Turretin moves on to St Athanasius where he pulls one sentence out of context,I answer:
I wonder if this is where Mr. Shea hopes to gain an edge on folks with less experience in the laboratory than he. I refer to folks like Athanasius (about A.D. 297 - 373) who wrote:
And this is usual with Scriptures, to express itself in inartificial and simple phrases.
- Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 3
OK so is St Athanasius in complete rebellion to the Biblical text of Acts 8:30-31 which reads, "30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Is he assuming that all Biblical texts are simple phrases? Does the great Saint believe that the Scriptures Alone are his only authority? I think not. During the Arian crisis Saint Athanasius on several occasions told us how the Church defended itself during the Arian crisis. He states that it is not Scripture Alone but that understanding which has been passed down in the Church. For he readily admits that even the Arians referred to Scripture, but not in compliance with that which was handed down within the Church by apostolic Tradition which Turretin Fan rejects.
Accordingly we too, according to your confession of faith, desire to hold the Apostolic tradition , and to live according to the commands of the divine law, that we may be found along with you in that band in which now Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs are rejoicing. So then, though the Arian madness, aided by external power, was so active that our brethren on account of their fury could not even see the open air with freedom, yet by God's favour, according to your prayers, I have been able, though with trouble and danger, to see the brother who is wont to bring me necessaries and the letters of your holiness, along with those of others. And so we have received the books of your most wise and religious soul, in which we have seen the image of an Apostle, the confidence of a Prophet, the teaching of truth, the doctrine of true faith, the way of heaven, the glory of martyrdom, the triumphs against the Arian heresy, the unimpaired tradition of our Fathers, the right rule of the Church's order.
Athanasius. Letter 51 Second Letter to Lucifer.
We can also see this understanding here when he refers to the Arian heresy again,
"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power" Athanasius Festal Letter 2
The first part of Bellisario's response is an amazing example of the strain that arguing his case has placed on him. Let me demonstrate in a few points.
1) Over the word of Athanasius, Mr. Bellisario would take the word of an as-yet-unbelieving Ethiopian Eunuch. Yes, his comment is recorded in Scripture, but it is not endorsed by Scripture. Scripture does not say the eunuch was right, just that the eunuch said what he said. What an odd magisterium Bellisario has.
2) Mr. Bellisario is attempting to attack the perspicuity of Scripture by appealing to a highly perspicuous passage of Scripture. It's crystal clear what the sense of this passage is: it's an historical narrative, not some kind of dark parable or complex theological argument.
3) Rather than dealing with the position that Athanasius provides, namely that Scripture is usually presented in simple terms, not always in simple terms.
4) Whereas the eunuch was having trouble understanding the prophecy of Isaiah, without the aid of any pope, any dogma-defining councils, or even any hierarchy at all, but only at the mouth of a lone evangelist, who (according to the Scripture), "opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus," (Acts 8:35) and during the same journey the eunuch believed and was baptized (Acts 8:37-38).
5) Athanasius was not unaware of the passage about the Ethiopian Eunuch. Let's see what he thinks of it:
The Eunuch of Ethiopia indeed, though he understood not what he read [Acts 8:27], believed the words of Philip, when he taught him concerning the Saviour; but the eunuchs of Constantius cannot endure the confession of Peter [FN: Matt. xvi. 16, allusion to Liberius? vid. Hard. Conc. t. 2. p. 305 E.], nay, they turn away when the Father manifests the Son, and madly rage against those who say, that the Son of God is His genuine Son, thus claiming as a heresy of eunuchs, that there is no genuine and true offspring of the Father.- Athanasius, History of the Arians, Part V, Section 38
As the editor notes, it is not unreasonable to think that Athanasius is actually using this passage to mock pope Liberius. But that's an aside. (UPDATE: Roman Catholic David Waltz has pointed out that perhaps we should understand the editor as thinking that Athanasius means to refer to Liberius via the reference to the "confession of Peter" - and Waltz is probably right about that. See my newly written footnote for a more complete discussion of the matter.) Notice what Athanasius points out. The eunuch did not understand what he read, but he believed when Philip preached and Philip was just an evangelist, not a bishop. As Ambrosiaster (flourished about A.D. 366 - 384) put it: "Evangelists are deacons, even as Philip was; although they were not elders (sacerdotes) they can nonetheless preach the gospel (evangelize) without a chair, as blessed Stephen and Philip are recorded to have done." (Evangelistae diaconi sunt, sicut fuit Philippus; quamvis non sint sacerdotes, evangelizare tamen possunt sine cathedra, sicut et beatus Stephanus et Philippus memoratus.) - Ambrosiaster, On Ephesians 4:11-12, Section 14 (Latin at PL17:387)
Philip was only an evangelist - not a bishop or any other elder, and yet he was a sufficient magisterium for the Ethiopian both to believe and to be baptized. Notice as well that Athanasius does not attribute lack of clarity to the text, but a lack of understanding to the eunuch. And that's not the only time Athanasius references this account:
Samuel, that great man, no less clearly reproved Saul, saying, ‘Is not the word better than a gift [Ecclus. xviii. 17.]?’ For hereby a man fulfils the law, and pleases God, as He saith, ‘The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me.’ Let a man ‘learn what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice [Ps. l. 23; Hosea vi. 6; Matt. ix. 13],’ and I will not condemn the adversaries. But this wearied them, for they were not anxious to understand, ‘for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory [1 Cor. ii. 8.].’ And what their end is, the prophet foretold, crying, ‘Woe unto their soul, for they have devised an evil thought, saying, let us bind the just man, because he is not pleasing to us [Is. iii. 9, 10; Wisd. ii. 12.].’ The end of such abandonment as this can be nothing but error, as the Lord, when reproving them, saith, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures [Matt. xxii. 29.].’ Afterwards when, being reproved, they should have come to their senses, they rather grew insolent, saying, ‘We are Moses’ disciples; and we know that God spake to Moses [John ix. 28, 29.];’ dealing the more falsely by that very expression, and accusing themselves. For had they believed him to whom they hearkened, they would not have denied the Lord, Who spake by Moses, when He was present. Not so did the eunuch in the Acts, for when he heard, ‘Understandest thou what thou readest [Acts viii. 30.]?’ he was not ashamed to confess his ignorance, and implored to be taught. Therefore, to him who became a learner, the grace of the Spirit was given. But as for those Jews who persisted in their ignorance; as the proverb saith, ‘Death came upon them. For the fool dies in his sins [Prov. xxiv. 9, LXX., cf. Ps. lv. 15.].’- Athanasius, Letter XIX, Section 5
Athanasius here attributes not a lack of clarity to Scripture, but simple ignorance to the Eunuch. The eunuch was ignorant, but he was wise enough to ask for assistance. But these two times are not the only times that Athanasius addresses this passage. There is yet another time when Athanasius addresses this passage:
For it is written, ‘So much better than the Angels;’ let us then first examine this. Now it is right and necessary, as in all divine Scripture, so here, faithfully to expound the time of which the Apostle wrote, and the person [De Decr. 14, note 2.], and the point; lest the reader, from ignorance missing either these or any similar particular, may be wide of the true sense. This understood that inquiring eunuch, when he thus besought Philip, ‘I pray thee, of whom doth the Prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man [Acts viii. 34.]?’ for he feared lest, expounding the lesson unsuitably to the person, he should wander from the right sense. And the disciples, wishing to learn the time of what was foretold, besought the Lord, ‘Tell us,’ said they, ‘when shall these things be? and what is the sign of Thy coming [Matt. xxiv. 3.]?’ And again, hearing from the Saviour the events of the end, they desired to learn the time of it, that they might be kept from error themselves, and might be able to teach others; as, for instance, when they had learned, they set right the Thessalonians [Vid. 1 Thess. iv. 13; 2 Thess. ii. 1, &c.], who were going wrong. When then one knows properly these points, his understanding of the faith is right and healthy; but if he mistakes any such points, forthwith he falls into heresy. Thus Hymenæus and Alexander and their fellows [2 Tim. ii. 17, 18; 1 Tim. i. 20.] were beside the time, when they said that the resurrection had already been; and the Galatians were after the time, in making much of circumcision now. And to miss the person was the lot of the Jews, and is still, who think that of one of themselves is said, ‘Behold, the Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call his Name Emmanuel, which is being interpreted, God with us [Is. vii. 14; Matt. i. 23.];’ and that, ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you [Deut. xviii. 15.],’ is spoken of one of the Prophets; and who, as to the words, ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter [Is. liii. 7.],’ instead of learning from Philip, conjecture them spoken of Isaiah or some other of the former Prophets.- Athanasius, Against the Arians, Discourse I, Chapter 13, Section 54
Here Athanasius makes it out as though the eunuch not only understood, with Philip, much of the text, but also the appropriate hermeneutic, especially that it was important to know what person was being discussed in order properly to understand the text. So, there was something that the eunuch did not understand, but Athanasius again, a third time, does not attribute this to any lack of clarity in the text.
Pastor David King has some good thoughts on the typical arguments we hear on this matter from Rome:
Thus the contention is that what the Ethiopian eunuch "needed was a teacher (magister) who could instruct him in what God intended him to understand; that is what the eunuch received in Philip, and that is what we have in the magisterium of the Church." But according to Rome, the magisterium is restricted to those who hold the office of bishop, who are assisted by priests. This is where the Roman apologetic faces a problem with the example of the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip himself did not hold the office of bishop in the primitive Church! He was most likely a deacon (Acts 6:1-5) and is explicitly called an evangelist in Acts 21:8. But he was not a bishop. [See Ambrosiaster quotation above] The only infallible authority Philip appealed to was the Holy Spirit! Moreover, all the Ethiopian had in his hands was the Prophet Isaiah; whether he was in possession of any other Old Testament Scriptures, we do not know. But what we do know is that he did not have the benefit of any New Testament Scriptures which constituted the full and sufficient revelation of the Gospel, and thus this is no argument against the perspicuity of Holy Scripture taken as a whole with respect to its essential message. But the Old Testament Scriptures were indeed sufficient for those who lived under them.- David King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, p. 206 (responding to argument from Cardinal Newman)
But I know that backing up Athanasius with Pastor King may not be overly persuasive to a member of the church of Rome. Let us then consider what Chrysostom (about A.D. 349 - 407) said. After all, Lord Willing, we will soon be discussing Chrysostom with Mr. Bellisario as well:
But what do the multitude say? “I do not hear what is read,” saith one, “nor do I know what the words are which are spoken.” Because thou makest a tumult and confusion, because thou comest not with a reverent soul. What sayest thou? “I know not what things are said.” Well then, for this very reason oughtest thou to give heed. But if not even the obscurity stir up thy soul, much more if things were clear wouldest thou hurry them by. Yea, this is the reason why neither all things are clear, lest thou shouldest indulge indolence; nor obscure, lest thou shouldest be in despair.- Chrysostom, Homily 36 on First Corinthians, Section 9
And whereas that eunuch and barbarian (Acts 8:20.) said none of these things, but surrounded as he was with a crowd of so important affairs and on his journey, had a book in his hands and was reading: dost thou, both abounding in teachers, and having others to read to thee privately, allege to me thine excuses and pretexts? Knowest thou not what is said? Why then pray that thou mayest learn: but sure it is impossible to be ignorant of all things. For many things are of themselves evident and clear. And further, even if thou be ignorant of all, even so oughtest thou to be quiet, not to put out them that are attentive; that God, accepting thy quietness and thy reverence, may make the obscure things also plain.
Notice how Chrysostom, like King and Athanasius does not ascribe obscurity to the text, but places the matter in the lap of the eunuch. The eunuch was a busy man, but you have time to read privately. He had no teachers, you have teachers. Now I recognize that someone like Mr. Bellisario might try to say, "Look - he mentions teachers, so he's denying Sola Scriptura." Such a naive argument fails to recognize that Sola Scriptura does not deny the value of teachers, it simply denies that teachers cannot be made subject to the Scriptures.
Like Athanasius, Chrysostom did not mention the eunuch only once. Here's another time that Chrysostom dealt with him:
Even that pagan eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia, remember, despite being in all his glory and riding along in his chariot, did not neglect that opportunity for reading; instead, with the inspired author in his hand he put much effort into reading, even without understanding the contents. Nevertheless, because he brought to bear all that lay within him—his enthusiasm, his earnestness, his attention—he chanced upon a guide. Consider, I ask you, what a great effort it was not to neglect reading even while on a journey, and especially while seated in a chariot. Let this be heeded by those people who don’t even deign to do it at home but rather think reading the Scriptures is a waste of time: claiming as an excuse their living with a wife, conscription in military service, caring for children, attending to domestics, and looking after other concerns, they don’t think it necessary for for them to show any interest in reading the holy scriptures. I mean, look at the case of the eunuch, a pagan to boot, both facts sufficient to induce indifference in him, and as well as that his public image and abundance of wealth, plus the fact that he was on a journey and traveling in a chariot (after all, it’s not easy to pay attention to reading when you’re traveling like that—quite the contrary, it’s extremely difficult). Yet his desire and great enthusiasm made light of all these problems, and so he gave himself to reading without muttering the words many people mutter these days: I don’t understand the contents, I can’t grasp the full sense of the words, why should I go to this trouble all to no purpose by reading without having someone capable of guiding me?- Chrysostom, Homily 35 on Genesis, Section 3
Notice that Chrysostom gives the eunuch another excuse: he's traveling in a chariot and it is not easy to read in that condition (they did not have the kinds of suspensions that cars today have). But Chrysostom notes that his hearers can read at home (yes, people read the Bible at home in ancient days, not just after the Protestant Reformation). And Chrysostom encourages people by pointing out that their home reading can be successful, and even shows that if someone is diligent to study the text on their own, God will provide assistance - using the eunuch as an example (here is another example of Chrysostom encouraging people to read the Bible at home).
Chrysostom deals with this same subject at least one more time:
Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home; if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts viii. 30). Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31). Since therefore. while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.- Chrysostom, Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 3rd Sermon, §2-3 (courtesy of Pastor David King)
But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. x. 11). The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused. It is impossible—I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable has profited us! how much spiritual good it has done to us! For many I know have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from worldly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.
Notice, in addition to the points already raised above, that Chrysostom notes that we have the Spirit that filled Philip and does not suggest that instead we have the church in place of Philip. Indeed, he continues to commend private Scripture reading by stating: "The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation." One is reminded of the quotation attributed to Jerome: “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Well, perhaps we have adequately proven our point with respect to the Ethiopian Eunuch. With such discussion we have closed out what Mr. Bellisario had to say with respect to the issue of perspicuity. Mr. Bellisario, however, wished to go beyond that topic and expand the matter to full-fledged Sola Scriptura.
As you may recall from above, Mr. Bellisario stated: "Does the great Saint believe that the Scriptures Alone are his only authority? I think not." Mr. Bellisario, however, is arguing against a straw man. Scriptures are not the only authority in the church. Scriptures, however, are the only infallible authority - they are the norm of all norms, which is not itself normed. They are the highest authority we have today.
Mr. Bellisario continued: "During the Arian crisis Saint Athanasius on several occasions told us how the Church defended itself during the Arian crisis. He states that it is not Scripture Alone but that understanding which has been passed down in the Church." Mr. Bellisario's combination of poor grammar and straw man argumentation make it rather difficult to understand what point it is that he is trying to argue. The best guess we can make is that Mr. Bellisario is trying to suggest that Athanasius thought there was a second source outside of Scripture of doctrine, and that the second source of doctrine was equally as authoritative.
Please note that we have, on another occasion, responded to Mr. Bellisario's misuse of Athanasius.
Mr. Bellisario continues: "For he readily admits that even the Arians referred to Scripture, but not in compliance with that which was handed down within the Church by apostolic Tradition which Turretin Fan rejects." Again, this "Turretin Fan rejects" line has been addressed in a similar context in a previous segment, and so we'll let it go without further remark. This is an interesting comment from Mr. Bellisario - it seems to assume that there is Scripture plus a body of tradition sitting along side Scripture, one that is equally as authoritative, and which must be consulted to properly even "refer to Scripture."
Mr. Bellisario quoted a portion from Letter 51 of Athanasius:
Accordingly we too, according to your confession of faith, desire to hold the Apostolic tradition , and to live according to the commands of the divine law, that we may be found along with you in that band in which now Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs are rejoicing. So then, though the Arian madness, aided by external power, was so active that our brethren on account of their fury could not even see the open air with freedom, yet by God's favour, according to your prayers, I have been able, though with trouble and danger, to see the brother who is wont to bring me necessaries and the letters of your holiness, along with those of others. And so we have received the books of your most wise and religious soul, in which we have seen the image of an Apostle, the confidence of a Prophet, the teaching of truth, the doctrine of true faith, the way of heaven, the glory of martyrdom, the triumphs against the Arian heresy, the unimpaired tradition of our Fathers, the right rule of the Church's order.(as provided by Mr. Bellisario, but without bold font face)
Athanasius. Letter 51 Second Letter to Lucifer.
Mr. Bellisario is short on explanation for his quotation, but it would appear (based on our familiarity with Mr. Bellisario's approach) that Mr. Bellisario has provided this quotation because it uses the word "tradition" twice. Mr. Bellisario seems to think that Athanasius is using that term to refer to a second rule of faith in addition to Scripture. Neither in the first usage, nor in the second usage, however, does Athanasius give such an indication. With respect to the second instance, Athanasius is saying that Lucifer's books are good, orthodox books. In the first instance, likewise, Athansius is simply affirming his desire to be orthodox.
It is even more instructive, however, to see the context that Mr. Bellisario carefully omitted. Here's how the letter opens:
To the most glorious lord and deservedly much-desired fellow-Bishop Lucifer, Athanasius greeting in the Lord. Although I believe that tidings have reached your holiness also of the persecution which the enemies of Christ have just now attempted to raise, seeking our blood, yet our own most beloved messengers can tell your piety about it. For to such a length did they dare to carry their madness by means of the soldiers, that they not only banished the Clergy of the city, but also went out to the Hermits, and laid their fatal hands upon Solitaries. Hence I also withdrew far away, lest those who entertained me should suffer trouble at their hands. For whom do Arians spare, who have spared not even their own souls? Or how can they give up their infamous actions while they persist in denying Christ our Lord the only Son of God? This is the root of their wickedness; on this foundation of sand they build up the perversity of their ways, as we find it written in the thirteenth Psalm, ‘The fool said in his heart there is no God;’ and presently follows, ‘Corrupt are they and become abominable in their works [Ps. xiv. 1.].’ Hence the Jews who denied the Son of God, deserved to be called ‘a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children without law [Isa. i. 4.].’ Why ‘without law?’—because you have deserted the Lord. And so the most blessed Paul, when he had begun not only to believe in the Son of God, but also to preach His deity, wrote, ‘I know nothing against myself [1 Cor. iv. 4.].’- Athanasius, Letter 51
Notice that Athanasius begins by mentioning the Arian persecution. Then he turns to the root of their problem. Then he opposes that problem with Scripture. That's the immediately preceding context for Athanasius' comment about wanting to hold Apostolic tradition: he's referring to the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Scripture.
Likewise, consider the context immediately following the portion of the letter that Mr. Belliario provided:
O truly Lucifer, who according to your name bring the light of truth, and have set it on a candlestick to give light to all. For who, except the Arians, does not clearly see from your teaching the true faith and the taint of the Arians. Forcibly and admirably, like light from darkness, you have separated the truth from the subtilty and dishonesty of heretics, defended the Catholic Church, proved that the arguments of the Arians are nothing but a kind of hallucination, and taught that the diabolical gnashings of the teeth are to be despised. How good and welcome are your exhortations to martyrdom; how highly to be desired have you shewn death to be on behalf of Christ the Son of the living God. What love you have shewn for the world to come and for the heavenly life. You seem to be a true temple of the Saviour, Who dwells in you and utters these exact words through you, and has given such grace to your discourses. Beloved as you were before among all, now such passionate affection for you is settled in the minds of all, that they call you the Elijah of our times; and no wonder. For if they who seem to please God are called Sons of God, much more proper is it to give that name to the associates of the Prophets, namely the Confessors, and especially to you. Believe me, Lucifer, it is not you only who has uttered this, but the Holy Spirit with you. Whence comes so great a memory for the Scriptures? Whence an unimpaired sense and understanding of them? Whence has such an order of discourse been framed? Whence did you get such exhortations to the way of heaven, whence such confidence against the devil, and such proofs against heretics, unless the Holy Spirit had been lodged in you?- Athanasius, Letter 51
Notice how he praises Lucifer for his arguments against the Arians, but he only mentions as the source: "memory of the Scriptures" and a gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of a body of oral tradition - no second source of authority.
The next segment of the letter is in much the same vein:
Rejoice therefore to see that you are already there where also are your predecessors the martyrs, that is, among the band of angels. We also rejoice, having you as an example of valour, and patience, and liberty. For I blush to say anything of what you have written about my name, lest I should appear a flatterer. But I know and believe that the Lord Himself, Who has revealed all knowledge to your holy and religious spirit, will reward you for this labour also with a reward in the kingdom of the heavens. Since then you are such a man, we ask the Lord in prayer that you may pray for us, that in His mercy He may now deign to look down upon the Catholic Church, and deliver all His servants from the hands of persecutors; in order that all they too who have fallen on account of temporal fear may at length be enabled to raise themselves and return to the way of righteousness, led away from which they are wandering, poor people, not knowing in what a pit they are. In particular I ask, if I have said anything amiss, you would be good enough to overlook it, for from so great a fountain my unskilfulness has not been able to draw what it might have done.- Athanasius, Letter 51
Notice again that Athanasius indicates to Lucifer that Lucifer has received wisdom from the Lord, but so far we have only seen that expressed via Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
The letter concludes without any further suggestion of a second source:
But as to our brethren, I ask you again to overlook my not having been able to see them. For truth itself is my witness that I wished and longed to compass this, and was greatly grieved at being unable. For my eyes ceased not from tears, nor my spirit from groaning, because we are not permitted even to see the brethren. But God is my witness, that on account of their persecution I have not been able to see even the parents whom I have. For what is there that the Arians leave undone? They watch the roads, observe those who enter and leave the city, search the vessels, go round the deserts, ransack houses, harass the brethren, cause unrest to everybody. But thanks be to God, in so doing they are more and more incurring the execration of all, and coming to be truly known for what your holiness has called them: slaves of Antichrist. And, poor wretches, hated as they are, they persist in their malice, until they shall be condemned to the death of their ancestor Pharaoh. Those with me salute your piety. Pray salute those who are with you. May God’s divine grace preserve you, mindful of us and ever blessed, worthily called man of God, servant of Christ, partner of the Apostles, comfort of the brotherhood, master of truth, and in all things most longed for.- Athanasius, Letter 51
Thus, while Athanasius refers again to the Arian persecution and salutes and praises Lucifer. We've now looked at the whole letter, and though the letter mentions "Apostolic Tradition" and even the "catholic church" there is not hint or suggestion that this is anything other than the doctrines contained in Scripture and identified by Athanasius.
Let's turn, finally, to Mr. Bellisario's final select quotation from Athanasius. Mr. Bellisario presents the quotation thus:
"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power" Athanasius Festal Letter 2(as provided by Mr. Bellisario, but without bold font face)
Again, Mr. Bellisario leaves us guessing as to why he quoted this fragment of Athanasius' letter. Our best guess is that it uses the word "traditions" and mentions "opinions as the saints have handed down." Apparently, Mr. Bellisario thinks one or both of these are a reference to a separate body of tradition that is of equal authority with Scripture. The expression "not rightly know them nor their power" is also in the quotation, and perhaps Mr. Bellisario thinks that this phrase is speaking about the "power" of extra-scriptural traditions, or something like that.
First, it appears, based on the format of this quotation that Mr. Bellisario copied it from some edited source. Let's take a look, therefore, at the particular section of the letter that Mr. Bellisario quoted, without the editing and isolation provided by his quotation:
For not only in outward form did those wicked men dissemble, putting on as the Lord says sheep’s clothing, and appearing like unto whited sepulchres; but they took those divine words in their mouth, while they inwardly cherished evil intentions. And the first to put on this appearance was the serpent, the inventor of wickedness from the beginning—the devil,—who, in disguise, conversed with Eve, and forthwith deceived her. But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their [Matt. xxii. 29.] power. Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians [1 Cor. xi. 2.], because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Wherefore do ye also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions [Matt. xv. 3.].’ For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, ‘If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed [Gal. i. 9.].’- Athanasius, Festal Letter 2, Section 6
Looking at the quotation in full, we see that the "opinions as the saints have handed down" refers to the opinion of saints as to Scripture. That is to say, the saints do not receive the traditions as being or as being equivalent to the traditions of men. Mr. Bellisario seems unaware of the Scriptural allusion that Athanasius is making when he says that heretics do not know them or their power: he's referring to Scripture as can be clearly seen from Matthew 22:29 and the parallel passage in Mark 12:24:
Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Mark 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
The "them" to which Athanasius is referring is "Scriptures" not "the opinions of the saints."
In the next two sentences Athanasisus contrasts the traditions of Paul and the traditions of the Jews. Then in the subsequent sentences reverses the order, again contrasting human tradition and the tradition received from the apostles. There is, however, no mention of a body of apostolic tradition that is separate from or independent of Scripture. Indeed, the specific positive references to "tradition" that Athanasius makes are to the traditions of Paul, and he relies on Scripture (not some secondary body of authority) to substantiate them. Finally, it should be noted that the error of the Jews, per Athanasius and Paul, was departing from the commandments from God and from what had been received. Both of these characterizations suggest a once-for-all delivery of the "tradition" rather than a continuing magisterial authority that can spin new traditions. For more discussion on Athanasius and Sola Scriptura, see the previous interaction with Bellisario linked above.