Archive for the ‘Justin Martyr’ Category

Alleged Early Testimonies to the Immaculate Conception

September 6, 2010

Sometimes Roman Catholics attempt to argue that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was taught in the early church. One of the more radical claims can be found at the “Catholic Basic Training” website (link to example). I’ll go through their list of early fathers:

The Ascension of Isaiah

“[T]he report concerning the child was noised abroad in Bethlehem. Some said, ‘The Virgin Mary has given birth before she was married two months.’ And many said, ‘She has not given birth; the midwife has not gone up to her, and we heard no cries of pain’” (Ascension of Isaiah 11 – 70 AD)

Notice, however,

1) that there is nothing there about Mary having sin either in the text cited, or in the context (which you can find here).

2) Why on earth would those who did not know her call her “Virgin Mary” after she had been married two months?

3) And furthermore, the book purports to be written by the prophet Isaiah, which it is not (even just going by the date given).

4) The extremely early date given above is almost certainly too early (see discussion here, for example).

5) The same chapter, at verse 17 states:

17. And I saw: In Nazareth He sucked the breast as a babe and as is customary in order that He might not be recognized.

which appears to be a denial of the true humanity of Jesus, suggesting that he did not need to be nourished by milk like other human infants.

The Odes of Solomon

“So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies. And she labored and bore the Son, but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose. And she did not seek a midwife, because he caused her to give life. She bore as a strong man, with will . . . ” (Odes of Solomon 19 – 80 AD)

1) Again, nothing about Mary being sinless.

2) It is an open question whether this is Gnostic literature (one can find a copy in the “Gnostic Library“). The Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia, does quote from the text.

3) In the immediate context one finds the following, which should be enough to show that this particular ode is not properly a Christian document:

Ode 19

  1. A cup of milk was offered to me, and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord’s kindness.
  2. The Son is the cup, and the Father is He who was milked; and the Holy Spirit is She who milked Him;
  3. Because His breasts were full, and it was undesirable that His milk should be ineffectually released.
  4. The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom, and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
  5. Then She gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing, and those who have received it are in the perfection of the right hand.
  6. The womb of the Virgin took it, and she received conception and gave birth.
  7. So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.
  8. And she labored and bore the Son but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose.
  9. And she did not require a midwife, because He caused her to give life.
  10. She brought forth like a strong man with desire, and she bore according to the manifestation, and she acquired according to the Great Power.
  11. And she loved with redemption, and guarded with kindness, and declared with grandeur.

4) Like the previous document, the document falsely claims to be written by someone (in this case Solomon) who did not write it.

Justin Martyr

“[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’ [Luke 1:38]” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100 – 155 AD)

1) Again, there is nothing here that says Mary was sinless.

2) Indeed, rather than ascribing to Mary innocence, Justin ascribes to her faith.

3) And if someone will try to make something of the parallel between Eve and Mary there, why not make mention of the parallel between Eve and Christ (and Adam and Mary) found here: “But that which is truly a sign, and which was to be made trustworthy to mankind,–namely, that the first-begotten of all creation should become incarnate by the Virgin’s womb, and be a child,–this he anticipated by the Spirit of prophecy, and predicted it, as I have repeated to you, in various ways; in order that, when the event should take place, it might be known as the operation of the power and will of the Maker of all things; just as Eve was made from one of Adam’s ribs, and as all living beings were created in the beginning by the word of God.” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 84)


“Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient, and, when yet a virgin, she did not obey. Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband—for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children, and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply—having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith” (Against Heresies 3:22:24 – 189 AD)

“The Lord then was manifestly coming to his own things, and was sustaining them by means of that creation that is supported by himself. He was making a recapitulation of that disobedience that had occurred in connection with a tree, through the obedience that was upon a tree [i.e., the cross]. Furthermore, the original deception was to be done away with—the deception by which that virgin Eve (who was already espoused to a man) was unhappily misled. That this was to be overturned was happily announced through means of the truth by the angel to the Virgin Mary (who was also [espoused] to a man). . . . So if Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God. In this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience has been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way, the sin of the first created man received amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten” (Against Heresies 5:19:1 – 189 AD)

Again, however, there is no mention of Mary being sinless.


“And again, lest I depart from my argumentation on the name of Adam: Why is Christ called Adam by the apostle [Paul], if as man he was not of that earthly origin? But even reason defends this conclusion, that God recovered his image and likeness by a procedure similar to that in which he had been robbed of it by the devil. It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight” (The Flesh of Christ 17:4 – 210 AD)

But when directly addressing the topic of who is sinless, Tertullian is quite clear:

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220): Thus some men are very bad, and some very good; but yet the souls of all form but one genus: even in the worst there is something good, and in the best there is something bad. For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God. ANF: Vol. III, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 41.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220): The Lord knew Himself to be the only guiltless One [Sciebat Dominus se solum sine delicto esse. De Oratione, Caput VII, PL 1:1162], and so He teaches that we beg “to have our debts remitted us.” A petition for pardon is a full confession; because he who begs for pardon fully admits his guilt. ANF: Vol. III, On Prayer, Chapter 7.


“If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: ‘Be it done according to your will’” (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2–17 – 300 AD)

1) Obviously, this is another pseudonymous work.

2) Like the others, it says nothing about Mary being sinless.

Ephraim the Syrian

“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?” (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 – 361 AD)

This seems to come the closest of anything that has been produced. It does not address the matter of whether Mary was immaculately conceived, though. Likewise, you will have trouble if you try to get someone to provide you with a translation of the rest of this hymn, so that you can see the context (here’s the Latin translation – the Syriac can be found in the back of that same book). In any event, this poetical piece would seem to be the earliest reference that can be mustered in favor of the dogma, although it is not explicitly stating that Mary was conceived free from original sin.

Ambrose of Milan

“Mary’s life should be for you a pictorial image of virginity. Her life is like a mirror reflecting the face of chastity and the form of virtue. Therein you may find a model for your own life . . . showing what to improve, what to imitate, what to hold fast to” (The Virgins 2:2:6 – 377 AD)

“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater [to teach by example] than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy?” (The Virgins 2:2:7 – 377 AD)

“Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin” (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 – 387 AD)

Grace makes all believers from every stain of sin. Yet, as we have shown elsewhere (see the link below), Ambrose acknowledged that Christ alone was absolutely free from sin.


“Our Lord . . . was not averse to males, for he took the form of a male, nor to females, for of a female he was born. Besides, there is a great mystery here: that just as death comes to us through a woman, life is born to us through a woman; that the devil, defeated, would be tormented by each nature, feminine and masculine, as he had taken delight in the defection of both” (Christian Combat 22:24 – 396 AD)

“That one woman is both mother and virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit she is mother, not of our head, who is our Savior himself—of whom all, even she herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom—but plainly she is the mother of us who are his members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very head” (Holy Virginity 6:6 – 401 AD)

“Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 – 415 AD)

I’ve discussed Augustine already, earlier today (see this link).


The Jews Gave Us the Old Testament

January 14, 2010

Of course, God gave us the Old Testament by inspiration, but the point is that the apostles did not give us the Old Testament. Instead, it was an existing body of literature that was handed on to them. We see this in Scripture.

Romans 3:2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them [that is, to the Jews] were committed the oracles of God.

And, of course, we also see this reflected in the writings of the church fathers.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 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.

Greek text:

Ὅλως δὲ εἰ θαυμάζεις τὰ ἐκείνων, τίς σοι κοινὸς πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἐστι λόγος; Εἰ γὰρ σεμνὰ καὶ μεγάλα τὰ Ἰουδαίων, ψευδῆ τὰ ἡμέτερα· εἰ δὲ ταῦτα ἀληθῆ, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ ἀληθῆ, ἐκεῖνα ἀπάτης γέμει. Οὐχὶ τὰς Γραφὰς λέγω· μὴ γένοιτο. ἐκεῖναι γάρ με πρὸς τὸν Χριστὸν ἐχειραγώγησαν·

Citation: Chrysotom, Against the Jews (Adversus Judaeos), PG 48:852; translation in FC, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 1.6.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 23-24.

Justin Martyr (wrote after A.D. 151):

But if any of those who are wont to be forward in contradiction should say that these books do not belong to us, but to the Jews, and should assert that we in vain profess to have learnt our religion froth them, let him know, as he may from those very things which are written in these books, that not to them, but to us, does the doctrine of them refer. That the books relating to our religion are to this day preserved among the Jews, has been a work of Divine Providence on our behalf; for lest, by producing them out of the Church, we should give occasion to those who wish to slander us to charge us with fraud, we demand that they be produced from the synagogue of the Jews, that from the very books still preserved among them it might clearly and evidently appear, that the laws which were written by holy men for instruction pertain to us.

– Justin Martyr, ANF: Vol. 1, Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 38 – Concluding Appeal.

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

At the beginning, then, God communicates directly with human beings as far as it is possible for human beings to hear. This is the way He came to Adam, this is the way He rebuked Cain, this is the way He was entertained by Abraham. But since our nature took a turn for evil, and separated itself by a lengthy exile, as it were, at long last He sent us letters as though we were absent for a long time and He intended to reestablish the former friendship through an epistle. While it was God who sent the letters, it was Moses who brought them.

– Chrysostom, Robert Charles Hill, trans., St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis (Boston: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2004) Sermon 1, p. 26.

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

But the Jews survive still, and for a special purpose: so that they may carry our books, to their own confusion. When we want to prove to the pagans that Christ’s coming was prophesied, we produce these scriptures. But possibly pagans obstinately opposed to the faith might have alleged that we Christians had composed them, fabricating prophecies to buttress the gospel we preach. They might have thought that we were trying to pass off our message by pretending that it had been foreshadowed in prophecy. But we can convince them of their error by pointing out that all those scriptures which long ago spoke of Christ are the property of the Jews. Yes, the Jews recognize these very writings. We take books from our enemies to confute other enemies! In what sort of disgrace do the Jews find themselves? A Jew carries the book which is the foundation of faith for a Christian. Jews act as book-bearers for us, like the slaves who are accustomed to walk behind their masters carrying their books, so that while the slaves sink under the weight, the masters make great strides through reading.

– Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 17, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 51-72, Psalm 56.9 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2001), p. 110.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (about A.D. 393-466) commenting on Ezekiel 37:28:

In fact, through those of the Jews who came to faith the nations also received the light of the knowledge of God: the divine apostles and the first disciples of the apostles were from among the ranks of Jews, and the nations came to faith in the divine message by learning the truths about Christ our savior from the inspired books preserved by Jews. Hence the divine apostle also said that the believers from the nations are grafted into the pious root of the Jews, while the unbelievers from Jews are broken off and separated from this root.

– Theodoret of Cyrrhus, 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. 251.

Origen (about A.D. 185–254):

Where you get your “lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets,” I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves.

– Origen, Letter to Africanus, Section 13

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

The examples I have adduced are indeed by no means doubtful in their signification, because only plain instances ought to be used as examples. There are passages, however, in regard to which it is uncertain in what sense they ought to be taken, as for example, “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red: it is full of mixture.” Now it is uncertain whether this denotes the wrath of God, but not to the last extremity of punishment, that is, “to the very dregs;” or whether it denotes the grace of the Scriptures passing away from the Jews and coming to the Gentiles, because “He has put down one and set up another,”— certain observances, however, which they understand in a carnal manner, still remaining among the Jews, for “the dregs hereof is not yet wrung out.”

– Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 25, Section 36


Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 2)

January 10, 2010

[Cont’d from previous section]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Martyr (wrote after 151):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Jerome, Letter 53, Section 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Clement of Alexandria, Book I, Chapter 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Augustine, Letter 180, Section 4

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

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

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

[to be cont’d in section 3]

Some Early Christian Writings on Justification

December 5, 2009

Clement of Rome on Justification:

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.

– Clement of Rome, (his, not Paul’s) 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 32

Ignatius on Justification:

But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Short Version)

To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

– Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (Long Version)

Mathetes on Justification:

But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!

– Mathetes, Letter to Diognetus, Chapter 9

Justin Martyr on Justification:

For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that He received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 23

Irenaeus on Justification:

And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”47304730 Gal. iii. 6, etc. Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any 562 inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 32, Section 2

For the Lord is the good man of the house, who rules the entire house of His Father; and who delivers a law suited both for slaves and those who are as yet undisciplined; and gives fitting precepts to those that are free, and have been justified by faith, as well as throws His own inheritance open to those that are sons.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 9, Section 1

And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,— that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.” Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation. Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: “The Lord thy God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 16, Section 2

The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; nor, again, was the Lord’s Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed Him; wherefore it was accounted to him by the Lord for righteousness. For faith towards God justifies a man; and therefore he said, “I will stretch forth my hand to the most high God, who made the heaven and the earth.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 5

For “all men come short of the glory of God,”41834183 Rom. iii. 23. [Another testimony to the mercy of God in the judgment of the unevangelized. There must have been some reason for the secrecy with which “that presbyter’s” name is guarded. Irenæus may have scrupled to draw the wrath of the Gnostics upon any name but his own.] and are not justified of themselves, but by the advent of the Lord,—they who earnestly direct their eyes towards His light.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 27, Section 2

And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man [Editor’s footnote: That is, as Harvey observes, the natural man, as described in Rom. ii. 27.] is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 13, Section 1


Justin Martyr’s Source of Apostolic Information – the Memoirs of the Apostles

December 4, 2009

Justin Martyr’s biography is necessarily a bit uncertain. Nevertheless, according to our best guesses, Justin Martyr was born around the year of our Lord 100, only a few years after the last of the apostles, the Apostle John, died. Thus, one might imagine that Justin Martyr’s knowledge of the Apostles’ teachings would come primarily from oral sources. However, Justin actually appeals to the apostles’ writings rather than an oral tradition when disputing with his Jewish opponent, Trypho.


For [Christ] called one of His disciples— previously known by the name of Simon—Peter; since he recognised Him to be Christ the Son of God, by the revelation of His Father: and since we find it recorded in the memoirs of His apostles that He is the Son of God, and since we call Him the Son, we have understood that He proceeded before all creatures from the Father by His power and will (for He is addressed in the writings of the prophets in one way or another as Wisdom, and the Day, and the East, and a Sword, and a Stone, and a Rod, and Jacob, and Israel); and that He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 100 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


For they that saw Him crucified shook their heads each one of them, and distorted their lips, and twisting their noses to each other, they spake in mockery the words which are recorded in the memoirs of His apostles: ‘He said he was the Son of God: let him come down; let God save him.’

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 101 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


For the power of His strong word, by which He always confuted the Pharisees and Scribes, and, in short, all your nation’s teachers that questioned Him, had a cessation like a plentiful and strong spring, the waters of which have been turned off, when He kept silence, and chose to return no answer to any one in the presence of Pilate; as has been declared in the memoirs of His apostles, in order that what is recorded by Isaiah might have efficacious fruit, where it is written, ‘The Lord gives me a tongue, that I may know when I ought to speak.’

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 102 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


For this devil, when [Jesus] went up from the river Jordan, at the time when the voice spake to Him, ‘Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten Thee,’ is recorded in the memoirs of the apostles to have come to Him and tempted Him, even so far as to say to Him, ‘Worship me;’ and Christ answered him, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan: thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 103 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


Moreover, the statement, ‘All my bones are poured and dispersed like water; my heart has become like wax, melting in the midst of my belly,’ was a prediction of that which happened to Him on that night when men came out against Him to the Mount of Olives to seize Him. For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them, [it is recorded] that His sweat fell down like drops of blood while He was praying, and saying, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass:’ His heart and also His bones trembling; His heart being like wax melting in His belly: in order that we may perceive that the Father wished His Son really to undergo such sufferings for our sakes, and may not say that He, being the Son of God, did not feel what was happening to Him and inflicted on Him.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 103 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


And the statement, ‘Thou hast brought me into the dust of death; for many dogs have surrounded me: the assembly of the wicked have beset me round. They pierced my hands and my feet. They did tell all my bones. They did look and stare upon me. They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture,’—was a prediction, as I said before, of the death to which the synagogue of the wicked would condemn Him, whom He calls both dogs and hunters, declaring that those who hunted Him were both gathered together and assiduously striving to condemn Him. And this is recorded to have happened in the memoirs of His apostles. And I have shown that, after His crucifixion, they who crucified Him parted His garments among them.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 104 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


For I have already proved that He was the only-begotten of the Father of all things, being begotten in a peculiar manner Word and Power by Him, and having afterwards become man through the Virgin, as we have learned from the memoirs.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 105 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


The remainder of the Psalm makes it manifest that He knew His Father would grant to Him all things which He asked, and would raise Him from the dead; and that He urged all who fear God to praise Him because He had compassion on all races of believing men, through the mystery of Him who was crucified; and that He stood in the midst of His brethren the apostles (who repented of their flight from Him when He was crucified, after He rose from the dead, and after they were persuaded by Himself that, before His passion He had mentioned to them that He must suffer these things, and that they were announced beforehand by the prophets), and when living with them sang praises to God, as is made evident in the memoirs of the apostles.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 106 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)


And that He would rise again on the third day after the crucifixion, it is written in the memoirs that some of your nation, questioning Him, said, ‘Show us a sign;’ and He replied to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given them, save the sign of Jonah.’

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 107 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

As you can see from the nine examples above, Justin was not shy about appealing to the gospels, even when dialoguing with a non-Christian. Furthermore, note especially item (7) above, where Justin indicates that he learned this information from the memoirs. Notice that he doesn’t say, “as the older Christians remember,” but instead indicates that the Gospels themselves are his source of knowledge on this subject.

This is not surprising when we read, in Justin First Apology, about the weekly worship in Justin’s church:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

– Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 57 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

Finally, note that Justin actually indicates that the specific way that the Apostles delivered the tradition of the Eucharist was in the memoirs composed by them:

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.

– Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 66 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

– TurretinFan

Devin Rose on Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and the Eucharist

December 2, 2009

Over in the over-flowing comment box at the Roman Catholic blog Called to Communion, Devin Rose has provided a comment that veers slightly off the stated topic for that box. I’m providing a response here instead of there both to keep that discussion on topic and because (for the moment) the CTC site is undergoing maintenance and the comment boxes are apparently all closed.

Devin Rose wrote (in part):

We were discussing the Eucharist: they both believe in the symbolic-only Eucharist (ala Zwingli and the Baptists) whereas I as a Catholic believe in transubstantiation. I asked them how can we know what the Apostles believed on this subject, given that we disagree with each other on how to interpret the Bible on this doctrine.

They said it comes down to their belief in the Bible and how clearly it teaches the symbolic-only Eucharist. I told them that, since we disagree on the interpretation, what if we looked at other sources, say, two of the early Christian leaders whose writings we know are authentic: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Justin Martyr. I am sure you are familiar with what they wrote about the Eucharist. In short, they unequivocally speak of the bread and the wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Even if one were to try to interpret their words in the most Baptist-leaning way possible, they fall much closer to the Catholic (and Lutheran and even Calvinist) belief on the Eucharist than the Zwinglian/Baptist symbolic belief.


I have four main responses:

1) Yes, your friends are right to go to the Scriptures. Since Scripture dates to the time of the apostles, is inspired, and (in many cases) was penned by an apostle, it is the best possible evidence as to what the Apostles believed. Going to an apostolic father (like Ignatius) or to a very early Christian writer (like Justin Martyr) is only second and third best (Ignatius was in an overlapping generation with the apostles and Justin Martyr was in one of the first generations that did not overlap with the apostles). Similarly, while we know the text of Scripture with high confidence for virtually all its verses, the text of Ignatius is actually open to significant doubt at many places. Not only are many of the letters attributed to him inauthentic, but the authentic letters have been variously interpolated over the years so that we have, in essence, two versions – a long version in which we have little confidence that it is fully authentic – and a short version in which we have higher confidence that it is authentic. The text of Justin Martyr is substantially less controversial, but again – the textual transmission of Justin Martyr is nowhere near as good as the textual transmission of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.

2) In point of fact, the Scriptures are sufficient to resolve the matter as to what the Apostles believed. But if you will insist that the Scriptures are ambiguous or somehow lack sufficient authority, we can examine with you the historical record of tradition. Nevertheless, the historical record shows that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is something developed rather late. The term itself doesn’t come around for about a thousand years or so. The concept without the word is also not found. In other words, we don’t find the accidents/substance distinction being enunciated by the fathers of the church significantly prior to the development of the term.

3) As to the specific instances of Ignatius and Justin Martyr, they do use expressions that are frequently used in this sort of discussion. The two most popular quotations alleged from Ignatius are the following (taken from an article on the Real Presence at – link to the article):

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

(I’ve previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

(Similarly, I’ve also previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

As noted above, I’ve previously demonstrated that these quotations don’t teach transubstantiation. However, I could have gone further. Note that Ignatius uses words that sound like a literal identification between the bread and the flesh. But consider that Ignatius elsewhere makes a similar identification:

Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard, inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil. Wherefore, clothing yourselves with meekness, be renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no one of you cherish any grudge against his neighbour. Give no occasion to the Gentiles, lest by means of a few foolish men the whole multitude [of those that believe] in God be evil spoken of. For, “Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among any.” [Isaiah 52:5]

– Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 8 (Short Version – both versions available here)

Notice how, in this passage, Ignatius calls “faith” the “flesh of the Lord” and calls “love” the “blood of Jesus Christ.” If he had said this about the bread and the cup, you might have thought he intended a transubstantial sense to his words. Here, however, you can plainly see that he does not intend such a sense. Instead, is employing metaphor.

Similarly, with Justin, the typical quotation is this (using the same article identified above):

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

(I’ve likewise previously demonstrated that this quotation doesn’t teach transubstantiation.)

And again, I can do more than simply point out that the quotation used doesn’t teach transubstantiation. I can show that Justin viewed the Eucharist as literally bread:

And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but you profane it.’ [Malachi 1:10-12] [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 41 (link to source – most footnotes at source omitted above)

Notice how in this passage, Justin explains that the oblation of flour for the purification of leprosy pre-shadowed the bread of the Eucharist. And how the sacrifice of the bread and cup (for Justin) are a sacrifice of bread, similar to the oblation of fine flour in the Old Testament administration there. Notice as well that Justin views the sacrament as a “celebration … in remembrance” but not a re-presentation.

In fact, we see this stated even more clearly in a later chapter:

But I must repeat to you the words of Isaiah referred to, in order that from them you may know that these things are so. They are these: “Hear, you that are far off, what I have done; those that are near shall know my might. The sinners in Zion are removed; trembling shall seize the impious. Who shall announce to you the everlasting place? The man who walks in righteousness, speaks in the right way, hates sin and unrighteousness, and keeps his hands pure from bribes, stops the ears from hearing the unjust judgment of blood closes the eyes from seeing unrighteousness: he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure. You shall see the King with glory, and your eyes shall look far off. Your soul shall pursue diligently the fear of the Lord. Where is the scribe? Where are the counsellors? Where is he that numbers those who are nourished—the small and great people? With whom they did not take counsel, nor knew the depth of the voices, so that they heard not. The people who have become depreciated, and there is no understanding in him who hears.” [Isaiah 33:13-19] Now it is evident, that in this prophecy [allusion is made] to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks.

– Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 70 (link to source – most footnotes at source omitted)

Notice how Justin suggests that bread is given not as the flesh and blood as such, but rather in remembrance of those things.

4) Consider finally the absurdity of assuming that every time “[X] is [Y]” is used of things having two different substances, we should view this in a transubstantial sense.

1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Will Mr. Rose try to suggest that the Rock was Christ in substance under the accidents of Rock? Surely no one would be so foolish as to make such a suggestion. May I further suggest to you that the only reason that you view the statement “This is my body” in a transubstantial sense is that you have been taught this tradition. It is not something found in the text or learned from it. Furthermore, the tradition itself is not a tradition that comes from the apostles. The historical evidence shows us that not only the term “transubstantiation” but the idea behind it were later developments, not the original apostolic teaching.


Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario – Part 3

October 30, 2009

I’m responding to a post from Mr. Matthew Bellisario (see my first post for the introduction). In this post, I address Mr. Bellisario’s response to my quotation from Justin Martyr. Mr. Bellisario has put my words in italics, and I have attempted to reproduce them as he provided them, within the quotation box below. His own words are (for the most part) in the plain font:

Then Turretin Fan quotes Saint Justin Martyr in an attempt to bolster his position that the Scriptures are easy to understand.

Pay attention, therefore, to what I shall record out of the holy Scriptures, which do not need to be expounded, but only listened to.

– Justin Martyr, Dialog With Trypho, Chapter 55

First of all Saint Justin Martyr lived in the middle of the second century. There was not a New Testament canon yet, nor would there be for the next 150 years or more. So the Saint was not even referring to the New Testament as we know it. Secondly the great Saint is only talking about an isolated case here where he is quoting the Scriptures for a specific purpose. Anyone knows that Justin was not making a blanket statement on Scripture as not needing any exposition on them. This is once again a pitiful stretch of the text. If this is so then why does the “Reformer” read the writings of John Calvin in which he expounds upon the Scriptures giving his own interpretation? As many times as I have heard the Reformed apologist tell us that the Scriptures need no aid to their understanding, I am baffled by the pages of Scripture commentaries they refer to. If you have to write anything other than what is in the text itself (in this case the Scriptures), then by definition you are expounding upon the text.

I answer:
1) As to the intro: “Then Turretin Fan quotes Saint Justin Martyr in an attempt to bolster his position that the Scriptures are easy to understand,” I’ve noted a couple of times that the argument is not that every Scripture text is easy to understand. Also, Justin Martyr is not properly a “saint,” in traditional Roman Catholic hagiology, not that it matters much (the practice of calling him a “saint” seems to have originated in the 19th century, and gradually expanded due to carelessness – but this issue has nothing to do with the topic of the discussion). In fact, Justin Martyr’s testimony is really brought as rebuttal to the idea that Scripture cannot be understood without some further “tradition.”

2) Belliario continued: “First of all Saint Justin Martyr lived in the middle of the second century. There was not a New Testament canon yet, nor would there be for the next 150 years or more. So the Saint was not even referring to the New Testament as we know it.”

As far as we know, Justin Martyr was born about A.D. 100 and lived to around A.D. 165. There are two main schools of thought as to the date of the completion of the last book of the New Testament, either before A.D. 70 or before A.D. 100. Thus, unless Bellisario is taking a position that no serious scholar has taken, the New Testament was complete either well or at least shortly before Justin Martyr was born.

More likely, Bellisario is simply confusing the historical reality of the canon with official proclamations of this canon. The canon is an historical reality: it is, by definition, the set of the inspired writings. That canon was complete as soon as the last book of the New Testament was finished, whether anyone (other than God) knew that objective reality. Furthermore, while some people may have been uncertain about the objective reality of whether a particular book was in or out of the canon is not dependent on anyone knowing that it is in the canon.

Further, we have to presume that Mr. Bellisario is trying to point us either to Athanasius’ 39th Festal Letter (about A.D. 367) or to the Councils of Hippo (about A.D. 393) and/or Carthage (about A.D. 397), each of which contained a correct listing of the New Testament canon. Those are both more than 200 years after Justin’s death, though, so it is not perfectly clear what Mr. Bellisario is trying to reference.

In any event, Mr. Bellisario’s argument appears to be that because Athanasius and/or Hippo/Carthage haven’t come around, people didn’t know what Scripture was because they had no authoritative canon. Of course, even after Hippo/Carthage the canon was not “authoritative” because those were regional councils (same for Athanasius, because he’s just one bishop). In fact, the first “ecumenical” council to define (authoritatively) the canon of the New Testament was the council of Trent.

Now, if Mr. Bellisario wants to insist that people just had no idea what Scripture was before Trent, so be it. But that’s rather unreasonable. Athanasius shows us people knew about it before regional councils weighed in, and the regional councils show us that people knew about it before any bishop of Rome or ecumenical council weighed in. In fact, over a thousand years passed between Athanasius, Hippo, and Carthage (on the one hand) and Trent (on the other hand). People referred to Scripture as Scripture during that time, blissfully unaware of any need for any authoritative canon.

That may sound bad for Mr. Bellisario, but it gets worse. Mr. Bellisario seems to have assumed that Justin Martyr is speaking about the New Testament scriptures. Justin is not. Justin is speaking of Old Testament Scriptures. After all, Justin is debating Trypho, a Jew.

Of course, the same rebuttals apply to Mr. Bellisario’s canon argument, if we let him change it to Old Testament canon. It may well be that Justin Martyr had an idea about what books were in the Old Testament that differs in some minor way from the books we have today. What is interesting, though, is that he not only used the term “Scriptures” as though it had meaning, but used it as though it would have meaning to a Jew. That’s not overly surprising, I guess: Jesus himself referred to the Old Testament canon as “the Scriptures,” without ever explicitly providing a list.

Nevertheless, the ability to reference a group of books by the term “the Scriptures” suggests at least some recognition of the canon, without any authoritative list sitting around: without any “inspired table of contents,” as some Romanists are wont to put it. Thus, even if Justin Martyr’s knowledge of the canon was less than ours, he had a more or less clear idea of what the Old Testament Scriptures were and so did his Jewish opponent.

Mr. Bellisario’s comment, “[Justin] is only talking about an isolated case here where he is quoting the Scriptures for a specific purpose … [a]nyone knows that Justin was not making a blanket statement on Scripture as not needing any exposition on them,” is misleading at best. Anyone reading the statement sees that’s not what he’s saying. Justin’s saying that there are some clear Scriptures that, on an important topic, don’t require any interpretation. They speak for themselves. But is Mr. Bellisario willing to grant that many Scriptures are self-evident in their meaning? It’s hard to see Mr. Bellisario agreeing that, yes, much of Scripture is easy to understand, so much so that it doesn’t require any interpretation.

As potentially misleading as Mr. Bellisario’s comments above are, though, his next one is worse: “This is once again a pitiful stretch of the text.” The problem with this comment is that he’s creating a straw man. He’s trying to suggest that I’ve argued that all of Scripture requires no interpretation, which (of course) is not the case.

His straw man is undermined by the fact that the Reformed churches so prominently exegete and interpret Scripture. Mr. Bellisario recognizes this fact in his remaining comments, which makes his use of a straw man inexcusable. Furthermore, of course, sometimes comments are needed because even Scriptures that are perfectly clear are attacked by those who wish to obscure what is plain.


Augustine the Inerrantist (and Justin too)

March 19, 2009

Nick Norelli at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth has an interesting post on Justin Martyr and his view of inerrancy (link). I would, however, respectfully disagree that Justin’s is the strongest statement of inerrancy we see in the early church. I find similarly strong statements in other church fathers, such as in Augustine who affirmed both inerrancy and Sola Scriptura, even while affirming the fallibility of Peter and recognizing that the New Testament was consciously written as Scripture:

5. But he answers, “What did Paul find to criticize in Peter?” What else but what he said himself, what he wrote himself? He himself composed a letter as a record, he left it to posterity to be read in the Church. What can I safely believe in the divine books, if I don’t believe what is written in that letter? It’s an apostolic letter, it’s a canonical letter. It’s a letter from Paul, who labored more than them all; not he, though, but the grace of God with him (1 Cor 15:10). So it’s a letter from the grace of God. And if we recall who was speaking in him, it’s a letter from Christ. Or do you wish, he says, to have experience of the one who is speaking in me, Christ? (2 Cor 13:3). Listen, and fear. He said “experience,” not a pretense. But if you don’t think that’s enough, listen to his own public assertion, in which he even calls God to witness. This is how he started the tale of what he was going to point out, as though foreseeing that there would be some people who queried the truth of it: But what I am writing to you, he said, see before God that I am not lying (Gal. 1:20). So then, when he calls God to witness like that, is he lying, seeing that without any calling of God to witness the mouth that lies, it says, will kill, not the body, but the soul (Wis 1:11)? I beg you, don’t let Paul be killed in the soul for Peter’s sake; they were both killed together in the flesh for Christ’s sake.

Augustine, Sermon 162C, Section 5 (The Works of Augustine, Sermons III/11, New City Press, 1997, p. 169)

I realize that a few people are going to read everything Augustine said in that section and home in on the allusion to Wisdom 1:11, losing track of everything else that was said. I hope that if you’re one of those people you’ll think about re-reading the paragraph, setting that issue aside. Although Augustine does seem to allude to (or even quote from) a verse from the Book of Wisdom, he doesn’t identify that book as the canonical Scriptures here. Instead, the canonical Scriptures being discussed here are Paul’s own epistle to the Galatians.


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