Saturday, November 20, 2010

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

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

We began by explaining the nature of formal sufficiency (i.e. the Reformed view) in an introduction section (link). After that we explored Scripture's own testimony to its sufficiency (link). We could rightly have stopped the series there, but instead we continued by exploring some of the patristic testimony on the subject, starting with the earliest Christian writers (link), and then continuing with the fathers of the 3rd century (link).

The fourth century ushers in a period during which Christianity did not experience persecution on a large scale. Consequently, there are more and better preserved writings from this period than from some of the previous periods.

Using the century boundaries as the dividing line as to which fathers to include may seem a little arbitrary. For example, Epiphanias of Salamis and Chrysostom both died in the first decade of the 5th century, having lived most of their lives in the 4th century. Nevertheless, I've tried to select only those fathers who died or flourished (in the case of fathers whose date of death is not known) in the fourth century.

We begin our exploration of the fourth century with a theologian born in the 3rd century in Africa, but who later became an adviser to the Roman emperor.

Lactantius (260-330):
For this is especially the cause why, with the wise and the learned, and the princes of this world, the sacred Scriptures are without credit, because the prophets spoke in common and simple language, as though they spoke to the people. And therefore they are despised by those who are willing to hear or read nothing except that which is polished and eloquent; nor is anything able to remain fixed in their minds, except that which charms their ears by a more soothing sound. But those things which appear humble are considered anile, foolish, and common. So entirely do they regard nothing as true, except that which is pleasant to the ear; nothing as credible, except that which can excite pleasure: no one estimates a subject by its truth, but by its embellishment. Therefore they do not believe the sacred writings, because they are without any pretense; but they do not even believe those who explain them, because they also are either altogether ignorant, or at any rate possessed of little learning.
ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book V, Chapter I.

There are two things to particularly note in Lactantius' comments above. The first is that the Scriptures are generally written in simple language. The second is that they are believed and explained by those who are either uneducated or have little education.

Lactantius (260-330):
For all those things which are unconnected with words, that is, pleasant sounds of the air and of strings, may be easily disregarded, because they do not adhere to its, and cannot be written. But a well-composed poem, and a speech beguiling with its sweetness, captivate the minds of men, and impel them in what direction they please. Hence, when learned men have applied themselves to the religion of God, unless they have been instructed by some skillful teacher, they do not believe. For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is O pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.
ANF: Vol. VII, The Divine Institutes, Book VI Of true Worship, Chapter 21 Of the Pleasures of the Ears, And of Sacred Literature.

The quotation above builds upon the previous one. It reemphasizes that Scripture is written simply, and it explains the reason, which is that it will be understood by all.

Regarding Constantine (325, Nicea):
The excellent emperor next exhorted the Bishops to unanimity and concord; he recalled to their remembrance the cruelty of the late tyrants, and reminded them of the honourable peace which God had, in his reign and by his means, accorded them. He pointed out how dreadful it was, aye, very dreadful, that at the very time when their enemies were destroyed, and when no one dared to oppose them, they should fall upon one another, and make their amused adversaries laugh, especially as they were debating about holy things, concerning which they had the written teaching of the Holy Spirit. “For the gospels” (continued he), “the apostolical writings, and the oracles of the ancient prophets, clearly teach us what we ought to believe concerning the divine nature. Let, then, all contentious disputation be discarded; and let us seek in the divinely-inspired word the solution of the questions at issue.” These and similar exhortations he, like an affectionate son, addressed to the bishops as to fathers, labouring to bring about their unanimity in the apostolical doctrines.
According to Theodoret, cf. NPNF2: Vol. III, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 6.

Note that Constantine is not just saying that the Scriptures are clear, but that they clearly teach even on the challenging issues of the Arian controversy. Furthermore, they are the ones from whom the solution of the question will come, the one source he identifies.

We should not be too surprised that Alexander of Alexandria shares similar ideas, since he was one of the bishops at Nicaea.

Alexander of Alexandria (d. 328), the spiritual mentor of Athanasius, testified of the Arian heretics in a letter to Alexander of Constantinople:
They are not ashamed to oppose the godly clearness of the ancient scriptures.

Alternative translation:
The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame . . .

Greek: Οὐ κατήδεσεν αὐτοὺς ἡ τῶν ἀρχαίων Γραφῶν φιλόθεος σαφήνεια . . .
Theodoreti Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Liber I, Caput III, PG 82:904; translation in NPNF2: Vol. III, Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 3; alternative translation in ANF: Vol. VI, Epistle to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople, §10. The mistranslation of these words in J. Berington and J. Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, with preface, corrections, and additions by Rt. Rev. Monsignor Capel, Vol. 1, Third Enlarged Edition (Ratison: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1909), p. 45, represent a distorted view of what Alexander of Alexandria said, “Neither the explanation, well-pleasing unto God, of the ancient Scripture has shamed them.”

The quotation above is fairly self-explanatory. It is simply confirming that Alexander thought that the Arians were not simply interpreting Scripture differently, but rather that they were opposing the clear teachings of Scripture.

Anthony (c. 251–356) (recounted by Athanasius):
One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words.
NPNF2: Vol. IV, Life of Anthony, §16.

Anthony's comments are a fairly concise statement of formal sufficiency. Unsurprisingly, Athanasius' own views are similar.

Athanasius (297-373):
The knowledge of our religion and of the truth of things is independently manifest rather than in need of human teachers, for almost day by day it asserts itself by facts, and manifests itself brighter than the sun by the doctrine of Christ.

Still, as you nevertheless desire to hear about it, Macarius, come let us as we may be able set forth a few points of the faith of Christ: able though you are to find it out from the divine oracles, but yet generously desiring to hear from others as well.

For although the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth,—while there are other works of our blessed teachers compiled for this purpose, if he meet with which a man will gain some knowledge of the interpretation of the Scriptures, and be able to learn what he wishes to know,—still, as we have not at present in our hands the compositions of our teachers, we must communicate in writing to you what we learned from them,—the faith, namely, of Christ the Saviour; lest any should hold cheap the doctrine taught among us, or think faith in Christ unreasonable.
NPNF2: Vol. IV, Against the Heathen, Part I, §1-3.

Again, we see explicit affirmation of the sufficiency of Scripture. Athanasius even says what some of our Roman opponents beg us to find in the fathers, namely that human teachers are not necessary. And, of course, such sentiments about Scripture's formal sufficiency are not a unique occurrence it Athanasius.

Athanasius (297-373):
But this all inspired Scripture also teaches more plainly and with more authority [than the light of nature in the form of the testimony of the stars themselves], so that we in our turn write boldy to you as we do, and you, if you refer to them, will be able to verify what we say.

For an argument when confirmed by higher authority is irresistibly proved.
NPNF2: Vol. IV, Against the Heathen, Part III, §45, points 2-3.

Notice that again Athanasius is affirming the plainness of Scripture, and the ability of the reader to be taught from them.

From Alexandria, we make a dramatic move westward to France and hear the testimony of the somewhat younger Hilary of Poitiers.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
If any man propose to express what is known in other words than those supplied by God, he must inevitably either display his own ignorance, or else leave his readers’ minds in utter perplexity.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book 7, §38.

The above quotation is a pretty strong way of stating that Scripture is plainly written and easy to understand.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
I do not know the word ὁμοιούσιον, or understand it, unless it confesses a similarity of essence. I call the God of heaven and earth to witness, that when I had heard neither word, my belief was always such that I should have interpreted ὁμοιούσιον by ὁμοούσιον. That is, I believed that nothing could be similar according to nature unless it was of the same nature. Though long ago regenerate in baptism, and for some time a bishop, I never heard of the Nicene creed until I was going into exile, but the Gospels and Epistles suggested to me the meaning of ὁμοούσιον and ὁμοιούσιον. Our desire is sacred. Let us not condemn the fathers, let us not encourage heretics, lest while we drive one heresy away, we nurture another. After the Council of Nicaea our fathers interpreted the due meaning of ὁμοούσιον with scrupulous care; the books are extant, the facts are fresh in men’s minds: if anything has to be added to the interpretation, let us consult together. Between us we can thoroughly establish the faith, so that what has been well settled need not be disturbed, and what has been misunderstood may be removed.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Councils or the Faith of the Easterns, §91.

According to his own testimony, Hilary learned the doctrine that the Son shares the same substance with the Father from Holy Scripture before he had ever heard that it was taught by the Council of Nicaea.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
Now we ought to recognize first of all that God has spoken not for Himself but for us, and that He has so far tempered the language of His utterance as to enable the weakness of our nature to grasp and understand it.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VIII, §43.

The above quotation is another fairly straightforward statement of formal sufficiency in the sense that the wording of the Scriptures is specifically designed to permit us to understand it. This is, you may note, very similar to the explanation we gave in the first two posts of the series.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
The Lord enunciated the faith of the Gospel in the simplest words that could be found, and fitted His discourses to our understanding, so far as the weakness of our nature allowed Him, without saying anything unworthy of the majesty of His own nature.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §40.

I feel like I'm piling on with that last quotation, because it says nearly the same thing as the previous one.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67) commenting on John 10:30:
But this passage concerning the unity, of which we are speaking, does not allow us to look for the meaning outside the plain sound of the words. If Father and Son are one, in the sense that They are one in will, and if separable natures cannot be one in will, because their diversity of kind and nature must draw them into diversities of will and judgment, how call They be one in will, not being one in knowledge? There can be no unity of will between ignorance and knowledge. Omniscience and nescience are opposites, and opposites cannot be of the same will.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book IX, §70.

The passage above may seem to be a relatively obscure reference to formal sufficiency, but it shows one way in which such a view plays out in Hilary's hermeneutic.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
Human judgment must not pass its sentence upon God. Our nature is not such that it can lift itself by its own forces to the contemplation of heavenly things. We must learn from God what we are to think of God; we have no source of knowledge but Himself. . . . Of all this he could have known nothing except through God Himself. And we, in like manner, must confine ourselves, in whatever we say of God, to the terms in which He has spoken to our understanding concerning Himself.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book V, §21.

One interesting aspect about this is not so much the aspect of perspicuity in itself, but the fact that Hilary views God's description of himself as enough. Someone might try to argue that this is really more related to material sufficiency, but by saying "to the terms in which He has spoken," it appears that Hilary means to suggest not only the material but also the form.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
In our reply we have followed Him to the moment of His glorious death, and taking one by one the statements of their unhallowed doctrine, we have refuted them from the teaching of the Gospels and the Apostle. But even after His glorious resurrection there are certain things which they have made bold to construe as proofs of the weakness of a lower nature, and to these we must now reply. Let us adopt once more our usual method of drawing out from the words themselves their true signification, that so we may discover the truth precisely where they think to overthrow it. For the Lord spoke in simple words for our instruction in the faith, and His words cannot need support or comment from foreign and irrelevant sayings.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book XI, §7.

Notice how the hermeneutic of letting the text speak for itself is here explained in terms of the plainness of the text. Scripture interprets Scripture is one of the hermeneutical outworkings of a belief in formal sufficiency.

You might think that was enough from Hilary, and perhaps it is, but he says the same thing in other ways too.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
The Lord has not left in doubt or obscurity the teaching conveyed in this great mystery; He has not abandoned us to lose our way in dim uncertainty. Listen to Him as He reveals the full knowledge of this faith to His Apostles; — I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but through Me. If ye know Me, ye know My Father also; and from henceforth ye shall know Him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and ye have not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also. How sayest thou, Shew us the Father? Dost thou not believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself, but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth His works. Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; or else believe for the very works’ sake.

He Who is the Way leads us not into by-paths or trackless wastes: He Who is the Truth mocks us not with lies; He Who is the Life betrays us not into delusions which are death. He Himself has chosen these winning names to indicate the methods which He has appointed for our salvation. As the Way, He will guide us to the Truth; the Truth will establish us in the Life. And therefore it is all-important for us to know what is the mysterious mode, which He reveals, of attaining this life.

No man cometh to the Father but through Me. The way to the Father is through the Son. And now we must enquire whether this is to be by a course of obedience to His teaching, or by faith in His Godhead. For it is conceivable that our way to the Father may be through adherence to the Son’s teaching, rather than through believing that the Godhead of the Father dwells in the Son. And therefore let us, in the next place, seek out the true meaning of the instruction given us here. For it is not by cleaving to a preconceived opinion, but by studying the force of the words, that we shall enter into possession of this faith.
NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book VII, §33.

Notice how clearly Hilary states the matter, as making it perfectly apparent that he views the recorded teachings of Jesus as sufficient.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
Salvation is far from the wicked, because they have not sought the statutes of God; since for no other purpose were they consigned to writing, than that they should come within the knowledge and conceptions of all without exception.

Ob id enim longe a peccatoribus salus est, quia non exquisierunt justificationes Dei: cum non utique ob aliud consignatae litteris maneant, quam ut ad universorum scientiam notionemque defluerent.
Psalmi CXVIII, Littera XX, 5, PL 9:633; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 246.

We Calvinists may be hesitant to speak in such unqualified terms (since Arminians will think we mean all individuals without exception rather than all classes without exception). Nevertheless, Hilary's point is really an unmistakable affirmation of formal sufficiency.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):
But the word of God [and in the context he speaks explicitly of Scripture] has consulted the benefit of all who shall ever live, being itself the best adapted to promote the instruction of all without exception.

Latin text:
Sed universis qui in vitam venirent Dei sermo consuluit, universae aetati ipse aptissimus ad profectum.
Psalmi CXVIII, Quindecim Graduum., Gradus 15, PL 9:643; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 246.

This is quote similar to the immediately previous quotation.

From France, we can jump back east to Caesarea and hear from the only slightly younger Basil the Great.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379):
What seems to be said in an ambiguous and veiled way in certain passages of inspired Scripture is made plain by the obvious meaning of other passages.

Alternative translation:
Whatsoever seems to be spoken ambiguously or obscurely in some places of holy Scripture, is cleared up by what is plain and evident in other places.

Τὰ ἀμφίβολα καὶ ἐπικεκαλυμμένως εἰρῆσθαι δοκοῦντα ἔν τισι τόποις τῆς θεοπνεύστου Γραφῆς ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν ἄλλοις τόποις ὁμολογουμέων σαφηνίζεται.
In Regulas Brevius Tractatas, Responsio CCLXVII, PG 31:1264; translation in W. K. L. Clarke, The Ascetic Works of Saint Basil, Translations of Christian Literature Series I, Greek Texts (London: S.P.C.K., 1925), The Shorter Rules, Answer #267 (CCLXVII), p. 329; alternative translation in William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: University Press, reprinted 1849), p. 491.

The quotation above comes at the issue of the formal sufficiency of Scripture from a little different angle from some of the statements we've seen before. Basil here addresses the imagined problem that there are some parts of Scripture that are hard to understand. It is true that there are some difficult parts of Scripture, to be sure, but this is not a problem because there are also clear parts of Scripture, and the clear parts explain the more difficult or obscure parts.

Basil of Caesarea (AD. 329-379)(To a widow):
Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right.

Ἔχουσα δὲ τὴν ἐκ τῶν θείων Γραφῶν παράκλησιν, οὔτε ἡμῶν οὔτε ἄλλου τινὸς δεηθήσῃ πρὸς τὸ τὰ δέοντα συνορᾷν, αὐτάρκη τὴν ἐκ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἔχουσα συμβουλίαν καὶ ὁδηγίαν πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.
Epistola CCLXXXIII, PG 32:1020; translation in NPNF2: Vol. VIII, Letters, Letter 283.

Again, a very clear statement of the formal sufficiency of Scripture. This statement also provides a negative aspect - the widow does not need any additional teachers besides the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. This sort of comment should satisfy our Roman disputants, though perhaps they will be dissatisfied because Basil said "nor that of anybody else," instead of saying "nor that of the pope." But, of course, Basil was not familiar with the modern papacy and its claims of infallibility, so he could hardly be expected to specifically disclaim such a view.

Basil of Caesarea (329-379):
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, composed by the Spirit for this reason, namely, that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition. Greek:
Πᾶσα Γραφὰ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος, διὰ τοῦτο συγγραφεῖσα παρὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος, ἵνʼ, ὡσπερ ἐν κοινῷ τῶν ψυχῶν ἰατρείῳ, πάντες ἄνθρωποι τὸ ἴαμα τοῦ οἰκείου πάθους ἕκαστος ἐκλεγώμεθα.
Homilia in Psalmum I, §1, PG 29:209; translation in FC, Vol. 46, Saint Basil: Exegetical Homilies, Homily 10 on Psalm 1 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1963), p. 151.

I'm sure that there are folks today who would have a heart attack at the idea of a self-service pharmacy, but Basil views Scripture as such a thing - a place where a person in need can find what he needs. It's not just a high view of Scripture, it's a formally sufficient view of Scripture.

From Caesarea, we turn ... who knows where! We're not quite sure where Ambrosiaster lived or who he was. He's sometimes treated as a church father, and his writings were - for a long time - confused with those of his contemporary, Ambrose. Perhaps he was even from the same part of the world - certainly we think he was from the West, and his surviving works are known in Latin.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384):
The fact is that Scripture speaks in our own manner so that we may understand.

Sed Scriptura more nostro loquitur, ut intelligere possumus.
In Epistolam Beati Pauli Galatas, v. 4:7, PL 17:360; translation in Mark J. Edwards, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 57.

The quotation is pretty self-explanatory. It's a simple statement of the fact that the Scriptures are written so as to be understandable to the reader.

From Ambrosiaster, it only makes sense to turn directly to Ambrose, one of the youngest of the 4th century fathers, living mostly in the second half of the century.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):
Trust to no one, to guide you, but where the light of that lamp [i.e. Scripture] goes before. For where you think it shines, there is a whirlpool; it seems to shine, but it defiles; and where you think it is firm or dry, there it is slippery. And, moreover, if you have a lamp, the way is long. Therefore let faith be the guide of your journey; let the divine Scripture be your path. Excellent is the guidance of the heavenly word. From this lamp light your lamp; that the eye of your mind, which is the lamp of your body, may give light.

nulli credas tuum, nisi praeeunte lucernae istius luce, processum. Nam ubi putas quod luceat, gurges est; videtur lucere sed polluit; et ubi putas solidum esse vel siccum, ibi lubricum est. Sed et si lucerna tibi, iter longius sit. Sit ergo fides tibi itineris tui praevia, sit tibi iter Scriptura divina. Bonus est coelestis ductus eloquii. Ex hac lucerna accende et tu lucernam; ut luceat interior oculus tuus, qui lucerna est tui corporis.
In Psalmum David CXVIII, Expositio, Sermo 14, §11, PL 15:1394; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 148.

Ambrose, in the quotation above, is simply reaffirming the points that we had previously raised about the fact the Scripture illuminate our way. The Scriptures illuminating our way implies not only that they have the right material, but also the right form, to enlighten us.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):
In most places Paul so explains his meaning by his own words, that he who discourses on them can find nothing to add of his own; and if he wishes to say anything, must rather perform the office of a grammarian than a discourser.

In plerisque ita se ipse suis exponat sermonibus, ut is qui tractat, nihil inveniat quod adjiciat suum; ac si velit aliquid dicere, grammatici magis quam disputatoris fungatur munere.
Epistola XXXVII.1, PL 16:1084; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 262, Chemnitz, Vol. 1, p. 167, and Whitaker, pp. 398, 492, who all render plerisque as “most.” Cf. also The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, trans. H. Walford (Oxford: James Parker and Co., and Rivingtons, 1881), Letter 37, §1, pp. 46-47. The translation found in FC, Vol. 26, Saint Ambrose: Letters 54. Ambrose to Simplicianus (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 286, has mistranslated this word plerisque to read “in some instances” rather than the correct translation of “most places.”

This is another example of Scripture interpreting Scripture. It is also particularly interesting, because Ambrose is addressing the Pauline corpus - that portion of the the Bible that does include some things that are hard to understand. Nevertheless, there is no need (in Ambrose's view) for external interpretative authority - the interpretation is to be derived from Paul's own writings.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):
Divine Scripture confers salvation on us and is fragrant with the perfume of life, so that he who reads may acquire sweetness and not rush into danger to his own destruction.
FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Hexameron, Book 1, 2nd Homily, Chap. 8.30 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 34.

Notice, that Congar ascribes this view of Holy Scripture to Protestant orthodoxy. See the first post of this series, quoted from Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1964), pp. 87-88. But, whether or not Congar is correct, the expressions "he who reads" and "Scripture confers salvation" is pretty strong language for the formal sufficiency position.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):
I wished that they be arrayed in the unadorned words of Scripture in order that they may gleam in their own light and that in due order they may speak out plainly for themselves. The sun and the moon need no interpreter. The brilliance of their light is all-sufficient a light that fills the entire world. Faith serves as an illumination for the inspired Word. It is, if I may say so, an intestate witness having no need of another's testimony, yet it dazzles the eyes of all mankind.
FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Cain and Abel, Book 1, Chap. 6.22 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 380.

Notice the very strong wording of formal sufficiency in the quotation above. The Scriptures themselves speak plainly - they are comparable to the sun for light and have no need of another's testimony. It seems that Ambrose is trying to outdo Hilary in terms of stating formal sufficiency in such a way as it will be hard for someone to deny that he is teaching it.

Ambrose (c. 339-97):
Frequent reading of the Scriptures, therefore, strengthens the mind and ripens it by the warmth of spiritual grace. In this way our powers of reasoning are strengthened and the influence of our irrational passions brought to naught.
FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: Cain and Abel, Book 2, Chap. 6.19 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1961), p. 421.

We end our discussion of the fourth-century fathers on this slight softer note, but one that shows the functional outworking of a view of formal sufficiency. If we believe in formal sufficiency, we will be encouraged to read the Scriptures often, and we will likewise encourage others to do the same. One can contrast that with the Reformation-era attitude of the Roman church.

(to be continued)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Formal Insufficiency - An Insult to Jesus

Those Roman Catholics who think that the Scriptures are an insufficient rule of faith and life - that the Scriptures are not clear enough to stand sola Scriptura as the way by which we know God: please consider that the Gospels give us verbatim teachings of Jesus himself in his own words.

It's bad enough that you are not satisfied by the Holy Spirit's teaching through the entirety of the Inspired Holy Scripture, but that may be less self-evidently divine. In other words, while you are to blame for not being satisfied with the divine teachings of the law, the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, we can understand that perhaps you do not understand that the Bible is the Holy Spirit speaking to us through men.

But are you going to seriously say that Jesus' preaching, recorded in the Gospels, is not clear enough for people to read it, understand it, and trust in Christ alone for salvation? Is God's own word, not spoken through prophets under inspiration but spoken directly by the God-man Himself not clear enough?

Don't you think that's a little insulting?


World's Worst Serial Killer

No one really knows who the world's worst serial killer is, and one normally thinks of murderers as being mostly male, but this lady would certainly receive my vote as the most prolific serial killer (link to story).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

The following was originally written by Sir Henry H. Howorth, as "The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A," The Journal of Theological Studies, Volume VII, pp. 343-54 (Oxford: 1906). I'm simply republishing this as a scholarly discussion of the issue of Septuagint Esdras 1 or "Esdras A" (Ἔσδρας Α) and the North African councils. I'm not adopting the opinions of this author - in particular I don't agree with his opinion that the book should be received within the canon.

The Modern Roman Canon and the Book of Esdras A

In a series of letters published in the Academy some twenty years ago, and subsequently in articles in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, I claim to have definitely proved that the text of the Canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah contained in the extant Greek Bibles is not a Septuagint text at all, and ought to have no place in any edition of the Greek Bible professing to represent the Septuagint.

On the contrary, the text represents very faithfully one of the Greek translations from the Hebrew made in the second century A.D. It has no value, therefore, for the independent criticism of the Masoretic edition of the Bible, and is merely useful as shewing the state of the text of the three books as they stood in that edition in the second century A.D., when, according to the most competent authorities its archetype was compiled and edited.

This conclusion seems to me to be of the first importance, for it sweeps away all the textual criticism of the three books in question based upon the erroneous postulate that the Masoretic text in them is singularly free from corruption because it is so continuously supported by the Septuagint. Inasmuch as profitable criticism of the Old Testament should begin with its latest books, it is supremely important that such a mistake should not be perpetuated by the authorities responsible for the new Cambridge Bible.

The problem to be solved is, however, a bilateral one. It does not mean merely that the texts thus referred to (i.e. the canonical Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah) are in no sense Septuagint texts, but it means the rehabilitation in that character of another text, namely Ἔσδρας Α in the Greek Uncials, which until lately has received very scant courtesy among the critics, especially in Germany, who have persistently misapprehended its true character.

It has been treated even worse by the theologians, both by those of the Roman Church, which has always stood by the Septuagint Canon, and by the Reformers whose most potent and far-reaching innovation, theologically speaking, was probably the substitution of the Hebrew or Masoretic Canon of the Bible for that which the Christian world both east and west had clung to for fifteen centuries.

Singularly enough, however, the champions both of the longer and of the shorter Canon have agreed in modern times to treat with despite a document (namely Ἔσδρας Α) the true history of which has been misapprehended, and its supreme value overlooked. The fact is peculiarly interesting and important in regard to the Roman position in the matter, and I propose in the following pages to examine how it has come about that a Church with whom the theory of continuous tradition is so dominant should have in fact departed so completely from its own early tradition in regard to this book, and to shew that this departure has been entirely due to a mistake, a very pardonable mistake, and in no sense to prejudice or predetermination.

In order to shew this I must shortly trace the history of the Canon of the Old Testament in the Roman Church. The last authoritative pronouncement on the subject is contained in chapter 2 of the Decree of the Vatican Council, dated April 24, 1870, entitled Constitutio dogmatica de fide catholica. In this pronouncement it is affirmed that the doctrine of Supernatural Revelation, according to the faith of the Universal Church as declared at the Council of Trent, consists in written books and in the traditions preserved by the Church. In regard to the former the decisions of Trent are accepted and confirmed in the following sentence of the decree:—

Qui quidem veteris et novi testamenti libri integri cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in eiusdem concilii decreto recensentur, et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis suscipiendi sunt.

The Vatican Council, therefore, in the matter of the Canon merely reiterates and reaffirms, as was in fact alone necessary, the conclusions pronounced by that of Trent. It gives no list of sacred books, and accepts in terms the finding on the subject of the Tridentine fathers.

Let us now turn to the Council of Trent.

On February 8, 1546, a General Congregation of that Council was held, and it was proposed to issue a decree in regard to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and as to any improvement that might be made in their teaching or interpretation. The Council was divided into three sections, and the second section, which was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Cervini, afterwards Pope Marcellus II, was especially entrusted with an examination of the question, and with the sifting of the evidence from the eighty-fifth of the Apostolical Canons down to the decrees of the Council of Florence. The discussion was prolonged and interesting, and raised many critical points. Various suggestions about the distinction between canonical and deuterocanonical books and about the authority of particular books were made, but the majority were of opinion that the sacred books should be received simply and without discrimination as they had been at other councils, and especially at the Council of Florence. At length the Cardinal reported the results of the discussion to another meeting of the General Congregation, when, in the words of the report preserved by the secretaries,

omnes convenere ut receptio librorum sacrorum fieret simpliciter sicut factum fuit in concilio Florentino ... De ipsorum autem librorum discrimine, etsi plures rem utilem, minus tarnen necessariam iudicarent; maioris nihilo minus partis sententia praevaluit ut quaestio huiusmodi omitteretur, relinquereturque sicut nobis a sanctis patribus relicta fuit. —Theiner I, 52.

In this quite logical and most sensible pronouncement the Church of Rome, putting aside all considerations and arguments which had been urged to the contrary, decided to stand on its own ancient tradition, and in particular upon the pronouncement made on this subject at the Council of Florence. Therefore by a decree issued on April 8, 1546, at the fourth session of the Council, under the heading 'Decretum de Canonicis Scripturis', it was determined inter alia as follows :—

Sacrorum vero librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint qui ab ipsa synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infra scripti. Testamenti veteris: quinque Moysis, id est: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosuae, Iudicum, Ruth, quatuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundas, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaías, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharías, Malachias, duo Macchabaeorum primus et secundus. Testamenti novi. . . . . .

Then follows a list of the books of the New Testament, which is again followed by certain words defining the actual text to be appealed to, and which are very important for our purpose.

It is in fact provided that the text alone authorized as the ultima lex of all appeals is the Vulgate. The following are the actual words used in the 'Decretum de editione et usu sacrorum librorum':—

Insuper eadem sacrosancta synodus considerans non parum utilitatis accedere posse ecclesiae Dei, si ex omnibus latinis editionibus, quae circumferuntur, sacrorum librorum, quaenam pro authentica habenda sit, innotescat: statuit et declarat, ut haec ipsa vetus et vulgata editio quae longo tot saeculorum usu in ipsa ecclesia probata est, in publicis lectionibus, disputationibus, praedicationibus et expositionibus pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo illam reiicere quovis praetextu audeat vel praesumat.

It cannot fail to be noticed that in these pronouncements there is a palpable contradiction. If the books enumerated are alone to be deemed canonical, it seems difficult to understand how the Vulgate edition of the Bible as then received was to be treated as the conclusive authority in all disputes and controversies, since it contained, in very many if not in most existing copies, at least two additional works which were treated in them as of equal and co-ordinate authority with the remaining books, namely those which in the Latin Bibles were called Esdras III (that is Ἔσδρας Α) and Esdras IV; while some copies of the Vulgate also contained a third book not above enumerated, namely, the Prayer of Manasses, as well as the so-called Third book of Maccabees.

This contradiction between the pronouncement of the Council and the contents of the Vulgate texts which were and had long been current, was apparently ignored by the fathers at Trent. It led, however, to a considerable change in the editions of the Vulgate subsequently printed, by which their contents were in a measure equated with the conciliar list of recognized books. As is well known, in the famous and authoritative edition of the Vulgate issued by Pope Sixtus V in 1590, the two books Esdras III and IV, together with the so-called Prayer of Manasses, were omitted entirely. This was justified in the preface in the following sentence:—

Nos autem ut haec Vetus editio, quae nunc prodit nostro excusa prelo, eiusdem Synodi [i.e. Trent] praescripto modis omnibus respondeat non solum veteres, et ab Ecclesia receptos loquendi modos conservavimus, sed etiam apocrypha reiecimus, authentica retinuimus. Nam tertium et quartum Esdrae libros inscriptos, et tertium Maccabaeorum, quos Synodus inter Canonicos non annumerat, assentientibus etiam in hoc praedictis Cardinalibus Congregationis super Typographia Vaticana deputatae, ab hac editione prorsus explosimus. Orationem etiam Manassae, quae neque in Hebraeo, neque in Graeco textu est, neque in antiquioribus Manuscriptis Latinis exemplaribus reperitur, sed in impressis tantum post Librum secundum Paralipomenon affixa est, tanquam insutam, adiectam et in textu sacrorum librorum locum non habentem repudiavimus.

In the subsequent and corrected and still more authoritative edition of Clement VIII, published three years later, and in all subsequent editions of the Roman Vulgate the three books just mentioned were reinstated, but instead of being placed in the old position they occupied in the mediaeval Latin Bibles, they were remitted to an appendix. This again was justified in the preface in the following words :—

Porro in hac editione nihil non canonicum, nihil adscititium, nihil extraneum apponere visum est: atque ea causa fuit, cur libri tertius et quartus Esdrae inscripti, quos inter canonicos libros sacra Tridentina Synodus non annumeravit, ipsa etiam Manassae regis Oratio, quae neque hebraice, neque graece quidem exstat, neque in manuscriptis antiquioribus invenitur, neque pars est ullius canonici libri, extra canonicae scripturae seriem posita sunt.

The appendix to which the three books were remitted is headed—

Oratio Manassae, necnon libri duo, qui sub Libri Tertii et Quarti Esdrae nomine circumferuntur, hoc in loco, extra scilicet seriem canonicorum librorum quos sancta Tridentina Synodus suscepit et pro canonicis suscipiendos decrevit, sepositi sunt ne prorsus interirent, quippe qui a nonnullis Sanctis Patribus interdum citantur et in aliquibus Bibliis latinis tam manuscriptis quam impressis reperiuntur.

It will be noted that in Clement VIII's edition of the Vulgate, which is the one now authorized, not a word is said of the Third book of Maccabees, which had a place in some of the old copies of the Vulgate.

The removal of the three books above mentioned from the text of the Bible, and the planting of them in a kind of suspense account in an Appendix, while it made the text of the canonical books in the rest of the Bible consistent with the enumeration in the decree of the Tridentine Council, was clearly a tampering with the text of the Vulgate as previously received, though this had been declared by the same Council to be the official and authentic text. Let us, however, turn to the Council of Florence, which was held in 1439, and which the Fathers at Trent professed to follow and to be bound by.

In the Bull published on February 4, 1441, by Eugenius IV affirming the decision of the Florentine Council in regard to the pronouncement which was made in view of the reunion with the Church of Rome of the Jacobites of Egypt, we have an enumeration of the books then recognized as canonical by the Western Church. This list was followed implicitly by the Council of Trent. There are variations, however, of phraseology, and I think it better as the question is one involving polemical issues to transcribe it as it stands in the Bull. The important part for our purpose runs as follows:—

Unum atque eundem Deum veteris et novi testamenti, hoc est Legis et Prophetarum atque Evangelii profitetur auctorem; quoniam, eodem Spiritu Sancto inspirante, utriusque testamenti Sancti locuti sunt, quorum libros suscipit et veneratur, qui titulis sequentibus continentur: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesi, Exodo, Levitico, Numeris, Deuteronomio, Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth; Quatuor Regum; Duobus Paralipomenon: Esdra, Nehemia, Tobia, Iudith, Hester, Iob, Psalmis David, Parabolis, Ecclesiaste, Canticis Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiastico, Isaia, Ieremia, Baruch, Ezechiele, Daniele; Duodecim Prophetis minoribus, id est Oseae, Ioele, Amos, Abdia, Iona, Michea, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonia, Aggeo, Zacharia, Malachia; Duobus Maccabaeorum.— Bullarium Rom. Romae 1638, I p. 273 [FN1: In this extract from the Bull, as in the corresponding one from the Tridentine pronouncement, the italics are mine.].

Then follows a list of the New Testament books.

It will be seen that this enumeration is in substance precisely that of the Council of Trent, and that here, as at the subsequent Councils of Trent and the Vatican, no distinction whatever is made between proto-canonical and deutero-canonical, canonical and apocryphal, &c., but all the books enumerated were treated as equally canonical. It will also be noted that no mention is here made of the third and fourth books of Esdras, notwithstanding that virtually every copy of the Latin Bible then in use contained them.

In regard to the decision of the Council of Florence as pronounced by the Pope in his Decretal, we cannot appeal for justification to the minutes of the discussion upon its contents as we can at Trent, since they are not extant, and we must turn elsewhere to find some previous official pronouncement in the same behalf, for we can hardly doubt that on such an occasion the definition of the Biblical Canon would be made with especial care and with consideration for precedent. For such precedent we have to go back a long way. This is to be accounted for by the fact that questions as to the Canon had not disturbed men's minds in the Middle Ages, and there had not, therefore, been any necessity or occasion for an official pronouncement on the subject. We have to go back, in fact, to the famous African Code, which is headed 'The Canons of the 217 blessed fathers who assembled at Carthage', commonly called 'The Code of Canons of the African Church', and which was passed and authorized in the year 419 A.D. Johnson, in his Clergyman's vade mecum, London, second edition, 1714, part II, has given an excellent account of them, which has not been improved since. He says:—'Councils were nowhere more frequently called in the Primitive Times than in Africa. In the year 418-419 all Canons formerly made in sixteen Councils held at Carthage, one at Milevis, and one at Hippo, that were approved of were read, and received a new sanction from a great number of bishops then met in Synod at Carthage. This collection is the Code of the African Church, which was always in greatest repute in all churches next after the Code of the Universal Church. This Code was of very great authority in the old English Churches, for many of the exceptions of Egbert were transcribed from it. And though the Code of the Universal Church ends with the Canons of Chalcedon, yet these African Canons are inserted into the Ancient Code both of the Eastern and Western Churches.'

At the Council of Carthage held in 419 the Pope was represented by Faustinas, bishop of Potentia in the Italian province of Picenum, as legate. The Canon there enacted, and headed 'De Scripturis Canonicis' (Labbe iv 430), was a reiteration and reaffirmation of those enacted inter alia at the Councils of Hippo in 393 and of Carthage in 397.

The 36th Canon of the Council of Hippo declares that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing is to be read in the Church under the name of Divine Scriptures. It then enumerates what the Canonical Scriptures are, and, so far as I know, there is no conciliar pronouncement on the subject between these African Synods and the Council of Florence. Their enumeration of the Old Testament books is as follows :—

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium, Iesu Nave, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quatuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum, Salomonis libri quinque, Duodecim libri Prophetarum, Esaias, Ieremias, Daniel, Ezechiel, Tobias, Iudith, Hester, Hesdrae libri duo[FN1: These italics are my own.], Machabaeorum libri duo.

The iteration of this Canon by the African Councils was probably due, as Father Loisy has suggested, to the fear, entertained by many, of the revolutionary ideas of Jerome. Nothing could well be more authoritative, however, and more precise than the position that the list of books above quoted was deemed by these three very important Synods to be the Catholic usage in the Western Church in regard to the contents of the Canon of the Old Testament at the end of the fourth century.

On comparing the list of books authorized as Canonical by the African Synods with those of the Councils of Florence and Trent, there is a superficial and misleading equation in regard to the books of Esdras which we are discussing, that accounts for what was really a mistake made by the latter councils.

In the Canon last quoted we have the phrase Hesdrae libri duo. In the Decree of the Council of Florence we have Esdra, Nehemia. In that of Trent we have Esdrae primus et secundus qui dicitur Nehemias.

The fact is that the phrase Hesdrae libri duo in the decree of the earlier Councils does not mean the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah in the Septuagint and in the early Latin prae-Hieronymian translation of the Bible which followed the Septuagint, and was alone recognized as canonical in the Latin Church at the end of the fourth century, formed a single book, which in the early Greek MSS was entitled Ἔσδρας Β, and which in the early Latin version was entitled Esdras II.

It was Jerome who altered the nomenclature of these books as he altered many other things (and, as some of us think, not too wisely). It was he who, having accepted the Jewish Canon and tradition, also accepted the Jewish division of the book hitherto known to the Greeks as Ἔσδρας Β, which in the old Latin Bibles was called Esdras II, and gave the two sections of it the new titles of Esdras I and Esdras II, equivalent to our Ezra and Nehemiah; and from him the titles passed into the revised Vulgate, of which he was the author, and eventually became dominant everywhere, and was thus dominant when the Council of Florence sat. It was he who poured scorn on two other books of Ezra contained in the earlier Latin Bibles, and refused to have anything to do with them, or to translate them, and gave them an entirely inferior status by numbering them Esdras III and IV, names by which they have since been styled in the Vulgate; and it was his violent and depreciatory language about them which made many doubt their value and authority.

When the fathers at Florence discussed and decided upon their list of authorized and canonical books, finding, no doubt, that the African Councils had only recognized two books of Esdras, they jumped to the conclusion that these two books must be those called Esdras I and Esdras II in their Bibles, namely, Ezra and Nehemiah; which in fact they were not. Hence their mistake, a great but a natural mistake, which is perpetuated in the Roman Canon.

The two books of Esdras recognized by the African Councils, and by all the Fathers who escaped the influence of Jerome, were the books labelled Ἔσδρας Α and Ἔσδρας Β in the Greek Bibles, that is to say, the first book of Esdras, which was remitted to the Apocrypha by the Reformers, and the joint work Ezra-Nehemiah. This evidence will not be doubted by any one who will examine the early Greek Bibles, and the Canonical lists of the Fathers who were uninfluenced by Jerome.

It is completely recognized by Roman Catholic theologians of the first rank. Thus Calmet, who wrote a special treatise on Esdras A, says: 'When the Fathers and the Councils of the earlier centuries declared the two books of Esdras to be canonical, they meant, following the current Bibles that First Esdras and Nehemiah formed only one book, while they styled First Esdras the work which is called third in our Bibles' (Calmet Comm. iii 250 'Dissert, sur le III livre d'Esdras'). Father Loisy, the most distinguished scholar among the recent writers on the Canon in France, similarly says: 'The two books of Esdras contained in them (i.e. in early copies of the Latin Bible) are not Esdras and Nehemiah; but as in the Greek Bible, the first book of Esdras is that we now call the third, which has been ejected from the Canon; the second comprised Esdras and Nehemiah' (Histoire du Canon 92).

It is quite clear, therefore, that the Council of Florence, afterwards followed by that of Trent, gave a decision about the Canon which is inconsistent and contrary to the decisions of the early Councils and the early Fathers of the Latin Church on the same subject, and thus broke the continuity of that Church's teaching on a most important point, namely the contents of the book which it makes the ultimate rule of faith. Thus, again, one book, namely the Esdras A of the Greek Uncials, recognized as canonical by all the early Church, was entirely evicted from Sixtus V's Bible, and remitted to the ignominious position of a suspense account in that of Clement VIII, and is so treated in all authorized Roman Catholic Bibles.

The omission of Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon of the Bible does not stand quite alone. In the same suspense account to which it is now remitted in the Vulgate we also find the Prayer of Manasses. For this treatment there is ample justification if we are to follow the decrees of Latin Councils; but the reason for it given by Clement VIII is incorrect.

The Prayer of Manasses is a canticle which, according to the preface to Clement VIII's Bible, does not occur in the Hebrew Bibles, nor yet in the Greek Bibles. This is not strictly accurate, as Walton long ago shewed by printing a copy of it from a Greek MS. The statement in the preface to Clement VIII's Bible is not therefore correct. The Prayer occurs in fact in the third volume of the Codex Alexandrinus as an appendix to the Psalter, and with the Psalms, as Dr Swete says, it was transferred to that MS from a liturgical Psalter (The Old Testament in Greek II viii). It also occurs in the famous purple psalter at Zurich known as T (Turicense) which is of the seventh century and of western origin. It also occurs in the Ethiopic version of the Psalms edited by J. Ludolf. And it is quoted at length in the Apostolical Constitutions; so it has very respectable age and authority.

There is, however, no direct evidence of its having received any conciliar authority, as there is none that it occurred in early Bible texts or in early Canonical lists, and its exclusion from the Canon by the Sixtine and Clementine editors of the Bible is therefore quite defensible, if we are to follow the decisions of Councils as decisive.

There still remains a third book, namely that known as Esdras IV in the Vulgate, which was also excluded from the Bible of Sixtus and remitted to an appendix in that of Clement. This work does not occur in any Greek Bible. It occurs in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, an Armenian and two Arabic translations; it is found in several important Vulgate MSS, and is quoted in the Apostolical Constitutions; but inasmuch as it is excluded from the early lists of canonical books, and especially from those with conciliar authority, it has with plausibility been remitted to the same appendix as the Prayer of Manasseh in the modern authorized Latin Bibles.

Both these books stand on entirely different ground therefore from what we have described as Esdras A, whose undoubted and rightful presence in the Western Canon before the unfortunate mistake made by the Council of Florence cannot be gainsaid. Jerome, no doubt, coupled it with the apocalyptic book Esdras IV, with which it has nothing in common either in contents or authority, and poured scorn on them both. His action in this matter is an excellent instance of his hasty judgement in biblical matters, and of the prejudice that can be created and sustained against a genuine work by the tempestuous language of a masterful scholar.

It seems to me plain that it was a misfortune as well as a mistake which excluded Esdras A from the modern Roman Canon, and that its reinstatement there would be a distinct gain to the cause of truth, and it would sustain the consistency of the Latin Church in its treatment of its Bible.

Perhaps I may be permitted in another paper to discuss the Anglican Canon as affected by similar issues.

Henry H. Howorth

James Gall on the Second Commandment

The following is excerpted from "A Key to the Shorter Catechism" by James Gall.

Q. 49. Which is the second commandment ?

A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.


What are we not to make to ourselves? Who are not to make any graven image? Of what are we to make no likeness? What is here said to be above ? (Heaven. ) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the heaven above? What is here said to be beneath? (The earth.) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the earth beneath? What is here said to be under the earth? (The waters.) What are we not to do to any thing that is in the waters? What are we here forbidden to do to images, or idols, when they are made? (We are not to bow down ourselves to them, nor serve them.) What are we not to bow down? (Ourselves, or our bodies.) To what are we not to bow down ourselves? (To the image, or likeness of any thing.) What are we not to do to images or idols, besides not bowing down to them? (We are not to serve them.) What are we not to serve? Who are not to serve idols?

What does God here declare himself to be to all his creatures? (Their Lord.) What does God here say he is to us? (Our God.) What does God here say he is in himself? (A jealous God.) What does God here say with respect to the iniquity of the fathers? (He visits them upon the children.) Upon whom does God visit the iniquity of the fathers? What does God visit upon the children? Whose iniquities does God visit upon the children? Who visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children? To what extent is it here said that God will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children? What dispositions have these generations towards God? (They hate him.) What does God do to the generations of those who hate him? What does God do to those who love him? Who shews mercy unto those who love God? To whom does God shew mercy? To how many does God here say he shews mercy? Whom do they love? What do those who love God do to his commandments? Whose commandments do they keep? What does God do to those who love him and keep his commandments?


Graven image, Hewn, cut, or carved representation.

Bow, Bend.

Serve them, Perform the ceremonies which may belong to their worship.

A jealous God, A God exceedingly watchful and suspicions in any thing relating to my worship.

Visiting, Inflicting the punishment due to.

Iniquity, Sins.

Third and fourth generation, Grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Shewing mercy, Granting forgiveness, and shewing kindness.

PARAPHRASE Formed. The second commandment is, Thou shall not make unto thee any [hewn, cut, or carved representation,] or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Though shalt not [bend] down thyself to them, nor [perform the ceremonies which may belong to their worship;] for I the Lord thy God am [a God exceedingly watchful and suspicious in any thing relating to my worship,] [inflicting the punishment due to] the [sins] of the fathers upon the children unto the [grandchildren and great-grandchildren] of them that hate me; and [granting forgiveness and shewing kindness] unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Q 50. What is required in the second commandment ?

A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

EXERCISE. What hath God in his word appointed to he observed? (Religious worship and ordinances.) Who hath appointed religious worship and ordinances to be observed? In what hath God given directions regarding his worship and ordinances? Who are to receive the ordinances of God as appointed in his word? What are we to observe as well as to receive? (The worship and ordinances of God.) What are we to do with respect to the worship and ordinances of God, besides receiving and observing them? (We are to keep them pure and entire.) What are to be kept? How are these ordinances to be kept? (Pure and entire.) What are to be kept pure? How are they to be kept, besides being kept pure? (They are to be kept entire.) What worship and ordinances are to be kept pure and entire? Where are these ordinances appointed? In whose word are they appointed?

How many things are here mentioned as having been appointed by God ? (Two.) What is the first thing here mentioned as having been appointed by God? (Religious worship.) What is the second thing here mentioned as having been appointed by God? (Religious ordinances.) Where has God given directions regarding his worship and ordinances? (In his word.) How many things are here required of us, in respect to God's worship and ordinances? (Four.) What is the first duty here required of us? (Receiving God's worship and ordinances.) What is the second duty here required of us? (Observing God's worship and ordinances.) What is the third duty here required of us? (Keeping God's worship and ordinances pure.) What is the fourth duty here required of us? (Keeping God's worship and ordinances entire.) How much of God's worship is to be received, observed, and kept pure and entire? (All such as he has appointed.) How many of God's ordinances are to be received, observed, and kept pure and entire? (All.) What commandment requires the keeping of God's ordinances pure and entire?


Receiving, Accepting as a gift.
Observing, Doing what is enjoined.
Pure, Free from mixture.
Entire, Not taking any thing from.
Ordinances, Holy observances.
Appointed, Directed to be performed.

The second commandment requireth the [accepting as a gift,] [doing what is enjoined,] and keeping [free from mixture] and [not taking any thing from,] all such religious worship and [holy observances] as God hath [directed to be performed] in his word.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

227. Religious worship is to be paid to God—Psal. xlv. 11. He is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

228. God has appointed certain religious ordinances to be observed in his worship.—Lev. xviii. 4. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.

229. We are required to accept of and esteem the worship and ordinances of God.—Psal. cxix. 103. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

230. We are required to observe God's worship and ordinances.—Mat. xxviii. 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you

231. We are required to keep God's worship and ordinances pure.—Deut. xii. 32. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

232. We are to keep God's worship and ordinances entire Luke i. 6. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment ?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.


Who is not to be worshipped by images? By what is God not to he worshipped? What is not to be done by images? What commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images? Where has God given directions regarding his worship? Whose word gives directions regarding the worship of God? What are we not to do in any other way than that which has been appointed by God? (Worship God.)


Images, Likenesses, or representations.


The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by [likenesses, or representations,] or any other way not appointed in his word.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

233. We are not to worship God by images Deut. iv. 15, 10. Take ye, therefore, good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb,) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image.

234. We are not to worship God in any way not appointed in his word—Deut. iv. 2. Ye shall not add unto, the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.

Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment ?

A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.


Who has the sovereignty over us? What has God over us? Over whom has God the sovereignty? Whose property are we? What is it here said that God has in us? (A propriety, or property.) In whom has God a propriety? For what is God zealous? For whose worship is God zealous? Who is zealous for God's worship? What hath God for his own worship?

How many reasons for keeping the second commandment are annexed to it? (Three.) What is the first reason annexed to the second commandment? (God's sovereignty over us.) What is the second reason? (God's propriety in us.) What is the third reason? (The zeal which God has for his own worship.) To what commandment are these reasons annexed?

Reasons, Motives to induce us to keep it.
Annexed, Added.
Sovereignty, Supreme power and authority.
Propriety in us, Being our only master and owner.
Zeal, Warm and passionate concern.

The [motives to induce us to keep it] [added] to the second commandment, are, God's [supreme power and authority] over us, his [being our only master and owner,] and the [warm and passionate concern] he hath to his own worship.

DOCTRINES Separated And Proved.

235. God is our Lord and Sovereign.—Isa. xxxiii. 22. The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

236. We are the property of God.—Psal. xcv. 7- He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

237. God is very zealous for the purity of his worship. Exod. xxxiv. 14. For thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Understanding Human Judgment

Human judgment frequently operates at a subconscious level. Many of the judgments we make are not the result of conscious, deliberate thought. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to consider how human judgment works.

Human judgment is the application of a standard of judgment to an object of judgment. One example is the judgment of whether one is permitted to proceed through an intersection. Having already judged that there is an intersection ahead, and having judged that the intersection is controlled by a signal, one may make a judgment about whether the signal permits one to proceed through the intersection.

The government normally aims to make this an easy judgment. Traffic lights are supposed to be perspicuous. Thus, rules for interpreting traffic lights are simple and widely distributed. Additionally, the facts that are needed to be known in order to arrive at a correct judgment are also made plain.

In making the judgment about whether one is authorized to proceed through the intersection, one must interpret the traffic laws and one must interpret the light signal, and one must make a comparison. At a fundamental level, the traffic laws are typically written in a very easy to understand way, such that if the light is red, one is not authorized to proceed, and if the light is green, one is authorized to proceed.

For folks with good color vision, this makes it easy to figure out whether or not one is authorized to proceed. One interprets the color of the lights, one applies that to one's interpretation of the rules, and one concludes either that one is authorized or not. For folks with color blindness, this process may be a little more challenging, since they may need to use something else (such as the intensity or location of the light) to deduce the color of the light. Yet most people are still able to regularly come to a correct conclusion about whether they are authorized to proceed.

This is a relatively simple example. Human judgment can be a lot more complex in other cases. For example, judging whether or not Benedict XVI's latest "Apostolic Exhortation" is theologically correct may require one to make significantly more difficult judgments, both in terms of interpreting the standard (Scripture) as well as the object (the exhortation).

Thus, the thing by which we judge ("the standard") is Scripture. The thing being judged ("the object") is the teachings of the pope. In the process of judging the object by the standard, we must interpret both the object and the standard. Yet, we should not confuse the interpretation with either the object or the standard.

In other words, the true standard is the Scriptures, not our interpretation of them, just as the true object is the teaching of the popes, not our interpretation of them. We may err in our judgment due to an error either in understanding the standard or the object.

This may be easier to apply in the traffic light situation. While the red and green light situation may seem to present relatively clear rules, folks sometimes interpret the law in ways that they find convenient. Normally folks do not interpret the rules to make stopping for red optional, but perhaps they will interpret the rules to suggest that if the light is just turning red and they can make it through without inconveniencing anyone, this is ok.

Alternatively, sometimes people make mistakes about the object. For example, in a city where the lights are placed horizontally rather than vertically stacked, a colorblind person may erroneously think that the order of lights is left to right rather than right to left, and consequently may make an incorrect judgment.

Getting back to the example of judging papal teaching, both types of errors are possible. It is possible to misunderstand (for a variety of reasons) what the Scriptures say about a particular subject, and it is also possible to misunderstand what the pope is saying on a particular subject.

Advocates of Rome are fond of saying that appeals to Scripture are appeals to one's interpretation of Scripture. This comment confuses the issue of the standard and the application of the standard. Interpretations of Scripture (and of the object) are involved in applying the standard, but the standard is Scripture.

This is a significant distinction because the interpretations of the standard are able to be corrected by appeal to the standard. Thus, we can legitimately correct someone's misinterpretation of the traffic laws by appealing to what the traffic laws actually say. Likewise, we can legitimately correct someone's misinterpretation of Scripture by appealing to what the Scriptures actually say.

The same is true with respect to the object. We can point out that the light is actually green (not red), as people are wont to do at intersections by honking their horns at the stopped driver in front of them. Likewise, in theological discussions we can point out that our critic has attributed a position to us that is not our position. Thus, while his interpretation of the standard may be correct, his interpretation of the object is not correct.

Understanding human judgment, we can more easily answer the objections of Rome's adherents who attempt to persuade us to exercise human judgment in favor of them and/or their church, while complaining about our use of human judgment when it leads to conclusions that are contrary to their position or that of their church.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crowds or No Crowds at the Narrow Gate?

One popular theory in economics is the idea that there is wisdom in the crowd. A typical demonstration experiment in this area is to have a classroom full of students guess the number of coins or marbles in a jar. The individual guesses are then averaged and the result is compared to the final answer. If the experiment works as planned, the result of the crowd guessing is sometimes more accurate than any individual guess, and usually is better than most of the individual guesses.

Another example of crowd wisdom -- a more intuitive example -- is the example of the two barbershops in the small town. You show up in a small town in need of a haircut and find two barbershops side by side. One has a long line waiting to get their hair cut, the other will take you immediately for the same price. If you don't have additional information, your intuition suggests that there is a reason for the crowd at the first barbershop, and so you join the line.

There are, however, some clear counter-examples. There are times when the crowd is always wrong. A prime example is amusement parks. One of the worst times to go to the amusement park is the time when the greatest number of people think it is a good time to go. If you go at that time, it will be the most crowded, and consequently less than optimally enjoyable. You'll wait for hours to get on a ride, to get food, and so forth.

The issue of the narrow gate provides both an example and a counter-example. Our Lord provided the following teaching:

Matthew 7:13-14
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Luke 13:22-30
And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?"
And he said unto them,
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, Lord, open unto us;" and he shall answer and say unto you, "I know you not whence ye are:" then shall ye begin to say, "We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets." But he shall say, "I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

This parable suggests to us that in this life the crowds will mostly go on the broad path - and the crowd will be wrong. Before you join a church because it has numerous adherents, it's something to think about. Our rule of faith is not the crowds, but the Word of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

On the other hand, the crowd will eventually get it. Once it is too late, the crowd will realize that Jesus the Lord of Glory had himself been in their midst. This was particularly applicable to the first century Jews, but it has a broader application to us as well.

Many self-labeled "Christians" eat and drink in the presence of the Scriptures, and the Scriptures may even prominently feature in their religious rites. But unless they follow the narrow path - unless they trust in Christ alone for salvation - they will not enter in.

The answer to the question in the topic of this post then is "both: at first no crowds, but later enormous crowds." Beat the crowds, repent of your sins and trust in Christ while there is still time.