14 January, 2014

Martin Chemnitz on the Lutheran Use of the Fathers

“For we can affirm with a good conscience that we have, after reading the Holy Scripture, applied ourselves and yet daily apply ourselves to the extent that the grace of the Lord permits to inquiry into and investigation of the consensus of the true and purer antiquity. For we assign to the writings of the fathers their proper and, indeed, honourable place which is due them, because they have clearly expounded many passages of Scripture, have defended the ancient dogmas of the church against new corruptions of heretics, and have done so on the basis of Scripture, have correctly explained many points of doctrine, have recorded many things concerning the history of the primitive church, and have usefully called attention to many other things. And we long for this, that in the life to come we may see what we believe and hope concerning the grace of God on account of His Son, the Redeemer, as members of the true catholic church; that we may see (I say) the Son of God Himself, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and fathers, who held to the true foundation, and may enjoy intimate friendship with them to all eternity. Therefore we examine with considerable diligence the consensus of the true, learned, and purer antiquity, and we love and praise the testimonies of the fathers which agree with the Scripture.”


Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), Lutheran Confessor, Examination of the Council of Trent (Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, 1971, I:256).

Augustine on the Sufficiency of Scripture for Faith and Practice

"In the things openly declared in the Scriptures we can find whatever is necessary for faith and practice."
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, (Migne, Patrologiae Latina, 34:42)

Jerome on the Authority of Scripture

""That which does not have authority from the scriptures we can as easily despise as approve."
Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, (Migne, Patrologiae Latina 26:180)

Augustine on Scripture Interpreting Scripture

"Now, although I may not be able myself to refute the arguments of these men, I yet see how necessary it is to adhere closely to the clearest statements of the Scriptures, in order that the obscure passages may be explained by help of these, or, if the mind be as yet unequal to either perceiving them when explained, or investigating them whilst abstruse, let them be believed without misgiving…what can be plainer than the many weighty testimonies of the divine declarations...?"


Augustine, Anti-Pelagian Writings, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Schaff et al), Series 1, Volume 5, Bk 3, ch 7, 'Proof of Original Sin in Infants'

06 January, 2014

Jerome on the Clarity of Scripture

"Plato wrote for a few people because barely three people understand him. The apostles and prophets, on the other hand, wrote not for a few but for all people that all might understand."
Jerome (c.347-420), Commentary on Psalm 86

Clement of Alexandria on the Clarity of Scripture

"Listen, those of you who are far off! Listen, those of you who are near! The Word is hidden from no-one; it is a light common to all people; it illumines everyone. There is neither myth nor darkness in the words."
Clement of Alexandria (C.150-215), Exhortation (Protrepticus (c. 195)).

Justin Martyr on Scripture and Traditions

"Pay attention to those things I shall mention from Holy Scripture, not from some other explanation. The ears have a need not for traditions to be expounded but for one thing to be heard."
Justin (c.100-c.165), Dialogue with Trypho

This work depicts a fictionalised dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, but mutatis mutandis, the same principle would apply to Christians - there is a need for one thing to be heard: the Holy Scriptures which are the Word of God written.

John Gerson on Scripture's Authority

"Holy Scripture has been given to us as the sufficient and infallible rule ...of the church until the end of time"
John Gerson (1363-1429), The Examination of Doctrine (1423), Part II No. 17.

Augustine on the Authority and Inerrancy of Holy Scripture

"I have learned to defer only to those books of Scripture that are now called "canonical" this respect and honour: that I believe strongly that no author thereof erred in writing anything. Furthermore, I read other books in such a way that, regardless of the sanctity and doctrine for which they are distinguished, I do not think they are true because they seem true but because they were able to persuade me by those canonical authors or by probably logic that is not inconsistent with the truth."
Augustine (354-430), Letter No. 82.3

Augustine on the Authority of Canonical Scripture as Compared with Later Wiritings

"The excellence of the canonical authority of the Old and New Testaments is distinct from that of later books (the ecclesiastical writings). Canonical authority was confirmed at the time of the apostles and has been established on a sort of lofty throne by successions of bishops and by the spreading of churches. Every faithful and devout intellect is in service to it.. Furthermore, in the case of the lesser works of later people that are contained in countless books, these may by no means be compared with the canonical excellence of Holy Scripture. We consider that in some of them we do find the same truth but certainly not the same authority."
Augustine (354-430), Reply to Faustus the Manichaean

Chrysostom on the Authority and Clarity of Scripture

"We have a very exact set of scales, a very exact sundial and rule as the declaration of all dviine laws. Therefore, I implore and entreat you to abandon what seems best to this person or that and to seek out everything about these matters from Scripture."
John Chrsysostom (c.347-407), Homily 13 on 2 Corinthians

Hilary on the Authority of Holy Scripture in Judging Doctrine

"I believe that we must respond to the perversity of heretics and refute all the foolish, death-dealing ideas they have established with the witness of the Evangelists and Apostles."
Hilary of Poitieres (c.300-c.368), The Trinity (c.360AD)

02 January, 2014

Athanasius on the Old Testament Canon

"There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the Twelve [minor prophets] being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations and the Epistle, one book; afterwards Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament...These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away from them. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures". And he reproved the Jews, saying, "Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of me...There are other books besides these, indeed not received as canonical but having been appointed by our fathers to be read to those just approaching and wishing to be instructed in the word of godliness: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit..."


Athanasius (AD296-373), 39th Festal Epistle (AD367)

09 December, 2013

Bonaventure on the Sufficiency of Scripture

"The outcome or the fruit of reading holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness.  For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life.  When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we shall truly know the love that surpasses understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God.  The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the apostles to which I have referred.  In order to achieve this, we must study holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way...Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the most blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment."

Bonaventure (AD1221-1274), Breviloquium, Prologue: Opera Omnia 5, 201-202.

08 December, 2013

Augustine on the Clarity of Scripture

"... the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere.”
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, II.6.7

25 November, 2013

Chrysostom on the Thief on the Cross (II)

"...one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43, NKJV

"Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord's lovingkindness being completely responsible.

What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments? Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? "Remember me in your kingdom." What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind."

John Chrysostom (c.347-407AD), Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 123-24 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.

18 November, 2013

Mark the Ascetic on Grace Alone

"Wishing to show that to fulfil every commandment is a duty, whereas sonship is a gift given to men through His own Blood, the Lord said: ‘When you have done all that is commanded you, say, "We are useless servants:we have only done what was our duty' (Luke 17:10). Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a rewards for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants."
Mark the Ascetic (5th C.), from 'On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous By Works: Two Hundred and Twenty-Six Texts', in The Philokalia :The Complete Text, vol. 1 (Faber & Faber, London, 1979, pp125-146).


 

08 November, 2013

Gregory Nazianzus on Original Sin

But I am so old fashioned and such a philosopher as to believe that one heaven is common to all; and that so is the revolution of the sun and the moon, and the order and arrangement of the stars; and that all have in Common an equal share and profit in day and night, and also change of seasons, rains, fruits, and quickening power of the air; and that the flowing rivers are a common and abundant wealth to all; and that one and the same is the Earth, the mother and the tomb, from which we were taken, and to which we shall return, none having a greater share than another. And further, above this, we have in common reason, the Law, the Prophets, the very Sufferings of Christ, by which we were all without exception created anew, who partake of the same Adam, and were led astray by the serpent and slain by sin, and are saved by the heavenly Adam and brought back by the tree of shame to the tree of life from whence we had fallen.

Gregory Nazianzus (c.329-390) Oration 33, IX (Constantinople, 380AD)

07 November, 2013

An Orthodox Prayer for Salvation by Faith and Not Works

"O my plenteously-merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy. "For he that believeth in me," Thou hast said, O my Christ, "shall live and never see death." If then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works..."

8th prayer for the Morning, Prayer Book, Holy Trinity Monastery (Russian Orthodox), Jordanville NY, 1979.

28 April, 2013

Luther on the Proper Estimation of the Fathers

"But this also has a bearing on our firmly holding the conviction that there were really six days on which the Lord created everything, in contrast to the opinion of Augustine and Hilary, who believed that everything was created in a single moment. They, therefore, abandon the historical account, pursuing allegories and fabricating I don’t know what speculations. However, I am not saying this to vilify the holy fathers, whose works should be held in high regard, but to establish the truth and to comfort us. They were great men, but nevertheless they were human beings who erred and who were subject to error. So we do not exalt them as do the monks, who worship all their opinions as if they were infallible. To me the great comfort seems to lie rather in this, that they are found to have erred and occasionally to have sinned. For this is my thought: If God forgave them their errors and sins, why should I despair of His pardon? The opposite brings on despair—if you should believe that they did not have the same shortcomings that you have. Moreover, it is certain that between the call of the apostles and that of the fathers there is a great difference. Why, then, should we regard the writings of the fathers as equal to those of the apostles?"

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:121). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
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