Thursday, November 11, 2010

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

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers' views.

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

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

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
It is now time, as we have dispatched in order the other points, to go to the prophetic Scriptures; for the oracles present us with the appliances necessary for the attainment of piety, and so establish the truth. The divine Scriptures and institutions of wisdom form the short road to salvation. Devoid of embellishment, of outward beauty of diction, of wordiness and seductiveness, they raise up humanity strangled by wickedness, teaching men to despise the casualties of life; and with one and the same voice remedying many evils, they at once dissuade us from pernicious deceit, and clearly exhort us to the attainment of the salvation set before us.
ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 8.

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

We see something similar in the next quotation.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But godliness, that makes man as far as can be like God, designates God as our suitable teacher, who alone can worthily assimilate man to God. This teaching the apostle knows as truly divine. “Thou, O Timothy,” he says, “from a child hast known the holy letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls “inspired of God, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.” No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself, the lover of man. For this, and nothing but this, is His only work — the salvation of man. Therefore He Himself, urging them on to salvation, cries, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those men that draw near through fear, He converts. Thus also the apostle of the Lord, beseeching the Macedonians, becomes the interpreter of the divine voice, when he says, “The Lord is at hand; take care that ye be not apprehended empty.” But are ye so devoid of fear, or rather of faith, as not to believe the Lord Himself, or Paul, who in Christ’s stead thus entreats: “Taste and see that Christ is God?” Faith will lead you in; experience will teach you; Scripture will train you, for it says, “Come hither, O children; listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Then, as to those who already believe, it briefly adds, “What man is he that desireth life, that loveth to see good days?” It is we, we shall say — we who are the devotees of good, we who eagerly desire good things. Hear, then, ye who are far off, hear ye who are near: the word has not been hidden from any; light is common, it shines “on all men.”
ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 9.

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

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

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
And now we must look also at this, that if ever those who know not how to do well, live well; for they have lighted on well-doing. Some, too, have aimed well at the word of truth through understanding. “But Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith.” It is therefore of no advantage to them after the end of life, even if they do good works now, if they have not faith. Wherefore also the Scriptures were translated into the language of the Greeks, in order that they might never be able to allege the excuse of ignorance, inasmuch as they are able to hear also what we have in our hands, if they only wish. One speaks in one way of the truth, in another way the truth interprets itself. The guessing at truth is one thing, and truth itself is another. Resemblance is one thing, the thing itself is another. And the one results from learning and practice, the other from power and faith. For the teaching of piety is a gift, but faith is grace. “For by doing the will of God we know the will of God.” “Open, then,” says the Scripture, “the gates of righteousness; and I will enter in, and confess to the LORD.”
ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 7.—The Eclectic Philosophy Paves the Way for Divine Virtue.

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

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But if from any creature they received in any way whatever the seeds of the Truth, they did not nourish them; but committing them to a barren and rainless soil, they choked them with weeds, as the Pharisees revolted from the Law, by introducing human teachings, — the cause of these being not the Teacher, but those who choose to disobey. But those of them who believed the Lord’s advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures, attain to the knowledge of the law; as also those addicted to philosophy, by the teaching of the Lord, are introduced into the knowledge of the true philosophy: “For the oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, melted in the fire, tried in the earth, purified seven times.” Just as silver often purified, so is the just man brought to the test, becoming the Lord’s coin and receiving the royal image.
ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book VI, Chapter 7.

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

Clement also puts the idea of formal sufficiency another way:

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
Therefore, in the divine education, it is necessary that duties be imposed upon us, as things commanded by God and provided for our salvation. But, since of things that are necessary, some are for this life alone, while others cause the soul to aspire after a good life in the next world, it is but right that some obligations be imposed merely for living, and others for living well. Whatever is imposed for material life is binding upon the multitude, but what is adapted to living well, that is, the things by which eternal life is gained, should be able to be gathered from the Scriptures by those who read them, gathered at least in their general outline.
FC, Vol. 23, Clement of Alexandria: Christ the Educator, Chapter 13, §103 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 91.

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

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But if philosophy contributes remotely to the discovery of truth, by reaching, by diverse essays, after the knowledge which touches close on the truth, the knowledge possessed by us, it aids him who aims at grasping it, in accordance with the Word, to apprehend knowledge. But the Hellenic truth is distinct from that held by us (although it has got the same name), both in respect of extent of knowledge, certainly of demonstration, divine power, and the like. For we are taught of God, being instructed in the truly “sacred letters” by the Son of God.

Greek:
Εἰ δὲ καὶ πόῤῥωθεν συλλαμβάνεται φιλοσοφία πρὸς τὴν ἀληθείας εὕρεσιν, κατὰ διαφόρους ἐπιβολὰς διατείνουσα ἐπὶ τὴν προσεχῶς ἁπτομένην τῆς ἀληθείας τῆς καθʼ ἡμᾶς εἴδησιν, ἀλλὰ συλλαμβάνεταί γε τῷ λογικῶς ἐπιχειρεῖν ἐσπουδακότι ἀνθάπτεσθαι γνώσεως. χωρίζεται δὲ ἡ Ἑλληνικὴ ἀλήθεια τῆς καθ' ἡμᾶς, εἰ καὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μετείληφεν ὀνόματος, καὶ μεγέθει γνώσεως καὶ ἀποδείξει κυριωτέρᾳ καὶ θείᾳ δυνάμει καὶ τοῖς ὁμοίοις· θεοδίδακτοι γὰρ ἡμεῖς, ἱερὰ ὄντως γράμματα παρὰ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ παιδευόμενοι·
Stromatum, Liber Primus, Caput 20, PG 8:816; translation in ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 20.

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

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

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):
But what hinders them from readily perceiving this community of the Father’s titles in the Son, is the statement of Scripture, whenever it determines God to be but One; as if the selfsame Scripture had not also set forth Two both as God and Lord, as we have shown above. Their argument is: Since we find Two and One, therefore Both are One and the Same, both Father and Son. Now the Scripture is not in danger of requiring the aid of any one’s argument, lest it should seem to be self-contradictory. It has a method of its own, both when it sets forth one only God, and also when it shows that there are Two, Father and Son; and is consistent with itself [i.e. sufficient itself, suficit sibi, PL 2:177]. It is clear that the Son is mentioned by it. For, without any detriment to the Son, it is quite possible for it to have rightly determined that God is only One, to whom the Son belongs; since He who has a Son ceases not on that account to exist, — Himself being One only, that is, on His own account, whenever He is named without the Son.
ANF: Vol. III, Against Praxeas, Chapter 18.

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

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

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):
He, therefore, will not be a Christian who shall deny this doctrine which is confessed by Christians; denying it, moreover, on grounds which are adopted by a man who is not a Christian. Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all. Divine reason, on the contrary, lies in the very pith and marrow of things, not on the surface, and very often is at variance with appearances.
ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 3.

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

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

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
Celsus next proceeds to say, that the system of doctrine, viz., Judaism, upon which Christianity depends, was barbarous in its origin. And with an appearance of fairness, he does not reproach Christianity because of its origin among barbarians, but gives the latter credit for their ability in discovering (such) doctrines. To this, however, he adds the statement, that the Greeks are more skillful than any others in judging, establishing, and reducing to practice the discoveries of barbarous nations. Now this is our answer to his allegations, and our defense of the truths contained in Christianity, that if any one were to come from the study of Grecian opinions and usages to the Gospel, he would not only decide that its doctrines were true, but would by practice establish their truth, and supply whatever seemed wanting, from a Grecian point of view, to their demonstration, and thus confirm the truth of Christianity. We have to say, moreover, that the Gospel has a demonstration of its own, more divine than any established by Grecian dialectics. And this diviner method is called by the apostle the “manifestation of the Spirit and of power”of “the Spirit,” on account of the prophecies, which are sufficient to produce faith in any one who reads them, especially in those things which relate to Christ; and of “power,” because of the signs and wonders which we must believe to have been performed, both on many other grounds, and on this, that traces of them are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the precepts of the Gospel.
ANF: Vol. IV, Origen against Celsus, Book I, Chapter II.

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

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

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
The more one reads the Scriptures daily and the greater one’s understanding is, the more renewed always and every day. I doubt whether a mind which is lazy toward the holy Scriptures and the exercise of spiritual knowledge can be renewed at all.
Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 308.

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

That's why we also find Origen saying this:

Origen (c. 185-c. 254), commenting on Romans 9:20:
If we want to know something of the secret and hidden things of God and if we are not people of lusts and contentions, then let us inquire faithfully and humbly into the judgments of God which are contained more secretly in holy Scripture. For even the Lord said: Search the Scriptures, knowing that these things are applicable not to those who are busy with other matters and only hear or read the Bible from time to time, but to those who with a pure and simple heart endeavor to open up the holy Scriptures by their labor and constant attention. I know well enough that I am not one of them! But anyone who is, let him seek and he will find.
Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 259-260.

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

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

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
And now, what we have drawn from the authority of Scripture ought to be sufficient to refute the arguments of the heretics.
ANF: Vol. IV, Origen De Principiis, Book II, Chapter 5, §3.

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

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

Firmilian, Bishop of Caesaria (c. 200-268):
But to what they allege and say on behalf of the heretics, that the apostle said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached,” it is idle for us to reply; when it is manifest that the apostle, in his epistle wherein he said this, made mention neither of heretics nor of baptism of heretics, but spoke of brethren only, whether as perfidiously speaking in agreement with himself, or as persevering in sincere faith; nor is it needful to discuss this in a long argument, but it is sufficient to read the epistle itself, and to gather from the apostle himself what the apostle said.
ANF: Vol. V, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 74 - To Cyprian, Against the Letter of Stephan 254 A.D., §20.

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

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

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. It was necessary, my beloved son, that I should obey your spiritual desire, which asked with most urgent petition for those divine teachings wherewith the Lord has condescended to teach and instruct us by the Holy Scriptures, that, being led away from the darkness of error, and enlightened by His pure and shining light, we may keep the way of life through the saving sacraments. And indeed, as you have asked, so has this discourse been arranged by me; and this treatise has been ordered in an abridged compendium, so that I should not scatter what was written in too diffuse an abundance, but, as far as my poor memory suggested, might collect all that was necessary in selected and connected heads, under which I may seem, not so much to have treated the subject, as to have afforded material for others to treat it. Moreover, to readers also, brevity of the same kind is of very great advantage, in that a treatise of too great length dissipates the understanding and perception of the reader, while a tenacious memory keeps that which is read in a more exact compendium. But I have comprised in my undertaking two books of equally moderate length: one wherein I have endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God's favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world. The second book likewise contains the sacrament of Christ, that He has come who was announced according to the Scriptures, and has done and perfected all those things whereby He was foretold as being able to be perceived and known. And these things may be of advantage to you meanwhile, as you read, for forming the first lineaments of your faith. More strength will be given you, and the intelligence of the heart will be effected more and more, as you examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books. For now we have filled a small measure from the divine fountains, which in the meantime we would send to you. You will be able to drink more plentifully, and to be more abundantly satisfied, if you also will approach to drink together with us at the same springs of the divine fullness. I bid you, beloved son, always heartily farewell.
- Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 1, Preface, ANF5

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. Of your faith and devotion which you manifest to the Lord God, beloved son, you asked me to gather out for your instruction from the Holy Scriptures some heads bearing upon the religious teaching of our school; seeking for a succinct course of sacred reading, so that your mind, surrendered to God, might not be wearied with long or numerous volumes of books, but, instructed with a summary of heavenly precepts, might have a wholesome and large compendium for nourishing its memory. And because I owe you a plentiful and loving obedience, I have done what you wished. I have laboured for once, that you might not always labour. Therefore, as much as my small ability could embrace, I have collected certain precepts of the Lord, and divine teachings, which may be easy and useful to the readers, in that a few things digested into a short space are both quickly read through, and are frequently repeated. I bid you, beloved son, ever heartily farewell.
Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 3, Preface, ANF5

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

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
These things were before declared to us, and predicted. But we, forgetful of the law and obedience required of us, have so acted by our sins, that while we despise the Lord's commandments, we have come by severer remedies to the correction of our sin and probation of our faith. Nor indeed have we at last been converted to the fear of the Lord, so as to undergo patiently and courageously this our correction and divine proof. Immediately at the first words of the threatening foe, the greatest number of the brethren betrayed their faith, and were cast down, not by the onset of persecution, but cast themselves down by voluntary lapse. What unheard-of thing, I beg of you, what new thing had happened, that, as if on the occurrence of things unknown and unexpected, the obligation to Christ should be dissolved with headlong rashness? Have not prophets aforetime, and subsequently apostles, told of these things? Have not they, full of the Holy Spirit, predicted the afflictions of the righteous, and always the injuries of the heathens? Does not the sacred Scripture, which ever arms our faith and strengthens with a voice from heaven the servants of God, say, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve? " [Deuteronomy 6:13] Does it not again show the anger of the divine indignation, and warn of the fear of punishment beforehand, when it says, "They worshipped them whom their fingers have made; and the mean man bows down, and the great man humbles himself, and I will forgive them not? " [Isaiah 2:8-9] And again, God speaks, and says, "He that sacrifices unto any gods, save unto the Lord only, shall be destroyed." [Exodus 22:20] In the Gospel also subsequently, the Lord, who instructs by His words and fulfils by His deeds, teaching what should be done, and doing whatever He had taught, did He not before admonish us of whatever is now done and shall be done? Did He not before ordain both for those who deny Him eternal punishments, and for those that confess Him saving rewards?
- Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 3, Section 7

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

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

Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 236):
In this way, then, they choose to set forth these things, and they make use only of one class of passages; just in the same one-sided manner that Theodotus employed when he sought to prove that Christ was a mere man. But neither has the one party nor the other understood the matter rightly, as the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth. See, brethren, what a rash and audacious dogma they have introduced, when they say without shame, the Father is Himself Christ, Himself the Son, Himself was born, Himself suffered, Himself raised Himself. But it is not so. The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated. For who will not say that there is one God? Yet he will not on that account deny the economy (i.e., the number and disposition of persons in the Trinity). The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages by these men, and then to explain their real meaning. For it is right, in the first place, to expound the truth that the Father is one God, "of whom is every family," "by whom are all things, of whom are all things, and we in Him." Let us, as I said, see how he is confuted, and then let us set forth the truth. Now he quotes the words, "Egypt has laboured, and the merchandise of Ethiopia and the Sabeans," and so forth on to the words, "For Thou art the God of Israel, the Saviour." And these words he cites without understanding what precedes them. For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it.
ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §§3-4.

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

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

Hippolytus
(c. 170-c. 236):
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.
ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §9

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

Next, we can turn back east to Asia Minor and Gregory Thaumaturgus, also known as Gregory the Wonderworker.

Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270):
With respect to these human teachers, indeed, he counseled us to attach ourselves to none of them, not even though they were attested as most wise by all men, but to devote ourselves to God alone, and to the prophets. And he himself became the interpreter of the prophets (ὑποφητεύων) to us, and explained whatsoever was dark or enigmatical in them. For there are many things of that kind in the sacred words; and whether it be that God is pleased to hold communication with men in such a way as that the divine word may not enter all naked and uncovered into an unworthy soul, such as many are, or whether it be, that while every divine oracle is in its own nature most clear and perspicuous, it seems obscure and dark to us, who have apostatized from God, and have lost the faculty of hearing through time and age, I cannot tell. But however the case may stand, if it be that there are some words really enigmatical, he explained all such, and set them in the light, as being himself a skilled and most discerning hearer of God; or if it be that none of them are really obscure in their own nature, they were also not unintelligible to him, who alone of all men of the present time with whom I have myself been acquainted, or of whom I have heard by the report of others, has so deeply studied the clear and luminous oracles of God, as to be able at once to receive their meaning into his own mind, and to convey it to others. For that Leader of all men, who inspires (ὑπηχῶν) God’s dear prophets, and suggests all their prophecies and their mystic and heavenly words, has honoured this man as He would a friend, and has constituted him an expositor of these same oracles; and things of which He only gave a hint by others, He made matters of full instruction by this man’s instrumentality; and in things which He, who is worthy of all trust, either enjoined in regal fashion, or simply enunciated, He imparted to this man the gift of investigating and unfolding and explaining them: so that, if there chanced to be any one of obtuse and incredulous mind, or one again thirsting for instruction, he might learn from this man, and in some manner be constrained to understand and to decide for belief, and to follow God. These things, moreover, as I judge, he gives forth only and truly by participation in the Divine Spirit: for there is need of the same power for those who prophesy and for those who hear the prophets; and no one can rightly hear a prophet, unless the same Spirit who prophesies bestows on him the capacity of apprehending His words. And this principle is expressed indeed in the Holy Scriptures themselves, when it is said that only He who shutteth openeth, and no other one whatever (Is. 22:22; Rev. 3:7); and what is shut is opened when the word of inspiration explains mysteries. Now that greatest gift this man has received from God, and that noblest of all endowments he has had bestowed upon him from heaven, that he should be an interpreter of the oracles of God to men (Eph. 3:8-9), and that he might understand the words of God, even as if God spake them to him, and that he might recount them to men in such wise as that they may hear them with intelligence (The text gives ὡς ἀκούσωσιν with Voss. and Bengel. The Paris editor gives ἀκούουσιν). Therefore to us there was no forbidden subject of speech (ἄῤῥητον); for there was no matter of knowledge hidden or inaccessible to us, but we had it in our power to learn every kind of discourse, both foreign (Barbarian) and Greek, both spiritual and political, both divine and human; and we were permitted with all freedom to go round the whole circle of knowledge, and investigate it, and satisfy ourselves with all kinds of doctrines, and enjoy the sweets of intellect. And whether it was some ancient system of truth, or whether it was something one might otherwise name that was before us, we had in him an apparatus and a power at once admirable and full of the most beautiful views. And to speak in brief, he was truly a paradise to us after the similitude of the paradise of God, wherein we were not set indeed to till the soil beneath us, or to make ourselves gross with bodily nurture (σωματοτροφεῖν παχυνομένους), but only to increase the acquisitions of mind with all gladness and enjoyment,—planting, so to speak, some fair growths ourselves, or having them planted in us by the Author of all things.
ANF: Vol. VI, Acknowledged Writings, The Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origin, Argument XV.

The discussion above mentions the fact that the Scriptures may be clear in their own nature (as one of two possibilities) and that men are simply blind to it. Gregory goes on to explain that the solution to this blindness is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is essentially the same presentation we made in our explanation of what formal sufficiency means, although Gregory does not use precisely the same words.

Finally, we can go even further east to Archelaus from Caschar in Mesopotamia.

Archelaus (circa 277):
But now, what it is necessary for me to say on the subject of the inner and the outer man, may be expressed in the words of the Saviour to those who swallow a camel, and wear the outward garb of the hypocrite, begirt with blandishments and flatteries. It is to them that Jesus addresses Himself when He says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of uncleanness. Or know you not, that He that made that which is without, made that which is within also? " Now why did He speak of the cup and of the platter? Was He who uttered these words a glassworker, or a potter who made vessels of clay? Did He not speak most manifestly of the body and the soul? For the Pharisees truly looked to the "tithing of anise and cummin, and left undone the weightier matters of the law; " and while devoting great care to the things which were external, they overlooked those which bore upon the salvation of the soul. For they also had respect to "greetings in the market-place," and "to the uppermost seats at feasts:" and to them the Lord Jesus, knowing their perdition, made this declaration, that they attended to those things only which were without, and despised as strange things those which were within, and understood not that He who made the body made also the soul. And who is so unimpressible and stolid in intellect, as not to see that those sayings of our Lord may suffice him for all cases? Moreover, it is in perfect harmony with these sayings that Paul speaks, when he interprets to the following intent certain things written in the law: "You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the grain. Does God take care for oxen? Or says He it altogether for our sakes? " But why should we waste further time upon this subject?
ANF: Vol. VI, The Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes, §21.

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

(to be continued)

5 comments:

natamllc said...

This read is like chewing on a good piece of Elk jerky! Yum yum!

So much in here just blows the other side's debate foundation to pieces, pulverizing it and leaving them with nothing but a pile of sand; venture it so, they might want to continue and/or persist in building upon the results of the utter devastation being done to their Romanist faith by this series on "the Formal Sufficiency of Scripture?"

Origen then, you comment on his words:

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

I believe it is going to take the Holy Spirit to bring enlightenment to them seeing this comment is in itself perspicacious enough about Origen. Even the others published before his writings, and after, as well, have such keenness of wit and wisdom one gets a sense they are devoid of the Spirit's work?

I could go ahead and list portions from each of these men, but I won't. What I will do is give a citation from the Scriptures each of these men most certainly were aware of and understood well enough to convey with such clarity in their writing that the Scriptures are to be pondered over and over again during theirs and our lifetimes:

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Rom 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
Rom 15:15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God
Rom 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Rom 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
Rom 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed,
Rom 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;
Rom 15:20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,
Rom 15:21 but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand."


I'll state it more bluntly then:

Pro 1:22 "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
Pro 1:23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture

Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers' views.

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I love the Title of this Series.

Turretinfan said...

Sean:

Your off-topic comment was removed (as was the response to your comment).

-TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

It was on topic as if you had bothered to read the link many of its themes were related to your project here regarding 'formal sufficiency.' Even specific objections you raised in your podcast the other day were addressed such as your 'Rome has no infallible interpreter for it's Magesterium rambling.'

Turretinfan said...

You yourself confessed, in your initial comment (which is now deleted), "The topic of the dialog is slightly different ... ."

And, in fact, there's but one passing reference to "sufficiency" in the entire 50-page article. That's not to say that there are not related themes - nor is it to say that Bryan's article will be ignored - but this article has a particular focus which should be able to be determined from reading at least the title of this post.

-TurretinFan