Archive for the ‘Hippolytus’ Category

God "has chosen to teach [orthodoxy and orthopraxy] by the Holy Scriptures" – A Hippolytian Response to Mr. Alt

January 25, 2013

Mr. Scott Alt was kind enough to respond to the recent Dividing Line episode (and associated post) in which Dr. White and I responded to his previous set of questions.  Unfortunately, there is very limited interaction with any of the substance of points we raised.  In fact, I will skip over Section I of his response and go right to Section II, where Mr. Alt attempts to address Hippolytus and our comments about Hippolytus.

Mr. Alt states:

Hippolytus draws an analogy here between the man who attains his wisdom from “the dog​mas of the philoso​phers,” and the man who attains his piety from “the oracles of God.” But look at the claim: “Those who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God.” Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Hippolytus does not say that “the oracles of God” are to be found only in Scrip​ture, all he claims in this pas​sage is that one may derive the practice of piety from Scripture. But the claim of sola scrip​tura is that Scripture alone contains all that a Christian must believe and all that a Christian must practice in his worship. It claims nothing about where piousness is to be derived.

Mr. Alt’s analysis is wrong on a variety of points.

1. While Hippolytus does not explicitly state “the oracles of God are Scripture alone,” when he says “oracles of God” he means the Scriptures. I’m not sure what proof would satisfy Mr. Alt of this rather obvious fact. The same phrase “oracles of God” is found in Hippolytus’ work “On Christ and Antichrist,” where he uses it to refer to Scripture (Specifically Daniel in sections 31 and 51). It’s a Biblical term used in Romans 3:2 to refer to the Old Testament Scriptures.

Question for Mr. Alt: What do you think Hippolytus means by “oracles of God” if not “Scripture,” and why do you think that?

2. Mr. Alt’s argument mistakenly identifies what “practice piety” entails. To practice piety is live in accordance with orthodox doctrine. Obviously, Hippolytus does not spell this out in those exact words, but that’s what Hippolytus means.

Question for Mr. Alt: What do you think that Hippolytus means by “practice piety” if not “live in accordance with orthodox doctrine,” and why do you think that?

3. Mr. Alt’s assertion that “It claims nothing about where piousness is to be derived,” seems to have an even more fundamental problem. “Piousness” is not a tool used in practicing piety, but rather it is the outcome of practicing piety. Thus, if Scriptures teach us how to practice piety, they teach us how to “derive” or more precisely “produce” piousness. It’s not like “practice the fiddle,” where one is practicing use of the fiddle, but the fiddle itself is sold separately. Rather it’s liking practicing love, self-control, or any other virtue, where self-control, love, and so forth are the result of the practice.

Question to Mr. Alt: How could Scripture possibly teach the practice of piety without teaching what constitutes piousness?

4. Mr. Alt’s claim that “all he claims in this pas​sage is that one may derive the practice of piety from Scripture,” is patently false, even after we take into account the true meaning of “practice of piety.” After all, just as Hippolytus says that the knowledge of God is obtained “from the Holy Scriptures and no other source,” so likewise Hippolytus says that the practice of piety is not learned from “any other quarter than the oracles of God.” In short, the exclusive claim for the Scriptures is repeated in both the broad initial statement and the narrower clarifying comment.

Question to Mr. Alt: Do you deny that Hippolytus twice repeats his exclusive claim?

5. Mr. Alt fails to note that what constitutes the “practice of piety” is spelled out through the following sentences in which Hippolytus explains:

Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and
whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and
as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and
as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and
as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him.
Not according to our own will,
nor according to our own mind,
nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but
even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.

Those are the categories that Hippolytus subsumes on the description of “practice piety.”  They are teaching the knowledge and worship of the Trinity.

Question to Mr. Alt: Do you deny that Hippolytus is explaining that both doctrine (orthodoxy) and worship (orthopraxy) are to be derived from Scripture? and do you acknowledge that this is the “knowledge of God” referred to in the first sentence and the “practice of piety” referred to in the second sentence?

Mr. Alt goes on to accuse of “playing a shell game with sola scriptura.”  I think his analogy is inappropriate (for a variety of reasons), but more importantly his accusation is premised on (among other things) his faulty reasoning regarding what Hippolytus says.

Mr. Alt then expresses some confusion as to the relevance of a passage where Hippolytus corrects the attempts of Noetus’ disciples to make an argument from Scripture through proper exegesis of Scripture.   Before going on to acknowledge that two more quotations from Hippolytus evidence his approach of refuting his opponents from Scripture, Mr. Alt provides a statement that is more significant than he probably realizes:

Hippolytus is addressing him​self to errors that have been made in exegesis. His opponents are attempting to derive their doctrine, denying the Trinity, from Scripture. Hippolytus argues back that “the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner.” Their interpretation is incorrect, but–take careful note here–both Hippolytus and his opponents are arguing from the Scripture. There is no question that his opponents are attempting to derive their doctrine else​where. They truly believe that their denial of the Trinity is biblical. Apart from the fact that Hippolytus could hardly argue this question apart from scriptural exegesis, one could very easily claim that this pas​sage high​lights one of the key difficulties with sola scriptura that Catholic apologists constantly point out: Unless one has an interpretive authority who is under​stood to be infallible, you can argue about the proper exegesis of Scripture until the sun goes down, it’s possible that your interpretation is wrong, and you have no way to know that. Hippolytus’ opponents believed they were arguing soundly from Scripture. But they weren’t.

Before getting to the significance of Mr. Alt’s comments, let’s dismiss his “no question” point.  Hippolytus plainly does not give Noetus or his disciples the credit that Mr. Alt gives him. Hippolytus suggests that Noetus (and/or his disciples) used his own will and his own mind to do violence to Scripture (“mutilate the Scriptures” section 4), rather than being instructed from Scripture, as can be seen from the colored passage above.

Check out how Hippolytus characterizes it (section 1 of the work):

Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, (and) lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died. You see what pride of heart and what a strange inflated spirit had insinuated themselves into him. From his other actions, then, the proof is already given us that he spoke not with a pure spirit; for he who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost is cast out from the holy inheritance. He alleged that he was himself Moses, and that Aaron was his brother. When the blessed presbyters heard this, they summoned him before the Church, and examined him. But he denied at first that he held such opinions. Afterwards, however, taking shelter among some, and having gathered round him some others who had embraced the same error, he wished thereafter to uphold his dogma openly as correct. And the blessed presbyters called him again before them, and examined him. But he stood out against them, saying, What evil, then, am I doing in glorifying Christ? And the presbyters replied to him, We too know in truth one God; we know Christ; we know that the Son suffered even as He suffered, and died even as He died, and rose again on the third day, and is at the right hand of the Father, and comes to judge the living and the dead. And these things which we have learned we allege. Then, after examining him, they expelled him from the Church. And he was carried to such a pitch of pride, that he established a school.

Hippolytus does not view Noetus as someone who honestly thought that Scriptures taught that Jesus is the Father.  No, Hippolytus thought Noetus was (to paraphrase) a demoniac nutcase, who thought he was Moses.  Noetus and his disciples may have appealed to Scripture, but Hippolytus does not chalk this up to an honest misunderstanding.  In fact, Hippolytus accuses them of selectively quoting one class of passages from Scripture, rather than treating Scripture as a whole (Section 3).  We will come back to that point shortly, I think.

The more significant part of Mr. Alt’s comment is this:

Apart from the fact that Hippolytus could hardly argue this question apart from scriptural exegesis, one could very easily claim that this pas​sage high​lights one of the key difficulties with sola scriptura that Catholic apologists constantly point out: Unless one has an interpretive authority who is under​stood to be infallible, you can argue about the proper exegesis of Scripture until the sun goes down, it’s possible that your interpretation is wrong, and you have no way to know that. Hippolytus’ opponents believed they were arguing soundly from Scripture. But they weren’t.

What’s significant is that Hippolytus shows absolutely no awareness of this supposed “key difficulty.”  Hippolytus (like us) thinks that Scripture interprets Scripture.  For example, he states: “The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated.” (Section 3)

It’s not the fault of Scriptures that Noetus was wrong, as though Scripture needs some external infallible interpreter.  Rather it is Noetus’ fault, for ignore one class of Scripture texts.  Hippolytus explains (section 3):

In this way, then, they choose to set forth these things, and they make use only of one class of passages; just in the same one-sided manner that Theodotus employed when he sought to prove that Christ was a mere man. But neither has the one party nor the other understood the matter rightly, as the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth

Rather than appealing to some external supposedly infallible interpreter, Hippolytus claims that Scriptures themselves confute the senselessness of the heretics, whether they deny the fact that Christ is God but not the Father, or they affirm that Christ is not God because he is not the Father.

Hippolytus didn’t think that appeals to Scripture are moot appeals that settle nothing.  He thought that  Scripture itself decided the question.

“Within this section, Mr. Alt concludes with the following claims:

But in neither of these does Hippolytus claim what Tur​ret​inFan wants him to. Hippolytus refutes his opponents from Scripture, but nowhere does he make the claim that only Scripture is capable of refuting the​o​log​i​cal error. There is, as I’ve pointed out, an exclusivity that Reformed apologists make for Scripture when it comes to the​o​log​i​cal doctrine. And nowhere in any of these pas​sages does Hippolytus make such a claim. Sola scriptura cannot be defended merely because a particular Church Father used the Scripture to refute a the​o​log​i​cal error. The Catholic Church has no difficulty with the​o​log​i​cal error being refuted from the Bible.

First, of course, even Sola Scriptura does not deny that one can use reason to refute internally inconsistent arguments. But second, Hippolytus does identify Scripture as the sole source for infallible theological dogma, as we discussed above.

Mr. Alt’s characterization of “merely because a particular Church Father used the Scripture to refute a the​o​log​i​cal error,” is just wrong. That’s not the limit of our claim. It is true that appeals to Scripture are not really consistent with the idea that the listener is unable to reliably understand what Scripture says without an infallible external interpreter. But it would be possible for the fathers to make the same inconsistent appeals to Scripture that modern Roman apologists make. It would be possible if they thought there were some other infallible dogmatic source of authority, or if they thought private persons were unable to judge teachers, because they lacked interpretive authority.

But that hypothesis is not supported by the evidence. Rather, consistently the major fathers in case after case only describe Scripture as infallible and make the kind of exclusive claims for its authority that we have observed in Hippolytus above.

The fathers may have been inconsistent on a variety of things, but Hippolytus was not being inconsistent as Benedict XVI sometimes is. When he said, “no other source” and “unable to learn its practice from any other quarter” he described Scripture in the exclusive terms that Mr. Alt is demanding we produce.

We don’t agree that this is really necessary to demonstrate Sola Scriptura.  It’s sufficient to simply affirm the sufficiency of Scripture and not to offer any other infallible sources of authority.  It’s not necessary to make the universal negative claim – it’s enough to make the positive claims of sufficiency, and not to offer or accept any equal.

Lord willing, we will consider another section of Mr. Alt’s post in an upcoming reply.



Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Third Century Fathers (Guest Series)

November 11, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

After explaining the nature of formal sufficiency (i.e. the Reformed view) in an introduction section (link), we explored Scripture’s own testimony to its sufficiency (link). Although we could have stopped there, we have begun to explore the patristic testimony to the matter, beginning with the earliest Christian writers (link to discussion), and now continuing with the fathers of the 3rd century – some of whom were born in the 2nd century.

The writings of the 3rd century are in may respects better preserved than the writings of the preceding centuries. Consequently, we have a larger pool from which to draw. This larger pool also necessarily means that we have more specific discussions on more areas of theology, including discussion of Scripture. The following are some examples of what one finds in the third century.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

It is now time, as we have dispatched in order the other points, to go to the prophetic Scriptures; for the oracles present us with the appliances necessary for the attainment of piety, and so establish the truth. The divine Scriptures and institutions of wisdom form the short road to salvation. Devoid of embellishment, of outward beauty of diction, of wordiness and seductiveness, they raise up humanity strangled by wickedness, teaching men to despise the casualties of life; and with one and the same voice remedying many evils, they at once dissuade us from pernicious deceit, and clearly exhort us to the attainment of the salvation set before us.

ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 8.

Clement is here affirming not only that Scripture has the content necessary, but also the form necessary, to bring believers to a saving knowledge of the truth.

We see something similar in the next quotation.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

But godliness, that makes man as far as can be like God, designates God as our suitable teacher, who alone can worthily assimilate man to God. This teaching the apostle knows as truly divine. “Thou, O Timothy,” he says, “from a child hast known the holy letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls “inspired of God, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.” No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself, the lover of man. For this, and nothing but this, is His only work — the salvation of man. Therefore He Himself, urging them on to salvation, cries, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those men that draw near through fear, He converts. Thus also the apostle of the Lord, beseeching the Macedonians, becomes the interpreter of the divine voice, when he says, “The Lord is at hand; take care that ye be not apprehended empty.” But are ye so devoid of fear, or rather of faith, as not to believe the Lord Himself, or Paul, who in Christ’s stead thus entreats: “Taste and see that Christ is God?” Faith will lead you in; experience will teach you; Scripture will train you, for it says, “Come hither, O children; listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Then, as to those who already believe, it briefly adds, “What man is he that desireth life, that loveth to see good days?” It is we, we shall say — we who are the devotees of good, we who eagerly desire good things. Hear, then, ye who are far off, hear ye who are near: the word has not been hidden from any; light is common, it shines “on all men.”

ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 9.

Observe that Clement ascribes a magisterial function to the Scriptures themselves. Who will train you? Scriptures will. And, of course, Clement appeals to the same Scripture we do to glean the same doctrine we glean.

Clement provides a slightly different twist on the same theme in the next quotation.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

And now we must look also at this, that if ever those who know not how to do well, live well; for they have lighted on well-doing. Some, too, have aimed well at the word of truth through understanding. “But Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith.” It is therefore of no advantage to them after the end of life, even if they do good works now, if they have not faith. Wherefore also the Scriptures were translated into the language of the Greeks, in order that they might never be able to allege the excuse of ignorance, inasmuch as they are able to hear also what we have in our hands, if they only wish. One speaks in one way of the truth, in another way the truth interprets itself. The guessing at truth is one thing, and truth itself is another. Resemblance is one thing, the thing itself is another. And the one results from learning and practice, the other from power and faith. For the teaching of piety is a gift, but faith is grace. “For by doing the will of God we know the will of God.” “Open, then,” says the Scripture, “the gates of righteousness; and I will enter in, and confess to the LORD.”

ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 7.—The Eclectic Philosophy Paves the Way for Divine Virtue.

Notice how Clement affirms that the Greeks cannot allege ignorance. This implies that the truth is discernible from the Scriptures themselves, and “the truth interprets itself” confirms that this is Clement’s meaning.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

But if from any creature they received in any way whatever the seeds of the Truth, they did not nourish them; but committing them to a barren and rainless soil, they choked them with weeds, as the Pharisees revolted from the Law, by introducing human teachings, — the cause of these being not the Teacher, but those who choose to disobey. But those of them who believed the Lord’s advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures, attain to the knowledge of the law; as also those addicted to philosophy, by the teaching of the Lord, are introduced into the knowledge of the true philosophy: “For the oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, melted in the fire, tried in the earth, purified seven times.” Just as silver often purified, so is the just man brought to the test, becoming the Lord’s coin and receiving the royal image.

ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book VI, Chapter 7.

I haven’t placed anything in bold in the quotation above, because I’d have to put almost everything in bold. Notice how Scripture is treated as being the seeds of the Truth, the Law (the books of Moses) is referred to as a Teacher, believers are those who “believed in the Lord’s advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures” and these attain to knowledge of the law.

Clement also puts the idea of formal sufficiency another way:

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

Therefore, in the divine education, it is necessary that duties be imposed upon us, as things commanded by God and provided for our salvation. But, since of things that are necessary, some are for this life alone, while others cause the soul to aspire after a good life in the next world, it is but right that some obligations be imposed merely for living, and others for living well. Whatever is imposed for material life is binding upon the multitude, but what is adapted to living well, that is, the things by which eternal life is gained, should be able to be gathered from the Scriptures by those who read them, gathered at least in their general outline.

FC, Vol. 23, Clement of Alexandria: Christ the Educator, Chapter 13, §103 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 91.

This is not a surprising doctrine, of course. It is just what the Scriptures themselves teach, but the point that we can gain a knowledge of those things necessary for eternal life from reading the Scriptures is plainly Clement’s teaching.

Clement of Alexandria (150 – c. 215):

But if philosophy contributes remotely to the discovery of truth, by reaching, by diverse essays, after the knowledge which touches close on the truth, the knowledge possessed by us, it aids him who aims at grasping it, in accordance with the Word, to apprehend knowledge. But the Hellenic truth is distinct from that held by us (although it has got the same name), both in respect of extent of knowledge, certainly of demonstration, divine power, and the like. For we are taught of God, being instructed in the truly “sacred letters” by the Son of God.

Εἰ δὲ καὶ πόῤῥωθεν συλλαμβάνεται φιλοσοφία πρὸς τὴν ἀληθείας εὕρεσιν, κατὰ διαφόρους ἐπιβολὰς διατείνουσα ἐπὶ τὴν προσεχῶς ἁπτομένην τῆς ἀληθείας τῆς καθʼ ἡμᾶς εἴδησιν, ἀλλὰ συλλαμβάνεταί γε τῷ λογικῶς ἐπιχειρεῖν ἐσπουδακότι ἀνθάπτεσθαι γνώσεως. χωρίζεται δὲ ἡ Ἑλληνικὴ ἀλήθεια τῆς καθ’ ἡμᾶς, εἰ καὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μετείληφεν ὀνόματος, καὶ μεγέθει γνώσεως καὶ ἀποδείξει κυριωτέρᾳ καὶ θείᾳ δυνάμει καὶ τοῖς ὁμοίοις· θεοδίδακτοι γὰρ ἡμεῖς, ἱερὰ ὄντως γράμματα παρὰ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ παιδευόμενοι·

Stromatum, Liber Primus, Caput 20, PG 8:816; translation in ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 20.

Notice that Clement is here affirming that God himself teaches us, and this is described as being instruction in the “sacred letters.”

Turning from Clement in Alexandria, we can travel west across Africa to Tertullian, who is often called the “Father of Latin Christianity.” The earliest major father who wrote in Latin, Tertullian had significant influence in the West, even though he eventually fell into Montanism.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):

But what hinders them from readily perceiving this community of the Father’s titles in the Son, is the statement of Scripture, whenever it determines God to be but One; as if the selfsame Scripture had not also set forth Two both as God and Lord, as we have shown above. Their argument is: Since we find Two and One, therefore Both are One and the Same, both Father and Son. Now the Scripture is not in danger of requiring the aid of any one’s argument, lest it should seem to be self-contradictory. It has a method of its own, both when it sets forth one only God, and also when it shows that there are Two, Father and Son; and is consistent with itself [i.e. sufficient itself, suficit sibi, PL 2:177]. It is clear that the Son is mentioned by it. For, without any detriment to the Son, it is quite possible for it to have rightly determined that God is only One, to whom the Son belongs; since He who has a Son ceases not on that account to exist, — Himself being One only, that is, on His own account, whenever He is named without the Son.

ANF: Vol. III, Against Praxeas, Chapter 18.

Notice Tertullian’s confidence in the Scriptures. Although he obviously is explaining the Scriptures, he is bold to state that the Scriptures are sufficient to themselves – they don’t require someone’s supporting argument.

As excellent as those comments are, Tertullian’s next comments are even more appropriate in dealing with modern Rome.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):

He, therefore, will not be a Christian who shall deny this doctrine which is confessed by Christians; denying it, moreover, on grounds which are adopted by a man who is not a Christian. Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all. Divine reason, on the contrary, lies in the very pith and marrow of things, not on the surface, and very often is at variance with appearances.

ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 3.

Notice that Tertullian seems to suggest “scriptures alone” as the solution to heresies. His comment about taking away the wisdom they share with the heathen reminds me of the issue of transubstantiation – a dogma that is only possible by importing Aristotelean categories into the text of Scripture, but I digress.

Heading back to Alexandria, we encounter a man 35 years younger than Clement and 20 years younger than Tertullian, but teaching the same doctrines. Again, we note that not everything that Origen taught was good. His hermeneutic of metaphor and his apparent universalism are not to be followed (and we might add some other things as well). Nevertheless, Origen was perhaps as influential in the East as Tertullian was the in West. Much of his vast body of work has been lost, but an enormous amount still remains.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):

Celsus next proceeds to say, that the system of doctrine, viz., Judaism, upon which Christianity depends, was barbarous in its origin. And with an appearance of fairness, he does not reproach Christianity because of its origin among barbarians, but gives the latter credit for their ability in discovering (such) doctrines. To this, however, he adds the statement, that the Greeks are more skillful than any others in judging, establishing, and reducing to practice the discoveries of barbarous nations. Now this is our answer to his allegations, and our defense of the truths contained in Christianity, that if any one were to come from the study of Grecian opinions and usages to the Gospel, he would not only decide that its doctrines were true, but would by practice establish their truth, and supply whatever seemed wanting, from a Grecian point of view, to their demonstration, and thus confirm the truth of Christianity. We have to say, moreover, that the Gospel has a demonstration of its own, more divine than any established by Grecian dialectics. And this diviner method is called by the apostle the “manifestation of the Spirit and of power”of “the Spirit,” on account of the prophecies, which are sufficient to produce faith in any one who reads them, especially in those things which relate to Christ; and of “power,” because of the signs and wonders which we must believe to have been performed, both on many other grounds, and on this, that traces of them are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the precepts of the Gospel.

ANF: Vol. IV, Origen against Celsus, Book I, Chapter II.

Notice how Origen is quite bold to proclaim the power of the Scriptures not only to establish their own truth, but also to produce saving faith in anyone who reads them. That’s one way of expressing the formal sufficiency of Scripture, as we’ve already explained it.

That is, of course, not the only time Origen makes this kind of claim for Scripture. Here’s another example.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):

The more one reads the Scriptures daily and the greater one’s understanding is, the more renewed always and every day. I doubt whether a mind which is lazy toward the holy Scriptures and the exercise of spiritual knowledge can be renewed at all.

Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 308.

The point here is slightly tangential at first glance. But consider the point that what Origen is saying is that reading the Scriptures is the way to better understand the Scriptures.

That’s why we also find Origen saying this:

Origen (c. 185-c. 254), commenting on Romans 9:20:

If we want to know something of the secret and hidden things of God and if we are not people of lusts and contentions, then let us inquire faithfully and humbly into the judgments of God which are contained more secretly in holy Scripture. For even the Lord said: Search the Scriptures, knowing that these things are applicable not to those who are busy with other matters and only hear or read the Bible from time to time, but to those who with a pure and simple heart endeavor to open up the holy Scriptures by their labor and constant attention. I know well enough that I am not one of them! But anyone who is, let him seek and he will find.

Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 259-260.

It’s hard to imagine the Bible being more formally sufficient than that. Origen is quite explicit that anyone who is willing to give constant attention to the Scriptures can seek and find the truth in them.

We might add, at this point, that Origen also viewed the authority of Scripture as sufficient to refute heretics.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):

And now, what we have drawn from the authority of Scripture ought to be sufficient to refute the arguments of the heretics.

ANF: Vol. IV, Origen De Principiis, Book II, Chapter 5, §3.

It might not appear that this is directly related to the sufficiency of Scripture, but consider that if Scripture cannot be properly understood without tradition and the magisterium, any argument that is only based on the authority of Scripture would inherently be insufficient. Thus, by affirming the sufficiency of the authority of Scripture, Origen is affirming the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Heading north from Egypt, we can turn to Firmilian, who naturally teaches the same doctrine on this point.

Firmilian, Bishop of Caesaria (c. 200-268):

But to what they allege and say on behalf of the heretics, that the apostle said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached,” it is idle for us to reply; when it is manifest that the apostle, in his epistle wherein he said this, made mention neither of heretics nor of baptism of heretics, but spoke of brethren only, whether as perfidiously speaking in agreement with himself, or as persevering in sincere faith; nor is it needful to discuss this in a long argument, but it is sufficient to read the epistle itself, and to gather from the apostle himself what the apostle said.

ANF: Vol. V, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 74 – To Cyprian, Against the Letter of Stephan 254 A.D., §20.

Obviously, the scope of Firmilian’s comment is related to a specific doctrinal issue, but it is evidence of his overall hermeneutic, in which it is not necessary to supplement the authority of Scripture with additional sources of authority – nor is it necessary to do more than read Scripture to determine the meaning of Scripture.

The following quotations are the two prefaces to Cyprian’s treatise XII, the first from Book I, the second from Book III. The remainder of the three book treatise is essentially just verbatim quotations from Scripture (excluding the chapter headings).

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):

Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. It was necessary, my beloved son, that I should obey your spiritual desire, which asked with most urgent petition for those divine teachings wherewith the Lord has condescended to teach and instruct us by the Holy Scriptures, that, being led away from the darkness of error, and enlightened by His pure and shining light, we may keep the way of life through the saving sacraments. And indeed, as you have asked, so has this discourse been arranged by me; and this treatise has been ordered in an abridged compendium, so that I should not scatter what was written in too diffuse an abundance, but, as far as my poor memory suggested, might collect all that was necessary in selected and connected heads, under which I may seem, not so much to have treated the subject, as to have afforded material for others to treat it. Moreover, to readers also, brevity of the same kind is of very great advantage, in that a treatise of too great length dissipates the understanding and perception of the reader, while a tenacious memory keeps that which is read in a more exact compendium. But I have comprised in my undertaking two books of equally moderate length: one wherein I have endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world. The second book likewise contains the sacrament of Christ, that He has come who was announced according to the Scriptures, and has done and perfected all those things whereby He was foretold as being able to be perceived and known. And these things may be of advantage to you meanwhile, as you read, for forming the first lineaments of your faith. More strength will be given you, and the intelligence of the heart will be effected more and more, as you examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books. For now we have filled a small measure from the divine fountains, which in the meantime we would send to you. You will be able to drink more plentifully, and to be more abundantly satisfied, if you also will approach to drink together with us at the same springs of the divine fullness. I bid you, beloved son, always heartily farewell.

– Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 1, Preface, ANF5

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):

Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. Of your faith and devotion which you manifest to the Lord God, beloved son, you asked me to gather out for your instruction from the Holy Scriptures some heads bearing upon the religious teaching of our school; seeking for a succinct course of sacred reading, so that your mind, surrendered to God, might not be wearied with long or numerous volumes of books, but, instructed with a summary of heavenly precepts, might have a wholesome and large compendium for nourishing its memory. And because I owe you a plentiful and loving obedience, I have done what you wished. I have laboured for once, that you might not always labour. Therefore, as much as my small ability could embrace, I have collected certain precepts of the Lord, and divine teachings, which may be easy and useful to the readers, in that a few things digested into a short space are both quickly read through, and are frequently repeated. I bid you, beloved son, ever heartily farewell.

Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 3, Preface, ANF5

Notice the way that Cyprian views these Scriptures as sufficient in themselves to provide instruction, once they have been brought to the reader’s attention. He provides a compendium, yes, but he’s providing a list of verses – not a commentary on the verses.

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):

These things were before declared to us, and predicted. But we, forgetful of the law and obedience required of us, have so acted by our sins, that while we despise the Lord’s commandments, we have come by severer remedies to the correction of our sin and probation of our faith. Nor indeed have we at last been converted to the fear of the Lord, so as to undergo patiently and courageously this our correction and divine proof. Immediately at the first words of the threatening foe, the greatest number of the brethren betrayed their faith, and were cast down, not by the onset of persecution, but cast themselves down by voluntary lapse. What unheard-of thing, I beg of you, what new thing had happened, that, as if on the occurrence of things unknown and unexpected, the obligation to Christ should be dissolved with headlong rashness? Have not prophets aforetime, and subsequently apostles, told of these things? Have not they, full of the Holy Spirit, predicted the afflictions of the righteous, and always the injuries of the heathens? Does not the sacred Scripture, which ever arms our faith and strengthens with a voice from heaven the servants of God, say, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve? ” [Deuteronomy 6:13] Does it not again show the anger of the divine indignation, and warn of the fear of punishment beforehand, when it says, “They worshipped them whom their fingers have made; and the mean man bows down, and the great man humbles himself, and I will forgive them not? ” [Isaiah 2:8-9] And again, God speaks, and says, “He that sacrifices unto any gods, save unto the Lord only, shall be destroyed.” [Exodus 22:20] In the Gospel also subsequently, the Lord, who instructs by His words and fulfils by His deeds, teaching what should be done, and doing whatever He had taught, did He not before admonish us of whatever is now done and shall be done? Did He not before ordain both for those who deny Him eternal punishments, and for those that confess Him saving rewards?

– Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 3, Section 7

I know that some of the Roman communion will be tempted to say that Cyprian’s words above simply reflect a high view of Scripture. They do reflect a high view of Scripture, of course, but they actually go so far as to describe the Scripture as teaching and to attribute to Scripture the very actions of arming our faith and strengthening it with a voice from heaven. I’m not sure it would be possible to have a higher view of Scripture than that.

From Carthage we can journey north to Rome, and slightly back in time. Hippolytus was born approximately in the middle between Tertullian and Origen, but obviously has a significant overlap with each, in terms of his lifespan.

Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 236):

In this way, then, they choose to set forth these things, and they make use only of one class of passages; just in the same one-sided manner that Theodotus employed when he sought to prove that Christ was a mere man. But neither has the one party nor the other understood the matter rightly, as the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth. See, brethren, what a rash and audacious dogma they have introduced, when they say without shame, the Father is Himself Christ, Himself the Son, Himself was born, Himself suffered, Himself raised Himself. But it is not so. The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated. For who will not say that there is one God? Yet he will not on that account deny the economy (i.e., the number and disposition of persons in the Trinity). The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages by these men, and then to explain their real meaning. For it is right, in the first place, to expound the truth that the Father is one God, “of whom is every family,” “by whom are all things, of whom are all things, and we in Him.” Let us, as I said, see how he is confuted, and then let us set forth the truth. Now he quotes the words, “Egypt has laboured, and the merchandise of Ethiopia and the Sabeans,” and so forth on to the words, “For Thou art the God of Israel, the Saviour.” And these words he cites without understanding what precedes them. For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it.

ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §§3-4.

Notice, in the quotation above, that Hippolytus not only ascribes to the Scriptures themselves the power to confute heresy, but also explains that when one simply reads the passage of Scripture as a whole, the meaning becomes clear. Of course, he’s only applying this principle to this specific passage, but there is not something special about this passage or about the way he is writing that make us think that this is an isolated case.

Indeed, later in the same treatise, we find the following:

(c. 170-c. 236):

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.

ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §9

Someone may wish to claim that the sola Scriptura reference at the beginning of the preceding quotation is just referring to material sufficiency. But it is not simply saying that Scriptures have everything we need to know – it is saying it is the one source. There are not, for Hippolytus, two sources (Scripture and Tradition) or three sources (Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium). And while someone might say that he is simply saying that there is a single source, but he’s not denying the need to have that single source opened by a non-source Magisterium, his comments about learning from none but Scripture, and especially his final comment about learning in the way in which God teaches them by the Scriptures should seal the matter.

Finally, we can turn back east to Archelaus from Caschar in Mesopotamia.

Archelaus (circa 277):

But now, what it is necessary for me to say on the subject of the inner and the outer man, may be expressed in the words of the Saviour to those who swallow a camel, and wear the outward garb of the hypocrite, begirt with blandishments and flatteries. It is to them that Jesus addresses Himself when He says: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of uncleanness. Or know you not, that He that made that which is without, made that which is within also? ” Now why did He speak of the cup and of the platter? Was He who uttered these words a glassworker, or a potter who made vessels of clay? Did He not speak most manifestly of the body and the soul? For the Pharisees truly looked to the “tithing of anise and cummin, and left undone the weightier matters of the law; ” and while devoting great care to the things which were external, they overlooked those which bore upon the salvation of the soul. For they also had respect to “greetings in the market-place,” and “to the uppermost seats at feasts:” and to them the Lord Jesus, knowing their perdition, made this declaration, that they attended to those things only which were without, and despised as strange things those which were within, and understood not that He who made the body made also the soul. And who is so unimpressible and stolid in intellect, as not to see that those sayings of our Lord may suffice him for all cases? Moreover, it is in perfect harmony with these sayings that Paul speaks, when he interprets to the following intent certain things written in the law: “You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the grain. Does God take care for oxen? Or says He it altogether for our sakes? ” But why should we waste further time upon this subject?

ANF: Vol. VI, The Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes, §21.

Archelaus does go on to add some additional thoughts, but notice that he does speak as though he believes that the plain reading of Scripture, in harmony with itself, is sufficient. Thus, this final quotation (for this segment) is really more of an illustration of someone using the Scriptures as though they are formally sufficient, rather than an explicit teaching that they are formally sufficient.

(to be continued)

Mary Crowned in Revelation?

August 4, 2009

In a previous point (link), I pointed out the glaring reality of Marian idolatry and the fact that such idolatry was unknown and foreign to Tertullian. I finally have received one of the responses that I expected to receive. This response comes from someone who posted using the name “John”:

Mary is depicted with a crown because scripture does (Rev 12).

I answer:

Revelation 12 is not about Mary, it is about the ancient church. I could quote the standard Reformed expositors on this, but perhaps you’d be more persuaded by the fact that this interpretation is, as far as I have been able to find, the unanimous consent of the fathers. Victorinus of Petau (died about A.D. 303) explained:

“And there was seen a great sign in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth.”] The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise. And the moon intimates the fall of the bodies of the saints under the obligation of death, which never can fail. For even as life is diminished, so also it is increased. Nor is the hope of those that sleep extinguished absolutely, as some think, but they have in their darkness a light such as the moon. And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh.

– Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, at Revelation 12:1-2

Likewise, Hippolytus (about A.D. 170 – 236) concurs:

60. Now, concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary, John also speaks thus: “And I saw a great and wondrous sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man-child, who is to rule all the nations: and the child was caught up unto God and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath the place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And then when the dragon saw it, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast (out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast) out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the saints of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.” [Rev. xii. 1–6, etc.]

61. By the woman then clothed with the sun,” he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the “moon under her feet” he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, “upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, “she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,” mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. “And she brought forth,” he says, “a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;” by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, “her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,” signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” [Ps. cx. 1.] “And the dragon,” he says, “saw and persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” [Rev. xi. 3.] That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains, possessed of no other defence than the two wings of the great eagle, that is to say, the faith of Jesus Christ, who, in stretching forth His holy hands on the holy tree, unfolded two wings, the right and the left, and called to Him all who believed upon Him, and covered them as a hen her chickens. For by the mouth of Malachi also He speaks thus: “And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” [Mal. iv. 2.]

– Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, Sections 60-61

Furthermore Methodius of Olympus and Patara (about A.D. 260 – 312), explained:

John, in the course of the Apocalypse, says: [Rev. xii. 1–6.] “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” So far we have given, in brief, the history of the woman and the dragon. But to search out and explain the solution of them is beyond my powers. Nevertheless, let me venture, trusting in Him who commanded to search the Scriptures. [St. John v. 39.] If, then, you agree with this, it will not be difficult to undertake it; for you will quite pardon me, if I am unable sufficiently to explain the exact meaning of the Scripture.
The woman who appeared in heaven clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars, and having the moon for her footstool, and being with child, and travailing in birth, is certainly, according to the accurate interpretation, our mother,[Editor’s note in Schaff’s edition: “i.e., the Church. See p 337, note 4, infra.”] O virgins, being a power by herself distinct from her children; whom the prophets, according to the aspect of their subjects, have called sometimes Jerusalem, sometimes a Bride, sometimes Mount Zion, and sometimes the Temple and Tabernacle of God. For she is the power which is desired to give light in the prophet, the Spirit crying to her: [Isa. lx. 1–4.] “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.” It is the Church whose children shall come to her with all speed after the resurrection, running to her from all quarters. She rejoices receiving the light which never goes down, and clothed with the brightness of the Word as with a robe. For with what other more precious or honourable ornament was it becoming that the queen should be adorned, to be led as a Bride to the Lord, when she had received a garment of light, and therefore was called by the Father? Come, then, let us go forward in our discourse, and look upon this marvelous woman as upon virgins prepared for a marriage, pure and undefiled, perfect and radiating a permanent beauty, wanting nothing of the brightness of light; and instead of a dress, clothed with light itself; and instead of precious stones, her head adorned with shining stars. For instead of the clothing which we have, she had light; and for gold and brilliant stones, she had stars; but stars not such as those which are set in the invisible heaven, but better and more resplendent, so that those may rather be considered as their images and likenesses.
Now the statement that she stands upon the moon, as I consider, denotes the faith of those who are cleansed from corruption in the laver of regeneration, because the light of the moon has more resemblance to tepid water, and all moist substance is dependent upon her. The Church, then, stands upon our faith and adoption, under the figure of the moon, until the fulness of the nations come in, labouring and bringing forth natural men as spiritual men; for which reason too she is a mother. For just as a woman receiving the unformed seed of a man, within a certain time brings forth a perfect man, in the same way, one should say, does the Church conceive those who flee to the Word, and, forming them according to the likeness and form of Christ, after a certain time produce them as citizens of that blessed state. Whence it is necessary that she should stand upon the laver, bringing forth those who are washed in it. And in this way the power which she has in connection with the laver is called the moon, because the regenerate shine being renewed with a new ray, that is, a new light. Whence, also, they are by a descriptive term called newly-enlightened; the moon ever showing forth anew to them the spiritual full moon, namely, the period and the memorial of the passion, until the glory and the perfect light of the great day arise.

– Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Thekla (Discourse 8), Chapters 4-6

Gregory the Great (about A.D. 540 – 604) takes the same position:

For in Holy Scripture when the ‘sun’ is used figuratively, there is designated sometimes the Lord, sometimes persecution, sometimes the display of an open sight of any thing, but sometimes the understanding of the wise. For by the ‘sun’ the Lord is typified, as is said in the Book of Wisdom, that all the ungodly in the day of the last judgment, on knowing their own condemnation, are about to say: “We have erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the sun rose not upon us.” [Wis. 5:6] As if they plainly said: The ray of inward light has not shone on us. Whence also John says: “A woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet.” [Rev. 12:1] For by the ‘sun’ is understood the illumination of truth, but by the moon, which wanes and is filled up every month, the changeableness of temporal things. But Holy Church, because she is protected with the splendour of the heavenly light, is clothed, as it were, with the sun; but, because she despises all temporal things, she tramples the moon under her feet.

– Gregory the Great, Morals, Book XXXIV, at Job 41:21

Still further, in his Golden Chain, Aquinas provides the following patristic commentary on the list of the twelve apostles in Matthew 10:1-4, drawing specifically from Rabanus (about A.D. 780 – 856):

Rabanus, and cf. Tertullian, cont. Marc. iv, 13: This number is typified by many things in the Old Testament; by the twelve sons of Jacob, by the twelve princes of the children of Israel, by the twelve running springs in Helim, by the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, by the twelve loaves of the shew-bread, by the twelve spies sent by Moses, by the twelve stones of which the altar was made, by the twelve stones taken out of Jordan, by the twelve oxen which bare the brazen sea. Also in the New Testament, by the twelve stars in the bride’s crown, by the twelve foundations of Jerusalem which John saw, and her twelve gates.

– Rabanus, according to Aqunias, on Matt. 10:1-4

Now, I realize that modern Romanism teaches that the woman is both Mary and the Church (see, for example, sections 103-04 of Evangelium Vitae, pope John Paul II, 1995, although pope Pius X seems to have thought that it referred only or primarily to Mary, see Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, Section 24, 1904 – see also pope Paul VI Signum Magnum, 1967, and Redemptoris Mater, pope John Paul II, 1987, and contrast the tenuous identification with Mary, with the Church being the primary referent in the Haydock’s Bible Commentary, 1859 ed.), but my point is that nowhere do we see the fathers making this identification. In the 19th century we see a tenuous identification being made to Mary, and then in the 20th century we see that tenuous identification becoming the primary identification within the evermore mariolatrous religion of Rome.

The same commenter also added:

And with all due respect to Tertullian’s ignorance of what priests and rulers wore crowns, priests wore a kind of a crown (Exod 39:28), people getting married wore a crown (Is. 61:10), kings of Israel wore crowns (2 Sam 12:30), saints in heaven wear crowns (Rev. 4:4) and so forth.

I answer:

Exodus 39:28 mentions the priests wearing a “mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen, and linen breeches of fine twined linen,” and provides no reference to a crown. Not everything that covers a man’s head is a crown.

Isaiah 61:10 also does not mention a crown. It states:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

Yes, the kings of Israel wore crowns, but the King of Spiritual Israel, the fulfilment of national Israel, is Christ.

While the elders had gold crown in Revelation 4:4, they cast those crowns before the throne of the Lord in Revelation 4:10, saying:

Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

So ought the prayer of all Christians to be.

– TurretinFan

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