Archive for the ‘Caesarius of Arles’ Category

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 6)

February 8, 2010

[Cont’d from previous section]

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 6)

2 Peter 1:19-20

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

Bryan also fails to recognize the perspicuity of Scripture:

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

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

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book XI, §7.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

The Lord has not left in doubt or obscurity the teaching conveyed in this great mystery; He has not abandoned us to lose our way in dim uncertainty. Listen to Him as He reveals the full knowledge of this faith to His Apostles; — I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but through Me. If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and ye have not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also. How sayest thou, Shew us the Father? Dost thou not believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself, but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth His works. Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; or else believe for the very works’ sake. He Who is the Way leads us not into by-paths or trackless wastes: He Who is the Truth mocks us not with lies; He Who is the Life betrays us not into delusions which are death. He Himself has chosen these winning names to indicate the methods which He has appointed for our salvation. As the Way, He will guide us to the Truth; the Truth will establish us in the Life. And therefore it is all-important for us to know what is the mysterious mode, which He reveals, of attaining this life. No man cometh to the Father but through Me. The way to the Father is through the Son. And now we must enquire whether this is to be by a course of obedience to His teaching, or by faith in His Godhead. For it is conceivable that our way to the Father may be through adherence to the Son’s teaching, rather than through believing that the Godhead of the Father dwells in the Son. And therefore let us, in the next place, seek out the true meaning of the instruction given us here. For it is not by cleaving to a preconceived opinion, but by studying the force of the words, that we shall enter into possession of this faith.

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VII, §33.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

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

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VIII, §43.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

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

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §40.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67) commenting on John 10:30:

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

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §70.

The perspicuity of Scripture, however, does not mean that everything in Scripture is clear. The necessary things for salvation are clear in Scripture, but there is much additional in Scripture for which our attention and study is both necessary and commended.

Paschasius of Dumium (6th century A.D.):

Some brothers went to Abbot Antony and asked to hear from him words by which they might be saved. He said to them: “You have heard the Scriptures, and you know what is sufficient to you from Christ.”

– Paschasius of Dumium, FC, Vol. 62, Paschasius of Dumium, Questions and Answers of the Greek Fathers, Chapter 6, §2 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1969), p. 127.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

I begin, therefore, by requesting you to lay aside the opinion which you have too easily formed concerning me, and dismiss those sentiments, though they are gratifying evidences of your goodwill, and believe my testimony rather than any other’s regarding myself, if you reciprocate my affection. For such is the depth of the Christian Scriptures, that even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else from early boyhood to decrepit old age, with the utmost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and talents greater than I have, I would be still daily making progress in discovering their treasures; not that there is so great difficulty in coming through them to know the things necessary to salvation, but when any one has accepted these truths with the faith that is indispensable as the foundation of a life of piety and uprightness, so many things which are veiled under manifold shadows of mystery remain to be inquired into by those who are advancing in the study, and so great is the depth of wisdom not only in the words in which these have been expressed, but also in the things themselves, that the experience of the oldest, the ablest, and the most zealous students of Scripture illustrates what Scripture itself has said: “When a man hath done, then he beginneth.”

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. I, Letters of St. Augustine, Letter 137, Chapter 1, §3.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Consider, moreover, the style in which Sacred Scripture is composed,—how accessible it is to all men, though its deeper mysteries are penetrable to very few. The plain truths which it contains it declares in the artless language of familiar friendship to the hearts both of the unlearned and of the learned; but even the truths which it veils in symbols it does not set forth in stiff and stately sentences, which a mind somewhat sluggish and uneducated might shrink from approaching, as a poor man shrinks from the presence of the rich; but, by the condescension of its style, it invites all not only to be fed with the truth which is plain, but also to be exercised by the truth which is concealed, having both in its simple and in its obscure portions the same truth. Lest what is easily understood should beget satiety in the reader, the same truth being in another place more obscurely expressed becomes again desired, and, being desired, is somehow invested with a new attractiveness, and thus is received with pleasure into the heart. By these means wayward minds are corrected, weak minds are nourished, and strong minds are filled with pleasure, in such a way as is profitable to all. This doctrine has no enemy but the man who, being in error, is ignorant of its incomparable usefulness, or, being spiritually diseased, is averse to its healing power.

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. I, Letters of St. Augustine, Letter 137, Chapter 5, §18. See also FC, Vol. 20, Saint Augustine Letters, 137. Addressed to Volusian (412 AD) (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), p. 34.

Bryan also forgets that the words of our Lord are able to speak for themselves, without needing external support:

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

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

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book XI, §7.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Verse 11. “For we which live are also delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in us in our mortal flesh.” For every where when he has said any thing obscure, he interprets himself again. So he has done here also, giving a clear interpretation of this which I have cited. ‘For therefore, “we are delivered,”’ he says, ‘in other words, we bear about His dying that the power of His life may be made manifest, who permitteth not mortal flesh, though undergoing so great sufferings, to be overcome by the snowstorm of these calamities.’ And it may be taken too in another way. How? As he says in another place, “If we die with him, we shall also live with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:11.) ‘For as we endure His dying now, and choose whilst living to die for His sake: so also will he choose, when we are dead, to beget us then unto life. For if we from life come into death, He also will from death lead us by the hand into life.’

– Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XII, Homilies on Second Corinthians, Homily 9.

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-397):

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

Latin text:

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

Citation: Ambrose, Epistola XXXVII.1, PL 16:1084; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 262; see also Chemnitz, Vol. 1, p. 167, and Whitaker, pp. 398, 492, who all render plerisque as “most.” The translation found in FC, Vol. 26, Saint Ambrose: Letters 54. Ambrose to Simplicianus (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 286, has mistranslated this word plerisque to read “in some instances” rather than the correct translation of “most places.”

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466):

Eran. — We have gone through many and sound arguments, but I was anxious to know the force of the Gospel saying.
Orth. — You stand in need of no interpretation from without. The evangelist himself interprets himself. For after saying “the Word was made flesh,” he goes on “and dwelt among us.” That is to say by dwelling in us, and using the flesh taken from us as a kind of temple, He is said to have been made flesh, and, teaching that He remained unchanged, the evangelist adds “and we beheld His glory — the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” For though clad with flesh He exhibited His Father’s nobility, shot forth the beams of the Godhead, and emitted the radiance of the power of the Lord, revealing by His works of wonder His hidden nature. A similar illustration is afforded by the words of the divine apostle to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross.”

– Theodoret of Cyrrhus, NPNF2: Vol. III, Theodoret, Dialogue I.—The Immutable.Orthodoxos and Eranistes.

Indeed, the words of Scripture are best suited to explain Scripture:

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

The worldly man cannot receive the faith of the Apostle, nor can any language but that of the Apostle explain his meaning. God raised Christ from the dead; Christ in Whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. But He quickened us also together with Him, forgiving us our sins, blotting out the bond of the law of sin, which through the ordinances made aforetime was against us, taking it out of the way, and fixing it to His cross, stripping Himself of His flesh by the law of death, holding up the powers to shew, and triumphing over them in Himself.

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §10.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Mark how he disapproves of questioning. For where faith exists, there is no need of question. Where there is no room for curiosity, questions are superfluous. Questioning is the subversion of faith. For he that seeks has not yet found. He who questions cannot believe. Therefore it is his advice that we should not be occupied with questions, since if we question, it is not faith; for faith sets reasoning at rest. But why then does Christ say, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. vii. 7); and, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life”? (John v. 39.) The seeking there is meant of prayer and vehement desire, and He bids “search the Scriptures,” not to introduce the labors of questioning, but to end them, that we may ascertain and settle their true meaning, not that we may be ever questioning, but that we may have done with it.

– Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, Homily 1.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

You see, despite the use of such precision by Sacred Scripture, some people have not questioned the glib words of arrogant commentators and farfetched philosophy, even to the extent of denying Holy Writ and saying the garden was not on earth, giving contrary views on many other passages, taking a direction opposed to a literal understanding of the text, and thinking that what is said on the question of things on earth has to do with things in heaven. And, if blessed Moses had not used such simplicity of expression and considerateness, the Holy Spirit directing his tongue, where would we not have come to grief? Sacred Scripture, though, whenever it wants to teach us something like this, gives its own interpretation, and doesn’t let the listener go astray. . . . So, I beg you, block your ears against all distractions of that kind, and let us follow the norm of Sacred Scripture.

– Chrysostom, FC, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, 13.13 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 175.

The Scripture even explains the allegorical parts of Scripture:

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

There is something else we can learn here. What sort of thing is it? It is when it is necessary to allegorize Scripture. We ourselves are not the lords over the rules of interpretation, but must pursue Scripture’s understanding of itself, and in that way make use of the allegorical method. What I mean is this. The Scripture has just now spoken of a vineyard, wall, and wine-vat. The reader is not permitted to become lord of the passage and apply the words to whatever events or people he chooses. The Scripture interprets itself with the words, “And the house of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth.” To give another example, Ezekiel describes a large, great-winged eagle which enters Lebanon and takes off the top of a cedar. The interpretation of the allegory does not lie in the whim of the readers, but Ezekiel himself speaks, and tells first what the eagle is and then what the cedar is. To take another example from Isaiah himself, when he raises a mighty river against Judah, he does not leave it to the imagination of the reader to apply it to whatever person he chooses, but he names the king whom he has referred to as a river. This is everywhere a rule in Scripture: when it wants to allegorize, it tells the interpretation of the allegory, so that the passage will not be interpreted superficially or be met by the undisciplined desire of those who enjoy allegorization to wander about and be carried in every direction. Why are you surprised that the prophets should observe this rule? Even the author of Proverbs does this. For he said, “Let your loving doe and graceful filly accompany you, and let your spring of water be for you alone.” Then he interprets these terms to refer to one’s free and lawful wife; he rejects the grasp of the prostitute and other woman.

– Chrysostom, Duane A. Garrett, An Analysis of the Hermeneutics of John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Isaiah 1-8 with an English Translation, Isaiah Chapter 5 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), pp. 110-111.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407): Commenting on Isaiah 8:6-7:

Do you see how flawlessly the passage shines before us? For Scripture everywhere gives the interpretation of its metaphors, just as it has done here. Having spoken of a river, it did not stick to the metaphor, but told us what it means by river: “The king of Assyria, and all his glory.”

– Chrysostom, Duane A. Garrett, An Analysis of the Hermeneutics of John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Isaiah 1-8 with an English Translation, Isaiah Chapter 8 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), pp. 161.

And the obscure portions have a reason in themselves, not to hide an important doctrine, but to stimulate our spiritual appetite, increase our humility, or give us spiritual exercise and excitement.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere.

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 6, §8.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Here by that rule I would wish to take “the sons of men” of those that from old men have been regenerated by faith. For these, by certain obscure passages of Scripture, as it were the closed eyes of God, are exercised that they may seek: and again, by certain clear passages, as it were the open eyes of God, are enlightened that they may rejoice. And this frequent closing and opening in the holy Books are as it were the eyelids of God; which question, that is, which try the “sons of men;” who are neither wearied with the obscurity of the matter, but exercised; nor puffed up by knowledge, but confirmed.

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 11, §8.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

The depths of meaning in the word of God are there to excite our eagerness to study, not to prevent us from understanding. If everything was locked up in riddles, there would be no clue to the opening up of obscure passages.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 5, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 156.1 (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), p. 96.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Our thoughts, my dearest brothers and sisters, in reflecting on and discussing the holy scriptures must be guided by the indisputable authority of the same scriptures, so that we may deal faithfully both with what is said clearly for the purpose of giving us spiritual nourishment, and what is said obscurely in order to give us spiritual exercise. Who, after all, would dare to expound the divine mysteries otherwise than has been practiced and prescribed by the mind and mouth of an apostle?

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 10, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 363.1 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1995), p. 270. (414 AD.).

Thus, Scripture can teach us all that is worth knowing.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Love to read the sacred Letters, and you will not find many things to ask of me. By reading and meditating, if you pray wholeheartedly to God, the Giver of all good things, you will learn all that is worth knowing, or at least you will learn more under His inspiration than through the instruction of any man.

– Augustine, FC, Vol. 20, Saint Augustine Letters, 140. Addressed to Honoratus (412 AD), Chapter 37 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), pp. 135-136. Honoratus was a catechumen.

And thoroughly equip us:

Caesarius of Arles (about A.D. 470-543):

When the Gospel was read, we heard that word which is at the same time both terrible and desirable, the sentence of our Lord which is equally dreadful and desirable. It is terrible because of what He says: ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire’; it is desirable because of the words: ‘Come, blessed, receive the kingdom.’ . . . For if a man carefully heeds this lesson, even if he cannot read the rest of the Scriptures, this lesson alone can suffice for him to perform every good act and to avoid all evil.

– Caesarius of Arles, FC, Vol. 47, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons 187-238, Sermon 158.1 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1963), p. 359.

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-97):

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

– Ambrose, FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Cain and Abel, Book 2, chapter 6, §20 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), p. 421.

[cont’d in Section 7]

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Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 5)

February 1, 2010

[Cont’d from previous section]

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 5)

Continuing to analyze the problem with Bryan’s argument, we might characterize the problem as Bryan wanting to get a level of knowledge that goes beyond the divinely set limits – have knowledge of things about which Scripture is silent. Scripture explains: Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. Judges 13:18 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? Daniel 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Revelation 10:4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

The fathers also understood this.

Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 150 – 215):

Who can read the Phaedo, and think of Plato and Socrates, without hope that the mystery of redemption applies to them in some effectual way, under St. Paul’s maxims (Romans 2:26)? It would torture me in reading such sayings as are quoted here, were I not able reverently to indulge such hope, and then to desist from speculation. Cannot we be silent where Scripture is silent, and leave all to Him who loved the Gentiles, and died for them on the cross?

– Clement of Alexandria, ANF: Vol. II, Book IV, Elucidations.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):

I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the form of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us. Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls? It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written.

– Basil of Caesarea, NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Hexaemeron, Homily 9, The Creation of Terrestrial Animals, §1.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

Such is their error, such their pestilent teaching; to support it they borrow the words of Scripture, perverting its meaning and using the ignorance of men as their opportunity of gaining credence for their lies. Yet it is certainly by these same words of God that we must come to understand the things of God. For human feebleness cannot by any strength of its own attain to the knowledge of heavenly things; the faculties which deal with bodily matters can form no notion of the unseen world. Neither our created bodily substance, nor the reason given by God for the purposes of ordinary life, is capable of ascertaining and pronouncing upon the nature and work of God. Our wits cannot rise to the level of heavenly knowledge, our powers of perception lack the strength to apprehend that limitless might. We must believe God’s word concerning Himself, and humbly accept such insight as He vouchsafes to give. We must make our choice between rejecting His witness, as the heathen do, or else believing in Him as He is, and this in the only possible way, by thinking of Him in the aspect in which He presents Himself to us. Therefore let private judgment cease; let human reason refrain from passing barriers divinely set. In this spirit we eschew all blasphemous and reckless assertion concerning God, and cleave to the very letter of revelation. Each point in our enquiry shall be considered in the light of His instruction, Who is our theme; there shall be no stringing together of isolated phrases whose context is suppressed, to trick and misinform the unpracticed listener. The meaning of words shall be ascertained by considering the circumstances under which they were spoken words must be explained by circumstances not circumstances forced into conformity will words. We, at any rate, will treat our subject completely; we will state both the circumstances under which words were spoken, and the true purport of the words. Each point shall be considered in orderly sequence.

– Hilary of Poitiers, NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IV, §14.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466):

Eran.—In these points you seem to say sooth, but after its assumption into heaven I do not think that you will deny that it was changed into the nature of Godhead.
Orth.—I would not so say persuaded only by human arguments, for I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.

– Theodoret, NPNF2: Vol. III, Theodoret, Dialogue II.—The Unconfounded. Orthodoxos and Eranistes.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466):

I do not say these things definitively. For I consider it presumptuous to speak definitively of things concerning which the divine Scripture does not speak distinctly. But I have said what I conceived was suitable to the views of piety.

[alternative translation of the above]

Now, I do not state this dogmatically, my view being that it is rash to speak dogmatically where holy Scripture does not make an explicit statement; rather, I have stated what I consider to be consistent with orthodox thought.

Greek text:

Ἐγὼ δὲ ταῦτα οὐκ ἀποφαινόμενος λέγω· τολμηρὸν γὰρ ἀποφαντικῶς οἶμαι λέγειν, περὶ ὧν ἡ θεία διαῤῥήδην οὐ λέγει γραφή· ἀλλʼ ὅπερ τοῖς εὐσεβέσι λογισμοῖς ἁρμόττειν ὑπέλαβον, εἴρηκα.

Citation: Quaestiones in Genesim, Interrogatio IV, PG 80:84; translation from William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. III, p. 191; alternate translation from Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Genesis, IV (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 19.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466):

It does not become us to search after those things which are passed over in silence; but it behoves us to love those things which are written.

[alternative translation of the above]

We should not pry into secrets but be grateful for what is written.

Greek Text:

Οὐ δεῖ ζητεῖν τὰ σεσιγημένα· στέργειν δὲ προσήκει τὰ γεγραμμένα.

Citation: Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Quaestiones in Genesim, Interrogatio XLV, PG 80:145.; translated by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, pp. 191-192; alternative translation by Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Genesis, Interrogatio XLV (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 95.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466):

It is superfluous and unprofitable to inquire after those things which are passed over in silence.

[alternative translation of the above]

It is pointless and foolish to inquire into unspoken secrets.

Greek text:

Περιττὸν καὶ ἀνόητον τὸ τὰ σεσιγημένα ζητεῖν.

Citation: Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Quaestiones in Exodum, Interrogatio XXVI, PG 80:256; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 192; alternative translation by Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Exodus, XXVI (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 271.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch from about A.D. 412-444):

That which the divine Scripture has not spoken, how shall we receive it, and reckon it among verities?

Greek text:

Ὃ γὰρ οὐκ εἴρηκεν ἡ θεία Γραφὴ, τίνα δὴ τρόπον παραδεξόμεθα, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀληθῶς ἔχουσι καταλογιούμεθα;

Citation: Cyril of Alexandria, Glaphyrorum In Genesim, Liber II, PG 69:53; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 181.

Prosper of Aquitaine (died about A.D. 463) writing around A.D. 450:

Who will tell the reasons and motives of these differences within one and the same grace when Sacred Scripture is silent about them?

– Prosper of Aquitaine, ACW, Vol. 14, P. De Letter, S.J., PH.D., S.T.D., trans., St. Prosper of Aquitaine: The Call of All Nations, Book 2, Chapter 9 (New York: Newman Press, 1952), p. 103.

Caesarius of Arles (about A.D. 470-543):

Sacred Scripture speaks about the godhead and divinity of the Holy Spirit, but does not say whether He should be called begotten or unbegotten. See what confusion a lack of faith creates. You do not want to know what God did not want to be unknown, and you want to know what He did not decree should be asked. . . .
You ask whether He [i.e. the Holy Spirit] was begotten or not. Sacred Scripture has said nothing about this, and it is wrong to violate the divine silence. Since God did not think that this should be indicated in His writings, He did not want you to question or to know through idle curiosity.

– Caesarius of Arles, FC, Vol. 66, Sermons 187-238, Sermon 213.1-2 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1973), pp. 106, 107.

Gregory of Nyssa (about A.D. 335-395):

Since, my friend, you ask me a question in your letter, I think that it is incumbent upon me to answer you in their proper order upon all the points connected with it. It is, then, my opinion that it is a good thing for those who have dedicated themselves once for all to the higher life to fix their attention continually upon the utterances in the Gospel, and, just as those who correct their work in any given material by a rule, and by means of the straightness of that rule bring the crookedness which their hands detect to straightness, so it is right that we should apply to these questions a strict and flawless measure as it were, — I mean, of course, the Gospel rule of life, — and in accordance with that, direct ourselves in the sight of God. Now there are some amongst those who have entered upon the monastic and hermit life, who have made it a part of their devotion to behold those spots at Jerusalem where the memorials of our Lord’s life in the flesh are on view; it would be well, then, to look to this Rule, and if the finger of its precepts points to the observance of such things, to perform the work, as the actual injunction of our Lord; but if they lie quite outside the commandment of the Master, I do not see what there is to command any one who has become a law of duty to himself to be zealous in performing any of them.

– Gregory of Nyssa, NPNF2: Vol. V, On Ascetic and Moral Treatises, On Pilgrimages.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Well, then, let us grant that it is so, that many can now bear those things when the Holy Spirit has been sent, which could not then, prior to His coming, be born by the disciples: do we on that account know what it is that He would not say, as we should know it were we reading or hearing it as uttered by Himself? For it is one thing to know whether we or you could bear it; but quite another to know what it is, whether able to be born or not. But when He Himself was silent about such things, which of us could say, It is this or that? Or if he venture to say it, how will he prove it? For who could manifest such vanity or recklessness as when saying what he pleased to whom he pleased, even though true, to affirm without any divine authority that it was the very thing which the Lord on that occasion refused to utter? Which of us could do such a thing without incurring the severest charge of rashness, — a thing which gets no countenance from prophetic or apostolic authority? For surely if we had read any such thing in the books confirmed by canonical authority, which were written after our Lord’s ascension, it would not have been enough to have read such a statement, had we not also read in the same place that this was actually one of those things which the Lord was then unwilling to tell His disciples, because they were unable to bear them. As if, for example, I were to say that the words which we read at the opening of this Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God:” and those which follow, because they were written afterwards, and yet without any mention of their being uttered by the Lord Jesus when He was here in the flesh, but were written by one of His apostles, to whom they were revealed by His Spirit, were some of those which the Lord would not then utter, because the disciples were unable to bear them; who would listen to me in making so rash a statement? But if in the same passage where we read the one we were also to read the other, who would not give due credence to such an apostle?
3. But it seems to me also very absurd to say that the disciples could not then have born what we find recorded, about things invisible and of profoundest import, in the apostolic epistles, which were written in after days, and of which there is no mention that the Lord uttered them when His visible presence was with them. For why could they not bear then what is now read in their books, land born by every one, even though not understood? Some things there are, indeed, in the Holy Scriptures which unbelieving men both have no understanding of when they read or hear them, and cannot bear when they are read or heard: as the pagans, that the world was made by Him who was crucified; as the Jews, that He could be the Son of God, who broke up their mode of observing the Sabbath; as the Sabellians, that the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit are a Trinity; as the Arians, that the Son is equal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son; as the Photinians, that Christ is not only man like ourselves, but God also, equal to God the Father; as the Manicheans, that Christ Jesus, by whom we must be saved, condescended to be born in the flesh and of the flesh of man: and all others of divers perverse sects, who can by no means bear whatever is found in the Holy Scriptures and in the Catholic faith that stands out in opposition to their errors, just as we cannot bear their sacrilegious vaporings and mendacious insanities. For what else is it not to be able to bear, but not to retain in our minds with calmness and composure? But what of all that has been written since our Lord’s ascension with canonical truth and authority, is it not read and heard with equanimity by every believer, and catechumen also, before in his baptism he receive the Holy Spirit, even although it is not yet understood as it ought to be?

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 96, John 16:12, 13.

[cont’d in section 6]

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 4)

January 25, 2010

[Cont’d from previous section]

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 4)

Caesarius of Arles (about A.D. 470-543) commenting on Rev. 22:10:

Just as the divine Scriptures are sealed for those who are proud and who love the world more than God, so are they opened for those who are humble and who fear God.

– Caesarius of Arles as found in William C. Weinrich, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XII, Revelation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 398. Cf. Commentary on the Apocalypse 22.10, Homily 19 (repeated twice in the homily).

The fundamental problems with Bryan’s analysis seem to be his failure to recognize the divine nature and purpose of Scripture. The purpose of Scripture is to put in writing those things that God wants us to know.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430) commenting on Psalm 110:

God established an era of promises and another era for the fulfillment of his promises. The time for promises was the age of the prophets down to that of John the Baptist. From his day, and thenceforth until the end, is the era of fulfillment. God is faithful and has put himself in our debt not because we have given him anything but because he has promised us so much. Yet even promising was not enough for him. He wanted to be bound in writing as well, so he gave us a signed copy of his promises, as it were, so that once he had begun to fulfill them we could study the scriptures and learn the sequence of their realization.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 19, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 99-120, Exposition 23 of Psalm 109.1 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2003), p. 261.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):

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

Latin text:

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

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

Athanasius (about A.D. 297-373):

Since, therefore, such an attempt is futile madness, nay, more than madness!, let no one ask such questions any more, or else let him learn only that which is in the Scriptures. For the illustrations they contain which bear upon this subject are sufficient and suitable.

– Athanasius, C. R. B. Shapland, trans., The Letters of Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, Ad Serapion 1.19 (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 108.

Thus, Scripture is written with the purpose that we understand and benefit.

Ambrosiaster (flourished about A.D. 366-384):

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

Latin text:

Sed Scriptura more nostro loquitur, ut intelligere possumus.

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

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):

Scripture speaks in terms of our human frailty that we may the more easily understand.

– Jerome, FC, Vol. 57, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 2, Homily 65 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1966), p. 57.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Anyhow, in case by wanting to make a display of these people’s stupidity we, too, find ourselves induced to utter unseemly remarks, let’s have done with their folly and turn aside from such idiocy; let us follow the direction of Sacred Scripture in the interpretation it gives of itself, provided we don’t get completely absorbed with the concreteness of the words, but realize that our limitations are the reason for the concreteness of the language. Human senses, you see, would never be able to grasp what is said if they had not the benefit of such great considerateness.

– Chrysostom, FC, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, Homily 13.8 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 172.

Thus, Scripture can be compared to a pharmacy, and lack of knowledge of Scripture can be viewed as a general source of all evil.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, composed by the Spirit for this reason, namely, that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition.

– Basil of Caesarea, FC, Vol. 46, Saint Basil: Exegetical Homilies, Homily 10 on Psalm 1 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1963), p. 151.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Tarry not, I entreat, for another to teach thee; thou hast the oracles of God. No man teacheth thee as they; for he indeed oft grudgeth much for vainglory’s sake and envy. Hearken, I entreat you, all ye that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. If ye will not any other, yet get you at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befall thee, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take thence comfort of thy trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather dive not into them merely, but take them wholly to thee; keep them in thy mind.
This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how ought we to come off safe? Well contented should we be if we can be safe with them, let alone without them.

– Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.

Or even the “perfume of life”:

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-97):

Divine Scripture confers salvation on us and is fragrant with the perfume of life, so that he who reads may acquire sweetness and not rush into danger to his own destruction. Read with simplicity, man; I would not encourage you, a misdirected interpreter, to dig up meanings for yourself. The language is simple: ‘God created heaven and earth.’ He created what was not, not what was. And the earth was invisible, because water flowed over it and covered it. Darkness was diffused over it, because there was not yet the light of day, or the rays of the sun which can reveal even what lies hid beneath the waters.

– Ambrose, FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: The Six Days of Creation, Book 1, the second homily, §30 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), p. 34.

Part of the problem is that Bryan presents his case as though he were unsatisfied with the Scriptures as they were given. It is as though the thinks that Scripture could have been expressed better than it was.

Augustine (354-430) commenting on v. 6 of Psalm 147:

The psalm indicates to you what you must do if you have difficulty in understanding, for it goes on to say, The Lord welcomes the meek. Suppose you do not understand some passage, or understand only a little of it, or at any rate cannot master it: hold God’s scripture in honor, respect God’s word even when it is not clear to you, maintain a reverent attitude while you wait for understanding to come. Do not be over-bold and find fault with the obscurity of scripture or even allege that it is self-contradictory. There is no contradiction here. Some obscurity there may be, not in order that insight may be denied you, but so that your mind may be stretched until you can receive it. When some text seems dark to you, be sure that the physician has made it so; he is inviting you to knock. He wanted it to puzzle you so that you may be put through your paces as you keep on knocking; he wants it to be so, that he may open to you when you knock. As you persevere in knocking you will be stretched; as you are stretched, your capacity will be enlarged; as your capacity grows, you will receive what comes to you as gift. Do not be angry, then, when you find the door closed. Be gentle, be meek. Do not lash out against the obscure passage, saying, “That thought would have been better expressed if it had been put like this….” When will you ever be qualified to say it, or even judge how it ought to be said? It has been said in the right way. The patient has no business to alter his treatment; the doctor knows when to modify it. Trust him who is working on your cure.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 20, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 121-150, Psalm 146.12 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2004), p. 431.

Or that the Scriptures should answer questions that they do not.

Athanasius (about A.D. 297-373):

These things are sufficient to refute your foolish speech. Mock no more at the Godhead. For it is the part of those who mock to ask the questions which are not written and to say, So the Spirit is a son and the Father a grandfather?

– Athanasius, C. R. B. Shapland, trans., The Letters of Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, Ad Serapion 4.7 (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 188.

Irenaeus (about A.D. 130 – 200):

(Scripture to be interpreted by Scripture) If, therefore, according to the rule which I have stated, we leave some questions in the hands of God, we shall both preserve our faith uninjured, and shall continue without danger; and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us, praising in hymns that God who created all things. If, for instance, any one asks, “What was God doing before He made the world? ”we reply that the answer to such a question lies with God Himself. For that this world was formed perfect by God, receiving a beginning in time, the Scriptures teach us; but no Scripture reveals to us what God was employed about before this event. The answer therefore to that question remains with God, and it is not proper for us to aim at bringing forward foolish, rash, and blasphemous suppositions [in reply to it]; so, as by one’s imagining that he has discovered the origin of matter, he should in reality set aside God Himself who made all things.

– Irenaeus, ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:28:3 (note that the heading “Scripture to be Interpreted by Scripture” is, as far as I know, added by the editor)(Unlike Roman Catholic apologists, such as Bryan, Irenaeus tells us that God, not the Church, gave us the Scriptures, and that if a matter concerning God is not revealed in Scripture, it is because it is beyond the scope of extant revelation.)

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-97):

But subjects which are alien to our purpose and to divine testimony should be left to those ‘who are outside.’ We should adhere closely to the doctrine laid down by the celestial Scriptures.

– Ambrose, FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: The Six Days of Creation, Book 2, the third homily, chapter 2, §7 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), p. 51.

[to be cont’d in Section 5]

Necessity of Scripture Reading – Whitaker and the Fathers

January 18, 2010

William Whitaker:

Nay, the fathers also confess, that a knowledge of, and acquaintance with, the scriptures is necessary for all Christians. Jerome in his commentary upon the Colossians, iii. 16, says: ” Hence we see that the laity ought to have not only a sufficient, but an abundant knowledge of the scriptures, and also to instruct each other [FN2].” Chrysostom, in his ninth homily upon the Colossians, writing upon the same passage, remarks that the apostle requires the people to know the word of God, not simply, but in great abundance, οὐχ απλῶς, ἀλλὰ μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς περιουσίας; and adds: “Attend, all ye that are secular (κοσμικοὶ), and have wives and families depending upon you, how he (the apostle) specially commands you to read the scripture; and not merely to read it in a perfunctory manner, but with great diligence,” ἀλλὰ μετὰ πολλῆς σπουδῆς. Chrysostom observes in that same place, that the apostle does not say, let the word of God be in you; but, let it dwell in you; and that, πλουσίως, richly [FN3].

OEcumenius too observes upon the same passage, that the doctrine of Christ should dwell in us ὐν πολλῆ δαψιλεία, most abundantly. Now, how are we to obtain so full a knowledge of it as this implies? OEcumenius informs us by subjoining, διὰ τῆς τῶν γραφῶν ἐρεύνης, by searching the scriptures. So Thomas Aquinas in his third lecture upon this chapter: “Some,” says he, ” are satisfied with a very small portion of the word of God; but the apostle desires we should have much of it [FN1].”

[FN2 Hinc perspicimus non tantum sufficienter, sed etiam abundantur debere lacios scripturarum cognitionem habere, et se invicem docere.—T. xi. 1029. But this Commentary is not Jerome’s.]

[FN3 T. xi. p. 391.]

[FN1 Quibusdam sufficit modicum quid de verbo Dei: sed apostolus vult quod habeamus multum, p. 164. 2. T. xvi. Opp. Venet. 1593.]

– William Whitaker, A disputation on Holy Scripture: against the papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, First Controversy, Second Question, Chapter 15 (pp. 239-40 in the Parker 1849 edition)

William Whitaker provides this brief reference to the teachings of fathers after his main argument. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that he was trying to argue for the necessity of reading Scripture simply because he thought the church fathers taught it.

As to the necessity of Scripture (not simply of reading it, but of Scripture in general) recall that Whitaker carefully qualified the kind of necessity involved:

Our opponent disputes thus: Scripture is not absolutely necessary; therefore it is not necessary at all. But here lies the Jesuit’s error: for it is not every necessity that is absolute; some is only Hypothetical. God could teach us without the holy scriptures, and lead us to eternal life; but he chose to propound his teaching to us in the scriptures. This, therefore, being supposed, it is necessary that we learn and derive the will and doctrine of God from the scriptures. Thus, not even food is simply necessary, because God could easily nourish us without food; but only hypothetically. God indeed formerly shewed himself familiarly to our fathers, and, in a manner, conversed constantly with some distinguished men, to whom he immediately disclosed his will; and then I confess that the scriptures were not necessary: but afterwards he changed this method of teaching his church, and chose that his will should be committed to writing; and then scripture began to be necessary.

– William Whitaker, A disputation on Holy Scripture: against the papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, First Controversy, Sixth Question, Chapter 7 (p. 517 in the Parker 1849 edition)

We see similar sentiments from Caesarius of Arles:

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543):

Similarly, one who refuses to read the sacred writings which have been transmitted from the eternal country should fear that he perhaps will not receive eternal rewards and even not escape endless punishment. So dangerous is it not to read the divine precepts that the Prophet mournfully exclaims: ‘Therefore is my people led away captive, because they had not knowledge.’ ‘If anyone ignores this, he shall be ignored.’ Doubtless, if a man fails to seek God in this world through the sacred lessons, God will refuse to recognize him in eternal bliss. . . . A man should first be willing to listen to God, if he wants to be heard by Him. Indeed, with what boldness does he want God to hear him when he despises God so much that he refuses to read His precepts?

Citation: FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 7.3 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), pp. 47-48.

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543):

I beseech you, beloved brethren, be eager to engage in divine reading whatever hours you can. Moreover, since what a man procures in this life by reading or good works will be food of his soul forever, let no one try to excuse himself by saying he has not learned letters at all. If those who are illiterate love God in truth, they look for learned people who can read the sacred Scriptures to them.

Citation: FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 8.1 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), p. 49.

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543):

Therefore consider at once, brethren, and carefully notice that the man who frequently reads or listens to sacred Scripture speaks with God. See, then, whether the Devil can overtake him when he perceives him in constant conversation with God. However, if a man neglects to do this, with what boldness or with what feelings does he believe God will grant him an eternal reward, when he refuses to speak with Him in this world through the divine text?

Citation: FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 8.3 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), p. 52.

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543):

For this reason I beseech you with fatherly solicitude, equally admonishing and exhorting you, as was already said, to endeavor continually to read the sacred lessons yourselves or willingly to listen to others read them. By thus always thinking over in the treasury of your heart what is just and holy, you may prepare for your souls an eternal spiritual food that will bring you endless bliss.

Citation: FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 8.4 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), p. 54.

And from Chrysostom.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this, “Honor thy father and thy mother”; so that this makes for thee. Never say, this is the business of monks. Am I making a monk of him? No. There is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian. For it is of all things necessary for laymen to be acquainted with the lessons derived from this source; but especially for children. For theirs is an age full of folly; and to this folly are super added the bad examples derived from the heathen tales, where they are made acquainted with those heroes so admired amongst them, slaves of their passions, and cowards with regard to death; as, for example, Achilles, when he relents, when he dies for his concubine, when another gets drunk, and many other things of the sort. He requires therefore the remedies against these things. How is it not absurd to send children out to trades, and to school, and to do all you can for these objects, and yet, not to “bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord”? And for this reason truly we are the first to reap the fruits, because we bring up our children to be insolent and profligate, disobedient, and mere vulgar fellows. Let us not then do this; no, let us listen to this blessed Apostle’s admonition. “Let us bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” Let us give them a pattern. Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures. Alas, that so constantly as I repeat this, I am looked upon as trifling! Still, I shall not cease to do my duty.

– Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, Homily 21.

Notice that here even young children are being commended to the reading of Scripture. Jerome also similarly exhorts a woman, Demetrias, to make reading the Scripture her first priority.

Jerome (about A.D. 347–420):

In what remains of my letter I shall direct all my words to Demetrias herself, whose holiness ennobles her as much as her rank, and of whom it may be said that the higher she climbs the more terrible will be her fall. For the rest, this one thing, child of God, I lay on thee; yea before all, and urge it many times: love to occupy your mind with the reading of scripture.

– Jerome, Letter 130 (to Demetrias), Section 7

– TurretinFan

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 2)

January 10, 2010

[Cont’d from previous section]

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 2)

The fact that obscure Scriptures are obscure and “need” (in some sense) clarification does not imply that the clear Scriptures are in similar need. After all, there are plenty of clear Scriptures.

Caesarius, bishop of Arles (about A.D. 470-543):

Let us examine the Scriptures, and in them we will be able to understand this more clearly.

FC, Vol. 31, Saint Caesarius of Arles, Sermons (1-80), Sermon 38.3 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1956), p. 191.

Bryan’s attempt to create a sort of recursive problem of Scripture being needed to interpret each new Scripture that is brought to bear on the subject is neither representative of reality nor representative of the position to which he’s allegedly responding.

However, let us continue with his argument as much as possible. Bryan continues:

Who holds interpretive authority in the determination of Scripture’s interpretation of Scripture? Someone must determine which verses are clearer than others, and which verses serve as the touchstone by which to interpret the others.

(original)

The idea that someone has to authoritatively say which parts of Scripture are clear seems rather absurd. Does someone have to authoritatively tell Bryan when it is sunny outside? Does he first go and check the weather report to see whether the meteorologists have declared the visibility today to be good? Perhaps he simply thinks it is a clear and sunny day, but there is actually a fog of darkness over the land? This sort of notion is farcical – it is absurd to suggest that Bryan would need such a thing. Scripture’s light is fairly comparable to that of the sun or of a bright lamp (Psalm 119:105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 2 Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:).

This is only reasonable, because the purpose of Scripture is so that we may believe what is written (John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.).

And again, we find that the fathers agree with us.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407), Commenting on v. 16 of Psalm 45:

Then, by way of describing their power and force and their glory, he says, You will appoint them rulers over all the earth. Surely this does not require interpretation? I for one think it does not, as the sun does not, either, being brillant; yet his words are even clearer.

– Chrysostom, Robert Charles Hill, trans., St John Chrysostom: Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 1, Psalm 45 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), p. 283.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Therefore, amid the shadows of this life in which ‘we are absent from the Lord’ as long as ‘we walk by faith and not by sight,’ the Christian soul should consider itself desolate, and should not cease from praying and from attending with the eye of faith to the word of the divine and sacred Scriptures: ‘as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.’

– Augustine, FC, Vol. 18, Saint Augustine Letters 83-130, Letter 130, To Proba (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), pp. 379-380.

Tertullian (about A.D. 160-220):

Come, now, tell me how that passage (in the Epistle) to the Thessalonians — which, because of its clearness, I should suppose to have been written with a sunbeam — is understood by our heretics, who shun the light of Scripture: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” And as if this were not plain enough, it goes on to say: “And may your whole body, and soul, and spirit be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord.” Here you have the entire substance of man destined to salvation, and that at no other time than at the coming of the Lord, which is the key of the resurrection.

– Tertullian, ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 47.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

We have seen that the only-begotten Word who is equal to his begetter is called the light and that a human being illumined by the Word can also be called a light, or a lamp, as was the case with John and the apostles. We have seen too that none of these humans is the Word and that the Word by whom they were illumined is not a lamp. Well then, what is the word of which the psalm speaks, a word that can also be called a lamp? That is what the psalm says, Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my paths. We must surely understand it to be the word that came to the prophets and was preached by the apostles. It is not the Word who is Christ, but Christ’s word, concerning which scripture says, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). The apostle Peter also compares the prophetic word to a lamp: We have the trusty message of the prophets to rely on, and you will do well to attend to it, for it is like a lamp burning in a dark place (2 Pt 1:19). Unquestionably, then, the word which the psalm means when it says, You word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my paths, is the word contained in all the holy scriptures.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 19, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 99-120, Exposition 23 of Psalm 118.1 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2003), p. 451.

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-397):

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

– Ambrose, William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 148.

The understanding both of the Reformed position and the early Christians was that common sense and the internal guidance of the Holy Spirit suffices to tell us, in many cases, when Scripture is speaking clearly about something. That does not mean that we are guaranteed always to get it right, or that we will sometimes think something clear is obscure or vice versa.

Justin Martyr (wrote after 151):

Then I continued, “I purpose to quote to you Scriptures, not that I am anxious to make merely an artful display of words; for I possess no such faculty, but God’s grace alone has been granted to me to the understanding of His Scriptures, of which grace I exhort all to become partakers freely and bounteously, in order that they may not, through want of it, incur condemnation in the judgment which God the Maker of all things shall hold through my Lord Jesus Christ.”

– Justin Martyr, ANF: Vol. I, Dialogue of Justin, Chapter LVIII.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):

And like reason in the soul, which is at one time the thought in the heart, and at another speech uttered by the tongue, so is the Holy Spirit, as when He “bears witness with our spirit,” [Romans 8:16] and when He “cries in our hearts, Abba, Father,” [Galatians 6:4] or when He speaks on our behalf, as it is said, “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of our Father which speaks in you.” [Matthew 10:20]

– Basil of Caesarea, Of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 26, Section 61

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Besides, even if any should be so poor, it is in their power, by means of the continual reading of the holy Scriptures which takes place here, to be ignorant of nothing contained in them.

– Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Homily 11.1.

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):

The learned teaching of our Lord strikes the Pharisees dumb with amazement, and they are filled with astonishment to find that Peter and John know the Law although they have not learned letters. For to these the Holy Ghost immediately suggested what comes to others by daily study and meditation; and, as it is written, [1 Thessalonians 4:9] they were “taught of God.”

– Jerome, Letter 53, Section 3

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

For it is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught of God.” Why have I said this, O Jews? The Father has not taught you; how can you know me? For all the men of that kingdom shall be taught of God, not learn from men. And though they do learn from men, yet what they understand is given them within, flashes within, is revealed within.

– Augustine, Tractate 26 on John (John 6:41-59), Section 7

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):

Next, he suggests also the manner of the prayer. And what is this? “That He would open the ears of their hearts;” for they are as yet shut and stopped up. “Ears,” he says, not these which be outward, but those of the understanding, “so as to hear ‘the things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man.'” [1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 54:4] For they have not heard the untold mysteries; but they stand somewhere at a distance and far off from them; and even if they should hear, they know not what is said; for those [mysteries] need much understanding, not hearing only: and the inward ears as yet they have not: wherefore also he next invokes for them a Prophet’s gift, for the Prophet spoke on this wise; “God gives me the tongue of instruction, that I should know how to speak a word in season; for He opened my mouth; He gave to me betimes in the morning; He granted me a hearing ear.” [Isaiah 1:4. Septuagint] For as the Prophets heard otherwise than the many, so also do the faithful than the Catechumens. Hereby the Catechumen also is taught not to learn to hear these things of men, (for He says, Call no man master upon the earth), but from above, from heaven, “For they shall be all taught of God.” [Isaiah 54:13] Wherefore he says, “And instil into them the word of truth,” so that it may be inwardly learned ; for as yet they know not the word of truth as they ought to know. “That He would sow His fear in them.” But this is not enough; for “some fell by the wayside, and some upon the rock.” But we ask not thus; but as on rich soil the plough opens the furrows, so we pray it may be here also, that having the fallow ground of their minds tilled deep, they may receive what is dropped upon them and accurately retain everything they have heard. Whence also he adds, “And confirm His faith in their minds;” that is, that it may not lie on the surface, but strike its root deep downwards. “That He would unveil to them the Gospel of Righteousness.” He shows that the veil is two-fold, partly that the eyes of their understanding were shut, partly that the Gospel was hidden from them. Whence he said a little above, “that He would open the ears of their hearts,” and here, “that he would unveil unto them the Gospel of Righteousness;” that is, both that He would render them wise and apt for receiving seed, and that He would teach them and drop the seed into them; for though they should be apt, yet if God reveal not, this profits nothing; and if God should unveil but they receive not, there results like unprofitableness. Therefore we ask for both: that He would both open their hearts and unveil the Gospel. For neither if kingly ornaments lie underneath a veil, will it profit at all that the eyes be looking; nor yet that they be laid bare, if the eyes be not waking. But both will be granted, if first they themselves desire it. But what then is “the Gospel of Righteousness?” That which makes righteous. By these words he leads them to the desire of Baptism, showing that the Gospel is for the working not only of the remission of sins, but also of righteousness.

– Chrysostom, Homily 2 on 2 Corinthians, at 2 Corinthians 1:10-11, Section 7.

Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 150-215):

But that is the only authentic truth, unassailable, in which we are instructed by the Son of God. In the same way we say, that the drachma being one and the same, when given to the shipmaster, is called the fare; to the tax-gatherer, tax; to the landlord, rent; to the teacher, fees; to the seller, an earnest. And each, whether it be virtue or truth, called by the same name, is the cause of its own peculiar effect alone; and from the blending of them arises a happy life. For we are not made happy by names alone, when we say that a good life is happiness, and that the man who is adorned in his soul with virtue is happy. But if philosophy contributes remotely to the discovery of truth, by reaching, by diverse essays, after the knowledge which touches close on the truth, the knowledge possessed by us, it aids him who aims at grasping it, in accordance with the Word, to apprehend knowledge. But the Hellenic truth is distinct from that held by us (although it has got the same name), both in respect of extent of knowledge, certainly of demonstration, divine power, and the like. For we are taught of God, being instructed in the truly “sacred letters” by the Son of God.

– Clement of Alexandria, Book I, Chapter 20

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

“And ye have no need that any man teach you, because His unction teacheth you concerning all things.” Then to what purpose is it that “we,” my brethren, teach you? If “His unction teacheth you concerning all things,” it seems we labor without a cause. And what mean we, to cry out as we do? Let us leave you to His unction, and let His unction teach you. But this is putting the question only to myself: I put it also to that same apostle: let him deign to hear a babe that asks of him: to John himself I say, Had those the unction to whom thou wast speaking? Thou hast said, “His unction teacheth you concerning all things.” To what purpose hast thou written an Epistle like this? what teaching didst “thou “give them? what instruction? what edification? See here now, brethren, see a mighty mystery. The sound of our words strikes the ears, the Master is within. Do not suppose that any man learns ought from man. We can admonish by the sound of our voice; if there be not One within that shall teach, vain is the noise we make. Aye, brethren, have yea mind to know it? Have ye not all heard this present discourse? and yet how many will go from this place untaught! I, for my part, have spoken to all; but they to whom that Unction within speaketh not, they whom the Holy Ghost within teacheth not, those go back untaught. The teachings of the master from without are a sort of aids and admonitions. He that teacheth the hearts, hath His chair in heaven. Therefore saith He also Himself in the Gospel: “Call no man your master upon earth; One is your Master, even Christ.” Let Him therefore Himself speak to you within, when not one of mankind is there: for though there be some one at thy side, there is none in thine heart. Yet let there not be none in thine heart: let Christ be in thine heart: let His unction be in the heart, lest it be a heart thirsting in the wilderness, and having no fountains to be watered withal. There is then, I say, a Master within that teacheth: Christ teacheth; His inspiration teacheth. Where His inspiration and His unction is not, in vain do words make a noise from without. So are the words, brethren, which we speak from without, as is the husbandman to the tree: from without he worketh, applieth water and diligence of culture; let him from without apply what he will, does he form the apples? does he clothe the nakedness of the wood with a shady covering of leaves? does he do any thing like this from within? But whose doing is this? Hear the husbandman, the apostle: both see what we are, and hear the Master within: “I have planted, Apollos haft watered; but God gave the increase: neither he that planteth is any thing, neither he that watereth, but He that giveth the increase, even God.” This then we say to you: whether we plant, or whether we water, by speaking we are not any thing; but He that giveth the increase, even God: that is, “His unction which teacheth you concerning all things.”

– Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 3, 1 John 2:18-27, §13.

Bryan’s argument amounts to Pyrrhonism, deep skepticism. Bryan wants to suggest that we need someone to tell us when something is clear. We have enough common sense to realize that we can see when something is clear.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):

Moreover, a man of your talent and learning easily perceives how different from these metaphorical expressions is the statement of the apostle, “When I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Galatians 2:14 Here there is no obscurity of figurative language; these are literal words of a plain statement.

– Augustine, Letter 180, Section 4

Tertullian (about A.D. 160-220):

This is evidence enough from the prophetic Scriptures. I now appeal to the Gospels. . . . Besides, there is not a parable which you will not find to be either explained by the Lord Himself, as that of the sower, (which He interprets) of the management of the word of God; or else cleared by a preface from the writer of the Gospel, as in the parable of the arrogant judge and the importunate widow, which is expressly applied to earnestness in prayer; or capable of being spontaneously understood, as in the parable of the fig-tree, which was spared a while in hopes of improvement — an emblem of Jewish sterility. Now, if even parables obscure not the light of the gospel, how unlikely it is that plain sentences and declarations, which have an unmistakable meaning, should signify any other thing than their literal sense! But it is by such declarations and sentences that the Lord sets forth either the last judgment, or the kingdom, or the resurrection: “It shall be more tolerable,” He says, “for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.” And “Tell them that the kingdom of God is at hand.” And again, “It shall be recompensed to you at the resurrection of the just.” Now, if the mention of these events (I mean the judgment-day, and the kingdom of God, and the resurrection) has a plain and absolute sense, so that nothing about them can be pressed into an allegory, neither should those statements be forced into parables which describe the arrangement, and the process, and the experience of the kingdom of God, and of the judgment, and of the resurrection.

– Tertullian, ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 33.

[to be cont’d in section 3]


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