Archive for the ‘Chrysostom’ Category

Chrysostom and Vatican I

December 23, 2011

Back in 2007, James White posted the following quotation from John Chrysostom:

Having said to Peter, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, and of having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession; not long after He says, Get thee behind me, Satan. And elsewhere he said, Upon this rock. He did not say upon Peter for it is not upon the man, but upon his own faith that the church is built. And what is this faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (In pentecosten 52.806.75 – 52.807.1)

(source)

A blogger interested in the Roman communion, going by the handle “The Idler” has posted a response to this quotation.

The Idler writes: “It is a difficult quote for a convert investigating the Catholic Church’s view of the papacy to digest, as it seems upon first glance to outright deny the [Roman] Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19.” (bracketed insertion mine)

It’s not just on first glance.  The quotation specifically denies “upon Peter” as the meaning, but instead insists that the passage refers to his faith.  Vatican I insists that Matthew 16:18 be understood to refer to Peter himself.

The Idler continues: “If we examine what else St. John Chrysostom says in his writings and homilies, we can tell that he does not agree with James White outside of that select passage.”


Before we continue, it’s important to note that there are not just two options “James White” and “Rome.”  Certainly Chrysostom didn’t see it that way (neither James White nor modern Rome was around in his day).  Thus, it is conceivably possible for Chrysostom both to disagree with James White and modern Rome.

The Idler then provides selections from Chrysostom’s Homily 52 on Matthew.  In that homily Chrysostom uses the following flowery description of Peter: “What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir? When all are asked, he answers.”

He goes on to say, later in the homily:

Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as “a brazen pillar, and as a wall;” but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which the Father gave to Peter, or those which the Son gave him? For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to be stronger than heaven. “For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” How then is He less, who hath given such gifts, hath effected such things?


(Chrysostom, Homily 52 on Matthew)


The Idler argues:

It is important to note that surrounding the above words both before and after, Chrysostom makes a reference to the Arians, a heretical movement that denied the divinity of Christ, referring to them as “those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son”, and asks them “how then is He less, who has given such gifts, has effected such things?”.  Therefore, it is no surprise in my mind that Chrysostom speaks of St. Peter’s faith being the rock upon which the Church is built.  Simply put, he is showing that it is the faith in Christ as the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that is of utmost import, and this profession of faith is why Christ placed St. Peter in the position of authority that he did.  In effect, he is countering the Arians with these passages.


There is nothing especially objectionable about this comment from the Idler.


The Idler then continues:

But see how he does not place the idea of the primacy of St. Peter aside, but rather calls him “the mouth of the apostles”, “the leader of the apostlic choir”, the leader of them all, Peter”, and “makes him a shepherd” that is to guide “every part of the world”.  Further on, we see Chrysostom say, “For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world.

Of course, none of this contradicts the point that Chrysostom denies that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16.  It simply affirms that Peter is spokesman for the apostles in this instance, and someone who is to bring the gospel to the whole world.

In effect, Chrysostom is still holding St. Peter as the head of the apostles, but it is confession of faith that makes him this head.

He doesn’t say “head of the apostles.”  But even if he had said that (he does call him the “leader” after all), he can still say that without adopting Rome’s view of Matthew 16:18, and certainly without adopting the papacy as a whole.  Certainly, prior to Paul’s calling, Peter is one of the most prominent apostles.

Moreover, Chrysostom certainly doesn’t suggest that Peter’s confession of faith makes him the head.  We could discuss this in more detail, but Peter’s confession makes him an example and representative of all Christians who make that same confession of faith.  But such a role is not the papacy.

Now, maybe I am blind but I simply do not see Chrysostom as somehow against the [Roman] Catholic notion of the primacy of St. Peter, his being the rock by virtue of his confession, and the like.  Obviously, Protestants will not agree with this, nor will the Eastern Orthodox.  But I cannot help but coming to the conclusion that I do. 

When Chrysostom says “He did not say upon Peter” he’s denying Rome’s current view of Matthew 16:18.  That does not mean that Chrysostom is adopting some other view in which he denies absolutely everything modern Rome says about Peter.  

At the same time the Idler should also be careful about getting too exuberant.  Even if Chrysostom thought that Peter was the chief apostle, or the leader of the apostles, that does not mean, imply, or suggest that Chrysostom thought that there was a perpetual office of “head of the church” to be filled by a mere man, or that the person filling such an office was the bishop of Rome.


As my friend, Pastor David King, wrote on a previous occasion:

Chrysostom was ordained by a bishop who was out of communion with Rome. In fact, for the better part of his ministerial life, Chrysostom was, technically speaking, out of communion with Rome. Therefore, he was ordained (as most Roman Catholics would argue if consistent) by someone outside the communion of Rome, also claiming to be part of the Catholic Church. Chrysostom was baptized (AD 369) and ordained to the diaconate (AD 380) by Meletius who at the time was out of communion with Rome, and Chrysostom was ordained to the priesthood (AD 386) by Flavian, whom Rome refused to recognize as bishop, and had been de facto excommunicated some years before the ordination of Chrysostom. According to the standard of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum, both Meletius and Flavian were “outside the edifice,” “separated from the fold,” and “exiled from the Kingdom” inasmuch as they were not in communion with the Roman pontiff, who acknowledged only Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see.

By receiving baptism and ordination at their hands, Chrysostom was declaring that he recognized them as the proper bishops in succession from and under the jurisdiction of the see of Antioch. While preaching at his tomb, Chrysostom referenced Meletius as a saint, and said of Flavian that he was not only the successor of Peter, but also the rightful heir of Peter to the see of Antioch. Chrysostom could not have been clearer in his repudiation of Paulinus whom Rome had declared to be the bishop of Antioch. (See his Homily II in Migne PG 52:86).

In similar fashion, when contrary to the canons Paulinus consecrated Evagrius to be his successor upon his death in AD 389, Chrysostom actively declined to recognize him as such, and emphatically warned the people of Antioch against joining the body which recognized Evagrius as bishop.

Moreover, Chrysostom makes reference to this in a sermon delivered in AD 395…

Chrysostom:

I speak not of you that are present, but of those who are deserting from us. The act is adultery. And if ye bear not to hear these things of them, neither should ye of us. There must be breach of the law either on the one side or the other. If then thou hast these suspicions concerning me, I am ready to retire from my office, and resign it to whomsoever ye may choose. Only let the Church be one. But if I have been lawfully made and consecrated, entreat those who have contrary to the law mounted the episcopal throne to resign it.

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 11, next to the last paragraph.

It wasn’t until after his consecration in AD 398 to the see of Constantinople by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, that Chrysostom entered into communion with Rome.

Now, most Roman Catholic apologists are not familiar with this information regarding the circumstances of Chrysostom’s baptism and ordinations, but his “orders” as such are denied as proper according to the requirements of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum. I think this alone proves that there were in Chrysostom’s day other groups claiming to be every bit as much “Catholic,” but nonetheless out of communion with Rome.

It also serves to show that Chrysostom’s positive comments about Peter are not evidence of papalism in his views.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

Justification as Declaration of Righteousness

September 30, 2011

Here are some thoughts on Justification from the early church father John Chrysostom, courtesy of the great Reformer Thomas Cranmer and my friend (and fellow heir to the legacy of Chrysostom and Cranmer) David King:

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: Τί ποτέ ἐστιν, Εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην; Οὐκ εἶπεν ἁπλῶς, Ἔδωκα, ἀλλ’, Εὐηγγελισάμην. Τί δήποτε; Ὅτι οὐκ ἀπὸ κατορθωμάτων, οὐδὲ πόνων, οὐδὲ ἀμοιβῆς, ἀλλʼ ἀπὸ χάριτος μόνης τὸ γένος ἐδικαίωσε τὸ ἡμέτερον. Ὅπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται· δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, οὐ διὰ καμάτου τινὸς καὶ πόνου.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Justification by Faith Alone – An Affirmative Rebuttal

July 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The above is pretty self explanatory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is similar to the previous one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– TurretinFan

Chrysostom: Sermon 5 on Lazarus (On 1 Thessalonians 4:13)

March 18, 2011

In reading through On Wealth and Poverty, providing Catharine P. Roth’s translation of six of Chrysostom’s seven sermons on the parable of Lazarus (or in reading through F. Allen’s translation of the first four of those same sermons), one may wish to see the contents of the fifth sermon on the parable of Lazarus. As Roth notes, the sermon moves quickly away from Lazarus. Nevertheless, a translation of the sermon was made (apparently by H. J. Ripley in The Christian Review, December 1847, p. 512ff). This sermon has a variety of uses. It is useful devotionally at times like the present when people are suffering grief over the loss of loved ones. It is also useful from the standpoint of historical theology, in that it helps to demonstrate Chrysostom’s views about Christ’s own death and the afterlife. Whatever uses you may have, dear reader, I hope you will enjoy the following sermon.


We have occupied four days in explaining to you the parable of Lazarus, bringing out the treasure we found in a body that was covered with sores; a treasure, not of gold and silver and precious stones, but of wisdom and fortitude, of patience and endurance. For as in regard to visible treasures, while the surface of the ground shows only thorns and briers and rough earth, yet, let a person dig deep, abundant wealth discloses itself; so it has proved in respect to Lazarus. Outwardly, wounds; but underneath these, unspeakable wealth; a body pined away, but a noble and wakeful spirit. We have also seen an illustration of that remark of the apostle’s—As much as the outward man perishes, so much the inward man is renewed.

It would, indeed, be proper to address you to-day, also, on this same parable, and to enter the lists with those heretics who censure the Old Testament, bringing accusations against the patriarchs, and whetting their tongues against God, the Creator of the universe. But to avoid satiety, and reserving this controversy for another time, let us direct the discourse to another subject; for a table with only one sort of food produces satiety, while variety provokes the appetite. That it may be so in regard to our preaching, let us now, after a long period, turn to the blessed Paul; for very opportunely has a passage from the apostle been read to-day, and the things which are to be spoken concerning it are harmonious with those that have lately been presented. Hear, then, Paul this day proclaiming—I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. The parable of Lazarus is the evangelical chord; this passage is the apostolic note. And there is concord between them; for we have, on that parable, said much concerning the resurrection and the future judgment, and our discourse now recurs to that theme; so that, though it is on apostolic ground we are now toiling, we shall here find the same treasure. For in treating the parable, our aim was to teach the hearers this lesson, that they should regard all the splendors of the present life as nothing, but should look forward in their hopes, and daily reflect on the decisions which will be hereafter pronounced, and on that fearful judgment, and that Judge who cannot be deceived. On these things Paul has counseled us to-day in the passages which have been read to us. Attend, however, to his own words—I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him (1 Thess. 4: 13,14).

We ought here, at the outset, to inquire why, when he is speaking concerning Christ, he employs the word death; but when he is speaking of our decease, he calls it sleep, and not death. For he did not say, Concerning them that are dead: but what did he say? Concerning them that are asleep. And again—Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. He did not say, Them that have died. Still again—We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not go before them that sleep. Here, too, he did not say—Them that are dead; but a third time, bringing the subject to their remembrance, he for the third time called death a sleep. Concerning Christ, however, he did not speak thus: but how? For if we believe that Jesus died. He did not say. Jesus slept, but he died. Why now did he use the term death in reference to Christ, but in reference to us the term sleep? For it was not casually, or negligently, that he employed this expression, but he had a wise and great purpose in so doing. In speaking of Christ, he said death, so as to confirm the fact that Christ had actually suffered death; in speaking of us, he said sleep, in order to impart consolation. For where a resurrection had already taken place, he mentions death with plainness: but where the resurrection is still a matter of hope, he says sleep, consoling us by this very expression, and cherishing our valuable hopes. For he who is only asleep, will surely awake; and death is no more than a long sleep.

Say not, a dead man hears not, nor speaks, nor sees, nor is conscious. It is just so with a sleeping person. If I may speak somewhat paradoxically, even the soul of a sleeping person is in some sort asleep; but not so the soul of a dead man; that is awake.

But you say, a dead man experiences corruption, and becomes dust and ashes. And what then, beloved hearers? For this very reason, we ought to rejoice. For when a man is about to rebuild an old and tottering house, he first sends out its occupants, then tears it down and rebuilds anew a more splendid one. This occasions no grief to the occupants, but rather joy; for they do not think of the demolition which they see. but of the house which is to come, though not yet seen. When God is about to do a similar work, he destroys our body, and removes the soul which was dwelling in it as from some house, that he may build it anew and more splendidly, and again bring the soul into it with greater glory. Let us not, therefore, regard the tearing down, but the splendor which is to succeed.

If, again, a man has a statue decayed by rust and age, and mutilated in many of its parts, he breaks it up and casts it into a furnace, and after the melting he receives it again in a more beautiful form. As then the dissolving in the furnace was not a destruction but a renewing of that statue, so the death of our bodies is not a destruction, but a renovation. When, therefore, you see as in a furnace our flesh flowing away to corruption, dwell not on that sight, but wait for the recasting. And be not satisfied with the extent of this illustration, but advance in your thoughts to a still higher point; for the statuary, casting into the furnace a brazen image, does not furnish you in its place a golden and undecaying statue, but again makes a brazen one. God does not thus; but casting in a mortal body formed of clay, he returns to you a golden and immortal statue; for the earth, receiving a corruptible and decaying body, gives back the same, incorruptible and undecaying. Look not, therefore, on the corpse, lying with closed eyes and speechless lips, but on the man that is risen, that has received glory unspeakable and amazing, and direct your thoughts from the present sight to the future hope.

But do you miss his society, and therefore lament and mourn? Now is it not unreasonable, that, if you should have given your daughter in marriage, and her husband should take her to a distant country and should there enjoy prosperity, you would not think the circumstance a calamity, but the intelligence of their prosperity would console the sorrow occasioned by her absence; and yet here, while it is not a man, nor a fellow servant, but the Lord himself who has taken your relative, that you should grieve and lament?

And how is it possible, you ask, not to grieve, since I am only a man? Nor do I say that you should not grieve: I do not condemn dejection, but the intensity of it. To be dejected is natural; but to be overcome by dejection is madness, and folly, and unmanly weakness. You may grieve and weep; but give not way to despondency, nor indulge in complaints. Give thanks to God, who has taken your friend, that you have the opportunity of honoring the departed one and of dismissing him with becoming obsequies. If you sink under depression, you withhold honor from the departed, you displease God who has taken him, and you injure yourself; but if you are grateful, you pay respect to him, you glorify God, and you benefit yourself. Weep, as wept your Master over Lazarus, observing the just limits of sorrow, which it is not proper to pass. Thus also said Paul—I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not as others who have no hope. Grieve, says he; but not as the Greek, who has no hope of a resurrection, who despairs of a future life.

Believe me, I am ashamed and blush to see unbecoming groups of women pass along the mart, tearing their hair, cutting their arms and cheeks—and all this under the eyes of the Greeks. For what will they not say? What will they not utter concerning us? Are these the men who philosophize about a resurrection? Indeed! How poorly their actions agree with their opinions! In words, they philosophize about a resurrection; but they act just like those who do not acknowledge a resurrection. If they fully believed in a resurrection, they would not act thus; if they had really persuaded themselves that a deceased friend had departed to a better state, they would not thus mourn. These things, and more than these, the unbelievers say when they hear those lamentations. Let us then be ashamed, and be more moderate, and not occasion so much harm to ourselves and to those who are looking on us.

For on what account, tell me, do you thus weep for one departed? Because he was a bad man? You ought on that very account to be thankful, since the occasions of wickedness are now cut off. Because he was good and kind? If so, you ought to rejoice; since he has been soon removed, before wickedness had corrupted him; and he has gone away to a world where he stands ever secure, and there is no room even to mistrust a change. Because he was a youth? For that, too, praise Him that has taken him, because he has speedily called him to a better lot. Because he was an aged man? On this account, also, give thanks and glorify Him that has taken him. Be ashamed of your manner of burial. The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the [spiritual] fathers and brethren—all this is not that you may weep and lament and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office, multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honor, those of the pious who have departed. Death is rest, a deliverance from the exhausting labors and cares of this world. When, then, thou seest a relative departing, yield not to despondency; give thyself to reflection; examine thy conscience; cherish the thought that after a little while this end awaits thee also. Be more considerate; let another’s death excite thee to salutary fear; shake off all indolence; examine your past deeds; quit your sins, and commence a happy change.

We differ from unbelievers in our estimate of things. The unbeliever surveys the heaven and worships it, because he thinks it a divinity; he looks to the earth and makes himself a servant to it, and longs for the things of sense. But not so with us. We survey the heaven, and admire him that made it; for we believe it not to be a god, but a work of God. I look on the whole creation, and am led by it to the Creator. He looks on wealth, and longs for it with earnest desire; I look on wealth, and contemn it. He sees poverty, and laments; I see poverty, and rejoice. I see things in one light; he in another. Just so in regard to death. He sees a corpse, and thinks of it as a corpse; I see a corpse, and behold sleep rather than death. And as in regard to books, both learned persons and unlearned see them with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding—for to the unlearned the mere shapes of letters appear, while the learned discover the sense that lies within those letters— so in respect to affairs in general, we all see what takes place with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding and judgment. Since, therefore, in all other things we differ from them, shall we agree with them in our sentiments respecting death?

Consider to whom the departed has gone, and take comfort. He has gone where Paul is, and Peter, and the whole company of the saints. Consider how he shall arise, with what glory and splendor. Consider, that by mourning and lamenting thou canst not alter the event which has occurred, and that thou wilt in the end injure thyself. Consider whom you imitate by so doing, and shun this companionship in sin. For whom do you imitate and emulate? The unbelieving, those who have no hope; as Paul has said—That ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. And observe how carefully he expresses himself; for he does not say, Those who have not the hope of a resurrection, but simply, Those who have no hope. He that has no hope of a future retribution, has no hope at all, nor does he know that there is a God, nor that God exercises a providential care over present occurrences, nor that divine justice looks on all things. But he that is thus ignorant and inconsiderate is more unwise than a beast, and separates his soul from all good; for he that does not expect to render an account of his deeds, cuts himself loose from all virtue, and attaches himself to all vice. Considering these things, therefore, and reflecting on the folly and stupidity of the heathen, whose associates we become by our lamentations for the dead, let us avoid this conformity to them. For the apostle mentions them for this very purpose, that by considering the dishonor into which thou fallest, thou mightest recover thyself from this conformity, and return to thy proper dignity.

And not only here, but every where and frequently, the blessed Paul does the same. For when he would dissuade from sins, he shows with whom we become associated by our sins, that, being touched by the character of the persons, thou shouldest avoid such companionship. To the Thessalonians, accordingly, he says—Let every one keep his own body in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles who know not God. And again—Walk not as the other Gentiles in the vanity of their mind. Thus also here—1 would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope. For it is not the nature of things, but our own disposition, which makes us grieve; not the death of the departed, but the weakness of those who mourn. No present objects, then, should be able to afflict a believer; but even before he reaches the future good, even in the present life, he differs from unbelievers, receiving no small benefit from the Christian philosophy, but deriving therefrom the greatest encouragement and perpetual joy. Hence Paul says—Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Thus even before the resurrection, we receive this no small recompense of our faith, that we are not cast down by any terrible events, but from the hope of future good we receive abundant consolation. As, then, we are gainers on every hand, so the unbeliever is a loser on every hand, being punished at last on account of disbelieving the resurrection, and being dejected by present occurrences on account of his not expecting any good hereafter.

We ought, therefore, to thank God not only for the resurrection, but also for the hope of it; which can comfort the afflicted soul, and bid us be of good cheer concerning the departed, for they will again rise and be with us. If we must have anguish, we should mourn and lament over those who are living in sin, not over those who have died righteously. Thus did Paul; for he says to the Corinthians—Lest when I come to you God shall humble me among you and I shall bewail many. He was not speaking of those, who had died, but of those who had sinned and had not repented of the lasciviousness and uncleanness which they had committed; over these it was proper to mourn. So likewise another writer admonishes, saying—Weep over the dead, for the light has failed; and weep over the fool, for understanding has failed (Ecclesiastes. 22:10). Weep a little for the dead; for he has gone to his rest; but the fool’s life is a greater calamity than death. And surely if one devoid of understanding is always a proper object of lamentation, much more he that is devoid of righteousness and that has fallen from hope towards God. These, then, let us bewail; for such bewailing may be useful. For often while lamenting these, “we amend our own faults; but to bewail the departed is senseless and hurtful. Let us not, then, reverse the order, but bewail only sin; and all other things, whether poverty, or sickness, or untimely death, or calumny, or false accusation, or whatever human evil befalls us, let us resolutely bear them all. For these calamities, if we are watchful, will be the occasions of adding to our crowns.
But how is it possible, you ask, that a bereaved person, being a man, should not grieve? On the contrary, I ask, how is it that being a man he should grieve, since he is honored with reason and with hopes of future good? Who is there, you ask again, that has not been subdued by this weakness? Many, I reply, and in many places, both among us and among those who have died before us. Job, for instance; the whole circle of his children being taken away, hear what he says;—The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so it has come to pass. A wonderful instance, even when barely heard; but if you examine it closely, your wonder will greatly increase.

For consider; Satan did not take merely half and leave half, or take the larger number and leave the rest; but he gathered all the fruit, and yet did not prevail to uproot the tree; he covered the whole sea with waves, and yet did not overwhelm the barque; he despoiled the tower of its strength, and yet could not batter it down. Job stood firm, though assailed from every quarter; showers of arrows fell, but they did not wound him. Consider how great a thing it was, to see so many children perish. Was it not enough to pierce him to the quick, that they should all be snatched away? all together and in one day? in the flower of life? having shown so much virtue? expiring as by a stroke of vengeance? that after so many sorrows this last should be inflicted? that the father was fond of them, and that the deceased were worthy of his affection ? When one loses vicious children, he does indeed suffer grief, but yet not intense grief; for the wickedness of the departed does not allow the sorrow to be poignant. But when they are virtuous, an abiding wound is inflicted, the remembrance is indelible, the calamity is inconsolable; there is a double sting, from nature, and from the virtuous character of the departed.

That Job’s children were virtuous, appears from the fact that their father was particularly solicitous in regard to them, and rising up offered sacrifices in their behalf, fearing lest they might have committed secret sins; and nothing was more important in his esteem than this. Not only the virtue of the children is thus shown, but also the affectionate spirit of the father. Since, therefore, the father was so affectionate, showing not only a love for them which proceeded from nature, but that also which came from their piety, and since the departed were thus virtuous, the anguish had a threefold intensity. Still further; when children are torn away separately, the suffering has some consolation ; for those that are left alleviate the sorrow over the departed; but when the whole circle is gone, to what one of all his numerous children can the childless man now look?

Besides these causes of sorrow, there was a fifth stroke. What was that? That they were all snatched away at once. For if in the case of those who die after three or five days’ sickness, the women and all the relatives bewail this most of all, that the deceased was taken away from their sight speedily and suddenly, much more might he have been distressed, when thus deprived of all, not in three days, or two, or one, but in one hour! For a calamity long thought of, even if it be hard to bear, may easily become light through anticipation: but that which happens contrary to expectation and suddenly is intolerable.

Would you hear of a sixth stroke? He lost them all in the very flower of their age. You know how very piercing are untimely deaths, and productive of very diversified grief. The instance we are contemplating was not only untimely, but also violent; so that here was a seventh stroke. For their father did not see them expire on a bed, but they were all overwhelmed by the falling habitation. Consider then: a man was digging in that pile of ruins, and now he drew up a stone, and now a limb of a deceased one; he saw a hand still holding a cup, and another right hand placed on a table, and the mutilated form of a body, the nose torn away, the head crushed, the eyes put out, the brain scattered, the whole frame marred, and the variety of wounds not permitting the father to recognize the beloved countenances. You. suffer emotions and shed tears at merely hearing of these things ; what must he have endured at the sight of them 1 For if we, so long after the event, cannot bear to hear of this tragedy, though it was another man’s calamity, what an adamant was he to look on these things, and contemplate them, not as another’s, but his own afflictions! He did not give way to dejection, nor ask, “What does this mean? Is this the recompense of my kindness? Was it for this that I opened my house, that I might see it made the grave of my children? Did I for this exhibit every parental virtue, that they should endure such a death?” No such things did he speak, or even think; but steadily bore all, though bereaved of them after bestowing on them so much care. For as an accomplished statuary framing golden images, adorns them with great care, so he sought properly to mould and adorn their souls. And as a husbandman assiduously waters his palm trees, or olives, enclosing them and cultivating them in every suitable way; so he perpetually sought to enrich each one’s soul, as a fruitful olive, with increasing virtue. But he saw the trees overthrown by the assault of the evil spirit, and exposed on the earth, and enduring that miserable kind of death; yet he uttered no reviling word, but rather blessed God, thus giving a deadly blow to the devil.

Should you say that Job had many sons, but that others have frequently lost their only sons, and that his cause of sorrow was not equal to theirs; you say well; but I reply, that Job’s cause of sorrow was not only equal, but far greater. For of what advantage was it to him that he had many children? It was a severer calamity and a more bitter grief to receive the wound in many bodies.

Still, if you wish to see another holy man having an only son, and showing the same and even greater fortitude, call to mind the patriarch Abraham, who did not indeed see Isaac die, but, what was much more painful, was himself commanded to slay him, and did not question the command, nor repine at it, nor say, “Is it for this thou hast made me a father, that thou shouldst make me the slayer of my son? Better it would have been not to give him at all, than having given him thus to take him away. And if thou choosest to take him, why dost thou command me to slay him and to pollute my right hand? Didst thou not promise me that from this son thou wouldst fill the earth with my descendants? How wilt thou give the fruits, then, if thou pluck up the root? How dost thou promise me a posterity, and yet order me to slay my son? Who ever saw such things, or heard of the like? I am deceived; I have been deluded.” No such thing did he say, or even think; he said nothing against the command, he did not ask the reasons; but hearing the word—Take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and carry him up to one of the mountains which I shall show thee, he complied so readily as even to do more than was commanded. For he concealed the matter from his wife, and he left the servants at the foot of the mount in ignorance of what was to be done, and ascended taking only the victim. Thus not unwillingly, but with promptness, he obeyed the command. Think now what it was, to be conversing alone with his son, apart from all others, when the affections are the more fervently excited, and attachment becomes stronger; and this not for one, or two, but for several, days. To obey the command speedily, would have been wonderful; but not so wonderful as, while his heart was burdened and agitated for many days, to avoid indulging in human tenderness toward his son. On this account God appointed for him a more extended arena, and a longer racecourse, that thou mightest the more carefully observe this combatant. A combatant he was indeed, contending not against a man, but against the force of nature. What language can describe his fortitude? He brought forward his son, bound him, placed him on the wood, seized the sacrificing knife, was just on the point of inflicting the stroke. In what manner to express myself properly, I know not; he only would know, who did these things. For no language can describe how it happened that his hand did not become torpid, that the strength of his nerves did not relax, that the affecting sight of his son did not overpower him.

It is proper here, too, to admire Isaac. For as the one obeyed God, so did the other obey his father; and as the one, at God’s bidding him to sacrifice, did not demand an account of the matter, so the other, when his father was binding him and leading him to the altar, did not say, “Why art thou doing this?”—but surrendered himself to his father’s hand. And then was to be seen a man uniting in his own person the father and the sacrificing priest; and a sacrifice offered without blood, a whole burnt-offering without fire, an altar presenting a type of death and the resurrection. For he both sacrificed his son and he did not sacrifice him. He did not sacrifice him with his hand, but in his purpose. For God gave the command, not through desire to see the flowing of blood, but to give you a specimen of steady purpose, to make known throughout the world this worthy man and to instruct all in coming time, that it is necessary to prefer the command of God before children and nature, before all things, and even life itself. And so Abraham descended from the mount, bringing alive the martyr Isaac. How can we be pardoned, then, tell me, or what apology can we have, if we see that noble man obeying God with so much promptness and submitting to him in all things, and yet we murmur at his dispensations? Tell me not of grief, nor of the intolerable nature of your calamity; rather consider, how in the midst of bitter sorrow you may yet rise superior to it. That which was commanded to Abraham was enough to stagger his reason, to throw him into perplexity, and to undermine his faith in the past. For who would not have then thought, that the promise which had been made him of a numerous posterity was all a deception? But not so Abraham. And not less ought we to admire Job’s wisdom in calamity; and particularly, that after so much virtue, after his alms and various acts of kindness to men, and though aware of no wrong either in himself or his children, yet experiencing so much affliction, affliction so singular, such as had never happened even to the most desperately wicked, still he was not affected by it as most men would have been, nor did he regard his virtue as profitless, nor form any ill-advised opinion concerning the past.

By these two examples, then, we ought not only to admire virtue, but to emulate and imitate it. And let no one say, these were wonderful men. True, they were wonderful and great men. But we are now required to have more wisdom than they, and than all who lived under the Old Testament. For except your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Gathering wisdom, then from all quarters, and considering what we are told concerning a resurrection and concerning these holy men, let us frequently recite it to our souls, not only when we are actually in sorrow, but also while we are free from distress. For I have now addressed you on this subject, though no one is in particular affliction, that when we shall fall into any such calamity, we may, from the remembrance of what has been said, obtain requisite consolation. As soldiers, even in peace, perform warlike exercises, so that when actually called to battle and the occasion makes a demand for skill, they may avail themselves of the art which they have cultivated in peace; so let us, in time of peace, furnish ourselves with weapons and remedies, that whenever there shall burst on us a war of unreasonable passions, or grief, or pain, or any such thing, we may, well armed and secure on all sides, repel the assaults of the evil one with all skill, and wall ourselves around with right contemplations, with the declarations of God, with the examples of good men, and with every possible defense. For so shall we be able to pass the present life with happiness, and to attain to the kingdom of heaven, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Fifth Century Fathers (Guest Series) (Bonus: Two Early Roman Bishops)

December 18, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

This series first defined the nature of formal sufficiency (i.e. the Reformed view) in an introduction section (link) and then demonstrated Scripture’s own testimony to its sufficiency (link). Although that discussion was enough, we have continued by showing that there is evidence (sometimes more clear, sometimes less clear) of the Reformed view throughout the writings of the fathers, starting from the earliest Christian writers (link), and then continuing with the fathers of the 3rd century (link) and fourth century (link). This section will be the final section on the fathers views, although of course our forerunners in the faith did not stop speaking of the sufficiency of Scripture in the fifth century.

We will start this section in Greece on the island of Salamis, with Epiphanius.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):

For God is come, and the divine Scriptures explain all things to us clearly; for there is nothing in them difficult or obscure.

Greek text: Ὁ θεὸς γὰρ ἦλθε, καὶ εἰς πάντα ἡμῖν σαφηνίζουσιν αἱ θεῖαι γραφαί. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐν αὐταῖς ἐστὶ σκολιὸν ἢ στραγγαλιῶδες.

Ancoratus, §41, PG 43:89; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 253.

We might even say that Epiphanius is overselling things here, but if we limit what he says to the most important things – the things necessary for salvation – we can agree with what he is saying.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):

And lest it be thought that [there is] some error in the Gospels—for the mystery is awesome and beyond human telling, and only to the Holy Spirit’s children is the statement of it plain and clear.
Greek text: Καὶ ἵνα μή τις νομίσῃ ὅτι πλάνη τις ἐστὶν ἐν τοῖς εὐαγγελίοις• ἔκπληκτον γὰρ τὸ μυστήριον καὶ ἡ διήγησις ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον• μόνοις δὲ τοῖς υἱοῖς τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστι πᾶσα λεία τε καὶ πεφωτισμένη.

Adversus Haereses, Liber II, Tom. I, LI, §11, PG 41:908B; Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 51. Against the sect which does not accept the Gospel according to John, and his Revelation, 11,2 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 36.

This statement is similar to his previous statement, but it recognizes the role of the Holy Spirit in making the sense of the gospels plain and clear.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):

And thus it is fully demonstrated that there is no obscurity or contradiction in the holy Gospels or between the evangelists, but that everything is plain. Greek text: Ὥστε ἐξ ἅπαντος (or ἐξάπαντος) δείκνυσθαι ὅτι οὐδεμία σκολιότης οὐδ’ ἐναντιότης ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις εὐαγγελίοις οὐδὲ παρὰ τοῖς εὐαγγελισταῖς εὑρίσκεται, ἀλλὰ πάντα σαφῆ.

Adversus Haereses, Liber II, Tom. I, LI, §15, PG 41:917D; Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 51. Against the sect which does not accept the Gospel according to John, and his Revelation, 15,14 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 41.

This comment from Epiphanius seems to combine the first two. There are no contradictions – instead the gospels are plain.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):

Everything in the sacred scripture is clear, to those who will approach God’s word with pious reason, and not harbor the devil’s work within them and turn their steps to the pits of death—as this unfortunate man and his converts have attacked the truth more vigorously than any who have become blasphemers of God and his faith before them.

Greek text: Πάντα γὰρ σαφῆ ἐν τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ τοῖς βουλομένοις εὐσεβεῖ λογισμῷ προσέρχεσθαι τῷ θείῳ λόγῳ καὶ μὴ διαβολικὴν ἐνέργειαν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἐγκισσήσαντας ἑαυτοὺς καταστρέφειν εἰς τὰ βάραθρα τοῦ θανάτου, ὡς οὗτος ὁ ἐλεεινὸς καὶ οἱ αὐτῷ πεισθέντες ἄνθρωποι κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐστρατεύσαντο ὑπὲρ πάντας τοὺς πρὸ αὐτῶν γεγονότας βλασφήμους εἰς θεὸν καὶ τὴν αὐτοῦ πίστιν.

Adversus Haereses, Liber III, Tom. I, LXXVI, §7, PG 42:528C; Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 76. Against Anomoeans, 7,7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 504.

The preceding quotation emphasizes the source of confusion about Scripture: human error and a corrupt heart. It is not that the Scriptures are not clear, but that people do not wish to understand them.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403):

And everything in the sacred scripture and the holy faith is crystal clear to us, and nothing is tortuous, contradictory or knotty.

Greek text: Καὶ πάντα ἡμῖν φωτεινὰ τὰ τῆς θείας Γραφῆς καὶ τὰ τῆς ἁγίας πίστεως, καὶ οὐδὲν σκολιὸν ἢ ἐναντίον ἢ στραγγαλιῶδες.

Adversus Haereses, Liber III, Tom. I, LXXVI, §45, PG 42:612-613; Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) Section VI, 76. Against Anomoeans – 45,7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 552.

From Salamis in Greece, we can head East to Constantinople, where we find one of the most esteemed ancient preachers affirming the same thing Epiphanius has just told us about, but with even greater eloquence.

John Chrysostom tells us that had God not exercised “great considerateness” in giving us the Scripture and the direction it offers in interpreting itself, we would not be able to grasp what it says.

Chrysostom (349-407):

What is the meaning of that verse, “On the seventh day he rested from all the works he had done”? Notice how Sacred Scripture narrates everything in human fashion even out of considerateness to us. I mean, it would not have been possible for us in any other way to understand anything of what was said had not such considerateness been thought fitting.

FC, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, Homily 10.16 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 138.

This concept of accommodating human weakness is a concept that shows the formal sufficiency of Scripture, since it shows that Scripture is in the form necessary for us to understand what Scripture is saying.

Chrysostom (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.

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

Notice that in the preceding quotation Chrysostom is affirming not only Scripture condescension to us, but also the fact that Scripture is its own interpreter. It’s both barrels of the formal sufficiency shotgun.

Chrysostom (349-407):

See the extent of the considerateness Sacred Scripture employs here too, describing everything in a human manner: it is not that there are sluice gates in heaven, but rather that it describes everything in terms customary with us, as if to say that the Lord simply gave a direction and immediately the waters obeyed their Creator’s command, fell out of the heavens on all sides and inundated the whole world.

FC, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, Homily 25.10 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), pp. 131-132.

This is similar to the previous examples, in that Chrysostom is pointing out that the language of Scripture is adapted to people, so that they may readily understand it.

Chrysostom (349-407):

See the marvellous considerateness of the expressions of Sacred Scripture: “God went up away from him.” It says, not for us to think that divinity is limited by place, but for us to learn from this as well his ineffable love, in that the grace of the Spirit recounts everything in this manner, by showing considerateness for our human limitations. You see, the notion of going up and going down is not appropriate to God, but, since it is a particular mark of his ineffable love to apply the concreteness of such words for the sake of our instruction, accordingly Scripture employs human expressions for the reason that in no other fashion could human hearing accommodate itself to the sublimity of the message had it spoken to us in a manner befitting the Lord’s dignity.

FC, Vol. 87, Homilies on Genesis 46-67, Homily 60.6 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), p. 179.

This preceding quotation is much like the others, and consequently just serves to show that Chrysostom made a theme of the matter.

Chrysostom made repeated use of the word precision (akribeia, ἀκρίβεια) in connection with Holy Scripture. One of Chrysostom’s favorite phrases was “the precision of Sacred Scripture.” For Chrysostom, precision is a distinctive feature of the biblical text. See, for example, FC, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 18.3, 9, 20; 20.5; 21.8, 11; 22.5, 6; 23.4, 8; 24.5; 25.10, 20; 26.15; 27.16, 17, 23; 29.22; 30.4; 31.18; 33.4; 35.4, 8, 9; 36.12; 38.6; 39.11; 43.3 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), in which we find this phrase or its equivalent some 28 times: pp. 4, 9, 15, 38, 56, 59, 71, 90, 93, 107, 131, 139, 155, 173, 174, 179, 213, 222, 249, 278, 306, 309, 310, 334, 359, 381-382, 437; See also Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, Homily 7.9-10, 13.5, 13, 15.11 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), pp. 96, 171, 175, 200; FC, Vol. 87, Homilies on Genesis 46-67, Homilies 49.3, 55..5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), pp. 43, 109; and Robert Charles Hill, St. John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), Vol. 1, pp. 80, 132, 158, 282, 304-305, 343, e.g., “See the wisdom of the inspired author, who speaks of everything with precision,” and “Note the inspired author’s precision.” In short, this principle of ἀκρίβεια is a feature of Holy Scripture to which Chrysostom repeatedly alludes and uses throughout his writings to describe the sacred text.

Chrysostom (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. On the other hand, since the majority of listeners apply their ears to the narrative, not for the sake of gaining some profit but for enjoyment, they are at pains to take note of things able to bring enjoyment rather than those that bring profit. So, I beg you, block your ears against all distractions of that kind, and let us follow the norm of Sacred Scripture.

Greek text: Εἰ γὰρ καὶ τοσαύτῇ χρσαμένης ἀκριβείᾳ τῆς θείας Γραφῆς, οὐ παρῃτήσαντό τινες τῶν ἐπὶ εὐγλωττίᾳ μεγαλοφρονούντων, καὶ τῇ σοφίᾳ τῇ ἔξωθεν, ἀπεναντίας τοῖς γεγραμμένοις φθέγγεσθαι, καὶ εἰπεῖν, μὴ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἶναι τὸν παράδεισον, καὶ πολλὰ ἕτερα τῶν εἰρημένων παρεγγυῶντες, μὴ ὡς γέγραπται φρονεῖν, ἀλλʼ ἀπεναντίας ἔρχεσθαι, καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰρημένα περὶ τῶν ἐν οὐρανοῖς νομίζειν εἰρῆσθαι• εἰ μὴ τῇ ταπεινότητι τούτων τῶν λόγων, καὶ τῇ συγκαταβάσει ὁ μακάριος Μωϋσῆς ἐχρήσατο, τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος τὴν γλῶτταν αὐτοῦ κινοῦντος, ποῦ οὐκ ἂν ἐξεκυλίσθησαν, καίτοι γε τῆς ἁγίας Γραφῆς, ἐπειδὰν βούληταί τι τοιοῦτον ἡμᾶς διδάσκειν, ἑαυτὴν ἑρμηνευούσης, καὶ οὐκ ἀφιείσης πλανᾶσθαι τὸν ἀκροατήν; Ἀλλʼ ἐπειδὴ οἱ πολλοὶ οὐ διὰ τὸ καρπώσασθαί τι κέρδος ἐκ τῶν θείων Γραφῶν, ἀλλὰ τέρψεως ἕνεκεν τὰς ἀκοὰς ὑπέχουσι τοῖς τὰ παριστάμενα λέγοισι• διὰ τοῦτο οὐ τοῖς ὠφελοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τέρπειν μᾶλλον δυναμένοις προσέχειν σπουδάζουσι. Διὸ παρακαλῶ, πᾶσι τοῖς τοιούτοις τὰς ἀκοὰς ἀποτειχίσαντες, τῷ κανόνι τῆς ἁγίας Γραφῆς κατακολουθήσωμεν.

Homiliae in Genesim, Caput II, Homilia XIII, §3, PG 53:108; FC, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, Homily 13.13 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 175.

The quotation above combines all the preceding themes. It mentions the precision of Scripture, it talks about its accommodation to the reader, it talks about its self-interpretative character, and it treats Scripture as teacher.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Consider, I ask you, dearly beloved, the precision of Sacred Scripture in narrating everything clearly to us, instructing us in the customs of the ancients and the extent of the ardor that marked their hospitality.

FC, Vol. 87, Homilies on Genesis 46-67, Homily 55.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), p. 109.

The preceding quotation combines precision, clarity, and the magisterial aspect of Scripture.

Moreover, Chrysostom encourages us not to wait for others to teach us, and that no man teaches us as they do.

Chrysostom (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.

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

There could hardly be a stronger affirmation of both the necessity and magisterial power of Scriptures in a single quotation.

Chrysostom also tells us that the necessary things in Scripture are all plain:

Chrysostom (349-407):

Tell me then, I beseech you, if now, when we are all present some one entered, having a golden girdle, and drawing himself up, and with an air of consequence said that he was sent by the king that is on the earth, and that he brought letters to the whole city concerning matters of importance; would you not then be all turned towards him? Would you not, without any command from a deacon, observe a profound silence? Truly I think so. For I have often heard letters from kings read here. Then if any one comes from a king, you all attend; and does a Prophet come from God, and speak from heaven, and no one attend? Or do you not believe that these things are messages from God? These are letters sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the Churches, and let us hearken with fear to the things here said.

What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain (πάντα σαφῆ καὶ εὐθέα τὰ παρὰ ταῖς θείαις Γραφαῖς, πάντα τὰ ἀναγκαῖα δῆλα[PG 62:485]). But because ye are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words. Every day, you say, one hears the same things. Tell me, then, do you not hear the same things in the theaters? Do you not see the same things in the race-course? Are not all things the same? Is it not always the same sun that rises? Is it not the same food that we use? I should like to ask you, since you say that you every day hear the same things; tell me, from what Prophet was the passage that was read? from what Apostle, or what Epistle? But you cannot tell me—you seem to hear strange things. When therefore you wish to be slothful, you say that they are the same things. But when you are questioned, you are in the case of one who never heard them. If they are the same, you ought to know them. But you are ignorant of them.

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, Homily III, Comments on 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10.

Notice that in the preceding quotation, Chrysostom says that the necessary things in Scripture are all plain. This is essentially word for word the position that we take. Notice as well that Chrysostom specifically addresses the issue of the need for a preacher. It’s not an absolute, but a relative, necessity. It is necessary because the people are lazy, not because the Scriptures are not clear.

Moreover, Chrysostom tells us that the Evangelist John, in his gospel, taught doctrines that are clear and which “have been unfolded to all men throughout the world.”

Chrysostom (349-407):

For this reason too, he did not hide his teaching in mist and darkness, as they did who threw obscurity of speech, like a kind of veil, around the mischiefs laid up within. But this man’s doctrines are clearer than the sunbeams, wherefore they have been unfolded to all men throughout the world. For he did not teach as Pythagoras did, commanding those who came to him to be silent for five years, or to sit like senseless stones; neither did he invent fables defining the universe to consist of numbers; but casting away all this devilish trash and mischief, he diffused such simplicity through his words, that all he said was plain, not only to wise men, but also to women and youths. For he was persuaded that the words were true and profitable to all that should hearken to them. And all time after him is his witness; since he has drawn to him all the world, and has freed our life when we have listened to these words from all monstrous display of wisdom; wherefore we who hear them would prefer rather to give up our lives, than the doctrines by him delivered to.

NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Homily 2.5.

Notice the comparison of the teachings of Scripture to light, as we previously discussed. The Scriptures are, indeed, an illumination to us.

Chrysostom (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.

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

Notice how Chrysostom affirms that the poor can, simply by diligently reading the Scriptures, come to a complete understanding of the Scriptures. This shows that the Scriptures are formally sufficient. If they were not, no amount of reading would lead one to a full knowledge of them.

In regard to the following discourse of Chrysostom, our theological opponents have claimed that Chrysostom spoke of the “material,” not the “formal” sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We contend that this is an expression that cannot be maintained in the face of the explicit language of Chrysostom, particularly since Chrysostom’s view of formal sufficiency is so clear in the preceding quotations.

Chrysostom (349-407):

2. Many other such things there are that beset our soul; and we have need of the divine remedies that we may heal wounds inflicted, and ward off those which, though not inflicted, would else be received in time to come—thus quenching afar off the darts of Satan, and shielding ourselves by the constant reading of the Divine Scriptures. It is not possible—I say, it is not possible, for any one to be secure without constant supplies of this spiritual instruction (translator’s note, “Or without constantly making use of spiritual reading”). Indeed, we may congratulate ourselves (i.e. one ought to be content), if, constantly using this remedy, we ever are able to attain salvation. But when, though each day receiving wounds, we make use of no remedies, what hope can there be of salvation?

Do you not notice that workmen in brass, or goldsmiths, or silversmiths, or those who engage in any art whatsoever, preserve carefully all the instruments of their art; and if hunger come, or poverty afflict them, they prefer to endure anything rather than sell for their maintenance any of the tools which they use. It is frequently the case that many thus choose rather to borrow money to maintain their house and family, than part with the least of the instruments of their art. This they do for the best reasons; for they know that when those are sold, all their skill is rendered of no avail, and the entire groundwork of their gain is gone. If those are left, they may be able, by persevering in the exercise of their skill, in time to pay off their debts; but if they, in the meantime, allow the tools to go to others, there is, for the future, no means by which they can contrive any alleviation of their poverty and hunger. We also ought to judge in the same way. As the instruments of their art are the hammer and anvil and pincers, so the instruments of our work are the apostolic and prophetic books, and all the inspired and profitable Scriptures. And as they, by their instruments, shape all the articles they take in hand, so also do we, by our instruments, arm our mind, and strengthen it when relaxed, and renew it when out of condition. Again, artists display their skill in beautiful forms, being unable to change the material of their productions, or to transmute silver into gold, but only to make their figures symmetrical. But it is not so with thee, for thou hast a power beyond theirs—receiving a vessel of wood, thou canst make it gold. And to this St. Paul testifies, speaking thus: “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and earth. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,” (2 Tim. ii. 20, 21). Let us then not neglect the possession of the sacred books. For gold, whenever it becomes abundant, causes trouble to its possessors; but these books, when carefully preserved, afford great benefit to those who possess them. As also where royal arms are stored, though no one should use them, they afford great security to those who dwell there; since neither thieves nor burglars, nor any other evil-doers, dare attack that place. In the same way, where the inspired books are, from thence all satanical influence is banished, and the great consolation of right principles comes to those who live there; yea, even the very sight of these books by itself makes us slower to commit iniquity. Even if we attempt any forbidden thing, and make ourselves unclean, when we return home and see these books, our conscience accuses us more keenly, and we become less likely to fall again into the same sins. Again, if we have been stedfast in our integrity, we gain more benefit, (if we are acquainted with the word;) for as soon as one comes to the gospel, he by a mere look both rectifies his understanding and ceases from all worldly cares. And if careful reading also follows, the soul, as if initiated in sacred mysteries, is thus purified and made better, while holding converse with God through the Scriptures.

But what,” say they, “if we do not understand the things we read?” Even if you do not understand the contents, your sanctification in a high degree results from it. However, it is impossible that all these things should alike be misunderstood; for it was for this reason that the grace of the Holy Spirit ordained that tax-gatherers, and fishermen, and tent-makers, and shepherds, and goatherds, and uninstructed and illiterate men, should compose these books, that no untaught man should be able to make this pretext; in order that the things delivered should be easily comprehended by all—in order that the handicraftsman, the domestic, the widow, yea, the most unlearned of all men, should profit and be benefited by the reading. For it is not for vain-glory, as men of the world, but for the salvation of the hearers, that they composed these writings, who, from the beginning, were endued with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. For those without—philosophers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown—if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud. But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, “All shall be taught of God,” (Isa. liv.13). “And they shall no more say, every one to his neighbor, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest,” (Jer. xxxi. 34). St. Paul also says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God,” ( 1 Cor. ii. 1). And again, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. ii. 4). And again, “We speak wisdom,” it is said, “but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought,” (1 Cor. ii. 6). For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, “Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart,” and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?
But (it is asked) are the parts containing the signs and wonders and histories also clear and plain to every one? This is a pretence, and an excuse, and a mere cloak of idleness. You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you ever understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully? Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to some one wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn; then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole.

Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home; if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts viii. 30). Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31). Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.

But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. x. 11). The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused. It is impossible—I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable has profited us! how much spiritual good it has done to us! For many I know have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from worldly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.

F. Allen, trans., Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 3rd Sermon, §2-3 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869), pp. 62-68. See Concionis VII, de Lazaro 3.2-3 PG 48:993-996 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1857-87). Cf. PG 62:485.

It’s really hard to imagine a more Reformed-sounding discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture than the one provided above from Chrysostom. Even when he makes a comparison to goldsmiths, he does not refer to Scriptures as the gold to be worked over by external tools, but instead as the tools themselves! They are the tools of learning, the keys of knowledge by which the kingdom of heaven is opened unto men. They are what was given to the apostles and prophets to be passed on to us.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Having acquitted himself of all this, the good man “departed from Shekim,” the text says, and made haste towards Baithel. Now, observe once again, I ask you, God’s care for him and the way Scripture teaches us everything clearly.

FC, Vol. 87, Homilies on Genesis 46-67, Homily 59.18 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), p. 175.

No additional comment is needed about the preceding quotation. But consider in the following, the magisterial metaphor that Chrysostom employs.

Chrysostom informs us that the Scriptures, as it were, took him by the hand and led him to Christ.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Finally, if the ceremonies of the Jews move you to admiration, what do you have in common with us? If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies. But if ours are true, as they are true, theirs are filled with deceit. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. Heaven forbid! It was the Scriptures which took me by the hand and led me to Christ.

FC, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 1.6.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 23-24.

Is not that role of evangelizing the role of the teacher? If so, how can anyone deny that Chrysostom is affirming the material sufficiency of Scripture with respect to those things necessary for salvation.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Great is the profit of the divine Scriptures, and all-sufficient is the aid which comes from them. And Paul declared this when he said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written aforetime for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4, and 1 Corinthians 10:11) For the divine oracles are a treasury of all manner of medicines, so that whether it be needful to quench pride, to lull desire to sleep, to tread under foot the love of money, to despise pain, to inspire confidence, to gain patience, from them one may find abundant resource. For what man of those who struggle with long poverty or who are nailed to a grievous disease, will not, when he reads the passage before us, receive much comfort?

NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Homily 37.1.

Notice how the passage above specifically uses the term “sufficiency,” and then compares the Scriptures not to ingredients to be turned into medicines, but as a “treasure of all manner of medicines,” and then (lest someone insist that a pharmacist is needed) he explains that this medicine is delivered by a man reading the Scriptures. Could this metaphor be made any stronger? It is hard to imagine how!

Chrysostom (349-407):

Hence, I beseech you, let us practice the reading of the holy Scriptures with great zeal. This, after all, is the way to fortify our knowledge, too, if we are assiduous in applying ourselves to their contents. I mean, it is not possible for the person who is in touch with the divine message in a spirit of zeal and fervent desire ever to suffer neglect; rather, even should a human teacher not come our way, the Lord himself would come from on high to enlighten our minds, shed light on our thinking, bring to our attention what had slipped our notice, and act as our instructor in what we have no knowledge of—provided we are prepared to contribute what lies in our power. Scripture says, remember, “Do not call anyone on earth your teacher.” When therefore we take an inspired book in our hands, let us concentrate, collect our thoughts and dispel every worldly thought, and let us in this manner do our reading with great devotion, with great attention so that we may be able to be led by the Holy Spirit towards the understanding of the writings and may gain great benefit from them.

Greek:
Διʼ ὃ, παρακαλῶ, μετὰ πολλῆς σπουδῆς τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τῶν θείων Γραφῶν ποιώμεθα. Οὕτω γὰρ καὶ τῆς γνώσεως ἐπιτευξόμεθα, εἰ συνεχῶς ἐπίωμεν τὰ ἐγκείμενα. Οὐδὲ γάρ ἐστι τὸν μετὰ σπουδῆς καὶ πολλοῦ πόθου τοῖς θείοις ἐντυγχάνοντα λόγοις περιοφθῆναί ποτε· ἀλλὰ κἂν ἄνθρωπος ἡμῖν μὴ γένηται διδάσκαλος, αὐτὸς ὁ Δεσπότης ἄνωθεν ἐμβατεύων ταῖς καρδίαις ταῖς ἡμετέραις φωτίζει τὴν διάνοιαν, καταυγάζει τὸν λογισμὸν, ἐκκαλύπτει τὰ λανθάνοντα, διδάσκαλος ἡμῖν γίνεται τῶν ἀγνοουμένων· μόνον ἐὰν ἡμεῖς τὰ παρʼ ἑαυτῶν εἰσφέρειν βουλώμεθα. «Μὴ καλέσητε γὰρ, φησὶ, διδάσκαλον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς». Ἐπειδὰν οὖν λάβωμεν μετὰ χεῖρας βιβλίον πνευματικὸν, συντείναντες τὸν λογισμὸν, καὶ πᾶσαν βιωτικὴ, ἔννοιαν ἀπωσάμενοι, οὕτω τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν ποιώμεθα μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς εὐλαβείας, μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς προσοχῆς, ἵνα δυνηθῶμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος ὁδηγηθῆναι ἐπὶ τὴν κατανόησιν τῶν γεγραμμένων, καὶ πολλὴν ἐκεῖθεν τὴν ὠφέλειαν καρπώσασθαι.

In Genesin, Homilia XXXV, §1, PG 53:321-322; translation in FC, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, Homily 35.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), pp. 304-305.

In the quotation above, Chrysostom comes so close to “just me and my Bible” that he might even scare a Reformed reader! Yet Chrysostom does, with the Reformed, acknowledge the role of the Holy Spirit in the individual’s reading of the Holy Scriptures.

More examples could be cited from Chrysostom, but we have already provided so many examples, that we should move on to another father. Thus, we move geographically south from where Chrysostom served in the northern portion of the middle east, to Palestine. But theologically, we’re moving west to Rome, where Jerome was educated, and with which he continued to identify, even despite his move.

Jerome (347-420):

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

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

The preceding quotation is an example of Jerome affirming that the form of Scripture is such that it accommodates the reader.

Jerome (347-420):

A: This passage to the ignorant, and to those who are unaccustomed to meditate on Holy Scripture, and who neither know nor use it, does appear at first sight to favor your opinion. But when you look into it, the difficulty soon disappears. And when you compare passages of Scripture with others, that the Holy Spirit may not seem to contradict Himself with changing place and time, according to what is written, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water spouts,” the truth will show itself, that is, that Christ did give a possible command when He said: “Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and yet that the Apostles were not perfect.

NPNF2: Vol. VI, St. Jerome Against the Pelagians, Book I, §14.

This is not an explicit statement that Scripture interprets Scripture, but it surely implies that Jerome believed that. Jerome is basically saying that there may be some apparent difficulty with the text, but the solution is a more careful study of the Scripture, particularly of harmonization of Scripture with Scripture.

Jerome (347-420):

Some may say: ‘You are forcing the Scripture, that is not what it means.’ Let Holy Writ be its own interpreter . . .

FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 6 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 45.

Now, in the preceding quotation, we have explicit what was implied in the previous quotation. Jerome believes that Scripture is Scripture’s interpreter. That’s one of the key features of a view of formal sufficiency of Scriptures.

Notice in the quote below how Jerome describes the nature of how our Lord has spoken in Holy Scripture so that “all may know,” something we’ve already seen in many of the prior fathers. This quote, to be sure, speaks of both the formal and material sufficiency of Holy Scripture. He distinguishes those present in the church from the evangelists and apostles, He says, “Note ‘who have been’ and not ‘who are.’ That is to make sure that, with the exception of the apostles, whatever else is said afterwards should be removed and not, later on, hold the force of authority.”

Jerome (347-420):

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

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

The preceding quotation is particularly interesting because of the comment about authority. Jerome is placing the authority of the Scriptures above the authority of every post-apostolic human being. That group naturally includes the bishop of Rome, whom Jerome held in high regard.

Notice another translation of the same passage below:

Jerome (347-420):

‘The Lord shall tell in the writings of peoples and of the princes, of them that have been in her.’ (verse 6) He did not say those who are in her, but those who have been in her. ‘The Lord shall tell;’ and how shall he tell? Not in word, but in writing. In whose writing? That of the peoples? That of the peoples is not sufficient. But he also says in that of the princes; and of what princes? They who *are* in her? he did not say this, but who *have been* in her. See, therefore, how full the Holy Scriptures are of sacraments (sacramentis, symbols). We read of the Apostle Paul, we read of Peter, and we read of him [Paul] saying, ‘Do you seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me?’ (2 Cor. 13:3) And what Paul speaks, Christ speaks; for ‘He who receiveth you receiveth me.’ (Matt. 10:40) Therefore our Lord and Savior telleth us, and speaketh in the writings of His princes. The Lord will tell in the writings of the peoples, in the Holy Writings. Which writing is read by all the people, that is, that all may understand. He saith what this is. As the apostles have written so also the Lord Himself; that is, He hath spoken by His evangelists, and that not a few, but that all may understand. Plato wrote writings, but he wrote not for the peoples, but for the few. For scarcely three men understand him. These indeed, that is, the princes of the Church and princes of Christ, have not written for a few, but for the whole people. And of the princes, that is, of the apostles, and evangelists of those who have been in her. See ye what he says. Who have been, not who are; that, the apostles excepted, whatever else is said afterwards is cut off, hath no authority afterwards. Although, therefore, anyone after the apostles, although he may be eloquent, he hath no authority, because ‘The Lord shall tell in the writing of peoples, and of these princes that have been in her.’

Latin:
Dominus narrabit in scriptura populorum, et principum horum qui fuerunt in ea. Non dixit, qui sunt in ea, sed qui fuerunt in ea. Dominus narrabit: et quo modo narrabit? Non verbo, sed scriptura. In cujus scriptura? In populorum. Non sufficit in populorum, sed etiam principum dicit. Et quorum principum? Qui sunt in ea. Non dixit hoc, sed qui fuerunt in ea. Videte ergo quomodo Scriptura sancta sacramentis plena est. Legimus apostolum Paulum: legimus Petrum, et legimus illum dicentem: An experimentum ejus quaeritis, qui in me loquitur Christus? Et quod Paulus loquitur, loquitur Christus. Qui enim vos recipit, me recipit. Dominus ergo noster atque Salvator, narrat nobis et loquitur, in scripturis principum suorum. Dominus narrabit in Scripturis populorum: in Scripturis sanctis. Quae Scriptura populis omnibus legitur, hoc est, ut omnes intelligant. Quod dicit, hoc est: Sicut scripserunt apostoli, sic et ipse Dominus, hoc est, per Evangelia sua locutus est, non ut pauci intelligerent, sed ut omnes. Plato scripsit in scriptura, sed non scripsit populis, sed paucis. Vix enim intelligunt tres homines. Isti vero, hoc est, principes Ecclesiae et principes Christi, non scripserunt paucis, sed universo populo. Et principum, hoc est, apostolorum, et evangelistarum, horum qui fuerunt in ea. Videte quid dicat: Qui fuerunt, non qui sunt: ut, exceptis apostolis, quodcumque aliud postea dicetur, abscindatur, non habeat postea auctoritatem. Quamvis ergo sanctus sit aliquis post apostolos: quamvis disertus sit, non habet auctoritatem. Quoniam Dominus narrat in scriptura populorum, et principum horum qui fuerunt in ea.

Breviarium in Psalmos, Psalmus LXXXVI, PL 26:1083-1084; see John Harrison, Whose Are the Fathers? (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1867), pp.481-482.

Since the preceding quotation is already discussed above, let us continue on to the next quotation.

Jerome (347-420):

What is the function of commentators? They expound the statements of someone else; they express in simple language views that have been expressed in an obscure manner; they quote the opinions of many individuals and they say: ‘Some interpret this passage in this sense, others, in another sense’; they attempt to support their own understanding and interpretation with these testimonies in this fashion, so that the prudent reader, after reading the different interpretations and studying which of these many views are to be accepted and which rejected, will judge for himself which is the more correct; and, like the expert banker, will reject the falsely minted coin.

FC, Vol. 53, St. Jerome – Dogmatic and Polemical Works, The Apology Against the Books of Rufinus, Book I, §16 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1965), p. 79.

What is particularly interesting about Jerome’s comment is his support here of private judgment. The individual can read many commentators, but at the end of the day he must decide which to accept.

Jerome (347-420):

. . . let us call upon the Lord, probe the depths of His sacred writings, and be guided in our interpretation by other testimonies from Holy Writ. Whatever we cannot fathom in the deep recesses of the Old Testament, we shall penetrate and explain from the depth of the New Testament in the roar of God’s cataracts—His prophets and apostles.

FC, Vol. 57, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 2, Homily 92 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1966), p. 246.

The “cataracts” there are waterfalls, not vision problems. Jerome is affirming both the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture and the principle that the more clear New Testament makes plain the more obscure Old Testament passages.

Jerome (347-420):

Here we are taught, that the lay-people ought to have the word of God, not only sufficiently, but also with abundance, and to teach and counsel others.

Latin:
Hic ostenditur verbum Christi non sufficienter, sed abundanter etiam laicos habere debere: et docere se invicem, vel monere.

In Epistolam Ad Colossenses, Caput III, PL30:859; translation in John Jewel, Works, The Second Portion, the Reply to Harding’s Answer (Cambridge: The Parker Society, 1848), p. 685..

The magisterium of the laity, and the necessity that they have the Word of God (by which Jerome means the Scriptures) is something that is the natural consequence of Jerome’s view of formal sufficiency.

From Jerome’s Palestinian lodgings we may journey back to the West to Augustine, a North African bishop who needs no introduction.

Augustine (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.”

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

What is interesting about the preceding quotation is that even in the midst of talking about plumbing the depths of Scripture, Augustine makes clear that the necessary doctrines are not the difficult ones.

Augustine (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.

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.

Notice that Augustine points out that the important parts are clear, but that there are some less clear portions that may serve as exercise, so that we may avoid spiritual flabbiness.

Augustine (354-430):

For if we were not encouraged by Him, and invited to understand Him; if He abandoned us as contemptible, since we were not able to partake His divinity if He did not partake our mortality and come to us to speak His gospel to us; if He had not willed to partake with us what in us is abject and most small, — then we might think that He who took on Himself our smallness, had not been willing to bestow on us His own greatness. This I have said lest any should blame us as over-bold in handling these matters, or despair of himself that he should be able to understand, by God’s gift, what the Son of God has deigned to speak to him. Therefore what He has deigned to speak to us, we ought to believe that He meant us to understand. But if we do not understand He, being asked, gives understanding, who gave His Word unasked.

NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate XXII, §1.

The above insight is similar to one of the points we made in introducing the topic. The point of Scripture is to communicate, therefore God has taken care that the form of Scripture will be such as can be understood.

Augustine (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 hath 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.”

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

What is especially important about the preceding is that Augustine is recognizing the role of the Spirit inwardly. Some of our opponents seem to want to mock the idea that are taught by God inwardly, but that is precisely Augustine’s argument. It is because of an absence of this inward teaching that even the plain Scriptures can be insufficient to persuade someone of the truth.

Augustine (354-430):

For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life,—to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book.

Alternative translation:
The fact is, after all, that in the passages that are put plainly in scripture is to be found everything that touches upon faith, and good morals, that is to say hope, charity, which we dealt with in the previous book.

NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 9; alternative translation in John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 1, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Book II, Chapter 9, §14 (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 135.

Scripture is the rule of faith and life, and these rules are set forth plainly. Like the quotation from Chrysostom above, it is hard to see how Augustine could express himself in a more Reformed way.

Augustine (354-430):

And while every man may find there all that he has learnt of useful elsewhere, he will find there in much greater abundance things that are to be found nowhere else, but can be learnt only in the wonderful sublimity and wonderful simplicity of the Scriptures.

NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 42.

Notice that Augustine not only makes Scripture a sole source for certain things, he praises both the sublimity, and more importantly (for our purposes) the simplicity of Scripture. The “sole source” aspect may relate to the material sufficiency of Scripture, but simplicity relates to its formal sufficiency.

Augustine (354-430):

Nor is that any reason why they should be crowed over by that holy and perfect man Antony, the Egyptian monk, who is said to have known the divine Scriptures by heart simply through hearing them, though he himself didn’t know how to read, and to have understood their meaning through intelligent reflection on them; or for that matter by that barbarian slave, a Christian, about whom we have recently been informed by the most serious and trustworthy men.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Prologue 4 (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 102.

The preceding quotation illustrates the fact that even an illiterate person can “read” the Scriptures (by hearing them) and understand their meaning.

Augustine (354-430):

As I said a little ago, when these men are beset by clear testimonies of Scripture, and cannot escape from their grasp, they declare that the passage is spurious. The declaration only shows their aversion to the truth, and their obstinacy in error.

NPNF1: Vol. IV, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XI, §2.

The point of providing the quotation above is simply to illustrate one place where Augustine took the position that the Scriptures are clear.

Augustine (354-430):

No Gentile, therefore, it he were not perverse and obstinate, would despise these books merely because be is not subject to the law of the Hebrews, to whom the books belong; but would think highly of the books, no matter whose they were, on finding in them prophecies of such ancient date, and of what he sees now taking place. Instead of despising Christ Jesus because He is foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures, he would conclude that one thought worthy of being the subject of prophetic description, whoever the writers might be, for so many ages before His coming into the world, — sometimes in plain announcements, sometimes in figure by symbolic actions and utterances, — must claim to be regarded with profound admiration and reverence, and to be followed with implicit reliance. Thus the facts of Christian history would prove the truth of the prophecy, and the prophecy would prove the claims of Christ. Call this fancy, if it is not actually the case that men all over the world have been led, and are now led, to believe in Christ by reading these books.

NPNF1: Vol. IV, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XVI, §20.

Although there is a reference in the paragraph above to “plain announcements,” it seems that the most interesting aspect of the paragraph is really Augustine’s point that people are led to Christ through reading the books. That implies that the books themselves are formally sufficient to lead a person to Christ. It’s not an explicit way of making the claim for formal sufficiency, but it is a very strong implicit way.

Augustine (354-430):

All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behooves us to hear with earnest heed. Yet most of all must those things be commended to our memory, which are of most force against heretics; whose insidious designs cease not to circumvent all that are weaker and more negligent. Remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ both died for us, and rose again; died, to wit, for our offenses, rose again for our justification. Even as ye have just heard concerning the two disciples whom He met with in the way, how “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him:” and He found them despairing of the redemption that was in Christ, and deeming that now He had suffered and was dead as a man, not accounting that as Son of God He ever liveth; and deeming too that He was so dead in the flesh as not to come to life again, but just as one of the prophets: as those of you who were attentive have just now heard their own words. Then “He opened to them the Scriptures, beginning at Moses,” and going through all the prophets, showing them that all He had suffered had been foretold, lest they should be more staggered if the Lord should rise again, and the more fail to believe Him, if these things had not been told before concerning Him. For the firmness of faith is in this, that all things which came to pass in Christ were foretold. The disciples, then, knew Him not, save “in the breaking of bread.” And truly he that eateth and drinketh not judgment to himself in the breaking of bread cloth know Christ. Afterward also those eleven “thought they saw a spirit.” He gave Himself to be handled by them, who also gave Himself to be crucified; to be crucified by enemies, to be handled by friends: yet the Physician of all, both of the ungodliness of those, and of the unbelief of these. For ye heard when the Acts of the Apostles were read, how many thousands of Christ’s slayers believed. If those believed afterwards who had killed, should not those believe who for a little while doubted? And yet even in regard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe: for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read. For if those believed only because they held and handled, what shall we do? Now, Christ is ascended into heaven; He is not to come save at the end, to judge the quick and the dead. Whereby shall we believe, but by that whereby it was His will that even those who handled Him should be confirmed? For He opened to them the Scriptures and showed them that it behooved Christ to suffer, and that all things should be fulfilled which were written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. He embraced in His discourse the whole ancient text of the Scriptures. All that there is of those former Scriptures tells of Christ; but only if it find ears. He also “opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” Whence we also must pray for this, that He would open our understanding.

NPNF1: Vol. VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, 1 John 2:12-17, §1.

What is particularly interesting about the preceding paragraph is that Jesus is described as coming to us in the writings of Scripture, as opposed to being handled. This not only has a bearing on Augustine’s view of the Eucharist, but more especially on the fact that the purpose of Scripture is to provide Jesus to us. That logically leads one to formal sufficiency, even though it may not express it itself.

Augustine (354-430) commenting on v. 4 of Psalm 8:

Out of the mouths of infants and suckling children you have perfected praise, in the sense that those who want to gain knowledge of your magnificence should begin from belief in the scriptures. Your magnificence is raised above the scriptures because it surpasses and stretches beyond the proclamations of all words and tongues. Therefore God has brought the scriptures right down within the range of infants and nurslings, as it is sung in another psalm: He bowed the heavens and came down (Ps 17:10 (18:9)). This he did on account of his enemies who, being enemies of the cross of Christ through their pride and talkativeness, cannot be of any use to infants and nurslings, even when they say some things that are true. This is how the enemy-cum-defender is toppled. Whether it is wisdom of the very name of Christ which he gives the impression of upholding, nonetheless it is from the step of this very faith that he mounts his attack on that truth which he is so ready to promise. It is crystal-clear that he does not have the truth, for by attacking its first step, which is faith, he proves he has not the faintest idea how to climb up to itBy this means, therefore, that rash and blind person who promises truth but who is also its enemy-cum-defender is toppled. This happens when the heavens are seen as the works of God’s fingers, that is, when the scriptures, brought right down to the slowness of babies’ comprehension, are understood. They raise these infants up to the very things of which they tell with such conviction; but the infants are now well nurtured and strengthened to scale the heights and understand things eternal, through the humility of faith rooted in a history which has been worked out within time. Those heavens, that is, those books, are indeed the works of God’s fingers, for it was by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the saints that they were written. Those who sought their own glory rather than the salvation of humankind spoke without the Holy Spirit, in whom are the depths of the mercy of God.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 15, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 1-32, Psalm 8.8 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), p. 133.

Can one say that the form of the Scriptures is more sufficient in a stronger way than saying that the simplest members of society can understand them? If so, then there may be a stronger way to express formal sufficiency than the preceding quotation.

Augustine (354-430):

When the apostle said, Do you not know that your body is the temple in your midst of the Holy Spirit whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a great price, he immediately goes on to say, Glorify God, then, in your body (1 Cor 6:19-20). There he showed with utter clarity that the Holy Spirit is God and that he should be glorified in our body as if in his temple. The apostle Peter said to Ananias, Have you dared to lie to the Holy Spirit? And to show that the Holy Spirit is God, he said, You have not lied to men, but to God (Acts 5:3-4).

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Arianism and Other Heresies, Answer to Maximinus the Arian, Book II:XXI.1, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1995), p. 304.

Of course, the above instance is just one instance where Augustine ascribes clarity to Scripture, even on points that were debated (some people tried to deny that the Holy Spirit is God, for example). Nevertheless, many other instances coudl be provided.

Augustine (354-430):

The Lord refers to these in a parable, though his meaning is perfectly clear, when he says, (Then Augustine quotes Mt 21:33-43 & Ps 118:22-23 and asks) What could be plainer, clearer, more evident than this?

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Arianism and Other Heresies, Answer to an Enemy of the Law and the Prophets, Book II.16, Part 1, Vol. 18, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1995), p. 421.

The above is just a couple more examples of Augustine commenting on the clarity of Scripture in specific examples.

Augustine (354-430):

You exaggerate “how difficult the knowledge of the sacred scriptures is,” claiming that “it is suited for only the learned few, . . .”

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians, II, Answer to Julian, Book V:2, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), p. 432.

The line above is interesting because it illustrates the attitude of the heretic toward Scripture, compared with the attitude of Augustine (note his comment about infants above).

Augustine (354-430):

But where the matter is obvious, we ought not to add our interpretation to the meaning of the divine Scripture, for this is not done out of human ignorance, but out of perverse pride.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians, II, Answer to Julian, Book V:7, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), p. 436.

The above combines the two themes (1) of examples of “obvious” or clear teachings in Scripture and (2) of opposing those who err by trying to make something obvious into something oblivious.

Augustine (354-430):

This, after all, is the reason why a young man corrects his way of life: because he meditates upon the words of God as he ought to meditate upon them, observes them because he meditates upon them, and lives correctly because he observes them. This, then, is the reason for correcting his way of life: because he observes the words of God.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians, II, Answer to Julian, Book VI:76, Part 1, Vol. 24, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), p. 528. This statement by Augustine is meaningless if it does not presuppose the general perspicuity of Holy Scripture.

The above paragraph highlights Augustine’s view that Scriptures are themselves our rule of life. This is, of course, similar to the Reformed view we highlighted at the beginning of this discussion. Then Augustine explains that the way in which this rule is applied to life is through meditation, which shows that Augustine views the Scriptures as formally sufficient.

Augustine (354-430):

Our volumes are put up for sale in public; the light never needs to blush. Let them buy them, read them, believe them; or else buy them, read them, make fun of them. Those Scriptures know how to hold people guilty who read them and don’t believe.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Newly Discovered Sermons, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermon 198.20 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1997), pp. 195-196.

This is not expressly a statement of formal sufficiency, but it is a powerful way of saying that the Scriptures are stand-alone documents. They themselves hold their mockers/disbelievers guilty.

Augustine to Julian:

You in fact try to obscure the lights of the holy scriptures which shine with certain truth by the complexity of your evil arguments. After all, what is clearer than what I just said: Human beings have become like vanity; their days pass like a shadow (Ps 144:4)? That surely would not have happened, if they had remained in the likeness of God in which they were created. What is clearer than the statement: As in Adam all die, so too in Christ all will be brought to life (1 Cor 15:22)? What is clearer than the words: Who, after all, is clean from filth? Not even an infant whose life has lasted a single day on earth (Jb 14:4-5 LXX)? And there are many other passages which you try to wrap in darkness and twist to your perverse meaning by your empty chatter.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:5, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 58.

Augustine is using the same “light” metaphor that we have already identified many times to say that the Scriptures are clear and readily understandable. Furthermore, Augustine is accusing Julian of trying to make the Scriptures unclear by clouding them. The Scriptures themselves, without anyone’s interferences, are clear beams of light to Augustine. That’s the perfect metaphor of the formal sufficiency of Scripture – a metaphor Scripture itself employs (as we already observed above).

Augustine:

They turn obscure ideas into their teaching; you try to obscure clear ones with your teaching. What, after all, is clearer than the statement of the apostle that sin entered this world through one man, and through sin death, and in that way it was passed on to all human beings?

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:25, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 66.

These are the same thoughts as before. Scripture is clear, but heretics try to make it obscure.

Augustine (354-430):

Why are you trying to wrap yourself in your obscure statements in opposition to the clear statements of the apostle? In speaking of God, he says, He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13), and you say that he said this, but excluded the little ones.

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:64, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 90.

This is the same theme as the previous quotation.

Augustine (354-430):

On this account he cries out, Wretched man that I am, who will set me free from the body of this death? (Rom 7:24). And you close your eyes to the perfectly clear truth and you explain his groan, not as it is evident to all, but as it pleases you, when you say that Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Rom 7:24) means: “Who will set me free from the guilt of my own sins which I committed?” He said, I do the evil that I do not will (Rom 7:19), and you say: “the sins which I committed.”

John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:65, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 95.

The above are some more examples of the same general principle of Scripture being clear, but heretics trying to ignore that plain truth.

Augustine (354-430):

The person who reads some writing out loud to other listeners obviously knows what he is pronouncing, while the one who teaches people in literacy classes does this so that they too may know how to read. Each of them, all the same, is handing on what he has received. In the same sort of way those too who explain to an audience what they understand in the scriptures are, as it were, performing the office of reader and pronouncing letters they know, while those who lay down rules about how they are to be understood are like the person who teaches literacy, who gives out the rules, that is, on how to read. So just as the person who knows how to read does not require another reader, when he gets hold of a volume, to tell him what is written in it, in the same way, those who have grasped the rules we are endeavoring to pass on will retain a knowledge of these rules, like letters, when they come across anything obscure in the holy books, and will not require another person who understands to uncover for them what is shrouded in obscurity. Instead, by following up certain clues, they will be able themselves to get the hidden meaning of a passage without any error—or at the very least to avoid falling into any absurdly wrongheaded opinion.

See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part I, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Prologue §9 (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 104.

Notice that someone might say that this implies that Scriptures are not able to be understood on their own. What Augustine is actually saying, though, is that once one understands the rules for interpretation, he does not need a teacher to arrive at a sufficient understanding.

From Augustine, we may stay in the West, moving into Europe to one of the opponents of Augustinianism, the arguably semi-Pelagian John Cassian.

John Cassian (360-430s?):

Serenus: “The authority of Holy Scripture has said some things so lucidly and clearly for our instruction, even to those of limited intelligence, that not only are they not veiled in the obscurity of a hidden meaning but they do not even need to be explained, and they offer intelligibility and meaning at first glance.”

ACW, Vol. 57, Boniface Ramsey, O.P., trans., John Cassian: The Conferences, Eighth Conference, Chapter 3.1 (New York: Newman Press, 1997), p. 292.

Obviously, this is Cassian quoting Serenus (an abbot whom Cassian greatly admired), rather than Cassian speaking himself. Nevertheless, the quotation shows a very similar attitude to Scripture to the attitude we’ve seen above. Some things in Scripture are said so clearly that no explanation is necessary – even for people of limited intelligence.

John Cassian (360-430s?):

This man therefore, when some of the brethren were wondering at the splendid light of his knowledge and were asking of him some meanings of Scripture, said that a monk who wanted to acquire a knowledge of the Scriptures ought not to spend his labor on the works of commentators, but rather to keep all the efforts of his mind and intentions of his heart set on purifying himself from carnal vices: for when these are driven out, at once the eyes of the heart, as if the veil of the passions were removed, will begin as it were naturally to gaze on the mysteries of Scripture: since they were not declared to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit in order that they should remain unknown and obscure; but they are rendered obscure by our fault, as the veil of our sins covers the eyes of the heart, and when these are restored to their natural state of health, the mere reading of Holy Scripture is by itself amply sufficient for beholding the true knowledge, nor do they need the aid of commentators, just as these eyes of flesh need no man’s teaching how to see, provided that they are free from dimness or the darkness of blindness. For this reason there have arisen so great differences and mistakes among commentators because most of them, paying no sort of attention towards purifying the mind, rush into the work of interpreting the Scriptures, and in proportion to the density or impurity of their heart form opinions that are at variance with and contrary to each other’s and to the faith, and so are unable to take in the light of truth.

Latin:
Hic ergo quibusdam fratribus admirantibus tam praeclarum scientiae ejus lumen, et ab eodem quosdam Scripturarum sensus inquirentibus, ait: Monachum ad Scripturarum notitiam pertingere cupientem, nequaquam debere labores suos erga commentatorum libros impendere, sed potius omnem mentis industriam et intentionem cordis erga emundationem vitiorum carnalium detinere. Quibus expulsis confestim cordis oculi, sublato velamine passionum, sacramenta Scripturarum velut naturaliter incipient contemplari. Siquidem nobis non ut essent incognita vel obscura, sancti Spiritus gratia promulgata sunt: sed nostro vitio velamine peccatorum cordis oculos obnubente redduntur obscura, quibus rursum naturali redditis sanitati, ipsa Scripturarum sanctarum lectio ad contemplationem verae scientiae abunde etiam sola sufficiat, nec eos commentatorum institutionibus indigere: sicut oculi isti carnales ad videndum nullius egent doctrina, si modo fuerint a suffusione, vel caligine caecitatis immunes. Ideo namque et tanta varietas erroresque inter tractatores ipsos exorti sunt, quod plerique minime erga purgationem mentis adhibita diligentia prosilientes ad interpretandum eas, pro pinguedine vel immunditia cordis sui diversa atque contraria vel fidei, vel sibimet sentientes, veritatis lumen comprehendere nequiverunt.

De Coenobiorum Institutis Libri Duodecim, Liber Quintus, Caput XXXIV, PL 49:250-254; translation in NPNF2: Vol. XI, Institutes of The Coenobia, 5:34.

Notice that the identified obstacle for understanding Scripture is in the reader, not in the Scripture. Moreover, it is not in the nature of the person as a reader, but in the nature of the person as to sin. The person who does not love righteousness sets obstacles for himself, but the person who does not do so sees the meaning of Scripture clearly, even without the aid of commentators.

John Cassian
(360-430s?):

And indeed we will prove this not only by discussion and argument, but by the voice of Divinity Itself: for nothing testifies of God better than things divine. And because nothing knows itself better than the very glory of God, we believe nothing on the subject of God with greater right than those writings in which God Himself is His own witness.

NPNF2: Vol. 11, On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius, Book 7, Chapter 17.

The preceding quotation may seem to mostly reflect the supremacy of Scripture, but if you consider it closely, you will observe that Cassian is arguing the very voice of Divinity itself is going to prove his case. That means that the form, as well as the matter, is sufficient for his purposes.

We’ll now jump back to the east, this time to a man who could be considered one of the desert fathers of Egypt. The jump is not as dramatic as one might think, since John Cassian is known for having brought attention to a number of the desert fathers.

Isidore of Pelusium (fl. 412 – d. 435), note σαφηνείᾳ τοσαύτῃ (so great perspicuity):

If God had had respect only to his own dignity, and not the profit of the reader, he would have used heavenly and divine words and examples. But since he was legislating for men that are weak and in need of human words (for thus they were able easily to understand things above them), he expressed his divine doctrines in common words, to the intent that even a woman and a child, and the most ignorant of all men, might obtain some profit even from the very hearing. For, the word having a consideration for the salvation of the multitude, and even rustics, is expressed with so much clearness through the philanthropy of the legislator, as to deprive no one of the benefit proportioned to his powers; nor hath it neglected the wiser of mankind; for in this so great clearness, such unutterable words dwell like treasures, that even the wisest and most learned of men are lost in the profundity of the thoughts, and often confess themselves overcome by the incomprehensibility of the wisdom.

Greek:
Εἰ γὰρ πρὸς τὴν αὐτοῦ ἀξίαν μόνον προσέσχεν ὁ Θεὸς, καὶ μὴ πρὸς τὴν ὠφέλειαν τῶν ἐντευξομένων, οὐρανίοις ἂν καὶ θείοις λόγοις τε καὶ παραδείγμασιν ἐχρήσατο. Ἀλλʼ ἐπειδὴ ἀνθρώποις ἐνομοθέτε: ἀσθενέσι τυγχάνουσι, καὶ ἀνθρωπίνων δεομένοις λόγων (οὕτω γὰρ ῥᾳδίως τὰ ὑπὲρ αὐτοὺς νοῆσαι ἠδύναντο), ἰδιωτικαῖς λέξεσιν ἐκέρασε τὰ θεῖα μαθήματα, ἵνα καὶ γυνὴ καὶ παῖς καὶ ἁπάντων ἀνθρώπων ἀμαθέστατος κερδάνῃ τι καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀκροάσεως. Τῆς γὰρ τῶν πολλῶν καὶ ἀγελαιοτέρων φροντίσας σωτηρίας ὁ λόγος, σαφηνείᾳ τοσαύτῃ διὰ φιλανθρωπίαν τοῦ νομοθέτου κραθεὶς, οὐδένα τῆς κατὰ δύναμιν ὠφελείας ἀποστερεῖ. Οὔτε δὲ τῶν σοφωτέρων ἠμέλησεν. Ἐν τοσαύτῃ γὰρ σαφηνείᾳ οὕτως ἀπόῤῥητοι λόγοι καθάπερ θησαυροί τινες ἐνοικοῦσιν, ὡς καὶ τοὺς σοφωτάτους καὶ ἐλλογιμωτάτους τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ βάθος τῶν νοημάτων ἰλιγγιᾷν, καὶ παραχωρεῖν πολλάκις τῷ ἀκαταλήπτῳ τῆς σοφίας.

Epistolarium, Liber II, Epistola 5, PG 78:461-464; for translation, see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 284.

Isiodore’s comment illustrates that the form of Scripture is one that provides clear instruction. It’s a very similar comment to the comments we ourselves make, and to those comments already identified in the preceding fathers.

Isidore of Pelusium (fl. 412 – d. 435):

If the truth be joined to eloquent language, it is able to profit the educated, but to all others it will be of no use or advantage. Wherefore the Scripture hath declared the truth in simple language, that both the unlearned and the wise, and even children and women, might learn it. For by this the wise are in no respect injured; but by the other [i.e. Scripture being indited in superior language] the greater part of the world would have been injured; and if it behoved it to consider the few, it more especially behoved it to consider the many; and since it has considered all, it is clearly shown to be divine and heavenly.

Greek:
Εἰ δʼ ἡ ἀλήθεια τῇ καλλιεπείᾳ συναφθείη, δύναται μὲν τοὺς πεπαδευμένους ὠφελῆσαι, τοῖς δʼ καὶ ἄλλοις ἅπασιν ἄχρηστος ἔσται καὶ ἀνωφελής. Διʼ ὅ καὶ ἡ Γραφὴ τὴν ἀλήθειαν πεζῷ λόγῳ ἡρμήνευσεν, ἵνα καὶ ἰδιῶται, καὶ σοφοὶ, καὶ παῖδες, καὶ γυναῖκες μάθοιεν. Ἐκ μὲν γὰρ τούτου οἱ οὐδὲν παραβλάπτονται• ἐκ δʼ ἐκείνου τὸ πλέον τῆς οἰκουμένης μέρος παρεβλάβη. Ἄν τινων οὖν ἐχρῆν φροντίσαι, μάλιστι μὲν τῶν πλειόνων. Ἐπειδὰν δὲ καὶ πάντων ἐφρόντισε, δείκνυται λαμπρῶς θεία οὖσα καὶ οὐράνιος.

Epistolarium, Liber IV, Epistola 67, PG 78:1125; for translation, see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 284.

This is a very similar comment to the preceding comment. Scripture is so easy that not only uneducated men could learn from it, but even women and children can learn from it.

Isidore of Pelusium (fl. 412 – d. 435):

If all things were plain, where should we make use of our understanding, there not being any investigation to make? But if all things were obscure, thus also we should fall, there being no discovery of the truth. But now, through those parts that are plain, those that are obscure are in a manner understood.

Greek text: Εἰ μὲν γὰρ πάντα ἦν δῆλα, ποῦ τῇ συνέσει ἐχρησάμεθα, μὴ οὔσης ζητήσεως; Εἰ δὲ πάντα ἄδηλα, καὶ οὕτως ἀναπεπτώκειμεν ἂν, μὴ οὔσης εὑρέσεως. Νῦν δὲ διὰ τῶν δῆλων, καὶ τὰ ἄδηλα τρόπον τινὰ καταλαμβάνεται.

Epistolarium, Liber IV, Epistola 82, PG 78:1144-1145; for translation, see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 285.

This is similar to the comment from Augustine we saw earlier about the difficult part serving as a sort of exercise. It also shows the key principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, and that the less clear parts are interpreted by the more clear parts.

Isidore of Pelusium (fl. 412 – d. 435):

The sacred and heavenly oracles, since they were spoken and written for the benefit of all mankind, were expressed in plain language. . . . All those who are engaged in husbandry, and the arts, and other occupations of life, derive profit from its clearness; learning both what is proper and what is just and what is useful in a moment of time.

Greek text: οἱ δὲ ἱεροὶ καὶ οὐράνιοι χρησμοὶ, ἐπειδὴ πρὸς ὠφέλειαν πάσης τῆς ἀνθρωπότητος ἐῤῥέθησαν καὶ ἐγράφησαν, τῇ σαφηνείᾳ ἐκράθησαν….πάντες δʼ οἱ γεωργίαις καὶ τέχναις καὶ ταῖς ἄλλαις ἀσχολίαις τοῦ βίου σχολάζοντες, ὠφελοῦνται ἐκ τῆς σαφηνείας• καὶ τὸ πρέπον, καὶ τὸ δίκαιον, καὶ τὸ συμφέρον ἐν ἀκαριαίᾳ καιροῦ ῥοπῇ μανθάνοντες.

Epistolarium, Liber IV, Epistola 91, PG 78:1152; for translation, see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 285.

This is similar to the preceding quotations. The Scriptures are written in plain language, so that even farmers can understand them – not just educated city-folk.

Speaking of city-folk, we now move from the rural deserts of Egypt to the urban center of Alexandria in Egypt.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch, 412-444):

Such subtle and out-of-the-way problems do not require a doctrinal decision so much as a questioning and speculative investigation accompanied by a refusal to let the mind fall into improper views to be carried away from reasonableness. For it is written ‘seeking do thou seek and dwell with me.’ How can one clearly explain what holy writ has not stated clearly? For example it is written in the book of Genesis that in the beginning God made heaven and earth. Holy writ declared that he has made it and we accept this truth in faith. But meddlesome inquiry into the means, origin or method whereby heaven, earth and the rest of creation were brought into being has its harmful side, for there is no need to involve the mind in profundities. What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.

Lionel R. Wickham, trans., Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters, Doctrinal Questions and Answers #2 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 187-189.

What’s very interesting about the preceding quotation is that Cyril is arguing not just for the material sufficiency of Scripture for theological knowledge, but also on a limitation on theological knowledge framed by the form of Scripture. Specifically, those things that Scripture says obscurely (not “very clearly”) would remain unknown and must be passed over in silence.

That sounds like an even stronger formulation of formal sufficiency than we would be willing to adopt, since we do not require silence when Scripture speaks less clearly. But perhaps we will see that Cyril himself moderates this view to come closer to the Reformed view in his other comments.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch 412-444), Commenting on 1 Cor. 1:21:

By the foolishness of preaching he means the plainness of the phraseology of the inspired Scripture. Therefore, leaving off toiling in vain and reaping no fruit, and enduring to spend your labors upon things that are unprofitable, hear me rather, and eat that which is good namely, through the Evangelical proclamations, in which, saith he, your soul would abundantly delight, and be nourished. There is the true knowledge of God as he is, and instruction as to all virtue and propriety of conduct, becoming saints; and wisdom, such as with wonderful exactness rightly discerns everything that ought to be done, and perfectly fits the mind for activity in good works.

Greek:
Μωρίαν δὲ τοῦ κηρύγματος τὴν κοινότητα τῆς λέξεως τῆς ἐνούσης τῇ θεοπνεύτῳ Γραφῇ, φησίν. Ἀφέντες οὖν τὸ εἰκῆ πονεῖν, καὶ ἀκαρπίαν συλλέγειν, καὶ δαπανᾷν ἀνέχεσθαι πόνους ἐπʼ ἀνωφελέσι πράγμασι, μᾶλλον ἀκούσατέ μου, καὶ φάγεσθε ἀγαθὰ τὰ διὰ τῶν εὐαγγελικῶν δηλονότι, οἷς δὴ καὶ περιττῶς, φησὶν, ἐντρυφήσειεν ἡ ψυχὴ ἡμῶν. Ἐκεῖ γνῶσις ἀληθὴς τοῦ κατὰ φύσιν Θεοῦ, καὶ ἀρετῆς ἁπάσης καὶ ἀγιοπρεποῦς εὐκοσμίας μάθημα καὶ σύνεσις, θαυμαστῶς ἕκαστα τῶν πρακτέων ὀρθῶς διακρίνοντα, καὶ τεχνίτην εἰς ἀγαθουργίαν ἀποτελοῦσα τὸν νοῦν•

Commentarium in Isaiam prophetam, Liber V, Tomus II, PG 70:1221; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 181-182.

The preceding quotation highlights the fact that Scripture speaks plainly, and that in those plain teachings we find the rule of faith and life. While Cyril does not use the precise words we use, it is hard to suggest that here is saying anything different from what we say, even if we might not find these doctrines in the particular verse he has identified.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch 412-444):

Therefore the inspired Scripture is abundantly sufficient, even so that those who have been nourished by it ought to come forth wise and very prudent, and possessed of an understanding abundantly instructed in all things. …What that is profitable to us is not spoken by it? For, first, (what is also more excellent than all other things,) any one may see in it the glorious doctrine of the true knowledge of God. …Moreover, in addition to this, it teaches us how to order aright our life and conversation, and by its divine and sacred laws directs us in the way of righteousness, and makes the path of all equity clear to us.

Greek:
Ἀπόχρη μὲν οὖν ἡ θεόπνευστος Γραφὴ καὶ πρός γε τὸ δεῖν ἀποφάναι σοφοὺς καὶ δοκιμωτάτους, καὶ διαρκεστάτην ἔχοντας σύνεσιν τοὺς ἐντεθραμμέους αὐτῇ• …Τί γὰρ τῶν ὀνησιφόρων οὐκ εἴρηται παρʼ αὐτῆς; πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ ὅ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων ἐστὶ τιμαλφέστερον, κατίδοι τις ἐν αὐτῇ τοὺς τῆς ἀληθοῦς θεοπτίας ἐναστράπτοντας λόγους. …Εἶτα πρὸς τούτοις καὶ τοὺς τῆς εὐζωΐας ἡμῖν εἰσηγῆται τρόπους, νόμοις δὲ θείοις καὶ ἱεροῖς ἀπευθύνει πρὸς δικαιοσύνην, καὶ μὴν καὶ ἁπάσης ἡμῖν ἐπιεικείας ἐναργῆ καθίστησι τρίβον.

Contra Julianum, Liber VII, PG 76:852-853; translation by William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., 3 Vols. (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, pp. 282-283.

Here Cyril even uses the very word “sufficient,” and says that the Scriptures are “abundantly sufficient.” And when he explains what he means, we see that he means that anyone can gain a knowledge of God from them, and that the path of righteousness is set forth clearly in them.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch 412-444):

But some one will say, that the divine scripture hath a style and diction common to all, vulgar and trite; whereas the things of the Greeks are expressed elegantly, and abound in grace and eloquence. We say, therefore, that the prophetical and Mosaic books are expressed in the Hebrew language; and, in order that they might be known to all, small and great, are usefully committed to a familiar diction, so as to transcend no man’s capacity.

Greek:
Ἀλλʼ, ἴσως ἐρεῖ τις, ἡ μὲν θεία Γραφὴ κοινήν τε καὶ ἀγελαίαν, καὶ ἅπασι κατημαξευμένην ἔχει τὴν λέξιν• εὐστομεῖ δὲ τὰ Ἑλλήνων, καὶ καταπλουτεῖ τὸ ἐπίχαρι, καὶ πρός γε τούτῳ τὸ εὐεπές. Φαμὲν οὖν, ὅτι γλώττη μὲν Ἑβραίων ἐλαλήθη τὰ προφητῶν, καὶ αὐτὰ δὲ τὰ Μωσέως, ἵνα καὶ ὑπάρχῃ γνώριμα μικροῖς καὶ μεγάλοις, μετεποιήθη χρησίμως εἰς τὸ τῆς γλώττης εὐτριβὲς καὶ δυσέφικτον ἐχούσης παντελῶς οὐδές.

Contra Julianum, Liber VII, PG 76:853; for translation, see William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 399.

What’s interesting is that Cyril is responding to a complaint by his opponents that the Bible is written in a very simple, uncomplicated way. Whereas, in contrast, the Greek intellectuals wrote in a very complicated hard-to-understand way. Cyril’s response was not to argue that the Scriptures are written in a very complex way, but to point out the purpose of Scripture, namely that the Scripture was intended to be read and understood by all. This is speaking to the form of the Scriptures. In this case, it appears that Cyril is specifically referring to the form one or more of the Greek translations of the Old Testament, but you will see that Cyril’s comments are not elsewhere limited to those portions.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch 412-444) commenting on Isaiah 24:15-16:

From wings taken in this sense, he says, we heard of marvels – performed through Christ, that is; having been given spiritual guidance from the writings of the holy apostles and evangelists, and becoming acquainted with the divine signs worked by the Savior, we have an unwavering faith in them, trust, constancy, belief and excellent hope of the devout.

Robert Charles Hill (translator), Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on Isaiah, Volume 2 (Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2008) pp. 115-16.

In the preceding quotation Cyril ascribes the spiritual guidance to the writings of the New Testament.

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch 412-444) commenting on Isaiah 26::

By night my spirit watches for you, O God, because your commandments are light on the earth (v. 9). By night he refers to the time before the incarnation of the Lord, by watching the inspired foreknowledge, and by true light the Gospel of Christ, the sun of justice, which the earth everywhere is bidden learn. The learning is not from nature, in fact, like gazing or walking, but from zeal and attentiveness; the one who does not learn is removed from the living, and will not see the glory of Christ. Those who say, We hoped in your name and in your memory, in which our soul longs, necessarily make this offering as well; by admitting the divine light into their mind, dismissing the darkness of the former deceit, and seeing the gloom of sin dissipated, they offer songs of thanksgiving, as though saying that dawn is breaking upon them, and a daystar is now rising in their hearts, as Scripture says. To such people the divinely-inspired Paul also writes in these words, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light”; and elsewhere as well, “We are all children of the light and children of the day, not of the night and of darkness”; the mind of believers is enlightened by the Gospel oracles. Consequently, the divinely-inspired David also says as if to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Your Law is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths.” In other words, the Law given through the all-wise Moses was, as it were, obscured by the gloom, so to say, and shadows — of the text, that is; but by the Gospel preaching the beauty of the reality is rendered bare and resplendent, and cheers the mind with the understanding of pious people like the infusion of a light.

Robert Charles Hill (translator), Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on Isaiah, Volume 2 (Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2008) pp. 135-36.

What’s interesting about the preceding quotation is the fact that Cyril is turning to the same texts we do to make the same point. He is referring to the Scriptures as light, and he is showing that the more clear illuminates the less clear, even specifically referring to the role of the New Testament in making the Old Testament more clear where it was formerly more obscure.

More examples could be provided from Cyril’s voluminous writings, but it is time to head north to Cyrrhus, in Syria.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466):

The divine Scripture is accustomed to accommodate its lessons to those who are to be instructed; and to the perfect, to offer that which is perfect; and to the ignorant, elementary points and things suited to their ability.

Alternative translation:
Holy Scripture normally adapts the contents to the learners: to those who are mature proposing mature teachings, but to the immature the elements, in keeping with their capacity.

Greek:
Μετρεῖν εἴωθε τοῖς παιδευομένοις ἡ θεία γραφὴ μαθήματα, καὶ τοῖς μὲν τελείοις προσφέρειν τὰ τέλεια, τοῖς ἀτελέσι δὲ τὰ στοιχειώδη, καὶ τῇ σφῶν δυνάμει συμβαίνοντα.

Quæstiones in Genesim, Interrogatio I, PG 80:77; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 285; alternative translation in Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Genesis, Question 1 (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 7.

The preceding quotation is very similar to the ones we have already seen. Theodoret is saying that Scripture accomodates the reader.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466):

These simpletons fail to understand that the Lord God, when speaking to humans through humans adjusts his language to the limitations of the listeners.

Greek:
Καὶ οὐ συνεῖδον οἱ ἄγαν ἠλίθιοι, ὡς ἀνθρώποις διʼ ἀνθρώπων διαλεγόμενος ὁ Δεσπότης Θεός, τῇ τῶν ἀκουόντων ἀσθενείᾳ τοὺς λόγους μετρεῖ.

Quæstiones in Genesim, Interrogatio XX, PG 80:104C; Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Genesis, Question 20 (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 51.

This is the same thought as the previous one, although here Theodoret is speaking in stronger terms.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466):

The divine Scripture accommodates its language to men; and orders its words so that they may be able to understand.

Alternative translation:
Holy Scripture speaks in a manner suited to human beings and frames its expressions so we may receive them.

Greek:
Προσφόρως τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἡ θεία γραφὴ διαλέγεται, καὶ ὡς ἀκούειν δύνανται μετασχηματίζει τοὺς λόγους·

Quæstiones in Genesim, Interrogatio LII, PG 80:156; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 285; alternative translation in Robert C. Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus: The Questions on the Octateuch, Volume 1, Questions on Genesis, Question 52 (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 2007) p. 111.

And again, Theodoret is saying much the same thing we showed him saying in the previous two quotations.

Theodoret speaks ill of those who charge Scripture with being shrouded in obscurity, which demonstrates how he would have regarded the modern day contentions of those who advocate for Rome’s position that denies Scripture’s sufficiency. Notice what he says in preface to his commentary on the Prophecy of Ezekiel:

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466):

Some people who have fallen foul of this complaint have endeavored to level charges at the divine Scripture, and especially the inspired oracles, of being shrouded in obscurity. To such people the divine-inspired Paul would retort, “Now, even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, but to the mature it is wisdom we are speaking.” In keeping with this, too, is what is said by our Lord and savior to the holy apostles, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, whereas to those others it is not given;” and to explain the reason he immediately adds, “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand” — that is, they willingly bring upon themselves the cloud of ignorance: if they turn to the Lord, as the apostle says, the veil will be lifted. Divine realities, therefore, are not obscure to everyone, only to those who are voluntarily blind; they ought to take note and realize that nothing worthwhile is readily accessible to human beings.

Greek:
Ταύτῃ περιπεσόντες τῇ νόσῳ τινὲς τῆς θείας Γραφῆς κατ ηγορεῖν ἐπεχείρησαν, διαφερόντως δὲ τῶν προφητι κῶν θεσπισμάτων, ὡς ἀσαφείᾳ κεκαλυμμένων. Πρὸς οὓς ἂν εἰκότως ὁ θεσπέσιος εἴποι Παῦλος· «Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστι κεκαλυμμένον τὸ Εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶ κεκαλυμμμένον· σοφίαν γὰρ λαλοῦ μεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις.» Συμφωνεῖ δὲ τούτοις καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ Δεσπότου καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν πρὸς τοὺς ἁγίους ἀποστόλους εἰρημένα· «Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυ στήρια τῆς βασιλείας, ἐκείνοις δὲ οὐ δέδοται·» καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν διδάσκων εὐθὺς ἐπάγει, ὅτι «Βλέποντες οὐ βλέπουσι, καὶ ἀκούοντες οὐ συνιοῦσιν.» Αὐτοὶ γὰρ, φησὶν, ἑκόντες ἐπισπῶνται τῆς ἀγνοίας τὸ νέφος· ἐὰν γὰρ ἐπιστρέψωσι πρὸς Κύριον, ᾗ φησιν ὁ θεῖος Ἀπόστολος, περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα. Οὐ τοίνυν πᾶσίν ἐστιν ἀσαφῆ τὰ θεῖα, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἐθελουσίως τυφλώττουσιν· οὓς ἐχρῆν σκοπῆσαι, καὶ συνιδεῖν, ὅτι τῶν τιμίων οὐδὲν πρόχειρον τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

In Ezechielem – Præfatio, PG 81:808-809; Robert Charles Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentaries on the Prophets, Vol. Two, Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), preface, pp. 27-28.

Theodoret’s response to those who claim that Scriptures are obscure is the same as we have seen in many of the preceding fathers. He blames the obscurity on the sinfulness of men, and asserts that the Scriptures themselves are clear.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466):

Let no one, therefore, especially devotees of the true religion, adopt such a presumptuous attitude to the divine Spirit as to accuse his words of obscurity. Instead, in their longing to understand the sacred words, let them cry aloud with the divinely-inspired David, “Unveil my eyes, and I shall grasp the marvels of your law:” having promised the knowledge as a benefit, he will definitely grant the request. In fact, in our case, too, let us offer this request to the Lord, who according to the divine David gives wisdom to the blind, and according to blessed Isaiah to those in gloom and darkness, and let us venture upon a commentary on the divinely-inspired Ezekiel, attempt to plumb the depths of the prophecy as far as is possible for us, and make available to all religious people the value drawn from it.

Greek:
Μηδεὶς τοίνυν, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν τῆς εὐσεβείας τρο φίμων, κατὰ τοῦ θείου Πνεύματος θρασυνέσθω, τοῖς τούτου λόγοις ἀσάφειαν ἐπιμεμφόμενος· ἀλλὰ νοῆσαι τοὺς ἱεροὺς ἐφιέμενος λόγους μετὰ τοῦ θεσπεσίου βοάτω Δαβίδ· «Ἀποκάλυψον τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς μου, καὶ κατανοήσω τὰ θαυμάσια ἐκ τοῦ νόμου σου.» Τεύξεται γὰρ πάντως τῆς αἰτήσεως, ἐπʼ ὠφελείᾳ τὴν γνῶσιν ἐπαγγείλας. Ταύτην γὰρ καὶ ἡμεῖς τὴν ἱκετείαν τῷ Δεσπότῃ προσφέροντες, ὃς σοφίζει τοὺς τυφλοὺς, κατὰ τὸν θεῖον Δαβὶδ, καὶ τοὺς ἐν σκότει καὶ τῇ ὁμίχλῃ, κατὰ τὸν μακάριον Ἡσαΐαν, τῆς τοῦ θεσπεσίου Ἐζεκιὴλ κατατολμήσωμεν ἑρμηνείας, καὶ τῆς προφητείας τὸ βάθος, ὡς ἡμῖν ἐφικτὸν, ἐρευνῆ σαι πειρασώμεθα, καὶ κοινὸν ἅπασι προθῆναι τοῖς εὐσεβέσι τὸ ἐντεῦθεν συναγόμενον κέρδος.

In Ezechielem – Præfatio, PG 81:809, 812; Robert Charles Hill, trans., Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentaries on the Prophets, Vol. Two, Commentary on the Prophet Ezekiel (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), preface, p. 29.

This is a similar thought to the preceding one. Here, however, Theodoret adds the additional point that the one who lifts the blindness is the Holy Spirit. Thus, we should pray to Him for wisdom, as we read.

We now jump back to the West, this time to France to hear from a presbyter of the church in Marseilles.

Salvian the Presbyter (5th century):

In a word, holy deeds would be done by Christians if Christ has taught holy things. He who is worshiped can be judged by His worshippers. For how is a teacher good whose pupils we see are so evil? From this viewpoint, they are Christians; they listen to Him, they read Him. It is easy for all to understand the teaching of Christ.

FC, Vol. 3, The Writings of Salvian, The Presbyter, The Governance of God, Book 4, §17 (New York: CIMA Publishing Co., Inc., 1947), pp. 120-121.

Salvian the Presbyter (5th century):

“God therefore repented,” says the Holy Scripture, “that he had made man on the earth”; this does not indicate that God is subject to repentance or any other emotion, but rather that the divine word, to further our understanding of the true meaning of the Scriptures, speaks to us in terms of human feeling and shows the force of God’s anger under the name of repentance; moreover, the divine wrath is the punishment of the sinner.

Eva M. Sanford, translator, Salvian: On the Government of God, Book I, Chapter 7 (Columbia University Press, 1930) p. 53.

This statement above is a specific example of the principle of divine accommodation in Scripture that has been attested by many fathers above.

Salvian the Presbyter (5th century):

It is well: the foundations have been laid for a work undertaken from pious motives and from love of a sacred duty; they have not been laid in marshy ground or built of perishable stone, but are strengthened by the sacred treasures used in their building and by the skill of their divine architect. These foundations, as God himself says in his Gospel, cannot be shaken by raging winds, undermined by river floods, or washed away by the rains. Since the divine writings in some fashion lent their aid to the erection of this structure, and the Holy Scriptures performed the joiner’s task, the work itself must, through the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, be as strong as its makers. So this edifice receives its character from its parent stock and cannot be shaken while the builders remain sound.

As no one can tear down the walls of earthly houses without tearing apart their stones and mortar, so none can destroy this structure of ours unless he first destroys the materials of which it is composed. Since these certainly can in no way be weakened, we may safely assume the permanence of a building whose strength is insured by immortal aid.

The question is raised why, if everything in this world is controlled by the care and governance and judgment of God, the condition of the barbarians is so much better than ours, why among us the fortune of good men is harder than that of the wicked. Why should upright men fall ill and reprobates recover? Why does the whole world fall prey to powers for the most part unjust? Perhaps a rational and fairly consistent answer would be: “I do not know.” For I do not know the secrets of God. The oracle of his heavenly word is sufficient proof for me in this case. God says, as I have already proved in my earlier books, that all things are subject to his oversight, his rule and his judgment. If you wish to know what doctrines you must accept, you have the sacred writings: the perfect course is to hold fast what you have read in them.

Moreover, I would not have you ask me to account for God’s actions in the cases of which I speak. I am a man; I do not understand the secrets of God, I do not dare search them out, I am afraid to pry into them, for to seek to know more than is permitted is in itself a kind of rash sacrilege. God says that he moves and ordains all things: let that suffice. Do you ask me why one man is greater and another less, one wretched and another happy, one strong and another weak? Why indeed God does such things. I do not know, but the proof that he is the source of all actions should convince you fully. As God is greater than the sum total of human reason, our knowledge that everything is done by him ought to have more weight with us than reason alone. You do not need, therefore, to hear any new argument on this point; let God’s authority be set over against all reason from any source whatever.

We are not at liberty to say that of the actions of the divine will one is just and another unjust, because whatever you see is done by God, whatever you are sure is done by him, you must confess is more than just. So much can be said of God’s government and justice without further discussion and without uncertainty. I need not prove by arguments what is proved by his very words. When we read that God says he constantly sees all the earth, we have proof that he sees it, since he says so. When we read that he rules all creation, we have proof that he rules it, because he so affirms. When we read that he orders all things by his immediate judgment, his judgment is clearly proved by his own testimony. All other statements, made in human terms, need proofs and witnesses, whereas God’s speech is its own witness, since the words of perfect truth must be perfect testimony to the truth. Yet since our God willed that we should through the Sacred Scriptures know certain things, as if from the archives of his spirit and mind —-since the pronouncements of the Holy Scriptures are themselves in a way the mind of God —- I shall not conceal anything that God has wished his people to know and preach.

Alternative partial translation:
I shall not be silent on whatever God willed to be known and preached by His followers, since our God wished us to know certain things through the Scriptures, which are, as it were, from the recesses of His mind and spirit because, in a way, the very words of Holy Scripture are the mind of God.

Latin (for partial translation):
Sed tamen cum per Scripturas sacras scire nos quasi de arcano animi ac mentis suae quaedam voluerit Deus noster, quia ipsum quodammodo Scripturae sacrae oraculum Dei mens est; quidquid vel agnosci per suos vel praedicari Deus voluit, non tacebo.

Sancti Salviani Massiliensis Presbyteri De Gubernatione Dei, Liber Tertius, §1, PL 53:57B; translation in Eva M. Sanford, translator, Salvian: On the Government of God, Book III, Chapter 1 (Columbia University Press, 1930) pp. 77-79; alternative partial translation in FC, Vol. 3, The Writings of Salvian, The Presbyter, The Governance of God, Book 3.1 (New York: CIMA Publishing Co., Inc., 1947), p. 69.

In the preceding comments, Salvian speaks to the sufficiency of Scripture. His initial comments might sound like a mere assertion of the material sufficiency of Scripture, but the later comments make it clear that he believes that the form of Scripture is also sufficient, since the Scriptures speak clearly on these matters.

Salvian the Presbyter (5th century):

You who read these words are perhaps vexed and condemn what you read. I do not shrink from your censure; condemn me if I do not succeed in proving my words; condemn me if I do not show that the Sacred Scriptures also have said what I now claim.

Alternative translation:
Condemn me if I lie. Condemn me if I shall not bring proofs. Condemn me if I shall not demonstrate that the Sacred Scriptures have also said what I have asserted.

Latin:
Condemna, si mentior; condemna, si non probavero; condemna, si id quod assero, non etiam Scripturas sacras dixisse monstravero.

Sancti Salviani Massiliensis Presbyteri De Gubernatione Dei, Liber Quartus, §13, PL 53:85B; translation in Eva M. Sanford, translator, Salvian: On the Government of God, Book IV, Chapter 13 (Columbia University Press, 1930) p. 121; alternative translation in FC, Vol. 3, The Writings of Salvian, The Presbyter, The Governance of God, Book 4.13 (New York: CIMA Publishing Co., Inc., 1947), pp. 113.

The preceding sentences don’t explicitly state the formal sufficiency of Scripture, but they flow from that view. If someone does not believe that the Scriptures are formally sufficient, why would they insist that they serve as the only measure? In other words, why could someone stand condemned simply because he cannot show that Scripture says what he says? The answer is that the Scriptures are for Salvian both materially and formally sufficient.

This brings us to a “bonus” section of the post. First, although he is not among the fathers of the first 5 centuries, we would like to provide this very beautiful comment from Fulgentius, who was born in the 5th century, but died in the 6th.

Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (c. 467-532):

In which commandments, as in most rich viands, the spiritual abundance of heavenly dainties is so exuberant, that there is in the word of God plenty for the perfect to eat, and plenty also for the babe to suck. For there is both the milk of the suckling, whereby the tender infancy of the faithful may be nourished, and the solid food whereby the robust youth of the perfect may gain spiritual increase of holy vigour. There provision is made universally for the salvation of all whom the Lord designs to save. There we hear the precepts which we should perform: there we know the rewards we are to hope for. There is the command which teaches by the letter, and instructs us unto knowledge: there the promise which draws us by grace, and leads us to glory.

Latin:
In quibus denuo mandatis, tanquam ditissimis ferculis, sic coelestium deliciarum copia spiritalis exuberat, ut in verbo Dei abundet quod perfectus comedat, abundet etiam quod parvulus sugat. Ibi est enim simul et lacteus potus, quo tenera fidelium nutriatur infantia, et solidus cibus, quo robusta perfectorum juventus spiritalia sanctae virtutis accipiat incrementa. Ibi prorsus ad salutem consulitur universis quos Dominus salvare dignatur; ibi est quod omni aetati congruat, ibi quod omni professioni conveniat; ibi audimus praecepta quae faciamus, ibi cognoscimus praemia quae speremus; ibi est jussio quae nos per litteram doceat et instruat ad scientiam; ibi promissio quae per gratiam trahat et perducat ad gloriam.

Sermo Primus, PL 65:721; translation in William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: The University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 400.

Additionally, as promised, we would like to provide the testimony of two early Roman bishops.

Leo I (400- 401):

Not knowing, therefore, what he was bound to think concerning the incarnation of the Word of God, and not wishing to gain the light of knowledge by researches through the length and breadth of the Holy Scriptures, he might at least have listened attentively to that general and uniform confession, whereby the whole body of the faithful confess that they believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. By which three statements the devices of almost all heretics are overthrown. For not only is God believed to be both Almighty and the Father, but the Son is shown to be co-eternal with Him, differing in nothing from the Father because He is God from God, Almighty from Almighty, and being born from the Eternal one is co-eternal with Him; not later in point of time, not lower in power, not unlike in glory, not divided in essence: but at the same time the only begotten of the eternal Father was born eternal of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. And this nativity which took place in time took nothing from, and added nothing to that divine and eternal birth, but expended itself wholly on the restoration of man who had been deceived: in order that he might both vanquish death and overthrow by his strength, the Devil who possessed the power of death. For we should not now be able to overcome the author of sin and death unless He took our nature on Him and made it His own, whom neither sin could pollute nor death retain. Doubtless then, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit within the womb of His Virgin Mother, who brought Him forth without the loss of her virginity, even as she conceived Him without its loss.

But if he could not draw a rightful understanding (of the matter) from this pure source of the Christian belief, because he had darkened the brightness of the clear truth by a veil of blindness peculiar to himself, he might have submitted himself to the teaching of the Gospels. And when Matthew speaks of “the Book of the Generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham Matthew 1:1,” he might have also sought out the instruction afforded by the statements of the Apostles. And reading in the Epistle to the Romans, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, which He had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scripture concerning His son, who was made unto Him of the seed of David after the flesh Romans 1:1-3,” he might have bestowed a loyal carefulness upon the pages of the prophets. And finding the promise of God who says to Abraham, “In your seed shall all nations be blest Genesis 12:3,” to avoid all doubt as to the reference of this seed, he might have followed the Apostle when He says, “To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He says not and to seeds, as if in many, but as it in one, and to your seed which is Christ [Galatians 3:16].” Isaiah’s prophecy also he might have grasped by a closer attention to what he says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted “God with us. ” And the same prophet’s words he might have read faithfully. “A child is born to us, a Son is given to us, whose power is upon His shoulder, and they shall call His name the Angel of the Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the age to come. ” And then he would not speak so erroneously as to say that the Word became flesh in such a way that Christ, born of the Virgin’s womb, had the form of man, but had not the reality of His mother’s body. Or is it possible that he thought our Lord Jesus Christ was not of our nature for this reason, that the angel, who was sent to the blessed Mary ever Virgin, says, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you: and therefore that Holy Thing also that shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God [Luke 1:35],” on the supposition that as the conception of the Virgin was a Divine act, the flesh of the conceived did not partake of the conceiver’s nature? But that birth so uniquely wondrous and so wondrously unique, is not to be understood in such wise that the properties of His kind were removed through the novelty of His creation. For though the Holy Spirit imparted fertility to the Virgin, yet a real body was received from her body; and, “Wisdom building her a house [Proverbs 9:1],” “the Word became flesh and dwelt in us [John 1:14],” that is, in that flesh which he took from man and which he quickened with the breath of a higher life.

Leo I of Rome (aka Leo the Great), Letter 28 (“The Tome”), Section 1

What’s particularly interesting about Leo’s comment is his layering of Scripture, Creed (taken from Scripture), and Scripture again. Leo is pointing out that the person should have just read the Bible, or listened to the Creed, but simpler even than that, he could just understand the truth from what Leo sees as the extremely clear statements of the Gospels and Apostolic writings.

Gregory the Great, who would have been too late for the fifth century collection, has similar ideas.

Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603):

For as the word of God, by the mysteries which it contains, exercises the understanding of the wise, so usually by what presents itself on the outside, it nurses the simpleminded. It presenteth in open day that wherewith the little ones may be fed; it keepeth in secret that whereby men of a loftier range may be held in suspense of admiration. It is, as it were, a kind of river, if I may so liken it, which is both shallow and deep, wherein both the Lamb may find a footing, and the elephant float at large.

Morals on the Book of Job by S. Gregory the Great: A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Vol. 1, Parts 1 & 2 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1844), Preface, p. 9.

Notice how Gregory’s comments more or less specifically state the same kind of principle of accommodation that we have seen so many times in the fathers, particularly the fathers of the fifth century.

(to be continued, Lord Willing, with discussion from various scholars)

Two Eastern Fathers Whose Views Conflict with Purgatory

July 2, 2010

Here are some quotations from some of the “Eastern Fathers,” namely Basil of Caesarea (A.D. 329-379) and John Chrysostom (A.D. 349-407).

In this first quotation, notice what Chrysostom is saying about where sin can be remedied, in terms of this life or the next:

So there is no righteous person who does not have sin, and there is no sinner who does not have goodness. But since there is a recompense for each, see what happens. The sinner receives as his due the fair recompense for his good deeds, if he has even a small evil deed; and the righteous person receives his due the fair judgment for his sin, if he has done even a small evil deed. So what happens, and what does God do? He has set a boundary for the sin between the present life and the age to come. If a person is righteous, but has performed some mean action, and is ill in this life and is handed over to punishment, do not be disturbed, but consider with yourself, and say that this righteous man has done some small evil deed at some time, and is receiving his due here, in order that he may not be punished hereafter. So if someone is righteous and suffers some misfortune, he receives his due here for this purpose, in order that he may put away his sin here and depart clean to the other world. If someone is a sinner, laden with wickedness, ill with innumerable incurable evils, rapacious, avaricious, he enjoys prosperity here for this purpose, in order that he may not seek a reward hereafter.

Greek:

Οὐκ ἔστιν οὖν τις δίκαιος, ὃς οὐκ ἔχει ἁμαρτίαν· καὶ οὐκ ἔστι τις ἁμαρτωλὸς ὃς οὐκ ἔχει ἀγαθόν· ἀλλʼ ἐπειδὴ ἑκάστων ἐστὶν ἀντίδοσις, βλέπε τί γίνεται· Ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς ἀπολαμβάνει τῶν ἀγαθῶν αὐτοῦ ἰσόῤῥοπον τὴν ἀντίδοσιν, ἐάν τι ἔχῃ κἂν μικρὸν ἀγαθόν· καὶ ὁ δίκαιος ἀπολαμβάνει τῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτοῦ τὴν ἰσόῤῥοπον κρίσιν, κἂν μικρόν τι ποιήσῃ κακόν. Τί οὖν γίνεται, 48.1043 καὶ τί ποιεῖ ὁ Θεός; Ἀφώρισε νόσον τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, τὸν παρόντα βίον καὶ τὸν μέλλοντα αἰῶνα. Ἐὰν οὖν ᾖ τις δίκαιος, καὶ ἐργάσηταί τι φαῦλον, καὶ νοσήσῃ ὧδε, καὶ τιμωρίᾳ παραδοθῇ, μὴ θορυβηθῇς, ἀλλʼ ἐννόησον πρὸς ἑαυτὸν, καὶ εἰπὲ, ὅτι οὗτος ὁ δίκαιος πώποτε μικρόν τι κακὸν ἐποίησε, καὶ ἀπολαμβάνει ὧδε, ἵνα μὴ ἐκεῖ κολασθῇ. Πάλιν, ἐὰν ἴδῃς ἁμαρτωλὸν ἁρπάζοντα, πλεονεκτοῦντα, μυρία ποιοῦντα κακὰ, κἂν εὐθυνῇ, ἐννόησον ὅτι ἐποίησέ ποτε ἀγαθόν τι, καὶ ἀπολαμβάνει ὧδε τὰ ἀγαθὰ, ἵνα μὴ ἐκεῖ ἀπαιτήσῃ τὸν μισθόν.

– John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio VΙ, §9, PG 48:1042-1043; Catharine P. Roth, trans., St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty, 6th Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, §3 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), p. 123.

Notice what Chrysostom is saying: there is no punishment for the sin of the righteous in the hereafter. That’s a view that is inconsistent with the Roman Catholic fiction of Purgatory. The reason, of course, for this inconsistency is that Chrysostom did not believe in Purgatory – he had never even heard of it.

On a slightly different note, consider what Basil says in the following quotation:

I find, then, when I take up the divine Scriptures, in the Old and New Testaments, that disobedience towards God is plainly judged to lie not in the multitude of sins nor their magnitude, but in the mere transgression of any one command, and that there is a common judgment of God against all disobedience.

Greek:

Εὑρίσκω τοίνυν, ἀναλαβὼν τὰς θείας Γραφὰς, ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ καὶ Καινῇ Διαθήκῃ, οὔτε ἐν τῷ πλήθει τῶν ἁμαρτανομένων, οὔτε ἐν τῷ μεγέθει τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων, ἐν μόνῃ δὲ τῇ παραβάσει οὑτι νοσοῦν προστάγματος, σαφῶς κρινομένην τὴν πρὸς Θεὸν ἀπείθειαν, καὶ κοινὸν κατὰ πάσης παρακοῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸ κρῖμα·

– Basil of Caesarea, De Judicio Dei, §4, PG 31:653; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K.,1925), p. 81.

Notice that in this quotation Basil insists that there is a common judgment for sin. Basil does not here distinguish between “mortal” sins and “venial” sins, which receive different punishments. This view is inconsistent with notion that Purgatory is a place or state for the expiation of “venial” sins in the afterlife.

The same unity-of-punishment-for-all-sins theme can be seen from a slightly different angle in the following quotation, noting especially the last sentence:

However, if I would narrate all that I find in the Old and New Testament, time would soon fail me as I expounded it. But when I come to the actual words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, the utterance of Him Who is about to judge the living and dead, which have more weight with the faithful than all other narratives and arguments, I see in them the great necessity, if I may say so, of obeying God in all things, and again, in the case of each commandment, absolutely no pardon left to those who do not repent of their disobedience, since one can hardly venture a different opinion, or even let it enter the mind, in the face of such open, clear, and unqualified declarations. “For heaven” He says “and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” There is no difference made in this passage, no discrimination, no reservation whatever made. He says not “these words” or “those” but “My words.” For it is written: “The Lord is faithful in all his words”—whether forbidding anything, or commanding, or promising, or threatening, whether He refers to the doing of what is forbidden, or to the leaving undone what is commanded. For that leaving of good works undone is punished equally with perpetrating evil works, is shown and proved sufficiently to any soul not afflicted with complete unbelief by the aforesaid judgment in the case of Peter.

Greek:

Ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ἐὰν θέλω καταλέγειν, ὅσα εὑρίσκω ἔκ τε Παλαιᾶς καὶ Καινῆς Διαθήκης, ἐπιλείψει με τάχα διηγούμενον ὁ χρόνος. Ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἐπʼ αὐτὰς ὅταν ἔλθω τὰς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῷ Εὐαγγελίῳ φωνὰς, αὐτοῦ τοῦ μέλλοντος κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκροὺς τὰ ῥήματα, ἃ πάσης μὲν ἱστορίας, πάσης δὲ ἄλλης ἀποδείξεως παρὰ τοῖς πιστοῖς ἀξιοπιστότερα, πολλὴν μὲν ἐν αὐτοῖς καταμανθάνω τῆς ἐν πᾶσι πρὸς Θεὸν εὐπειθείας, ἵνα οὕτως εἴπω, ἀνάγκην· οὐδεμίαν δὲ ὅλως, ἐπ’ οὐδενὶ προστάγματι, καταλειπομένην τοῖς μὴ μετανοοῦσι τῆς ἀπειθείας συγγνώμην, εἰ μή τι ἕτερόν ἐστι τολμῆσαι, καὶ μέχρις ἐννοίας λαβεῖν, πρὸς οὕτω γυμνὰς, σαφεῖς τε καὶ ἀπολύτους ἀποφάσεις· Ὁ οὐρανὸς γὰρ, φησὶ, καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσιν. Οὐκ ἔστιν ἐνταῦθα διαφορὰ, οὐκ ἔστι διαίρεσις, οὐδὲν οὐδαμοῦ ὅλως ὑπολέλειπται. Οὐκ εἶπεν· Οὗτοι ἢ ἐκεῖνοι, ἀλλʼ, Οἱ λόγοι μου, πάντες ὁμοῦ δηλονότι, οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσι. Γέγραπται γάρ· Πιστὸς Κύριος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ· εἴτε ἀπαγορεύων ὁτιοῦν, εἴτε προστάσσων, εἴτε ἐπαγγελλόμενος, εἴτε ἀπειλῶν, καὶ εἴτε ἐπὶ τῇ πράξει τῶν ἀπηγορευμένων, εἴτε ἐπὶ τῇ ἐλλείψει τῶν ἐπιτεταγμένων. Ὅτι γὰρ ἐπίσης τῇ ἐνεργείᾳ τῶν κακῶν καὶ ἡ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων ἔλλειψις ἐκδικεῖται, ἤρκει μὲν καὶ πρὸς ἀπόδειξιν καὶ πληροφορίαν τῇ γε μὴ παντελῆ ἀπιστίαν νοσούσῃ ψυχῇ τὸ προειρημένον ἐπὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ κρῖμα·

– Basil of Caesarea, De Judicio Dei, §8, PG 31:672-673; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K.,1925), pp. 87-88.

Basil, however, does not limit himself to explaining that there is not a difference between sins of commission and sins of omission. He goes on to explain that there are not “great” and “little” sins with respect to punishment, though there may be with respect to mastery:

How are we to deal with those who avoid greater sins but commit small sins regarding them as venial (μικρὰ, small, little) sins?

First of all we must know that in the New Testament it is impossible to observe this distinction. For one sentence is passed against all sins, that of the Lord Who said: “Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin.” And again: “The word that I spake, the same shall judge him at the last day.” Then there is the sentence of John who cried: “He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God will abide on him.” Disobedience receives this threat not because it is worse than other sins but because it is refusing to hear. Generally speaking, however, if we are allowed to speak of a little and a great sin, it can be proved unanswerably that for each man that sin is great which has the mastery of him and that is little of which he is the master, just as among athletes he who conquers is the stronger and he who is beaten is the weaker whoever he be. We must then in the case of everyone who sins, whatever his sin be, observe the precept of the Lord Who said: “If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church. And if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.” And in all these matters let the apostle’s saying be kept: “Why did ye not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you?” For long-suffering and mercy should be joined with severity.

Greek:

ΕΡΩΤΗΣΙΣ Σ Γʹ. Πῶς δεῖ προσφέρεσθαι τοῖς τὰ μείζονα τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων παραιτουμένοις, τὰ δὲ μικρὰ ἀδιαφόρῶς ποιοῦσιν;

ΑΠΟΚΡΙΣΙΣ. Πρῶτον μὲν εἰδέναι χρὴ, ὅτι ἐν τῇ Καινῇ Διαθήκῃ ταύτην τὴν διαφορὰν οὐκ ἔστι μαθεῖν. Μία γὰρ ἀπόφασις κατὰ πάντων ἁμαρτημάτων κεῖται, τοῦ Κυρίου εἰπόντος, ὅτι Ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν δοῦλός ἐστι τῆς ἁμαρτίας· καὶ πάλιν, ὅτι Ὁ λόγος ὃν ἐλάλησα, ἐκεῖνος κρινεῖ αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ· καὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου βοῶντος· Ὁ ἀπειθῶν τῷ Υἱῷ οὐκ ὄψεται τὴν ζωὴν, ἀλλʼ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ μενεῖ ἐπ’ αὐτόν· τῆς ἀπειθείας οὐκ ἐν τῇ διαφορᾷ τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῇ παρακοῇ τὴν ἀπειλὴν ἐχούσης. Ὅλως δὲ, εἰ ἐπιτρε πόμεθα λέγειν μικρὸν καὶ μέγα ἁμάρτημα, ἀναντίῤῥητον ἔδει τὴν ἀπόδειξιν ἑκάστῳ μέγα εἶναι τὸ ἑκά στου κρατοῦν, καὶ μικρὸν τοῦτο, οὗ ἕκαστος κρατεῖ· ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀθλητῶν ὁ μὲν νικήσας ἐστὶν ἰσχυρότερος, ὁ δὲ ἡττηθεὶς ἀσθενέστερος τοῦ ἐπι κρατεστέρου, ὅστις ἂν ᾖ. Δεῖ οὖν ἐπὶ παντὸς ἁμαρτάνοντος οἱονδήποτε ἁμάρτημα φυλάσσειν τὸ κρῖμα τοῦ Κυρίου εἰπόντος, ὅτι Ἂν ἁμάρτῃ εἰς σὲ ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε, ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν με ταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου. Ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου· ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σεαυτοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα. Ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης. Φυλασσέσθω δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τοῖς τοιούτοις τὸ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀποστόλου εἰρημένον· Διὰ τί οὐ μᾶλλον ἐπενθή σατε, ἵνα ἐξαρθῇ ἐκ μέσου ὑμῶν ὁ τὸ ἔργον τοῦτο ποιήσας; Χρὴ γὰρ τὴν μακροθυμίαν καὶ τὴν εὐ σπλαγχνίαν ἐπιφέρεσθαι τῇ ἀποτομία.

– Basil of Caesarea, In Regulas Brevius Tractatas, Interrogatio CCXCIII, PG 31:1288-1289; tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Question & Answer #293 (CCXCIII), pp. 342-343.

We may also note that Basil has the same theme of distinguishing between this life and the next as Chrysostom does. For example, in the following quotation we see him drawing the important distinction:

I beseech you, therefore, through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, let us apply ourselves to care for our souls. Let us lament the vanity of our past life. Let us strive for such things as will be for the glory of God, and of His Christ, and of the adorable and Holy Spirit. Let us not remain in this slothful ease, always losing through our slothfulness the present opportunity, and putting off to the morrow or distant future the beginning of our works, lest, being found unprovided with good works by Him Who demands our souls, we be cast forth from the joy of the bridechamber, shedding vain and useless tears, and lamenting our ill-spent life, at a time when repentance can no longer avail. “Now is the acceptable time,” says the apostle, “now is the day of salvation.” This is the age of repentance, that of reward: this of labour, that of recompense: this of patience, that of comfort.

Greek:

Παρα καλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρ τιῶν ἡμῶν, ἁψώμεθά ποτε τῆς φροντίδος τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν· λυπηθῶμεν ἐπὶ τῇ ματαιώσει τοῦ προλαβόντος βίου· ἀγωνισώμεθα ὑπὲρ τῶν μελλόν των εἰς δόξαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ, καὶ τοῦ προσκυνητοῦ καὶ ἁγίου Πνεύματος. Μὴ τῇ ῥᾳθυμίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἐκλύσει ταύτῃ ἐναπομείνωμεν, καὶ τὸ μὲν παρὸν ἀεὶ διὰ ῥᾳθυμίας προϊέμενοι, πρὸς δὲ τὸ αὔριον καὶ τὸ ἐφεξῆς τὴν ἀρχὴν τῶν ἔρ γων ὑπερτιθέμενοι, εἶτα καταληφθέντες ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀπαιτοῦντος τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν, ἀπαρασκεύαστοι τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων, τῆς μὲν χαρᾶς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἀποβληθῶμεν, ἀργὰ δὲ καὶ ἀνόνητα μετακλαίω μεν, τὸν κακῶς παρεθέντα τοῦ βίου χρόνον ὀδυρό μενοι τότε, ὅτε πλέον οὐδὲν ἐξέσται τοῖς μεταμελο μένοις. Νῦν καιρὸς εὐπρόσδεκτος, φησὶν ὁ Ἀπό στολος, νῦν ἡμέρα σωτηρίας. Οὗτος ὁ αἰὼν τῆς μετανοίας, ἐκεῖνος τῆς ἀνταποδόσεως· οὗτος τῆς ὑπομονῆς, ἐκεῖνος τῆς παρακλήσεως.

First Alternate Translation of the last line:

This present life is a state of penitence, the next of retribution; here we must labor, there we receive our wages; this is a life of patience, that of consolation.

Second Alternate Translation of the last line:

This present world is the time of repentance, the other of retribution; this of working, that of rewarding; this of patient suffering, that of receiving comfort.

– Basil of Caesarea, Regulæ Fusius Tractatæ, Proœmium, PG 31:889, 892; main tr. W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), Preface to the Longer Rules, p. 145; first alternate tr. William John Hall, The Doctrine of Purgatory and the Practice of Praying for the Dead (London: Henry Wix, 1843), preface to the Longer Rules, p. 125; second alternate tr. James Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge Made by a Jesuit (Cambridge: J. & J. J. Deighton, 1835), preface to the Longer Rules, p. 32.

Finally, we see the same distinction between the now and hereafter made in yet another place in Basil’s works:

Everlasting rest is apportioned to those who strive lawfully in this life; not given in payment as for a debt of works, but awarded by the grace of a bountiful God to them that trust in Him.

Greek:

Πρόκειται γὰρ ἀνάπαυσις αἰωνία τοῖς νομίμως τὸν ἐνταῦθα διαθλήσασι βίον οὐ κατὰ ὀφείλημα τῶν ἔργων ἀποδεδομένη, ἀλλὰ κατὰ χάριν τοῦ μεγαλοδώρου Θεοῦ τοῖς εἰς αὐτὸν ἠλπικόσι παρεχομένη.

Alternative Translation:

For, eternal rest lies before those who have struggled through the present life observant of the laws, a rest not given in payment for a debt owed for their works, but provided as a grace of the munificent God for those who have hoped in Him.

– Basil of Caesarea, Homilia In Psalmum CXIV, §5, PG 29:492; main tr. Charles Hastings Collette, Dr. Wiseman’s Popish Literary Blunders Exposed (London: Paternoster-Row, 1860), p. 234; alternative tr. FC, Vol. 46, Exegetic Homilies, Homily 22 on Psalm 114, §5 (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963) p. 357.

This is a follow-on to my previous post regarding Chrysostom alone (link to post). Like the previous post, this one was made with the assistance of Pastor David King.

-TurretinFan

Chrysostom – Passages Inconsistent with an Idea of Purgatory

June 27, 2010

Chrysostom, in the following passages, provides evidence suggesting that he knows nothing of any kind of post-mortem experience as purgatory…

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on Matthew 6:12:

Let us know these and let us remember that terrible day and that fire. Let us put in our mind the terrible punishments and return once for all from our deluded road. For the time will come when the theater of this world will be dissolved, and then no one will be able to contend anymore. No one can do anything after the passing of this life. No one can be crowned after the dissolution of the theater. This time is for repentance, that one for judgment. This time is for the contests, that one for the crowns. This one for toil, that one for relaxation. This one for fatigue, that one for recompense.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 129.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Anticipate the exodus of the soul with repentance and correction, because when death comes suddenly, at absolutely no time will the therapy of repentance be fruitful. Repentance is powerful upon the earth; only in Hades is it powerless. Let us seek the Lord now while we have time. Let us do what is good so that we will be delivered from the future endless punishment of Gehenna, and will be made worthy of the Kingdom of the Heavens.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 130.

Chrysostom (349-407):

I testify and affirm, that if any of us who have offended shall forsake his former sins, and promise to God with sincerity that he will turn to them no more, God will require no further satisfaction from him.

For translation, see William John Hall, The Doctrine of Purgatory and the Practice of Praying for the Dead (London: Henry Wix, 1843), p. 203.
Greek text:

Ἐγὼ διαμαρτύρομαι καὶ ἐγγυῶμαι, ὅτι τῶν ἁμαρτανόντων ἡμῶν ἕκαστος, ἂν ἀποστὰς τῶν προτέρων κακῶν ὑπόσχηται τῷ Θεῷ μετὰ ἀληθείας μηκέτι αὐτῶν ἅψασθαι, οὐδὲν ἕτερον ὁ Θεὸς ζητήσει πρὸς ἀπολογίαν μείζονα.

De Beato Philogonio (On the Blessed Philogonius), Homilia VI, §4, PG 48:754.

– TurretinFan (with the assistance of Pastor David King)

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 7)

February 15, 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 7)

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

You could find many passages of this sort in the writings of the evangelists and the Apostle. Now, then, if a command be given and the manner of carrying it out is not added, let us obey the Lord, who says: ‘Search the Scriptures.’ Let us follow the example of the Apostles who questioned the Lord Himself as to the interpretation of His words, and learn the true and salutary course from His words in another place.

Greek text:

Καὶ πολλὰ τοιαῦτα εὕροις ἂν παρά τε τοῖς εὐαγγελισταῖς καὶ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ. Ἐὰν δὲ ἡ μὲν ἐντολὴ δοθῆ, πῶς δὲ γένηται, μὴ ἐπενεχθῆ, ἀνασχώμεθα τοῦ Κυρίου λέγοντος· Ἐρευνᾶτε τὰς Γραφὰς, καὶ μιμησώμεθα τοὺς ἀποστόλους αὐτὸν τὸν Κύριον ἐπερωτήσαντας τὴν ἑρμηνείαν τῶν παρʼ αὐτοῦ εἰρημένων, καὶ τῶν παρʼ αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν ἐν ἑτέρῳ τόπῳ εἰρημένων μανθάνωμεν τὸ ἀληθὲς καὶ σωτήριον·

Citation: De Baptismo, Liber II, §3, PG 31:1589; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, Ascetical Works, On Baptism, Book 2, §3 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950), p. 399.

To provide a conclusion, I’d like quote my friend, Pastor David King, who put it this way:

The Romanist would clearly ascribe to human potency a power of which he presupposes God in Holy Scripture to be bereft. He would feign involve God’s words in hopeless confusion, while he would have us believe that the human element of “interpretive self-clarification” has an “unlimited intrinsic potency” to ensure us that this crisis of “the hermeneutical spiral may reach its end.” It is in the language of Lactantius the preference “to give credence to human rather than to divine things.” (The Divine Institutes, Book III, Chapter 1). This kind of skepticism regarding God’s word was something that was rejected time and time again by the members of the ancient church. They did embrace what we know today as the principle of formal sufficiency, viz., that God Himself is capable of making Himself known through His own word. And when they did encounter difficulty in understanding Holy Scripture, they invoked the spiritual discipline of prayer such as we find exemplified in Tertullian, “Interpret in person Thine own Scriptures” (On the Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 3). Unlike Augustine, Romanists refuse to acknowledge that “there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions [even that of human speech] subsequent to apostolic times” and that there are “such cases” where “a man is at liberty to withhold his belief [eg. Papal infallibility, Marian dogmas], unless there is some clear demonstration or some canonical authority to show that the doctrine or statement must or may be true. But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion.” (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XI, §5). The alleged hermeneutical spiral, if left to the guidance of human fallibility, spells the end contemptuously for the recognition of the wholesome authority of Holy Scripture by shifting one’s confidence from the word of God to human fallibility. The ECFs would never have owned such blasphemous reasoning. The problem is not that of an endless “hermeneutical spiral,” but “dissensions concerning the faith” are the result of what Hilary of Poitiers described as “a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture” (On the Trinity, Book VII, §4). Moreover, Augustine informs us that the problem is not that of an hermeneutical spiral, but rather the reason wherefore men have so far gone astray, or that many — alas! — should follow diverse ways of belief concerning the Son of God, the marvel seems to be, not at all that human knowledge has been baffled in dealing with superhuman things, but that it has not submitted to the authority of the Scriptures” (Of the Christian Faith, Book IV, Chapter 1, §1). The solution for those who err, he tells us, is to be found in the spiritual discipline of prayer, “that God would open their understanding, and that they might comprehend the Scriptures” rather than forming their own “notion of His Church from the vanity of human falsehood, instead of learning what it is on the authority of the sacred books” (A Treatise concerning the Correction of the Donatists, Chapter 1, §2). The early church fathers emphasized time and time again that “the Lord stoops to the level even of our feeble understanding; to satisfy the doubts of unbelieving minds He works a miracle of His invisible power” that “lies beyond the region of human explanation” (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book III, §20).

Moreover, according to the ECFs, there is no “hermeneutical spiral” dilemma with respect to those things that are necessary. Chrysostom informed the congregation of his day that “all things are clear and open that are in the divine Scripture; the necessary things are all plain (Homilies on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, Homily III, Comments on 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10, πάντα σαφῆ καὶ εὐθέα τὰ παρὰ ταῖς θείαις Γραφαῖς, πάντα τὰ ἀναγκαῖα δῆλα. In epistulam ii ad Thessalonicenses, Homilia ΙΙΙ, §4, PG 62:485). Augustine likewise testified that “the fact is, after all, that in the passages that are put plainly in scripture is to be found everything that touches upon faith, and good morals” (De Doctrina Christiana, Book II, Chapter 9, §14).

In short, the claim for the interpretive authority of the Roman magisterium is, in reality, a case of special pleading for the claims that are peculiar to its own communion. Moreover, there is no such human hermeneutical authority which can effectively end controversy this side of eternity. The unbelieving Jews of our Lord’s day rejected His infallible interpretation of the law to prove His deity. Their response is described in their attempt to stone him. But regardless of their unbelieving response, the Scripture cannot be broken. Thus the end of controversy, indeed the end of “the hermeneutical spiral,” is not the litmus test for the propriety of authoritative appeal. The fact that Romanists refuse to rest in the adjudicating authority of Scripture, because dissensions exist, forms no valid objection to our appellation to the voice of heaven, for no authority (however clear or definitive) could accomplish that. Only the Judge of the last day has the power to silence every dissident, and this the Lord will do when he returns and “divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt 25:32). Till that day, the wheat will always be mingled with the tares (Matt 13:24-30), and the Lord will sort them out with infallible judgment. Holy Scripture, church history, and human nature all teach us that there is no truth, no matter how clearly it is set forth and expounded with authority from heaven, but that impenitent, rebel sinners will reject and suppress it in unrighteousness, as Scripture itself testifies (Rom 1:18-32).

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430): Bad people commingle with good people not only in the world but even within the Church: even here the wicked are mixed up with the good. You know this, you have plenty of experience of it, and if you are good yourselves you will be all the more keenly aware of it, for when the shoots had grown up and come into ear, then the tares became apparent (Mt 13:26). The bad people within the Church are obvious only to one who is good. But you know that they are mingled with the rest, always and everywhere, and scripture testifies that they will not be sorted out until the end. 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 128.8 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2004), p. 122.

I’ll give the very last words to Augustine:

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

To be sure, if the truth is revealed so clearly that it cannot come into doubt, it ought to be preferred to all the things by which I am held in the Catholic Church. But if it is only promised and not revealed, no one will move me from that faith which binds my mind to the Christian religion by such great bonds.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, The Manichean Debate, Part 1, Vol. 19, trans. Boniface Ramsey, Answer to the Letter of Mani Known as The Foundation, 4,5 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2006), p. 236.

– TurretinFan

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]

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]


%d bloggers like this: