part but very weak resistance against these impostures — it be not a very difficult matter to discover, amidst the infinite number of books that are now extant, and go under the names of the Fathers, which are those that truly belong to them, and which, again, are those that are falsely imposed upon them. And if it be so hard a matter to discover in gross only which are the writings of the Fathers, how much more difficult a business will it be to find out what their opinions are, on the several controversies now in agitation. We are not to imagine, that it is no great matter from which of the Fathers such an opinion has sprung, so that it came from any one of them: for there is altogether as much difference amongst these ancient doctors, both in respect of authority, learning, and goodness, as among the modern. Besides that, an age being higher or lower either raises or lessens the repute of these writings, in the esteem both of the one party and of the other, as it were so many grains as years: and certainly not altogether without good reason; it being most evident to any one that has been but the least versed in the reading of these books, that time has by degrees introduced very great alterations, as well in the doctrine and discipline of the ancients, as in all other things.

Our conclusion therefore must be, that if any one shall desire to know what the sense and judgment of the primitive Church has been, as regards our present controversies, it will be first in a manner as necessary for him as it is difficult, exactly to find out both the name and the age of each of these several authors.

***

TFan’s notes: Obviously, this is a long chapter, so I won’t belabor the points. It’s worth noting that in the 400 or so years since this book was written, generally historians have tended to agree that the forgeries identified above (such as the “Dionysius the Aeropagite” works) are forgeries.

Likewise, it is worth noting the examples JD provides of Roman bishops treating the Sardican council as though it were Nicaea. And these are not necessarily the most ill-reputed Roman bishops, but ancient and relatively well respected ones.

Moreover, JD’s passing reference to the practice of paraphrase bears repeating. Not all of the ancient scribes felt the necessity of preserving the exact words of those who they were copying. In some cases, they seemed to feel free to paraphrase or even epitomize the original author, without telling the reader that this is being done.

Finally, JD’s greater point is worth considering. If we have been able to identify the amatuerish and clumsy forgeries only with great effort over a long time, don’t we suppose that there must be at least some forgeries that are more clever that we haven’t identified?

P.S. I should add that this practice of relying on false writings of the fathers persists to this day.  I’ve identified Steve Ray doing this, and he’s not alone.

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Chapter II

December 26, 2012

The following is the second chapter of Daillé’s excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)

CHAPTER II.
Reason II. — Those writings which we have of the Fathers of the first centuries, treat of matters far different from the present controversies in religion.

But suppose that neither the want of books in the first three centuries, nor yet the abundance of them in the three following, should produce these inconveniences; it will nevertheless be very hard to discover from them what the opinion of their authors has been concerning those points of the Christian religion now controverted. For the matters whereof they treat are of a very different nature; these authors, according as the necessity of the times required, employing themselves either in justifying the Christian religion, and vindicating it from the aspersion of such crimes, wherewith it was most falsely and injuriously charged; or else in laying open to the world the absurdity and impiety of Paganism; or in convincing the hardhearted Jews, or in confuting the prodigious fooleries of the heretics of those times; or in exhortations to the faithful to patience and martyrdom; or in expounding some certain passages and portions of the Holy Scripture: all which things have very little concern with the controversies of these times; of which they never speak a syllable, unless they accidentally or by chance let a word drop from them toward this side or that side, yet without the least thought of us or of our controversies; although both the one and the other party sometimes light upon passages, wherein they conceive they have discovered their own opinions clearly delivered, though in vain for the most part, and without ground: precisely as he did, who on hearing the ringing of bells, thought they perfectly sounded out what he in his own thoughts had fancied. Justin Martyr and Tertullian, Theophilus and Lactantius, Clemens and Arnobius, show the heathen the vainness of their religion, and of their gods; and that Jupiter and Juno were but mortals, and that there is but one only God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Irenaeus bends his whole forces against the monstrous opinions of Basilides, the Valentinians, and other Gnostics, who were the inventors of the most chimerical divinity that ever came into the fancy of man. Tertullian also lashes them, as they well deserve; but he especially takes Marcion, Hermogenes, Apelles, Praxeas, and others to task, who maintained that there were two Gods, or two principles, and confounded the persons of the Father and the Son. Cyprian is wholly upon the discipline and the virtues of the Christian Church. Arius, Macedonius, Eunomius, Photinus, Pelagius, and afterwards Nestorius and Eutyches, made work for the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries.

The blasphemies of these men against the person or the natures of our Savior Christ, or against the Holy Ghost and his grace, which have now of a long time lain buried and forgotten, were the matters controverted in those times, and the subject of the greatest part of the books then written, that have come to our hands. What relation has anything of all this to the doctrines of transubstantiation, and the adoration of the Eucharist, or the monarchy of the Pope, or the necessity of auricular confession, or the worshiping of images, and similar points, which are those of the present controversies, and which none of the ancients have treated expressly and by design, or perhaps ever so much as thought of? It is very true indeed, that the silence of these Fathers in these points, which some set so much value by, is not wholly mute, and perhaps also it may pass for a very clear testimony, but certainly not on their side who maintain them affirmatively. But, however, this is a most certain truth, that throughout the whole body of the genuine writings of these Fathers, you shall not meet with anything expressly urged either for or against the greatest part of these opinions. I shall most willingly confess, that the belief of every wise man makes up but one entire body, the parts whereof have a certain correspondence and relation to each other, to such a degree that a man may be able by those things which he delivers expressly, to give a guess what his opinion is concerning other things of which he says nothing; it being utterly improbable that he should maintain any position which shall manifestly clash with his other tenets, or that he should reject anything that necessarily follows upon them. But, besides, this manner of disputation presupposes that the belief of the ancient Fathers is uniform, no one position contradicting another, but having all its parts united, and depending one upon another, which indeed is very questionable, as we shall show elsewhere. Besides all this, I say it requires a quick discernment, which readily and clearly apprehends the connexions of each distinct point, an excellent memory to retain faithfully whatever positions the ancients have maintained, and a solid judgment free from all preoccupation, to compare them with the tenets maintained at this day. And the man who is endued with all these qualities I shall account the fittest to make profitable use of the writings of the Fathers, and the likeliest of any to search deeply into them. But the mischief is, that men so qualified are very rare and difficult to be found.

I shall add here, that if you will believe certain writers of the Church of Rome,[Gontery, Veron, and others] this method is vain and useless, as is also that which makes use of argumentation and reason; means which are insufficient, and unable (in the judgment of these doctors) to arrive at any certainty, especially in matters of religion. Their opinion is, that we are to rely upon clear and express texts only. Thus, according to this account, we shall not, if we be wise, believe that the Fathers held any of the aforenamed points, unless we can find them in express terms in their writings; that is to say, in the very same terms that we read them in the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent. Seeing then that, according to the opinion of these men, those testimonies only are to be received which are express, and likewise that of these points now controverted there is scarcely anything found expressly delivered by the Fathers, we may, in my opinion, very logically and reasonably conclude, that it is at least a very difficult if not impossible thing (according to these men) to come to the certain knowledge of the opinion of the ancients concerning the greatest part of the tenets of the Church of Rome, which are at this day rejected by the Protestants.

***

TFan’s notes: Daillé’s point here is a very important one to recognize. One of the key problems with appeals to the fathers on many points is that they have not necessarily considered the issue we are considering. The Scriptures have an enormous depth. There are many truths we can learn from them, and consequently not every Christian in every age has learned all of them.

Likewise, the human ability to come up with errors is ever-abounding. No one had ever heard of a place called “Purgatory,” or a process of “transubstantiation,” during the earliest centuries of the church, for example. Until such an error was invented, the fathers could not explicitly reject the place or the process by name.

Furthermore, while we would like to assume a consistency in the fathers, such that they held not only to their stated views but to the logical conclusions of those views, that’s a big assumption. After all, don’t we know our own theological opponents today who do not hold to the logical implications of their own views?

Daillé also highlights the fact that Roman Catholics are themselves divided as to how to treat the fathers. Some he identifies would like to count the fathers’ testimony only when they speak explicitly on the topic. Others are willing to consider the implications of what the fathers have to say. If the former rule is applied, virtually nothing of the disputed matters in Trent can be supported, for the words used by Trent differ from those used by the fathers. Indeed, if that rule is applied, it may be practically impossible to determine what the fathers would think of any controversy today.

-Turretinfan

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Chapter I

December 24, 2012

The following is the first chapter of Daillé’s excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)

CHAPTER I.

Reason I. — On the difficulty of ascertaining the opinions of the Fathers in reference to the present controversies in religion, deduced from the fact that there is very little of their writings extant of the first three centuries.

If we should here follow the same course of argument, which some writers of the Church of Rome pursue against the Holy Scriptures, it would be very easy to bring in question, and render very doubtful and suspected, all the writings of the Fathers; for when the Old or New Testament is quoted, these gentlemen instantly demand, how or by what means we know that any such books were really written by those prophets and apostles whose names they bear? If therefore, in like manner, when these men adduce Justin, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, and others, we should at once demand of them, how and by what means we are assured that these Fathers were the authors of those writings which at this day bear their names, there is little doubt but that they would find a harder task of it than their adversaries would, in justifying the writings of the sacred volume; the truth whereof is much more easy to be demonstrated than of any human writings whatsoever. But I shall pass by this too artificial way of proceeding, and only say, that it is not very easy to find out, by the writings of the Fathers, what has really been their opinion, in any of those controversies which are now in dispute between the Protestants and the Church of Rome. The considerations, which render the knowledge of this so difficult, are many; I shall therefore, in this first Part, discuss some of them only, referring the rest to the second Part, examining them one after another.

The first reason, therefore, which I shall lay down for the proving of this difficulty, is the little we have extant of the writings of the ancient Fathers, especially of the first, second, and third centuries; which are those we are most especially to regard. For, seeing that one of the principal reasons that moves the Church of Rome to adduce the writings of the Fathers, is to show the truth of their tenets by their antiquity, which they consider as indicative of it; it is evident that the most ancient ought to be the most noticed. And indeed there is no question but that the Christian religion was more pure and without mixture in its beginning and infancy, than it was afterwards in its growth and progress: it being the ordinary course of things to contract corruptions, more or less, according as they are more or less removed from their first institution: as we see by experience in states, laws, arts, and languages, the natural propriety of all which is continually declining, after they have once passed the point of their vigor, and as it were the flower and prime of their strength and perfection. Now, I cannot believe that any faithful Christian will deny but that Christianity was in its zenith and perfection at the time of the blessed Apostles; and indeed it would be the greatest injury that could be offered them, to say that any of their successors have either had a greater desire or more abilities to advance Christianity than they had. It will hence follow then, that those times which were nearest to the Apostles were necessarily the purest, and less subject to suspicion of corruption, either in doctrine, or in manners and Christian discipline: it being but reasonable to believe, that if any corruptions have crept into the Church, they came in by little and little, and by degrees, as it happens in all other things. Some may here object, that even the very next age, immediately after the times of the Apostles, was not without its errors, if we may believe Hegesippus; who, as he is cited by Eusebius, witnesses, that the Church continued a virgin till the emperor Trajan’s time; but that after the death of the Apostles the conspiracy of error began to discover itself with open face: [see Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Chapter 32]

I shall not oppose anything against this testimony, but shall only say, that if the enemy, immediately upon the setting of these stars of the Church, their presence and light being scarcely shut in, had yet the boldness presently to fall to sowing his evil seed; how much more had he the opportunity of doing this in those ages which were further removed from their times; when (the sanctity and simplicity of these great teachers of the world, having now by little and little vanished out of the memories of men) human, inventions and new fancies began to take place? So that we may conclude that even supposing the first ages of Christianity have not been altogether exempt from alteration in doctrine, yet are they much more free from it than the succeeding ages can pretend to be, and are therefore consequently to be preferred to them in all respects; it being here something like what the poets have fancied of the four ages of the world, where the succeeding age always came short of the former. As for the opinion of those men [Cassand. Consult. Ferdinan. p. 894. Perron. Epist. to Casaub.] who think the best way to find out the true sense of the ancient Church, will be to search the writings of those of the Fathers chiefly who lived between the time of Constantine the Great and Pope Leo, or Pope Gregory’s time, (that is to say, from the end of the third century to the beginning of the seventh,) I consider this as an admission only of the small number of books that are left us of those ages before Constantine, and not that these men allow that the authority of these three later ages ought to be preferred to that of the three former.

If we had but as much light and as clear evidences of the belief of the one as we have of the other, I make no question but they would prefer the former. But if they mean otherwise, and are indeed of a persuasion that the Church was really more pure after Constantine’s time than before, they must excuse me, if I think that they by this means confess the distrust they have of their own cause, seeing that they endeavour to fly as far as they can from the light of the primitive times; retreating to those ages, wherein it is most evident there were both less perfection and light than before; running altogether contrary to that excellent rule which Cyprian has given us: [Cyprian, Epistle 74, p. 195] That we should have recourse to the fountain, whenever the channel and stream of doctrine and ecclesiastical tradition are found to be the least corrupted. But, however, let their meaning be what it will, their words, in my judgment, do not a little advance the Protestants’ cause; it being a very clear confession that those opinions, about which they contest with them, do not at all appear clearly in any of the books that were written during the first three centuries. For if they were found clearly in the same, what policy were it then in them to appeal to the writers of the three following centuries, to which they very well know that their adversaries attribute less than to the former? But besides this tacit confession of theirs the thing is evident; namely, that there is left us at this day very little of the writings of the Fathers of the first three centuries of Christianity for the deciding of our differences.

The blessed Christians of those times contented themselves, for the greatest part, with writing the Christian faith in the hearts of men, by the beams of their sanctity and holy life, and by the blood shed in martyrdom, without much troubling themselves with the writing of books; whether it were because, as the learned Origen [Origen Preface to “Against Celsus,” p. 1, 2.] elegantly gives the reason, they were of opinion that the Christian religion was to be defended by the innocency of life and honesty of conversation, rather than by sophistry and the artifice of words: or whether, because their continual sufferings gave them not leisure to take pen in hand and to write books; or else, whether it were for some other reason perhaps, which we know not. But of this we are very well assured, that, except the writings of the Apostles, there was very little written by others in these primitive times; and this was the cause of so much trouble to Eusebius in the beginning of his history, who had little or no light to guide him in his undertaking; treading, as he saith, “in a new path, unbeaten by any that had gone before him.” [Eusebius, Church History, book 1, chapter 1]

Besides, the greatest part of those few books which were written by the Christians of those times, have not come down to our hands, but were lost, either through the injury of time, that consumes all things; or else have been destroyed by the malice of men, who have made bold to suppress whatsoever they met with that was not altogether to their taste. Of this sort were those five books of Papias bishop of Hierapolis, the apology of Quadratus Atheniensis, and that other of Aristides, the writings of Castor Agrippa against the twenty-four books of the heretic Basilides, the five books of Hegesippus, the works of Melito bishop of Sardis, Dionysius bishop of Corinth, Apollinaris bishop of Hierapolis, the epistle of Pinytus Cretensis, the writings of Philippus, Musanus, Modestus, Bardesanes, Pantsenus, Rhodon, Miltiades, Apollonius, Serapion, Bacchylus, Polycrates bishop of Ephesus, Heraclius, Maximus, Hammonius, Tryphon, Hippolytus, Julius Africanus, Dionysius Alexandrinus, and others; of whom we have nothing left but their names and the titles of their books, which are preserved in the works of Eusebius, Jerome, and others. [Jerome, l. de Scriptor. Etc. Eusebius in hist. passim. Tertul. Aliquorum meminit.] All that we have left us of these times, which is certainly known to be theirs, and of which no man doubts, are some certain discourses of Justin, the philosopher and martyr, who wrote his second apology a hundred and fifty years after the nativity of our Savior Christ; the five books of Irenaeus, who wrote not long after him; three excellent and learned pieces of Clemens Alexandrinus, who lived towards the end of the second century; divers books of Tertullian, who was famous about the same time; the epistles and other treatises of Cyprian bishop of Carthage, who suffered martyrdom about the year of our Saviour 261; the writings of Arnobius, and of Lactantius his scholar, and some few others. As for Origen, Cyprian’s contemporary — who alone, had we but all his writings entire, would be able perhaps to give us more light and satisfaction in the business we are now engaged in than all the rest — we have but very little of him left, and the greatest part of that too most miserably abused and corrupted; the most learned and almost innumerable writings of this great and incomparable person not being able to withstand the ravages of time, nor the envy and malice of men, who have dealt much worse with him, than so many ages and centuries of years that have passed from his time down to us.

Thus have I given you an account of well nigh all that we have left us, which is certainly known to have been written by the Fathers of the first three centuries. For as for those other pieces, which are pretended to have been written in the same times, but are indeed either confessed to be supposititious by the Romanists themselves, or are rejected by their adversaries, and that upon very good and probable grounds; these cannot have any place or account here, in elucidating the controversy we have now in hand.

The writings of the fourth and fifth centuries have, I confess, surpassed the former in number and good fortune too; the greatest part of them having been transmitted safely to our hands; but they come much short of the other in weight and authority, especially in the judgment of the Protestants, who maintain, and that upon very probable grounds, that the Christian religion has from the beginning had its declinings by little and little, losing in every age some certain degree of its’ primitive and native purity. And besides, we have good reason perhaps to fear lest the number of writers of these two ages trouble us as much as the paucity of them in the three preceding: and that, as before we suffered under scarcity, we now may be overwhelmed by their multitude. For the number of words and of books serves as much sometimes to the suppressing of the sense and opinion of any public body, as silence itself; our minds being then extremely confounded and perplexed, while it labors to comprehend what is the true and common opinion of the whole, amidst so many differently biased details, whereof each endeavors to express the same; it being most certain, that amongst so great and almost infinite variety of spirits and tongues, you shall hardly ever meet with two persons that shall deliver to you one and the same opinion, (especially in matters of so high a nature as the controversies in religion,) after the same form and way of representation, how unanimous soever their consent may otherwise be in the same opinion. And this variety, although it be but in the circumstances of the thing, makes, notwithstanding, the foundation itself also appear different.

***

TFan note: There has been significant effort and some notable advances in recovery of ancient writings since the above was written, back in the 17th century. Nevertheless, works like the writings of Castor Agrippa against the twenty-four books of the heretic Basilides remain attested by ancient sources, but still basically lost. It is possible a manuscript out there remains to be found or catalogued, but it seems likely that many of these ancient works are simply irretrievably lost.

And, of course, these examples of works that we think are completely lost, but that we know once existed, are just some examples of the works that were written. Can anyone doubt that there were many more works that were written but immediately passed out of memory, as they were not mentioned by other writers before being lost or destroyed?

Take even Roger Pearse’s recent publication of Eusebius’ “Gospel Problems,” book. He has identified many fragments of the book and has published them, with a translation. Nevertheless, this book remains in fragmentary form. We don’t always know how much is lost, how much has been interpolated, how much is paraphrase, and what part of the fragments certainly belongs to Eusebius.

We have better records with some of the later and especially famous and popular fathers, like Augustine, but he wasn’t even born until about the middle of the fourth century (around A.D. 354). But we may have an occasion to revisit some issues associated with Augustine.

-TurretinFan

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Dedicatory Epistle

December 22, 2012

The following is the dedicator epistle for Daillé’s excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)

TO THE NOBLE LADY ANNE MORNAY, LADY OF TABARIERE, BARONESS OF ST. HERMINE, &C.
Madam: — It is now nearly four years since your son, the late Baron of St. Hermine, acquainted me with what kind of discourse he was usually entertained at court by those who labored to advance the Romish religion, rather to excite his disgust against the Reformed; and told me that the chief argument which they urged against him was Antiquity, and the General Consent of all the Fathers of the first ages of Christianity. Although he himself understood well enough the vanity of this argument of theirs, yet, notwithstanding, for his own fuller satisfaction, he requested that I would discover to him the very depth of this matter. This therefore I did, as minutely as I possibly could, and gave him my judgment at large in this particular. This treatise of mine he was pleased so much to approve, that he conceived some hopes from thence, that it might also haply be of use to others.

Shortly afterwards I put pen to paper, and digested it into the treatise you now see. It having therefore been composed at first for his service, I had resolved also with myself to have dedicated it to his name; purporting, by this small piece of service, to testify to the world the continuation of the affection I bare to his progress in piety. But that deadly blow which snatched him from us in the flower of his age, about two years since, at the famous siege of Boisleduc, having left us nothing of him now, save only the spoils of his mortality, and the memory of his virtue, together with our great sorrow for having enjoyed him here so short a time, I am constrained, Madam, to change my former resolution. I shall therefore content myself with cherishing and preserving, whilst I live, the precious memory of his worth, the excellency of his wit, the soundness of his judgment, the sweetness of his nature, the fairness of his carriage, and those other choice parts, wherewith he was accomplished; but, above all, his singular piety, which clearly shone forth in his words and actions, till the hour of his death.

As for this small treatise, Madam, which was at first conceived and composed for him, I thought I could not, without being guilty of a piece of injustice, present it to any other but yourself: seeing it has pleased God, notwithstanding the common order of nature, to make you heir to him to whom it belonged. This consideration only has emboldened me to present it to your hands; knowing that the nature of this discourse is not so suitable to that sorrow which has of late cast a cloud over your house; it having pleased God, after the death of the son, to deprive you of the father; and to the loss of your children, to add that also of your noble husband. But my desire to avoid being unjust has forced me to be thus uncivilly troublesome: seeing I accounted it a kind of theft, should I have any longer withheld from you that which was your right, by this sad title of inheritance. Be pleased therefore, Madam, to receive this book as a part of the goods of your deceased son; which I now honestly restore, in the view of the whole world, after concealment of it for some time in my study. This name, I know, will oblige you to afford it some place in your closet, which is all that I can at present desire. For as for the reading of it, besides that your exquisite piety (which is built upon infinitely much firmer grounds than these disputes,) has no need at all of it; I know also that your present condition is such, that it would be very troublesome to you. And if you shall chance to desire to spend some hours in the perusal of it, it must be hereafter, when the Lord, by the efficacy of his Spirit, shall have comforted yours, and shall have allayed the violence of your grief; to whom I pour out my most earnest prayers, that he would vouchsafe powerfully to effect the same, and to shed forth his most holy grace upon you and yours; and that he would by his great mercy preserve, long and happily, that which remains of that goodly and blessed family, which he has bestowed upon you.

This, Madam, is one of the most hearty prayers of

Your most humble

And obedient servant,

DAILLÉ.

Paris, August 15, 1631.

***

TFan notes: As you can see, this letter dedicating the book explains the background of how the book came to be composed. In particular, it shows that the book is the distilling of various conversations that Daillé had with the Baron of St. Hermine, before his untimely death in war. The link to the discussion of the fort he identified and its colorful history is, of course, added by me.

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Author’s Preface

December 21, 2012

The following is the author’s preface to Daillé’s excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)

AUTHOR’S PREFACE.

All the difference in religion, which is at this day between the Church of Rome and the Protestants, lies in some certain points which the Church of Rome maintains as important and necessary articles of the Christian faith: whereas the Protestants, on the contrary, neither believe nor will receive them for such. For as for those matters which the Protestants believe, which they conceive to be the fundamentals of religion, they are evidently and undeniably such, that even their enemies admit and receive them as well as they: inasmuch as they are both clearly delivered in the Scriptures, and expressly admitted by the ancient councils and Fathers; and are indeed unanimously received by the greatest part of Christians in all ages, and in different parts of the world. Such, for example, are the maxims,

  • That there is a God who is supreme over all, and who created the heavens and the earth: 
  • that he created man after his own image; and that this man, revolting from his obedience, is fallen, together with his whole posterity, into most extreme and eternal misery, and become infected with sin, as with a mortal leprosy, and is therefore obnoxious to the wrath of God, and liable to his curse: 
  • that the merciful Creator, pitying man’s estate, graciously sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world: 
  • that his Son is God eternal with him; and that having taken flesh upon himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and become man, he has done and suffered in this flesh all things necessary for our salvation, having by this means sufficiently expiated for our sins by his blood; and that having finished all this, he ascended again into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; from whence he shall one day come to judge all mankind, rendering to every one according to their works; 
  • that to enable us to communicate of this salvation by his merits, he sends us down his Holy Spirit, proceeding both from the Father and the Son, and who is also one and the same God with them; so that these three persons are notwithstanding but one God, who is blessed forever; 
  • that this Spirit enlightens our understanding, and generates faith in us, whereby we are justified: 
  • that after all this, the Lord sent his Apostles to preach this doctrine of salvation throughout the whole world: 
  • that these have planted churches, and placed in each of them pastors and teachers, whom we are to hear with all reverence, and to receive from them Baptism, the sacrament of our regeneration, and the holy Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, which is the sacrament of our communion with Jesus Christ: 
  • that we are likewise all of us bound fervently to love God and our neighbor; observing diligently that holy doctrine which is laid down for us in the books of the New Testament, which have been inspired by his Spirit of truth; as also those other of the Old; there being nothing, either in the one or in the other, but what is most true.

These articles, and there may be some few others of a similar nature, are the substance of the Protestant’s whole belief: and if all other Christians would but content themselves with these, there would never be any schism in the Church. But now their adversaries add to these many other points, which they press and command men to believe as necessary; and such as, without believing in, there is no possible hope of salvation. As for example:

  • that the Pope of Rome is the head and supreme monarch of the whole Christian Church throughout the world: 
  • that he, or at least the church which he acknowledges a true one, cannot possibly err in matters of faith: 
  • that the sacrament of the Eucharist is to be adored, as being really Jesus Christ, and not a piece of bread: 
  • that the mass is a sacrifice, that really expiates the sins of the faithful: 
  • that Christians may and ought to have in their churches the images of God and of saints, to which, bowing down before them, they are to use religious worship: 
  • that it is lawful, and also very useful, to pray to saints departed and to angels: 
  • that our souls after death, before they enter into heaven, are to pass through a certain fire, and there to endure grievous torments; thus making atonement for their sins: 
  • that we neither may nor ought to receive the holy Eucharist, without having first confessed in private to a priest: 
  • that none but the priest himself that consecrated the Eucharist is bound by right to receive it in both kinds: 
  • with a great number of other opinions, which their adversaries plainly protest that they cannot with a safe conscience believe.

These points are the ground of the whole difference between them; the one party pretending that they have been believed and received by the Church of Christ in all ages as revealed by him; and the other maintaining the contrary.

Now, seeing that none of these tenets have any ground from any passage in the New Testament, (which is the most ancient and authentic rule of Christianity) the maintainers are glad to fly to the writings of the doctors of the Church, who lived within the first four or five centuries after the Apostles, who are commonly called the Fathers: my purpose in this treatise is to examine whether or not this be good and sufficient means for the decision of these differences. For this purpose I must first presuppose two things, which any reasonable person will easily grant me.

The first is, that the question being here about laying a foundation for certain articles of faith, upon the testimonies or opinions of the Fathers, it is very necessary that the passages which are produced out of them be clear, and not to be doubted; that is to say, such as we cannot reasonably scruple at, either as regards the author, out of whom they are alleged; or the sense of the place, whether it signify what is pretended. For a deposition of a witness, and the sentence of a judge, being of no value at all, save only for the reputation of the witness or judge, it is most evident, that if either proceed from persons unknown, or suspected, they are invalid, and prove nothing. In like manner, if the deposition of a witness or sentence of a judge be obscure, and in doubtful terms, it is clear, that in this case the business must rest undecided; there being another doubt first to be cleared, namely, what the meaning of either of them was.

The second point that I shall here lay down for a foundation to the ensuing discourse, is no less evident than the former: namely, that to allow a sufficiency to the writings of the Fathers for the deciding of those controversies, we must necessarily attribute to their persons very great authority; and such as may oblige us to follow their judgment in matters of religion. For if this authority be wanting, however clear and express their opinions be, in the articles now controverted, it will do nothing towards their decision.

We have therefore here two things to examine in this business. The first is, whether or not we may be able to know, with certainty and clearness, what the opinion of the Fathers has been on the differences now in hand. The second, whether their authority be such, that every faithful person who shall clearly and certainly know what their opinion has been in any one article of Christian religion, is thereby bound to receive that article for true. For if the Church of Rome be but able to prove both these points, it is then without all dispute that their proceeding is good, and agreeable to the end proposed; there being so many writings of the ancient Fathers at this day adduced by them. But if, on the contrary, either of these two things, or both of them, be indeed found to be doubtful, I should think that any man, of a very mean judgment, should be able to conclude of himself, that this way of proof, which they have hitherto made use of, is very insufficient; and that therefore they of necessity ought to have recourse to some other more proper and solid way of proving the truth of the said opinions, which the Protestants will not by any means receive.

***

TFan’s Notes:  It seems particularly interesting to note what Daillé views as the central doctrines of Christianity as well as those that he particularly objects to in Rome’s theology.  One particularly notable omission from his list of Rome’s objectionable doctrines are the Marian dogmas.  Part of that is based on the fact that dogmatizing of those views of Mary was still in the works when Daillé wrote (he wrote in the 1600’s).  But certainly, if a Reformed author were writing today, we would add the Marian dogmas to the second bulleted list above.

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) – Contents

December 20, 2012

John Daillé wrote a wonderful book titled, “A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Decision of Controversies Existing at this Day in Religion.” He was a Reformed minister in Paris. He wrote the treatise in French, but an English translation is available. Even if all you read (because of laziness or apathy) is the table of contents, you may at least get some sense of the general issues that confront one who seeks to be a scholar of the fathers.

Thus, here we present the table of contents based on the first American edition (1842)(available in full at archive.org).

(author’s preface)
(dedicatory epistle)

BOOK THE FIRST,

  1. On the Difficulty of ascertaining the Opinions of the Fathers in reference to the present Controversies in Religion, deduced from the fact that there is very little of their Writings extant of the first three Centuries. (link)
  2. Those Writings which we have of the Fathers of the first Centuries, treat of matters far different from the present Controversies in Religion. (link)
  3. Those Writings which bear the names of the ancient Fathers, are not all really such; but a great portion of them supposititious and forged, either long since or at later periods. (link)
  4. The Writings of the Fathers, which are considered legitimate, have been in many places corrupted by time, ignorance and fraud, pious and malicious, both in the early and later Ages. (link)
  5. The Writings of the Fathers are difficult to be understood, on account of the Languages and Idioms in which they wrote, and the manner of their Writing, which is encumbered with rhetorical flourishes, and logical subtleties, and with terms used in a sense far different from what they now bear.
  6. The Fathers frequently conceal their own private Opinions, and say what they did not believe; either in reporting the Opinion of others, without naming them, as in their Commentaries; or disputing against an Adversary, where they make use of whatever they are able; or accommodating themselves to their Auditory, as may be observed in their Homilies.
  7. The Fathers have not always held the same Doctrine; but have changed some of their Opinions, according as their judgment has become matured by study or age.
  8. It is necessary, but nevertheless difficult, to discover how the Fathers held all their several Opinions; whether as necessary, or as probable only; and in what degree of necessity or probability.
  9. We ought to know what were the Opinions, not of one or more of the Fathers, but of the whole ancient Church: which is a very difficult matter to discover.
  10. It is very difficult to ascertain whether the Opinions of the Fathers, as to the Controversies of the present day, were received by the Church Universal, or only by some portion of it; this being necessary to be known, before their sentiments can be adopted.
  11. It is impossible to know exactly what was the belief of the ancient Church, either Universal or Particular, as to any of those points which are at this day controverted amongst us.

BOOK THE SECOND. THE FATHERS ARE NOT OF SUFFICIENT AUTHORITY FOR DECIDING CONTROVERSIES IN RELIGION.

  1. The Testimonies given by the Fathers, on the Doctrines of the Church, are not always true and certain.
  2. The Fathers testify themselves, that they are not to be believed absolutely, and upon their own bare Assertion, in what they declare in matters of Religion.
  3. The Fathers have written in such a manner, as to make it clear that when they wrote they had no intention of being our authorities in matters of Religion; as evinced by examples of their mistakes and oversights.
  4. The Fathers have erred in divers points of Religion; not only singly, but also many of them together.
  5. The Fathers have strongly Contradicted one another, and have maintained different Opinions in matters of very great importance.
  6. Neither the Church of Rome nor the Protestants acknowledge the Fathers for their Judges in points of Religion; both of them rejecting such of their Opinions and Practices as are not suited to their taste; being an answer to two Objections that may be made against what is delivered in this Discourse.

I hope that if you at least read the above, you will have some idea of what it is you don’t know about the fathers, to avoid falling into the pitfalls associated with many (particularly Roman Catholic) appeals to the fathers.

-TurretinFan

Some New (Old) Patristic Quotations

December 17, 2012

For the last two years, the Ancient Voices blog has fallen into disuse, with very few quotations being posted.  I have plenty of quotations to post, though.  So, I will try to transcribe them and post them on a once-per-day basis.  For at least the next month or so, I expect to be posting a number of quotations, mainly from Theophylact (an early second millenium eastern father) and Chrysostom (who everyone knows).  Some are from my own reading, most of the rest are from comments posted elsewhere by David T. King.

The URL is:
http://voxpatristica.blogspot.com/
-TurretinFan

Is Faith a Work? Of course not! But why not?

December 11, 2012

Roy Ingle (Arminian) says, “no.” And that’s fine. Properly considered, faith is not a work. But what is missing from his explanation is any cogent explanation of why obedient response to the command to “Believe,” that is proclaimed in the Gospel is not properly a work.

For example, Ingle does not argue from the fact that faith is not a work because faith is a gift of God. As it is written:

Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

You see, we are his workmanship, and we are made for good works. We are not our own makers who made ourselves by our works. All of salvation, even faith, is a gift of God. And from that faith come many good works. When we were dead in sins, he regenerated us unto good works.
Mr. Ingle makes the claim: “The idea that a person believes the gospel because they were first regenerated to do so has no biblical basis.” What a remarkable claim! He quotes Ephesians 2:1-3 – if only he had read on to the following paragraph!
Mr. Ingle asserts: “The Arminian position is that all can be saved through faith in Jesus.” I suppose that they all could be, if God gave all of them faith. But God does not, and without faith it is impossible to please God. As it is written: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
While it is great that Mr. Ingle inconsistently affirms that faith is not a work (and we agree with him that properly understood, it is not a work), it is disappointing to see that this truth is held inconsistently with other views which tend to suggest that faith is a work.
What does Mr. Ingle have that he did not receive? Will he say faith? What makes Mr. Ingle any different from the reprobate? Will he say faith? And if he does, will he attribute this to his own running or willing? If he says, “faith,” but confesses that this is from God, he preserves consistency. If he says, “faith,” but attributes faith to the will or power of man, then he has effectively converted faith into a work, and holds a position that is internally inconsistent.

-TurretinFan

Titles of Jesus: Archegon of Life and Holy One

December 5, 2012

The best exchange in the second debate between Paul Bilal Williams and Chris Green, in my opinion, happened around two hours, nine minutes, into the debate. It was during the audience question portion, which surprised me, because generally the audience interaction is the least helpful part of debates, sad to say.

The audience member first asked about the resurrection and particularly about Peter’s message in Acts 2, in which he refers to the resurrection.

Paul Bilal Williams (PBW) responded by asking whether Peter in Acts says that Jesus is God, since that (rather than the resurrection) was the topic of the debate, and by asserting that Peter does not do so.

Chris Green (CG) followed up on PBW’s challenge by reading a translation of Acts 3. The Authorized Version of the relevant passage is below:

Acts 3:12-15
And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

The term the AV translates “prince” is archegon – the specific title is “ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς.” Other translations render it “author.”

In the course of CG reading and explaining the text, PBW first interrupts to dispute the fact that “Holy One and Just” is a reference to God. But there is no reason for Chris to debate with him, because Christ can just go on to the title “Author of Life” (ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς).

Incredibly, at this point, PBW again interrupts to say “that’s not evidence that he’s God.”

(you can listen to the exchange by starting from the time provided at this link)

Sadly, I think that exchange is illustrative of PBW’s inability to handle the text fairly. Several of the audience members actually provided some excellent instruction to PBW, which he tried to debate rather than be instructed. Nevertheless, the exchange above was illustrative of the fact that for PBW, even calling Jesus the Archegon of Life is somehow insufficient to call Jesus God.

But who but God is the Archegon of Life? Whether you translate that author of life or prince of life, how could a mere creature properly have such a title?

On top of that, “Holy One” is quite frequently a title of God. Here is a fairly comprehensive set of examples:

2 Kings 19:22
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.

Job 6:10
Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

Psalm 71:22
I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 78:41
Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 89:18
For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

Isaiah 1:4
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

Isaiah 5:19
That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

Isaiah 5:24
Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 10:17
And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;

Isaiah 10:20
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

Isaiah 12:6
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Isaiah 17:7
At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:19
The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:23
But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

Isaiah 30:11-12
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:

Isaiah 30:15
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Isaiah 30:29
Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.

Isaiah 31:1
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

Isaiah 37:23
Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 40:25
To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.

Isaiah 41:14
Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 41:16
Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 41:20
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

Isaiah 43:3
For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Isaiah 43:14-15
Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.

Isaiah 45:11
Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.

Isaiah 47:4
As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 48:17
Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

Isaiah 49:7
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.

Isaiah 54:5
For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

Isaiah 55:5
Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Isaiah 60:9
Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.

Isaiah 60:14
The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee; The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Jeremiah 50:29
Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.

Jeremiah 51:5
For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.

Ezekiel 39:7
So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

Hosea 11:9
I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.

Habakkuk 1:12
Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Habakkuk 3:3
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

In fact, this title is an Old Testament title applied to Christ as incarnate even in the Old Testment:

Psalm 16:10
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Psalm 89:19
Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

And Acts records Paul applying this Old Testament passage to Jesus Christ:
Acts 13:35
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

With respect, Peter (like Paul) did affirm the divinity of Jesus in Acts, as Chris Green aptly pointed out.

-TurretinFan


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