Archive for the ‘Estius’ Category

Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

December 6, 2009

William Forbes relates for us the inconsistent comments of Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

But before we leave this subject, let us quote a few sentences from Estius concerning that most celebrated passage, and “on which the fate of purgatory (so to speak) depends” [FN: Andrews Response to Cardinal Bellarmine Apologian, Chapter 8, page 208] in the opinion of most Romanists; “Others again,” he says, [[Estius] Commentary on 1 Corithians 3, at vs. 13, at the words “dies enim [] declarabit”] alluding to Bellarmine chiefly, whose opinion he here refutes without mentioning his name [TurretinFan’s note: This is an odd assertion, in view of what we’ve seen in Bellarmine on this passage.], “think that the Apostle uses the word fire in more than one signification. For in the first place they understand the fire of the general conflagration; in the second, they interpret fire as being the severe and just judgment of God by which all the works of men are tried and examined; lastly, in the third place, when it is said, that ‘the man himself will be saved, yet so as by fire,’ they maintain that the purgatorial fire of the souls after this life is meant. But to others it not undeservedly seems absurd, that the Apostle in a single passage of few words should use the word fire in so many senses; nor will any one easily persuade himself that on the third occasion, the purgatorial fire of souls is signified, if on the first and second a different fire is intended. Wherefore,” he says, “in order that in this obscurity we may reach the meaning of S. Paul, it appears, first, that the word fire ought to be taken in a single sense, in this place &c.” He therefore affirms that this whole passage must be understood of “the fire of the burning” at the day of the last judgment, and here he cites many testimonies of the ancients about the fire of the last day, as S. Basil [Of the Holy Spirit 15:36], S. Hilary [can. 2 in Matthew Section 4], S. Ambrose [Sermon 3 on Psalm 118, Section 15], Eucherius [Homily 3 on the Epiphany], Alcuin [3 of the Trinity, Chapter 21], Lactantius, [7 Divine Institutes, Chapter 21] &c.” See the author himself discussing at great length this subject.

In the end of his explanation, however, of this passage, he puts among other questions, this one also; “The third question; Whether and in what manner is the Purgatory of souls after this life proved from this passage? For if,” he says, “fire shall try every man’s work, and that trial is not to take place till the day of the Lord, and the expression, ‘saved as by fire,’ is to be referred to that same day, not only it does not seem that a Purgatory of souls immediately upon the death of the bodies can be built up from this passage, but rather the reverse; since the whole purifying is reserved for the last judgment. Nevertheless in the Council of Florence, the Latin Fathers, in spite of the dissent of the Greeks, held that Purgatory was to be established from this Scripture.” The author, lest he should irritate, and too much offend his own party, answers shortly that “the Purgatory of souls may be well and firmly collected from this passage,” also “of S. Paul.” But how coldly he performs this, judicious Reader, see with thine own eyes. For he rather plays than treats seriously about deducing that opinion from thence. Nay, he immediately after puts the question, “Why the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment.” Reader, weigh his answer to this question, and you will very clearly see that the whole of this passage is to be referred in no respect to the Purgatory of souls, but to the fire of the last day trying the works of all men. Although in his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences, this very learned man thought the passage should be very differently understood, namely, of the Purgatory of souls after death.

– William Forbes (Gulielmum Forbesium) A Fair and Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy concerning Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 15


When was Purgatory Invented?

May 20, 2008

PhatCatholic recently addressed a question related to the question above, by posing the following question (link to source):

When was Purgatory first talked about?

PC answered:

The earliest reference to Purgatory that scholars have found so far comes from The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which was written around 160 AD. In that work, we read the following:

“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous'”

Notice how Thecla will be praying for Falconilla, even though Falconilla has already died. Prayers for the dead implies the doctrine of Purgatory b/c Purgatory is the only place or state where a soul could reside in which prayers would be necessary or beneficial. Souls in heaven have no need of our prayers and there’s no point in praying for the damned, who can never be freed from Hell.

Note also that the doctrine of Purgatory wasn’t invented in 160 AD, it’s just that the earliest reference to Purgatory that we have comes from that period.

I answer:

She does pray for a dead girl. The problem is this – there is no indication that the place that the girl is in is anywhere other than hell. PhatCatholic discards the idea that it could be hell that is referenced, because that wouldn’t be orthodox.

I agree that it wouldn’t be orthodox – but Purgatory isn’t orthodox either (and likewise prayers for the dead in general are not orthodox). The fact that it has come to be accepted by the papists doesn’t make Purgatory any more orthodox than the idea of successful intercession on behalf of souls in hell.

And the idea of an error with respect to intercession for souls in hell is not so farfetched. After all, it is alleged that Pope Gregory I interceded on behalf of Trajan, who was in hell, and that Trajan was released by Gregory’s intercessions.

Furthermore, Suarez, De Pecatis, Disp. vii. 3, claims that the possibility of such deliverance is an open question, and Estius, in Setent. iv (Disp. xlvi. 241), claims that many people have been so delivered. Even Thomas Aquinas himself seems to credit the legend of Trajan’s release from hell, excusing this oddity by stating: “Trajan had not been finally doomed to hell, but only provisionally, and that his deliverance was granted to him as an exceptional privilege.” (I should note that Aquinas appears to recognize the truth that “there is no redemption in hell” – for he places that phrase in the mouth of an objector on the question of whether the priesthood of Christ endures forever.)

There’s an important road-block left out of PhatCatholic’s analysis: there is no indication that the girl was previously a Christian or that she was baptized. In short, there is no reason to suppose from the story that she was in any place but Hell. Such, it appears from several reports I have read, was the opinion of John of Damascus, though I have not been able to find a precise citation.

Thus, upon weighing this supposed early testimony for the existence of Purgatory, we find it to be nothing but optimistic anachronism. There is no mention of Purgatory in the text, and no reason (except wishful thinking) to make us believe that Purgatory is referenced. That a fictional tale of Paul’s life might include some theological errors is to be expected. After all, the same tale has the heroine, Thecla, baptizing herself in a ditch of water. In the end, it would be a mistake to view this tale from the fictional “Acts of Paul and Thecla” (apparently a work of the late second century) as teaching the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. It would be the sort of mistake one might make if one was disparately grasping for straws of the innovated doctrine of Purgatory in the ECF’s. Nevertheless, it is a mistake: an anachronistic eisegesis of the document. Purgatory is not to be found in the text, and can only be added in through eisegesis. In short, the claim for the earliest evidence of Purgatory must wait its actual innovation later in history.


P.S. If one is going to imagine Purgatory into the text of the “Acts of Paul and Thecla,” why not add in the Limbus Infantum (Limbo)? If we let eisegesis be the methodology, there is no barrier. We can insert whatever theory we want, willy-nilly. By requiring the reader to let the text speak for itself, these problems can be avoided.

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