Sunday, December 06, 2009

Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

William Forbes relates for us the inconsistent comments of Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
But before we leave this subject, let us quote a few sentences from Estius concerning that most celebrated passage, and "on which the fate of purgatory (so to speak) depends" [FN: Andrews Response to Cardinal Bellarmine Apologian, Chapter 8, page 208] in the opinion of most Romanists; "Others again," he says, [[Estius] Commentary on 1 Corithians 3, at vs. 13, at the words "dies enim [] declarabit"] alluding to Bellarmine chiefly, whose opinion he here refutes without mentioning his name [TurretinFan's note: This is an odd assertion, in view of what we've seen in Bellarmine on this passage.], "think that the Apostle uses the word fire in more than one signification. For in the first place they understand the fire of the general conflagration; in the second, they interpret fire as being the severe and just judgment of God by which all the works of men are tried and examined; lastly, in the third place, when it is said, that 'the man himself will be saved, yet so as by fire,' they maintain that the purgatorial fire of the souls after this life is meant. But to others it not undeservedly seems absurd, that the Apostle in a single passage of few words should use the word fire in so many senses; nor will any one easily persuade himself that on the third occasion, the purgatorial fire of souls is signified, if on the first and second a different fire is intended. Wherefore," he says, "in order that in this obscurity we may reach the meaning of S. Paul, it appears, first, that the word fire ought to be taken in a single sense, in this place &c." He therefore affirms that this whole passage must be understood of "the fire of the burning" at the day of the last judgment, and here he cites many testimonies of the ancients about the fire of the last day, as S. Basil [Of the Holy Spirit 15:36], S. Hilary [can. 2 in Matthew Section 4], S. Ambrose [Sermon 3 on Psalm 118, Section 15], Eucherius [Homily 3 on the Epiphany], Alcuin [3 of the Trinity, Chapter 21], Lactantius, [7 Divine Institutes, Chapter 21] &c." See the author himself discussing at great length this subject.

In the end of his explanation, however, of this passage, he puts among other questions, this one also; "The third question; Whether and in what manner is the Purgatory of souls after this life proved from this passage? For if," he says, "fire shall try every man's work, and that trial is not to take place till the day of the Lord, and the expression, 'saved as by fire,' is to be referred to that same day, not only it does not seem that a Purgatory of souls immediately upon the death of the bodies can be built up from this passage, but rather the reverse; since the whole purifying is reserved for the last judgment. Nevertheless in the Council of Florence, the Latin Fathers, in spite of the dissent of the Greeks, held that Purgatory was to be established from this Scripture." The author, lest he should irritate, and too much offend his own party, answers shortly that "the Purgatory of souls may be well and firmly collected from this passage," also "of S. Paul." But how coldly he performs this, judicious Reader, see with thine own eyes. For he rather plays than treats seriously about deducing that opinion from thence. Nay, he immediately after puts the question, "Why the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment." Reader, weigh his answer to this question, and you will very clearly see that the whole of this passage is to be referred in no respect to the Purgatory of souls, but to the fire of the last day trying the works of all men. Although in his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences, this very learned man thought the passage should be very differently understood, namely, of the Purgatory of souls after death.
- William Forbes (Gulielmum Forbesium) A Fair and Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy concerning Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 15

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